How to choose the best compact digital camera for your travels
Travel takes us to some incredible places, and sometimes simple phone snaps just can’t do them justice. But it’s also tough to reserve the carry-on space your camera’s body, external flash, and several lenses require. And even if you’ve got the room, it’s not always convenient to carry a DSLR along with you. Last winter, I spent a week in Iceland taking photos with a jacket held over my head because my camera gear was not weatherproof and it happened to rain every day.
Fortunately, the market is overflowing with great travel-friendly camera options for you to choose from. Small point-and-shoot cameras now have the same features bulkier DSLRs have: impressive zoom depth, HD video capabilities, tilting displays, and high ISO ranges. And, of course, they’re all wrapped in a pocket-sized "package," that’s also dust-, water-, shock-, and freeze-proof.
If you still like the flexibility and features a DSLR gives you, like changing lenses depending on your situation and environment, we also found a few options that are much lighter and smaller in size that won’t take up half of your backpack (or your next four paychecks).
Here are the best compact digital cameras that will make capturing moments on your next vacation effortless and worry-free.
Best for: lightweight design
Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
Don’t be fooled by the ultra-slim design — this camera is so much more than its stylish exterior. This Canon is packed with great features: 20.1-MP CMOS sensor, built-in Bluetooth and WiFi, video mode (it even has a time-lapse option). And it weighs only 7.3 ounces.
To buy: amazon.com, $530
Best for: action shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V
Featuring the world’s fastest autofocus (at least at the time of its release in October 2016) and continuous shooting capabilities, this camera is perfect for sports enthusiasts and adventure-seekers who live for the action and want to capture it.
To buy: amazon.com, $998
Best for: creative control
Sony Alpha a6000
Take sharp, high-resolution images thanks to this camera’s 24.3-MP sensor as well as full HD video recording. Even if you’re at a more advanced photography level, you’ll be impressed with the features of this camera and, most importantly, with its compact size. Oh, and let’s not forget you can change the lens, too.
To buy: amazon.com, $598
Best for: shooting video
Nikon Coolpix A900
This Nikon is no larger than a smartphone but packs an astounding number of features: 35x optical zoom and 70x dynamic fine zoom, 20 megapixels, and built-in Bluetooth and WiFi, among many others. Shoot 4K ultra high-definition videos even in poorly lit places.
To buy: amazon.com, $400
Best for: bringing literally anywhere
Nikon Coolpix W100
Say hello to your new favorite vacation-proof camera. Water-proof up to 33 feet, shock-proof from a 5.9-foot drop, and freeze-proof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, this Nikon will serve you well at the beach or on the slopes.
To buy: amazon.com, $157
Best for: letting the kids borrow
Olympus Tough TG-4
There’s a reason this camera has “tough” in its name. It’s virtually indestructible — it’s dust-proof, water-proof, crush-proof, and freeze-proof — and takes sharp images (16 MP) and video in QuickTime format.
To buy: amazon.com, $409
Best for: not-so-great weather
Nikon 1 AW1
Designed for use in harsh conditions and for underwater shooting, the Nikon 1 AW1 has a 14.2-MP sensor, full 1080p HD video, and interchangeable lenses.
To buy: amazon.com, $997
Best for: creative angles
Nikon Coolpix B500
This 16-MP point-and-shoot camera features a tilting LCD screen, which takes away the guesswork when you’re shooting at an unnatural angle, and VR (vibration reduction) to combat camera shake when you’re in motion.
To buy: amazon.com, $257
Best for: adventure travel
Sturdy, lightweight, and water-, cold-, shock-, and dust-proof, the Ricoh 16 has a 4X optical zoom and 16-MP sensor.
To buy: amazon.com, $300
Best for: great results in auto mode
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000
Combine the functionality of a point-and-shoot camera and the features of an entry-level DSLR, and you get an idea of how great this Panasonic is for the frequent traveler. It’s lightweight and compact in size, but boasts 20 MP and a high-quality 16x zoom lens from Leica.
To buy: amazon.com, $798
Best for: underwater use
Canon PowerShot D30
The D30 is a rugged, portable camera that takes great photos in any situation, including up to 82 feet below sea level.
To buy: amazon.com, $329
Best for: pretending it’s film
We love the classic look of this Fujifilm, but we love its modern-day features even more: a 16-MP sensor, an advanced-technology viewfinder, full HD movie recording, and built-in WiFi for easy sharing.
To buy: amazon.com, $1,300
Best for: crazy-good zoom
Nikon Coolpix P900
Dubbed by photo pros “the king of superzooms,” this Nikon camera boasts a whopping 83x optical zoom, making it perfect for shooting architecture or wildlife from afar.
To buy: amazon.com, $600
Best for: low-light photos
Ricoh GR II
If you’re headed on a trip where you expect to take a lot of photos in low-light situations, this camera is your best bet. Its advanced engine offers high-sensitivity shooting with minimal noise and can take up to 320 snaps before its battery dies.
To buy: amazon.com, $575
Best for: finding the details
Canon SX530 HS
Capture the action however far (or fast) it may be with the impressive 50x zoom on this compact 16-MP camera.
To buy: amazon.com, $379
Best for: beginners
Nikon Coolpix L340
This Nikon’s powerful zoom is what sold us — the 28x optical zoom telephoto lens with VR will help you get closer to the action. And with 16 scene modes, taking high-quality images will seem like a breeze in any situation.
To buy: bestbuy.com, $100
Best for: a value buy
Panasonic DMC-TS30R LUMIX
Don’t be afraid to take this camera with you even in the most frigid weather. Capture every moment under or above water, shoot time-lapse videos, and then edit your favorite snaps thanks to a set of built-in effects.
To buy: amazon.com, $148
Best for: instant sharing
Polaroid Instant Digital Camera and Printer
If you’re a bit of an old soul and prefer physical photos, this Polaroid is perfect for you — it combines the best of two worlds. It shoots video, has a 2.5-inch LED screen, and can store your images as digital files, but if you decide to print one, it’ll do it in seconds.
To buy: sharperimage.com, $250