Travel Gear

Top compact cameras for travelers

Want to make sure you capture all the best moments from your vacation? Sure, iPhones are great but if you want something a little extra, check out our list of top pics for compact cameras. All recommendations come from National Geographic Travel's Director of Photography Dan Westergren. 

Get ready to wow friends and family with new snapshots.

  • 1. Fujifilm X-Pro 1

    Fujifilm X-Pro 1

    Tyler Metcalfe, National Geographic

    Most photographers working on assignment for National Geographic use full-frame digital cameras and fast zoom lenses that prepare them for almost any photographic problem they may encounter in the field. The problem with that setup is the weight and expense of the gear. A few years ago Olympus and Panasonic partnered to create a new format that promised smaller cameras and lenses while maintaining great image quality. To make this new system work it was necessary to remove the reflex-viewing mirror. Now many of these cameras incorporate eye-level electronic viewfinders (EVFs) that finally make them feel like real photographic tools. Fujifilm and Sony have joined Olympus and Panasonic with similar mirrorless cameras that have now matured into full-featured small camera systems that don't have to apologize for their performance.

    One of these is Fujifilm's X-Pro 1, an affordable digital rangefinder with superb image quality. Since digital overtook the business, I've been lamenting the loss of my Contax rangefinder film camera. It was compact and had crazy-sharp lenses. Now I can get the same thing in digital from Fujifilm, along with a fantastic retro look.

    Get It:

    Sensor: APS-C 16MP

    Features: Interchangeable lens, hybrid multi viewfinder, HD video

  • 2. Fujifilm X-E2

    Fujifilm X-E2


    This is a smaller and lighter version of the X-Pro1, without the optical viewfinder. Fujifilm cameras use a new type of sensor array called X-Trans CMOS. It's a radically different way of separating colors that leads to small-sensor image quality that rivals its full-frame competitors.

    "I love the X-E1 [precursor to the X-E2]. I love how portable it is, and the lens quality is outstanding. But the picture is the big thing—the images are really strong. I'm amazed at how little I have to correct them on the computer. Usually I shoot in RAW, but these Fujifilm cameras produce amazing JPEGs straight out of the camera." —Jonathan Irish, program director for National Geographic Adventures and contributing photographer for National Geographic Traveler

    Get It:

    Sensor: APS-C 16MP

    Features: Interchangeable lens, Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, HD video

  • 3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3


    The Panasonic G-series micro cameras that have a 4/3 imaging sensor size use the smaller format in a modern way, with sleek camera design incorporating next-generation, eye-level electronic viewfinders in addition to the back screen. This Panasonic is quickly developing the reputation of producing the best looking video files of any digital still camera. The video quality is said to be better than cameras twice its size and cost. But its still quality also ranks with the best of the micro 4/3 cameras.

    For less money there's the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6KK, which has the same image quality but less refined user functionality.

    Get It:

    Sensor: Micro 4/3rds 16.05MP

    Features: Interchangeable lens, Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, HD video

  • 4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7


    The Panasonic G series has been a photographer's favorite for a few years. The cameras are loved for their small size and excellent image quality, as well as for the huge range of lenses available from Panasonic, Olympus, and Leica. An added advantage is that the micro 4/3 cameras in this series all share common lens mount and functionality. Photographer David Alan Harvey even used one of these surprisingly tiny cameras to capture many of the pictures featured in a recent National Geographic magazine story on North Carolina's Outer Banks. The Lumix GX7, the latest in the G series, adds a built-in EVF, the one thing that was keeping these cameras from fulfilling the expectations of the format.

    Get It:

    Sensor: Micro 4/3rds 16MP

    Features: Interchangeable lens, Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, HD video

  • 5. Sony NEX-6

    Sony NEX-6


    Sony's answer to the micro 4/3 cameras is its NEX line of compact models, which use the same intermediate-size chip as the early digital SLRs. When they first came out, these cameras were called EVILs (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens) but are now mostly just referred to as mirrorless. Some of the models in the NEX series are so small that they're dwarfed by the lenses attached to them. While some photographers really like that small-form factor, the added EVF on the larger NEX-6 makes it more useful for serious photography.

    Get It:

    Sensor: APS-C 16.1 MP

    Features: Interchangeable lens, Wi-Fi, electronic viewfinder, HD video

    Check out more compact cameras great for travel.

    More from National Geographic

    Paradise Lost and Found in Northern Kenya

    Why (and How) Travel Writing Moves Us

    Eat Your Way Through Montreal This Winter

    Best Places to Stay: Northern Lights