There is nothing like getting lost with a camera in a beautiful place, far away from home. While equipment is not everything, bringing the right camera on the journey can make a tremendous difference in the quality and sheer amount of the travel photos we capture.
Let’s explore the current options for the best budget camera for traveling in 2021.
We’ll also provide practical tips for getting better travel shots with any camera – regardless of your experience, gear, and budget.
Lastly, we shall help you pick the best budget travel camera for your needs and answer some of the most crucial questions about travel photography. Get your wanderlust on and continue reading…
At a Glance: Best Budget Cameras for Traveling In 2021
Best Compact Budget Travel Camera
PANASONIC LUMIX ZS50 / TZ70
- 30 x Zoom
- Battery life
- Built-in EVF
- Full manual mode
- No touchscreen
- Not great at high ISO
- Some features unavailable in RAW
Released back in 2018, the ZS50 camera from Panasonic’s Lumix line might not be the newest and best in 2021. However, it’s still a compact powerhouse with a 30x optical zoom range and decent battery life.
Panasonic was the first manufacturer to make cameras specifically with travelers in mind, and we can definitely tell.
300 shots should suffice for most users. If not, an extra battery is relatively tiny and easily fits into a pocket. The Panasonic Lumix TZ70 compact travel camera has a resolution of 12MP. While this number could seem unimpressive, it is generally more than enough. With fewer pixels, the camera’s light-gathering ability is also more robust. Oh, and it has Leica optics, which is pretty cool to have in this lower end of the price spectrum.
Best Budget DSLR Camera For Travel Photography
Canon EOS Rebel 7 (EOS 2000D)
- Comfy grip
- 500 shot battery life
- Big lens range
- High detail imaging
- 24MP Crop sensor
- It can seem somewhat basic
- Lack of touch feature
- Feels a bit plasticky
- Video and Live View AF not the best
While the Rebel T7 from Canon is an absolute entry-level DSLR, it has many great features up its sleeve. The camera offers much of Canon’s pedigree, such as the excellent menu system and a monstrous amount of native glass.
The comfort is superb, and the battery life is CIPA rated to 500 captures, while the chassis weighs in at just 485 grams.
Canon EOS 2000D is a reasonably small camera for a DSLR, and it even boasts NFC and WiFi for added connectivity. While there is no weather sealing and the body is all plastic, the lens mount is made from metal. This ensures good durability for the novice travel shooter and experienced shutter-happy globetrotter alike.
There is also an optical viewfinder along with the familiar Canon button layout on the back.
Best Budget Mirrorless Camera For Traveling
- Film simulation modes
- Good battery for mirrorless
- Tilting touchscreen
- Sexy design
- Sluggish in operation
- Poor AF tracking
- Not great for video
Fujifilm X-T100 delivers well above its price. The analog feel, built-in EVF, and excellent image quality all contribute to a fun shooting experience. With that said, speed and subject tracking leave something to be desired.
The X-T100 processor is coming straight from the entry-level X-A5, which means rather sluggish performance. Forget about serious video capture, too. The AF subject tracking is practically non-existent, leaving it to manual focus.
Those shortcomings aside, the X-T100 is a competent budget camera for traveling. The battery provides up to 430 shots, and the image quality is outstanding. We’d just wish the camera had weather and dust sealing, although users haven’t voiced any complaints about this.
As for the sluggish speed, there is no way of resolving it except opting for a higher model. All in all, the X-T100 is one of the best budget cameras for traveling right now.
Best Action Camera For Travel
GoPro Hero 9
- Replaceable lens cover
- Up to 5K video
- 30% more juice
- Purple fringing
- Not inexpensive
- Fixed focal length
GoPro’s most recent iteration Hero9 takes what the series has done well and does it even better. The vibrant color display is ultra-useful, and the lens cap can finally be replaced if broken. Those who love action in cold conditions will experience an extra-long battery life.
The GoPro Hero9 even allows for an additional Max Lens, which somewhat compensates for the fixed focal length.
While an action camera is not optimal for advanced stills capture, it is certainly capable of it. The Hero9’s ace, though, is the ‘Hypersmooth’ video footage in 4K (can deliver up to 5K).
The stabilization is second to none and provides silky-smooth footage even in the most extreme action scenes. So smooth, in fact, that it would make George Clooney blush. The video quality is adequate to grab stills from, too.
Best Budget Smartphone For Photography
iPhone SE (2020)
- Best single-lens iPhone camera ever made
- Inexpensive for an iPhone
- Natural colors
- Snappy A13 Bionic processor
- Battery life could be better
- Lacks night mode
- Big-ish bezels
There is no question that smartphones have helped push photography to the mainstream like nothing else. As of 2021, a mobile phone can produce commercially viable stills and videos – not ‘just’ aesthetically pleasing and IG-worthy snaps.
In this newer iteration of the long-neglected SE product line, we are getting the best single-lens camera system ever featured on an iPhone.
