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Best travel camera 2020: 9 vacation-friendly models for your holiday

Panasonic Lumix TZ200
(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best travel camera very much depends on what kind of traveling you're doing. Want to go on safari? You’ll need a long zoom. Fancy shooting night scenes of city lit by scattered street lights and the odd shop front? A large sensor and fast lens matter more. 

But wherever you're going, the best travel cameras won't weigh you down – so we've picked a variety of options that offer top specifications without needing their own suitcase. Specs like large sensors, long zooms, 4K video and more.

You may read that and think, “my phone has all of that already”. But a good travel camera can offer better image quality, far greater compositional flexibility and much better manual control. Or, in many cases, all three. 

The first thing you’ll likely want to think about is the type of camera you’re willing to take on your travels. For many, a bulky DSLR or mirrorless camera will be too much hassle, making a long zoom premium compact camera the obvious choice. On the other hand, if you really want your shots to stand out, packing something versatile – but still – makes a lot of sense. 

In this guide, we’ll select a few different kinds of camera that are just perfect for your next vacation. Whether you want to travel as light as possible, or you don’t mind having a little more to carry around, we’ve got you covered here.

Best travel cameras 2020 at a glance:

  1. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 
  2. Canon G5X Mark II
  3. Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
  4. Fujifilm X-T30
  5. Nikon Z50
  6. Nikon Z6
  7. Canon SX740
  8. Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90
  9. Sony Cybershot RX10 IV 

Great value option: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III

A couple of years old but this RX100 model still packs a punch

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm, f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,229K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Large and capable sensor
Built-in viewfinder
Limited zoom range
No touchscreen

Before we take a look at our best travel camera list, we wanted to highlight an alternative that is a few generations old but still packs a punch. The RX100 III from Sony is a couple of years old now and was originally selling for near $1,000/£1,000, but with the arrival of newer models (including the RX100 VII below), it's dropped massively in price. Downsides? Well, the zoom is pretty short compared to other rivals here, but otherwise there's a lot to like. There's a decent 20.1MP 1-inch sensor, a pop-up electronic viewfinder and 4K video recording, while it's packaged in a premium, metal body. Definitely worth a look if the zoom range isn't your main concern.

Best travel cameras in 2020:

1. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200

The best travel zoom camera you can buy right now

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-360mm, f/3.3-6.4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,240K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Large 1.0-inch sensor
Decent 15x zoom
EVF still feels pretty cramped

With the rise of high-end compacts like the excellent Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V stealing the thunder from compact travel zooms, Panasonic's response has been to keep the camera body about the same size as its earlier ZS/TZ-series cameras but to squeeze in a much larger sensor. We saw this with the Lumix ZS100 (known as the Lumix TZ100 outside the US), and Panasonic has continued this with the newer Lumix ZS200 / TZ200. This physically larger 1in sensor enables much better image quality than would otherwise be the case, but the slight downside is that the zoom range from the lens isn't quite as extensive as some others with smaller sensors. That said, The ZS200 / TZ200 still sports a very versatile 15x zoom, while there's also a handy built-in electronic viewfinder, which makes it easier to compose images in bright light. It's a bit pricey, but this is still the best travel zoom compact camera available right now.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Canon G5X Mark II

This great all-rounder could be the perfect enthusiast compact

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-120mm, f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 20fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Large 1.0-inch sensor
4K movies
Limited 10x zoom lens
Fixed rear display

What the G5X Mark II loses in zoom, it makes up for in other areas. With a wide maximum aperture throughout the focal length, this is a camera which is well-suited to a wide range of lighting conditions. Besides which, having up to 120mm (in 35mm terms) available is still pretty flexible. Elsewhere, there's a high-performing 1-inch sensor, great 4K videos and a pop-up electronic viewfinder which pairs well with the tilting LCD screen. There are undoubtedly more advanced cameras on the market, but not many combine a good range of features like this in one competitively-priced package.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII

Sony's pocket powerhouse gets another upgrade

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-200mm, f/2.8-4.5 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 90fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate

Blistering performance and AF
High-quality EVF
Average battery life 
Very expensive

