Whilst travelling there is always a challenge when one considers which cameras to take, travelling light is always important for enjoyability, portability and flexibility but at the same time we all want to take the best photos to capture our memories and experiences as we possibly can. We love to explore cities as well as the mountains, the best camera for hiking isn’t always an all rounder! That’s where some tough decisions come when we’re planning our travels, do we go with the large DSLR with heavy multiple lenses, do we instead use a compact or even decide on a mirrorless system, or even just use your phone? Each have their advantages and disadvantages when trying to pick out the best camera for travel photography. But after spending 3 years on the road backpacking as well as various shorter trips before, trying out different cameras along the way, we’ve come up with our ultimate guide to the best camera for backpacking.
The best camera for backpacking & the best camera for travel photography!
The compact option: Sony RX100
We understand the need to travel with a super compact but high quality camera. One that easily fits in your bag or a small case around your shoulder or even in your pocket, which makes it up there as the best camera for hiking. At the same time though many travellers want a high quality camera capable of manual settings and impressive shots. The Sony RX100 is a great compromise and one we used for a long time whilst travelling. It has a 1 inch sensor and an impressive 20mp with a a good mid range-zoom lens, its compact size makes it a contender for the best camera for backpacking.
It also shoots in RAW or JPEG, has full manual controls as well as many other settings from fully automates to partially automated which is why it possibly the best camera for travel photography. This makes it perfect for both more advanced photographers, beginners and those wanting to experiment with more. It’s real advantage comes with its size which is incredibly portable and perfect for travel. It really is an advanced point and shoot!
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The Semi Pro mirrorless: A compact alternative to an DSLR & a step up from a compact: Sony a6500
If you crave both compactness but also quality then the perfect camera is a crop sensor Mirrorless set up the combination of size and quality makes this type of system a real choice for the best camera for backpacking. The most popular of these and what we’ve used for over a year is the Sony a6000 and it’s newest model, the Sony a6500. This small but powerful camera offers a great line up of interchangeable lenses, an APS-C sensor (the same size in most DSLR’s), 24mp image size and super fast auto focus. The combination of size and quality makes it the best camera for hiking due to its portability!
It might not be entirely pocket size but its still very portable and gives you complete control over the photo taking process as well as DSLR quality at a fraction of the size and weight. It does also feature several different auto and semi auto modes and is a natural progression from the RX100 having a similar menu system. For those who are into photography, need quality but also a small system, this might just be the best camera for travel photography.
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Recommended Lenses for Sony a6000- a6500
The pro mirrorless full frame option: A top quality alternative to DSLR: Sony a7ii
If quality is your main concern but you still want something a little more portable than a large DSLR then a full frame mirrorless camera such as the Sony a7ii is ideal. This pro level camera has all the features you would imagine from a high end camera system and with a full frame sensor and 24mp of image quality, as well as some of the best lenses on the market available for the Sony FE mount. It does come with a high price, both financially and with quite a bit more size and weight to boot too which means it might not be the best camera for hiking. However, compared to the equivalent DSLR the size and weight is still much less. For those wanting the ultimate in quality without the huge size of DSLR’s this is the best camera for travel photography!
This is an incredible travel camera set up that is intended for those of an advanced level to take advantage of all the manual controls available, however, it does still offer auto mode as well as Aperture priority, shutter priority and has a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a good number of customisable buttons. Despite the increase in size it still is a very portable camera and with the incredible quality it is the best camera for backpacking if you are willing to make some sacrifices in size.
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Recommended Lenses for Sony a7ii / a7iii/ a7riii
The action cam for all conditions: Go Pro
Of course, when travelling in some of the most challenging conditions, or just taking a dip in the sea or a swimming pool, we need something a little different than the other cameras mentioned. For action sports and situations where you need your camera to be waterproof, tough and easily hands free, a Go Pro is the perfect travel companion and the best camera for hiking and adventures. These tiny but powerful cameras offer a super wide angle view, HD video, single shots, multi shots, touch screen and even voice activation. For actions and all weather adventures this is the best camera for travel photography.
The numerous mounts available mean you can attach it easily to your helmet or wear it on your wrist, chest, handlebars or anywhere you can think of to get that perfect action shot! It’s size also means you can easily carry it in your pocket and it takes up hardly any room in your bag! We’ve taken our Go Pro scuba diving down to 18m, paragliding, climbing, surfing, snowboarding and even to capture our adventures at the Thingyan water festival in Myanmar! As an all round camera that can do anywhere a Go Pro is the best camera for backpacking and whatever it throws at you!
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And an accessories kit here:
For the ultimate convenience & great quality: iPhone X.
Lets face it, carrying around multiple cameras, no matter how compact, it always a bit of a drag! It takes up more room, requires editing or sending over to your phone for sharing and also makes the contents of your bag worth that much more money which is never ideal. I can see why many people would rather use their phone than more intrusive camera equipment and why phones can make the best camera for travel photography list! Phones these days offer great quality, HDR settings and are often instantly backed up too. Considering many people in the past would have just used a disposable film camera, the difference in quality between the holidays snaps of the past and those available with such convenience and instant shareability is astounding! The top phones out there at the moment such as the iphone X offer top of the range technology making it a real contender for the best camera for backpacking as well as the best camera for hiking due to it’s portability.