While devices like Huawei Mate 40 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max beat the SE 2020 right out of the water, there is no serious competition in the lower price bracket. However, the front-facing camera and battery life on the iPhone SE are unimpressive.
In addition to that, users tend to either love or hate the Apple ecosystem. If you’re on a shoestring budget and prefer non-Apple alternatives, you might want to check out the Google Pixel 4 or OnePlus Nord instead.
The Overall Best Budget Camera For Traveling
And the winner is… (Drumroll, please…)
PANASONIC LUMIX ZS50 / TZ70
All things considered, the Panasonic Lumix ZS50/TZ70 compact camera takes it home when it comes to the best budget camera for traveling. It’s capable, compact, and has good battery life.
Most importantly, the image quality is on point. Although the ZS50 is not weather-sealed, its tiny size makes it easy to tuck away in a pocket or a plastic bag.
That’s why, in our view, the Panasonic Lumix ZS50 represents the best bang for your buck when selecting the very best budget travel camera in 2021.
How To Choose The Right Travel Camera On a Budget
When looking for a new travel camera, we should always start by asking questions such as:
- What’s my equipment budget?
- Do I want a brand new device, or is pre-owned alright?
- Which features are most important for me in a travel camera?
- What kind of climate will I be shooting in?
- Will I be shooting stills, videos, or both?
- How simple should social sharing be? (laptop needed or not)
Key Features To Consider In a Travel Camera
- SIZE & WEIGHT
- ZOOM RANGE
- BATTERY LIFE
- HD/4K VIDEO
- MANUAL SETTINGS
- INTERCHANGEABLE LENSES
Easy Tips to Improve Your Travel Photos at Zero Cost
At the end of the day, our travel photos don’t care whether we spend $500 or $5,000 on a camera. It mostly boils down to skill, creativity, and knowing your equipment well.
It’s possible to take jaw-dropping photos everywhere we go, no matter if just using a phone, a film camera, or a consumer-grade point & shoot.
Here are some free and easy steps you can take if you want to upgrade your travel photos without even thinking of breaking the piggy bank.
Do your travel location research.
Looking up your travel destination on Flickr can be helpful before departure. Don’t just try to mimic. Instead, find interesting travel locations and explore them on your own – photographically and otherwise. Make a rough plan of the areas you want to capture, and plan your itinerary after it.
Good old pen and paper is your best friend here — no need to rely on batteries and power sources. A portable solar panel can be a life-saver, though, if using a mirrorless or compact camera.
Know your travel photo gear in and out.
The value of knowing your gear’s capabilities and limitations can prove crucial. Once you know how to work around the camera’s shortcomings, you are empowered to create incredible photography in any situation.
Make sure you know how to quickly and effectively change the settings and modes. Consider going through the manual while sitting on your flight.
Set up shortcuts to the features you access most often. Get some practice in – program the muscle memory, especially if you’re using a new piece of kit.
Glue the camera to your hand.
Not literally, of course. The camera is more useful in your hand than in your bag. Or worse, your backpack. This goes especially for travel photography.
By holding on to your camera, you also significantly reduce the risk of theft. Get used to casually having your camera ready at all times, and you’ll lose fewer precious travel photo gems.
Start clicking as soon as possible.
Click the shutter already on the way out of the door. This way, your brain enters ‘photo-mode’ right away. You instantly become more conscious of your environment, and your senses start scanning for visually interesting things to capture.
Even if you have the best possible camera for traveling, it’s no good if you don’t take a single shot all day. Once the first one is clicked, it gets easier.
Slow down. Waaaaay doooown.
Don’t just blaze through your travel destination like it’s a race. Take your time. Blend in and spend time with the locals. Build rapport and take it easy. Once everyone gets accustomed to your presence, you’ll have an easier time getting interesting travel photos – be it before, after, or even entirely without permission.
Use apps to help you with timing.
Smartphone apps such as Photopills and Sun Surveyor will help you time the light, even if you’re not familiar with the location. Google Streetview is also beneficial for travel and landscape photographers alike.
Be cautious with local advice.
While the locals probably have the best of intentions when sharing their local objects of pride, take their advice with a grain of salt. As a traveler, you have the outsider privilege. This means that everything is probably new, exciting, and exotic to you. Even the most mundane, everyday stuff from the locals’ perspective jumps out as you’re not accustomed to it.
Learn the rules, then break them.
Obviously, if you happen to find yourself near the Taj Mahal or the Great Pyramid of Giza, it’s natural to try and get your own take. Be mindful of the busy times of year and day. Consider how you could put your own twist on the scene. Composition elements, exposure time, and obscure angles can all drastically change the story and the end result.
No matter how hard we might try, it’s impossible to replicate another photo 1 to 1. Why even try then? Make it your own instead.
Tips For Conserving Battery Life While Traveling
- Disable stabilization when unnecessary
- Switch the camera off when walking
- Use the viewfinder, not the screen
- Turn down the LCD brightness
- Use only original batteries
- Always carry extras just in case
- Make use of the Airplane mode
FAQs About Budget Travel Cameras
What Cameras Are The Best for Travel Bloggers and Instagrammers?
