Best compact travel camera 2015

These pocket-sized superzoom cameras will let you travel light and shoot almost anything

Buying guide best travel or superzoom camera

Of course you can take your smartphone on holiday and get great pictures with that too, but what if you want a wide-angle shot of a spectacular interior, or a long-range shot of wildlife or distant landmarks?

That's when you need a zoom lens – and for travel photography, where you never quite know what you're going to want to shoot next – the longer the better.

So-called 'travel' compacts don't match the huge zoom range of bridge cameras, but they don't need to. The 30x zooms on the latest models are more than enough for almost any kind of travel photography.

The key thing is that there's no way a bridge camera will fit in your pocket – but these travel cameras will. They're hardly bigger than regular point-and-shoot compacts, but their zoom range makes them far more versatile, and many have more advanced controls to help you make sure that you capture that trip of a lifetime perfectly and don't come back thinking 'if only'.

Panasonic TZ70

1. Panasonic TZ70/ZS50

Panasonic practically invented the travel camera and this is its best yet

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 12.1Mp | Lens: 24-720mm, f3.3-6.4 | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Electronic viewfinder
Manual controls and raw
No touchscreen
Not cheap

Panasonic's TZ-series cameras kicked off the whole big-zoom travel camera genre, and they still lead the field. The TZ70 is the latest and best, with a big 30x zoom, auto and manual controls and the ability to shoot raw files – a big bonus for keen photographers who want the best quality from a small camera. The TZ70 even squeezes in an electronic viewfinder. It's the Swiss Army Knife of travel cameras, combining convenience, quality and control. There are lots of imitators, but this is the original.

Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70

Sony HX90V

2. Sony HX90V

The HX90V matches the TZ70's zoom range and adds GPS to embed location data

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 18.2Mp | Lens: 24-720mm, f3.5-6.4 | Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 921K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Tilting screen
GPS built in
Can't shoot raw
Tricky pull-up viewfinder

The HX90V shares the same 30x optical zoom range as the TZ70 but has a few neat tricks of its own. These include built-in GPS, so that you'll be able to check the location of your photos, and it also has a pop-up electronic viewfinder – a big bonus in the glare of harsh, bright light, when regular LCD screens can be hard to see. There's even a 180-degree tilting screen, and while you can't shoot raw files the HX90V does put your pictures on the map – literally – by recording the location using its built-in GPS receiver.

Read the full review: Sony HX90V

Olympus SH 2

3. Olympus SH-2

With a neat retro look and 24x zoom, the SH-2 is a quirky and stylish alternative

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16Mp | Lens: 25-600mm, f3-6.9 | Monitor: 3-inch touchscreen, 460K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 11.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Touchscreen display
Shoots raw files
Only 24x zoom range
No viewfinder

The SH-2's 24x optical zoom lens doesn't quite match the 30x zooms of the rest, but the difference is at the longest end of the zoom range where you might not really notice it. What you do get is a classy, retro-styled little camera with a metal body and leather-look trim. Movie fans can try out the SH-2's interval shooting and time lapse modes, and the SH-2 can shoot raw files for better quality when needed. The SH-2's retro look is smart and classy, and it gives you travel camera versatility at a price which leaves you a bit more travel money too.

Read the full review: Olympus Stylus SH-2

Canon SX710 HS

4. Canon SX710 HS

The SX710 HS can take your movies and stills and turn your travels into story

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16Mp | Lens: 25-600mm, f3-6.9 | Monitor: 3-inch touchscreen, 460K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 11.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

30x optical zoom
Interesting movie options
Doesn't shoot raw files
No viewfinder

The Canon SX710 offers a 30x zoom, just like the Panasonic TZ70, and costs less – but you don't get raw format shooting or an electronic viewfinder. What you do get is 5-axis image stabilisation and a neat set of movie options, including full HD at 60p for slow-motion playback and a Hybrid Auto mode that captures both stills and movies – you can then create a Story Highlights movie in-camera. The SX710 HS shoots movies just like other travel cameras, but takes them a whole lot further to make them an easy and fun way to capture your travels.

Read the full review: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Nikon CoolPix S9900

5. Nikon S9900

Slim and solidly made, the S9900 delivers a big zoom at modest cost

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 16Mp | Lens: 25-750mm, f3.7-6.4 | Monitor: 3-inch touchscreen, 921K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 7fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Slim but solid feel
Vari-angle screen
Average quality
No viewfinder

There's a lot packed into the S9900 but the combination of its slim build and 30x optical zoom range are the key attractions. Handling is good on the whole, and the vari-angle screen and GPS are well implemented. The Wi-Fi system works well too. The image quality from this camera isn't the best, but it is good value for money.

Read the full review: Nikon Coolpix S9900