Sony revolutionized premium compact cameras with the original RX100 as it was the first pocket-sized camera to feature a large 1.0-inch sensor. They were always great for travel, but thanks to a relatively limited zoom lens, were perhaps sometimes overlooked in favour of other models. Things changed when we got to the RX100 VI, which paired a much longer lens than ever before - and now we've seen some refinement of the model for the latest, the RX100 VII. The sacrifice for making the lens longer is losing the super wide aperture of previous generations, but if you're mainly going to be shooting in sunny climes, it may not be such a big deal. There's also a heck of a lot of power under the hood of the RX100 VII. It houses features that you might not ever use, such as a ridiculous 90fps burst mode, as well as those that are more commonplace, such as 4K video. The big downside of this model is its super-high asking price, but if you want the best of the best for your travels - it could just be the one for you. If your budget doesn't quite stretch to the asking price of the RX100 VII, take a look at older models throughout the range for better prices.

Fujifilm X-T30

(Image credit: Future)

4. Fujifilm X-T30

A super-stylish compact system camera that's ideal for travelling

Sensor: APS-C, 26.1MP | Lens Mount: X Mount | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-ange touchscreen, 1040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 30fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate

Great build quality and handling 
Gorgeous looks
Some fiddly controls
No inbuilt stabilization 

For those happy to tote a compact system camera, the Fujifilm X-T30 is one of our favourites, and one which makes a heck of a lot of sense as a travel camera. Distilling many of the best elements of its older, bigger and more expensive brother, the X-T3 into a pleasingly small form, the X-T30 will help you get gorgeous shots while also looking gorgeous itself. There's lots of great lenses available for the Fuji X system, so you'll be spoiled for choice there, while 4K video recording, a tilting touch-sensitive screen and a high-resolution EVF help to round out the spec sheet.

Nikon Z50

(Image credit: Future)

5. Nikon Z50

The fantastic 'mini DSLR' for travel photography

Sensor: 21MP APS-C CMOS | Lens: 16-50mm, f/3.5-5.6 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dot | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 11fps | Movies: 4K 30fps | User level: Intermediate

Excellent handling for a travel cam
Great viewfinder and screen
No joystick for choosing AF points
Limited native lens range

The Nikon Z50 is a great option if you like Nikon and are after your first 'proper' camera. It works well as a travel camera and has a very comfortable button layout. The 3.2-inch screen can also flip underneath the body to compose selfies of an altogether higher class, although it and the tripod mount compete for space. At this point, not many lenses have been made specifically for the Z50’s DX format, but the range will naturally grow larger over time, and you can use those made for the full-frame Nikons too. We prefer the Sony A6500 for high-speed action shooting, but this is a good-value camera and generally a joy to use. 

(Image credit: Future)

6. Nikon Z6

For the ultimate in image quality, only full-frame will do

Sensor: Full frame, 24.5MP | Lens Mount: Nikon Z | Monitor: 3.2-inch, 2,100K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Very large sensor 
Great handling 
Bulkiest in this group
Not too many native lenses  

When it comes to the best possible image quality, full-frame is what you need. Time was that full-frame cameras were packed inside huge bodies which were decidedly unfriendly for travel. While Sony did a huge amount to change that with its Alpha range of mirrorless cameras, it's the Nikon Z6 which we'd recommend as a perfect all rounder. Despite being the bulkiest on this page, it's still conveniently sized for travel and gives you all the benefits of travelling with a full-frame sensor. There's also 12fps shooting, 4K video, a tilting touchscreen and a beautiful high resolution viewfinder. Although still fairly limited, the native lenses available for the Z range are rapidly expanding - the 24-70mm f/4 lens is the ideal travelling partner. If you want to make things even smaller, also consider the brand new APS-C Nikon Z50, which also has smaller lenses to pair with it.

7. Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90

A fine camera, now even cheaper than before

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 20.3MP | Lens: 24-720mm, f/3.3-6.4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Great set of features
Touchscreen works really well
Image smoothing at high ISOs
Loss of detail at end of zoom

On a budget but want a capable all-rounder? The Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90 is better than most at this level. On top of a very capable 30x optical zoom you get decent 4K video recording, an LCD that responds brilliantly to touch and is nice and clear, and even raw shooting. The viewfinder is also something that few cameras at this level offer, and while it's not quite perfect it does the job. Focusing is nice and snappy and face detection works really well too, and the fact that the LCD flips up to face the front lets you capture selfies and group shots with ease.