If your primary use case is original images for your blog and content for your Instagram, there are several options. As for getting the best JPEGs straight out of the camera (enabling ridiculous amounts of storage), we’d opt for a Fujifilm camera. Something like an X-T20, X-T30, X-T100, or X-T200, depending on your needs and budget. If the price is no object, An X-T3 or X-T4 would be a great choice, too.
If you want super easy social sharing, you can’t go wrong with a Canon EOS M100. Simply download the content wirelessly to your phone, edit, and post away. No laptop or tablet is needed. Being a small mirrorless camera, the M100 allows for changing lenses as you please.
When you need savage performance and great versatility in both video and stills, the Sony Alpha a6000 camera could easily be the best choice. Although ergonomics and ease of use might not be the best with Sony, the performance to price ratio is absolutely insane. Sony cameras are also great at sharing wirelessly with your phone or tablet. Also, there are loads of great glass available for the Sony Alpha series – native and adapted.
How Can You Travel Safely With Your Camera gear?
Most insurance companies, including World Nomads, cover single electronics items up to €500 or $500. This includes cameras and lenses.
If you’re planning to bring something far above this price range, we would strongly encourage you to get proper travel photographer insurance. Here are the most loved options out there:
While you can get an exact quote based on your unique needs, expect a premium of up to 500$. Although this can seem a bit steep, it ultimately depends on your gear’s cost and the risk factors around your travel destination.
No matter if you pick an insurance package or not, it’s best to bring your camera back home with you. No camera = no pictures.
Here are some simple, practical tips to make sure that you still have your camera at the end of your journey:
Avoid flashing expensive-looking camera gear in economically poor locations with high crime rates. Beware of trick thieves and people firmly insisting on your attention for any reason.
DO NOT use your standard branded camera strap saying Canon, Nikon, or Sony all over. Instead, go for Peak Design straps. We love them, and we reckon you’ll love them, too.
Mask any other branding off with black tape. Consider making the camera appear old and unappealing, if possible. You could even ‘bum out’ your outfit and avoid wearing jewelry, to seem less attractive as a potential target.
Be nice, be smart, and be safe
Keep your camera in line of sight at all times. Don’t just leave it in your room for days. Do not let your travel camera sit in your backpack on the floor or overhead compartment in public transport. If your gear is in your carry-on luggage, hold it on your lap while sitting in crowded busses and the like.
Mingle with the locals. Once you establish a relationship with the regular, dodgy person on the street corner, you’re much less likely to be taken advantage of. Be polite and greet the vendors in your area. Small-talk and give them some of your time. It’s a worthy investment, especially if you plan on sticking around for a while.
Don’t venture into creepy dark places by yourself, particularly if you’re a small frame individual with little to no self-defense skills. In the worst case, a chunky camera body can double as a self-defense weapon (although this is fortunately extremely rare).
Some good ol’ common sense goes a long way. Be smart and responsible, and you’ll be just fine.
Bonus tip: To minimize the risk of lost content in case of theft, you can either upload daily or use multiple SD cards that you swap and store separately from your travel camera.
For redundancy, you can bring a combination of one mirrorless and one compact. This way, even if one breaks down or ‘runs away,’ you can keep on shooting.
What Is The Best Compact Budget
Camera for Traveling?
The answer entirely depends on your unique needs and preferences. Sometimes, the smartphone you already have is sufficient. If not, a compact camera such as Sony RX100 Mark III or Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 would be an excellent choice. Both compact cameras offer serious performance, tiny size and weight, and at a relatively low cost.
Sometimes, size matters
For some users, heavyweight photo equipment is more or less a necessity. If your camera needs to be comfortable, flexible, weatherproof, durable, and ultra-reliable, then a mirrorless or even a DSLR is likely the way forward. This is especially important if you’re also going to be carrying a flash for your Sony A7 iii or another camera around with you.
Although compromising weight, a full-size digital camera can make life easier and deliver higher quality images and video footage. The Sony Alpha range, Panasonic Lumix GH series, and even Canon’s 5D MIII/IV have all climbed the tallest peaks and seen the wonders of the world.
Just have a look at Flickr. Size aside, some traveling photographers bring a drone. Those have also become increasingly compact with time and can help produce otherwise impossible footage and stills images.
For 3 out of 4 travel photographers, a compact camera is the best budget camera for traveling. Our pick is Panasonic Lumix Zs50 / Tz70. Although, the Sony RX100 and Panasonic Lumix lines both contain great budget-friendly travel camera options. If Indiana Jones had to pick a modern camera, it would most likely be a Panasonic Lumix.
For a larger form factor and better ease of use, we recommend Fuji X-T100 or higher. Sony Alpha a6000 or newer will do the trick, in case flexibility and performance are essential. Should you prefer something in between, Nikon COOLPIX are great bridge cameras that are capable yet inexpensive.