March 18, 2019 9 min read

Cover Photo by Jakob Owens

Types of Camera for Travel Photography (And How to Choose The One For You)

If you’re like us, travel photography is one of your greatest passions. There’s so much of the world to see and explore, why not capture a portion of it? Whether you’re the type of travel photographer who just wants to snap a few pics of you and your friends on vacation, or avid about becoming the next Chris Burkard orElia Locardi, there’s a travel camera for you. Check out these types of digital cameras and pick up one for your world travels.

Compact Cameras

Also known as point-and-shoot cameras, these types of cameras are as basic and user-friendly as they come. If you don’t know your flash from your lens, this is the camera for you. Compact cameras tend to be fully-automatic and have a fairly limited lens that doesn't need any manual addition or adjustment. Compact camera lenses usually offer around 4-10x zoom capabilities. They also have the advantage of being fairly cheap and usually, range from around $85 to over $400—if you want to be fancy.

Small, lightweight, and inexpensive, they are ideal cameras for travelers who are just looking to record some memories but don’t want to pull out a more expensive camera or iPhone and risk theft. Image stabilization, HD video recording, and even WiFi capabilities are available features for compact cameras. So you can share high-quality photos to your Instagram while on the road. Here are some quick pros and cons for these lightweight multi-taskers.


These cameras have a lot of pros for beginning users and travelers, mainly because they are automatic, very user-friendly, affordable, and lightweight and they don’t need any extra lenses or accessories to functions at their peak. If you’re looking for a cheap camera to take on your next trip and you’re worried about theft—this is a good option for you.


Unfortunately, this is pretty much where the pros for these types of cameras end. While you might enjoy not having to worry about managing your shutter speed and aperture initially, as you gain more photography experience, you’ll wish you had these options. For nature photographers, the slow focus and delayed shutter speed of a compact camera will kill your shots if your subject moves out of frame.

Other cons include noisy camera sounds (try not to look like a tourist while your camera is audibly clicking away), small sensors that limit manual exposure options, and an inability to adjust the depth of field for photos. A compact camera ends up compromising all-around to give you a camera that is simultaneously the easiest camera you’ll ever use, and also the most frustrating.

Zoom Compact

Although they’re slightly larger than their cousin the compact camera, zoom compacts have many of the same features as traditional compacts—with a few cool upgrades travelers can appreciate. This type of camera has a much better zoom—hence the name—and can get up to 30x zoom, depending on the model. They also have more manual exposure settings, offer HD video, and sometimes even have automatic geotagging, which is an especially useful feature for travelers. No more wondering where you were when you took your pictures. These types of camera start at a slightly higher price point than traditional compacts—starting around $150 they range to over $500 for the really nice ones.


For travelers looking to get far away shots, while keeping the lightweight, point-and-shoot features of a traditional compact camera, zoom compacts are a great option. They are also still fairly inexpensive, which means it’s not the end of the world if your camera gets stolen along the way—just remember to download your pics every night, or yeah, it is the end of the world.


The cons for zoom cameras are mostly the same as those of traditional compact cameras. They don’t have a lot of manual options, don't have any lens additions, and the photo quality isn’t going to produce any professional grade photographs.

Advanced Compact

The last of our compact cameras is the advanced compact. They require a little more experience to utilize than a traditional or zoom compact and offer more customizations than their counterparts. Advanced compacts offer features like external flash connectors, optical viewfinders, manual focusing, and manual exposure options. More features also means more expensive, and these cameras range from $400-$700 for ones using small sensors and $700-$1,000+ for ones using large sensors.


Travelers who want the convenience and lightweight features of a compact camera, but like the option to customize their photography, will appreciate the features of an advanced compact. They are still small, and fairly inexpensive compared to the range of cameras on the market today.


Advanced photographers looking for amazing travel shots will most likely be disappointed that there aren't more features to suit their needs. A lack of interchangeable lenses and some limits on customization might make them think twice about grabbing one for the road.

Adventure Cameras

Also known as action cameras, these types of digital cameras are great for free-spirited travelers who don’t want to leave their cameras behind when they go hiking, running, scuba diving, bungee jumping…. These cameras really can (almost) do it all. Great for adverse weather, adventure cameras hold up to the elements and are waterproof and shockproof— some types of cameras are even freeze-proof. Waterproof casing and toughened glass add to the durability of these compact cameras like the GoPro, that can fit in the palm of your hand.

Adventure cameras can easily be mounted for hands-free use. You can put your camera on a helmet, bike, drone—use your imagination. These types of camera are similar in photo quality to most compact cameras, with limited exposure and manual options. However, as they have become more popular, the image and video quality has improved as well. TheGoPro HERO 5 and 6 offer high-resolution output and are incredibly durable. If you’re an active traveler who wants to go hands-free while still capturing some amazing shots, an adventure camera might just fit the bill. They start at around $120 and go up to over $500 for high-quality versions.


These tough little cameras are great for a variety of situations and will hold up to almost anything. Their compact design is lightweight, and they can be mounted securely to nearly any surface. Adventure cameras can also be synced to your phone for remote viewing and picture-taking.