(Image credit: Future)

8. Canon PowerShot SX740 HS

Huge zoom in a svelte shell

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 20.3MP | Lens: 24-960mm, f/3.3-6.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 922,000K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Excellent zoom range
Sturdy build quality
No viewfinder
LCD not touch sensitive

The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS is something of a tale of two halves. The good news is that it exhibits a fine build and is generally pleasing to use, with good response across most aspects of operation. If you want a no-nonsense camera with a broad zoom range, and most of the decision-making left to it, the SX740 HS may just be what you’re after. The flipside of this is that it's missing a few features which are becoming the norm elsewhere - there's no touch-operation, no option to move the focusing point, no electronic viewfinder, nor raw shooting. Still, if the ability to zoom is your main concern, you won't find anything longer than this.

Olympus TG-6

(Image credit: Future)

Honorary mention: Olympus TG-6

The zoom isn't huge but this compact can go where others fear

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm | Monitor: 3-inch, 460,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 20fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Raw shooting option
Can be taken underwater
Small sensor
Low-resolution LCD screen

Not all holidays and stretches of travel are all about capturing wide-angle vistas and subjects in the distance. For some photographers, having a camera that can withstand being dropped, knocked, splashed or frozen would be more appropriate, and that's precisely what the Olympus TG-6 offers. In addition to its rugged credentials, the camera offers 4K video recording, built-in Wi-Fi and a ring of LED lights around its lens to throw plenty of light on close-up subjects. There's even the option to capture raw files.

Sony RX10 IV

(Image credit: Future)

9. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

Expensive, but in a league of its own - this is possibly the ultimate travel companion

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.2MP | Lens: 24-600mm, f/2.4-4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.44m dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/Expert

Great lens
Cracking 4K video quality
High price
Menus somewhat awkward

 In terms of offering something for everybody, the RX10 IV ticks a lot of boxes. It's like having a bag full of lenses, but with the benefit of never having to change them. There's a very long zoom, while the maximum aperture is pretty wide throughout the lens. The sensor might not be as a large as the ones you'll find on a DSLR/CSC, but Sony's 20.1MP one-inch device has proven itself to be very capable regardless. You also get 24fps shooting, cracking 4K video quality and handling to rival a DSLR. The major downside? The high price - if your budget is tighter, don't forget about this camera's predecessor, the RX10 III.

How to choose the best travel camera for you

Need a bit more guidance on how to decide the right type of travel camera? Have a think about the following options:

Travel Zoom Compact

These small pocket-friendly cameras give you great scope for shooting lots of different kinds of subject, with a zoom lens that gets you close to the action, as well as giving you the opportunity to shoot nice and wide. The trade off for having all of this in a neat compact size is generally a smaller sensor which is less useful for shooting in low light. 

Premium Compact 

If you want to stay pocket friendly, but you’re happy to lose the ultra long zoom, think about a premium compact. These generally pack a one-inch sensor for better image quality, but will normally have a shorter zoom. Some may give you both - but you’ll pay a very high price for it. 

Bridge Camera

A bulkier option than a standard compact camera, but with better scope for zooming, a bridge camera is also ideal for those who like more intuitive and comfortable handling. They’ll usually have a solid grip, decent electronic viewfinder and a flexible screen. You get many of the benefits of having a bag full of lenses, but without the extra luggage.

Mirrorless / Compact System Camera 

This is the option if you want the best possible image quality and you’re prepared for a little bit of hassle. With lots of different lenses to choose from, you can pack different optics depending on the type of trip you’re on, or pack a good all-round lens and not worry too much about swapping optics. You’ll have the best possible handling, too as well as plenty of advanced options. 

Many of the current compact system cameras on the market have been specifically designed with travel in mind - and are as small as possible. We’ve included some of the best options here.

If you’re still unsure about which kind of camera you need, check our step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy? Alternatively, if you’re going to be by the pool or on the beach, you might want something a bit more rugged – in which case, take a look at our best waterproof camera and best action camera guides.

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