Think about all the times you travel, whether it’s for business or leisure.  Maybe you’re going home to reconnect with the friends and family you abandoned to pursue your dream of traveling around the world. Perhaps you plan to escape the concrete jungle for a few days, bounce around a place where you don’t speak the native language and see what happens.

In any event, chances are high that you’d like pictures to commemorate the occasion and to silence skeptical co-workers as to your incredible whereabouts.  There’s an equal chance that you instinctively reach for your smartphone anytime you feel a photo-op coming on. But is it really the best option to gather your friends and family to smile at an object you use to take trivial selfies and candid photos of people sleeping on the subway? It’s time to think about a getting a camera made for travelers.

What about the camera on my smartphone?


Image by Scott Swigart – Licensed Under CC BY-SA 2.0

Unless you are using the latest flagship smartphone like the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6, your average smartphone might not be able to deliver quality images in certain environments (like low-light conditions or action shots). While it is certainly true that smartphone cameras have come a long way and are fully capable of capturing vivid, defined images:  The ugly reality is an overwhelming percentage of smartphone cameras simply do not deliver the quality advertised.  Most of the images you see in promotional materials have been touched up by professionals using sophisticated software not available for your phones.

While it’s difficult to find a smartphone camera that holds up to scrutiny, it is fairly easy to land on a true digital camera that takes quality photos and doesn’t cost a lot of money.  You will benefit from larger image sensors, better internal computer components, and overall have more control over your image (provided you are daring enough to take your camera off the default “full auto” shooting mode.)

Point-and-Shoot Cameras – The “One Size Fits Most” Solution

digital camera

Image by Vernon Chan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The first image most people think of when they think “digital cameras” are in fact point-and-shoot cameras. As the name implies, these cameras are engineered with an emphasis on user-friendliness. Once you’ve got a few basic preferences set, you truly can swing the camera out of your pocket and snap a photo anytime, anywhere. 

While the performance level of these cameras varies from model to model, they tend to have a lot of features in common such as:

  • External LCD Viewfinder
  • 8.0 – 21.0 Megapixel Image Sensors
  • Quality Optical Zoom Range with Extended Digital Zoom
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Reusable Storage Media (Such as SD Cards)
  • Full HD Video Recording Capability (1080p)
  • Rechargeable Batteries
  • USB Data Transfer Cables
  • Wi-Fi Enabled for Sharing Photos on Social Media

Free Wifi SpotThe last feature (Wi-Fi) is an important one for many users.  For years, internet-connected smartphones were the only game in town that could shoot a picture straight to social media.  Now, digital cameras have caught onto the craze and enable users the same capability with a sharp uptick in image quality.

Do you need something that’s weather-sealed or waterproof?  What about a longer zoom, or better low-light capabilities?  These additional features are available from companies you definitely recognize like Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Kodak, and more.  Best of all, with an average sticker price between $99 – $299, you won’t break the bank to get what you want.

DSLRs / Interchangeable Lens Cameras – For Power Users

Image by 600D is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Professional photographers never leave home without their DSLR bag.  Tucked away in this carry-on sized tote can be a couple of lens options, extra batteries, memory cards, lens cloths, and perhaps even a collapsible table-top tripod.  These performance-minded models can pick up fine details in any scene, giving even candid shots a professional “magazine” quality.

To obtain that level of quality, you will be investing thousands of dollars and dozens of hours pouring over books and online training materials to master even a single model of DSLR camera.  Many people will find this option to be cost-prohibitive or too complicated when compared to a point-and-shoot experience.

However, straddling the line between prosumer models ($799.99 and beyond for just the camera body) and consumer models is a line of all-in-one DSLR solutions offered by many of the top manufacturers mentioned in the previous section.  These models are bulkier, more suited to hanging off the neck than they are stuffed into a pocket, but they are certainly travel-sized nonetheless.  These value DSLR models can be had for $399.99 – $599.99. They combine the user-friendliness or point-and-shoot cameras with the professional results of prosumer interchangeable lens cameras.

A good example of this is the Canon Black EOS Rebel T5.  At the time this article was written, this DSLR can be found readily in stores and online packaged with an 18-55mm zoom lens for under $400 and the results you will get easily outclass a typical point-and-Shoot camera.  You may need to watch a YouTube tutorial (like the one below) or two to get the hang of a camera like this, but in this age of rechargeable batteries and reusable storage media, it literally costs next to nothing to master a basic DSLR.


Final Recommendation

It all comes down to your preferences. Some people may own a phone with a great camera but choose a point and shoot camera since they may have a different phone these use for traveling. If you prefer to travel like a minimalist and have as little items on your person as possible, a cell phone might be all you need.  If you want a camera that captures HD-quality images, you may opt to buy a quality DSRL camera.  Luckily, quality cameras are plentiful and offer features that ensure your photos capture your memories exactly how you remember them.  Many digital cameras are super tiny (like a smartphone) and can easily be slipped into a pocket, ready to pop out and immortalize your adventures this holiday travel season.