On the flip side, these types of digital cameras focus so much on durability that they lose some of the image quality. They offer few exposure options, small sensors, small viewfinders, fixed focus, and limited zoom, and the photo quality is not suitable for professional grade photographs or large prints.

Smartphone Cameras

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. That certainly holds true for smartphone cameras, and in recent years the cameras on smartphones have become selling points for many phones. Some of these types of cameras even boast a resolution up to 16 megapixels. However, just because a camera has high-resolution, doesn't mean it’s going to take the best shot. If you’re thinking of upgrading your phone, make sure you consider low-light capabilities, as well as sensor and lens quality before making your final decision. Finding the best smartphone camera will help you get those vacation Instagram pics to look just right.


Most of us are never far away from our smartphones, so smartphone cameras have the distinct advantage of being incredibly handy and accessible. Plus, you don’t have to prep to catch your shot, just take it out and snap away.


Although image quality for smartphone cameras is constantly improving, it’s still not suitable for professional photographs or producing high-quality prints. There are also not really any lenses you can use to improve the quality of your shots, although there are somelenses you can clip on just for fun.

Mirrorless Cameras

Also known as compact system cameras, mirrorless cameras popped up on the market around 2008 and have gained in popularity ever since. They have some of the point-and-shoot ease of a compact camera while offering most of the capabilities and features of expensive SLR cameras. Features like fast shutter speeds, ultra HD video recording, and interchangeable lenses are only some of the perks of this type of camera.

Mirrorless cameras are also a great choice for travel photographers whowant to lighten their load and leave their more expensive DSLR at home. More and more professionals are also switching to these types of a digital camera over DSLRs because of convenience.


Lightweight, streamlined design is great for travelers on the go. They also have an electronic viewfinder, which allows you to keep an eye on your subject and be more aware of your surroundings. Other features include interchangeable lenses, simpler controls, high-quality video recording, and faster shutter speeds, and they are less expensive than DSLR cameras.


Although these types of cameras have more options when it comes to accessories and interchangeable lenses, there still aren't as many options out there for these items as there are for DSLRs. Mirrorless Cameras also tend to have shorter battery life and are slower to autofocus on subjects than DSLR cameras.

DSLR Cameras

Here’s where things get serious. Digital single lens reflex cameras or DSLR cameras are the unequivocal favorite of professionals and amateurs alike for their high-quality performance. These types of digital cameras were designed after film cameras, offer incredible quality HD videos, produce sharp images, and have great background bokeh. DSLR cameras also have a whole slew of accessories for photographers to play with, like interchangeable lenses and control over nearly every aspect of their photography. The optical viewfinder is ideal for capturing images in less-than-ideal weather conditions, combined with the absolute lack of shutter lag, and fast autofocus, you’ve got one heck of a travel photography camera.

The catch to all these shiny features is the price tag. While low-end DSLR cameras can be as low as $400, a high-end DSLR can set you back over $3,000. Do your homework to find out what aspects you really need in your DSLR before you invest in one. Although they are pricey, they are still the camera of choice for many avid travel photographers. Travel bloggers that rely on photo quality may also consider investing in one of these fantastic types of cameras.


These types of cameras are great for professionals and offer professional quality pics. Photographers can also change lenses, customize settings, get cleaner images with large sensors, and use the optical viewfinder for clear image viewing. Full HD video recording and output, and high-res photo output make these types of digital cameras a great choice.


The main drawback of DSLR cameras is the expense. They can also be fairly heavy and bulky, which makes them less ideal for travelers keeping a low-profile. If you do travel with one, you’ll need a protectivecamera bag to store it in. Beginning photographers may also struggle with DSLR cameras because they require a bit of knowledge to operate.

360-Degree Cameras

If the digital space is where you care to share your photos, a 360-degree camera provides an immersive experience that can bring you back to the moment you snapped the pic. These types of digital cameras offer full-circle panoramic shots, as well as half dome photos and videos. This is made possible by their back-to-back lens construction.

While you can’t really print out an image from a 360-degree camera unless you severely crop it, you can easily share it on social media and create an immersive “VR”-type experience for anyone who views it.


This lightweight, small type of camera is highly portable and ideal for photographers wanting to capture some fun shots on vacation. It can attach to most surfaces, and also lets you live-stream or video record your experiences.


Like most panoramic shots, 360-degree cameras can’t be jostled around while they’re taking pictures or videos. They also have a fixed focus with limited zoom capabilities and were mainly designed to be viewed digitally. Plus, it can be hard to hide the photographer in a shot that covers 360-degrees.

Keep Your Gear Safe

It’s tempting to save up and purchase the most expensive camera you can afford, but just because you pour a lot of money into your camera doesn't mean it's the right type of camera for you. Travel photographers should consider what they will use their camera for, where they will travel and how safe it is to carry a large camera, and what types of digital camera features they actually need and know how to use. These questions will help you narrow down your focus and purchase a camera that suits your needs, without including unnecessary bells and whistles you will never use.

While you don’t need to buy the most expensive camera on the market to get great travel photography shots, you do need to protect your investment. WANDRD’s PRVKE travel packs have room for camera cubes to protect and organize your gear. Check out WANDRD’s full collection of travel photography gear, and protect your camera while you explore and capture the world.

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