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Accessories for your cameras:
Carrying around a tripod might seem unnecessary but it can make such a difference to your photography, especially in low light or for landscape. Depending on your camera set up and the type of images you plan on taking a portable travel tripod or a Gorilla pod are ideal. The travel tripod allows you to keep any size of camera stable but requires a pretty level surface where as a Gorilla Pod can wrap around any surface such as poles as offers much more unique angles as well as being much smaller. No matter if you have the best camera for travel photography or not, a tripod will help your photography no end.
Bags and cases:
Keeping your camera safe whilst travelling requires a decent case, especially if you are bringing along a larger camera with multiple lenses. Selecting the right one which protects your equipment, keeps everything together but is also light and practical is another challenge, especially if you’re on the look out for the best camera for hiking. We like to have a case we can use to carry our camera on its own as a shoulder pack but that also fits inside our larger bag. If you go to the effort of picking out the best camera for backpacking you should also do the same for the case you bring too! Cases and bags are particularly important when you are out in the mountains too so if you’ve got the best camera for hiking you also need the best hiking camera backpack too.
If you carry a lot of gear around you can also get backpacks specially designed with compartments for your camera and accessories as well as main storage compartments for laptops and other items.
Another bag we have been looking at lately since upgrading our camera is a pacsafe bag, these are specially designed to keep your bag super safe. They are made of material which can’t be cut, zips that can be locked and several hidden compartments, they are ideal for travellers in general but especially if you have the best camera for backpacking, you need to keep it safe!
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Protection for your gear:
Another thing we usually take with us is to keep our equipment safe is a dry sack, if you have the best camera for backpacking you can get you really need to make sure its protected! These come in a variety of sizes and types and roll up and clip to make a waterproof bag. We often use them when travelling from one place to another in case of getting caught out in bad weather as well as taking a thicker version out on boat trips or whilst hiking. We also have some smaller ones to keep our external hard drives and pen drives in.
Memory cards, spare batteries and back ups:
It’s always useful to carry around spare batteries and memories cards when you’re on the road. You never know when you might run out of space or juice so they really are so invaluable! You should also make sure to get top quality cards from sandisk or kingston, even though they might seem expensive for what they are these much more reliable than cheaper versions and Sandisk ones are also waterproof just in case!
Backing up your photos on the road is also important, you never know when your computer might crash, get damaged or stolen and the same goes for your camera and memory cards. Bringing along an external Hard Drive as well as smaller but more reliable pen drives is idea and can be kept separate from your laptop and camera. We also advice using cloud services such as Dropbox or Crashplan. There’s no point searching out for the best camera for backpacking if you don’t have any space on your memory card!!
Find them here:
Our camera set up and our advice:
We take our photography pretty seriously and have in the past few month upgraded our camera system to reflect that. However everything mentioned in this post are cameras we’ve travelled with at one point or another, this makes us positive we can advise what is the best camera for backpacking as well as the best camera for hiking taking into consideration size, quality and practicality.
For a long time we had only the Sony RX100 and the Go Pro which was a super light and portable set up idea for those with an interest in photography but without the need for much larger cameras. This is ideal for backpacking or hiking trip and is so easy to keep safe too. At a certain point in the trip we upgraded to a more recent version of the same camera and decided to keep the old one too as its so portable, this comes in handy as we both have camera each plus the old one is ideal for when you go out to a party or if you’re just at the beach!
Our second set up we used for around a year and was a little larger but offered us more quality and flexibility. We upgraded to the Sony a6000 and bought 3 Sigma prime lenses at 19mm/ 30mm / 60mm. We absolutely loved this camera set up as it was still very light but felt much more like a proper camera to use. Having used DSLR’s for many years before backpacking I loved how much easier it felt to use on manual as well as using the viewfinder which for me really seems to change how I take photos and made it so fun use on our recent trip to Istanbul.
Our current set up from our most recent upgrade adds quite a lot of size and weight but was something we decided on as we began to take our photography much more serious. We upgraded to the pro level full frame Sony a7ii plus the Sony FE 24mm- 105mm. This offers us incredible image quality and the zoom lens is much more practical for us whilst travelling that the previous set of primes we used before, for us and our needs this is the best camera for travel photography for us.
Prime lenses are often superior but upgrading the system as a whole meant that a full frame top end Sony zoom lens offers us more than crop frame primes. It is however heavier, larger and of course, we’re much more protective over it! For this level of camera and amount of focal lengths available using this lens it is still a light and portable set up compared with equivalent DSLR’s.
General advice for the best camera for travel photography!
Our advice would be to really think about what you need overall and what your priority is, pick out the best camera for travel photography for you. Do you need the best of the best quality or is portability more useful, are you a serious photographer or just taking snaps for fun, do you need the best camera for hiking? How much use would you get out of a pro level camera and how comfortable would you feel using it? Or do you find even advanced compacts to be too restrictive? Experiment with different cameras, take them on short trips and see how practical each one is to carry around and to use. We’ve been on the road now for 3 years and gone through many changes searching for the set up that suits us, so it really is something that needs quite a bit of consideration! One thing you need to do is find the best camera for backpacking for you and your needs!
How about taking a photography tour to help you use the best camera for travel photography?
Do you have a particular travel camera set up, what do you think is the best camera for backpacking? What do you use and what is on our wish list?
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