How to Choose the Right Travel Camera

Of all the electronics that I bring with me when I backpack, my camera is the most important to me. It’s how I capture my memories and share them with the world back home. I bought my first digital camera over 10 years ago. It was terrible, took poor photos, and cost way too much.

BUT, some of the photos I took with it still remain some of my favorites to this day. Looking at it now, it’s because the photos matched what I wanted to get out of my travel camera experience – ease of use and portability. That’s why when you are looking to buy a camera, specifically a travel camera, you need to think about what it is that you want to capture.

Are you looking to the best photograph quality? Ease of operation? Portability? Someone whose main hobby is taking photographs of their travels will carry with them much different equipment than the traveler who wants to take snapshots for their facebook. When thinking about buying a travel camera, consider which of these factors is the most important to you:

Type Of Camera

You’ll first need to decide what type of camera it is that you’re interesting in purchasing. Is it a small and portable point and shoot? A large and flexible DSLR? Or a middle of the road compact system camera.

For example: My travel style is extremely light, and I pack accordingly. A DSLR is too big for what I generally pack, but I shoot as a hobby and wasn’t getting the results from my point and shoot camera. So, I went with a compact system camera. BUT, imagine that I was a professional photographer, or I just wanted to capture snapshots…it would be a much different choice for me.

Cost

Obviously, this is going to be a concern for almost every backpacker (unless you’re rich and have money to blow…in that case just search for the best camera there is and go for it), The good news is that with modern photography equipment, even the cheapest cameras are capable of taking decent photos.

A modern point and shoot would put to shame some of the highest quality equipment from only ten years ago. And ten years ago, people were taking great photographs. Just goes to show you that spending 2000 dollars is not an automatic ticket to making the National Geographic front page.

As a side note, consider buying a camera used if you can find it. Any camera here that I’ve linked I’ve tried to find the cheapest price, but you may want to consider checking Craigslist or similar auction site to see if there is a cheaper option used. Many people go through cameras quickly, and you can buy an older model for half the price of the greatest and latest.

Portability

I’ve touched on this already, but it’s a huge consideration. How comfortable are you carrying an extra bag with you while you travel? What about an extra ten pounds? Do you want a camera that you can fit in your pocket, or a camera that needs to be carried with a strap? Consider what your needs are and what you are willing to carry.

Ease Of Use/Comfort Level

Many people seem to forget this before taking a trip. If you purchase a camera just one day before you leave, you’ll spend half of your time trying to figure out the features and uses of the camera. Purchase your new camera at least a week before you go, and take as many practice pictures as you can. Don’t choose a type of travel camera that you are not familiar with.

Technical Specifications

Ask yourself the following questions when purchasing a camera: How important is a long zoom to you? Are you familiar with aperture controls, iso, and shutter speed? Or do you prefer a camera that you can leave on auto and take great pictures? How important is manual control to you? Don’t buy a camera based on its list of features if you realistically don’t plan on ever using them.

Using these ideas as a starting point, check out some of my favorite cameras that I’ve ever used. They each fit a certain niche in the travel camera market, but I’ve used each of these before and can attest to their quality.

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Andrew D. Kahler