What Is the Best Camera for Travel?
Whenever I’m packing, I debate which option is going to be my best camera for travel. For years, I’ve traveled with a Canon DSLR and always regret taking it because of its weight and size. When it came down to it, I never wanted to lug around a heavy day bag, plus the camera is cumbersome to take out every time I wanted to take a photo. So, I invested in the iPhone 7 Plus recently to remedy the situation. And while I assumed that my new phone camera wouldn’t even compare to my old DSLR in terms of quality, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the iPhone is a contender for the best camera for travel.
To really test this theory out, I went out in Boston with my fellow SmarterTravel editor Jamie Ditaranto, who has a Samsung Galaxy S7, to take some photos. We also took pictures with a Panasonic Lumix G85 Mirrorless camera—a more lightweight version of a DSLR.
Note: These photos are all unedited and were taken from the same spot and angle.
iPhone 7 Plus
- Pros: Offers unique camera features like portrait mode and app support for manual shooting. Lightweight in comparison to larger point-and-shoot cameras.
- Cons: Limited to your phone’s available storage. Using camera apps or shooting for a long time will kill your battery quickly. Larger size than most other phones. Struggles with indoor and nighttime shots.
- Weight: 6.6 ounces.
- Price & Where to Buy: Starting at $719 on Amazon.
Samsung Galaxy S7
- Pros: Great for wide-angle shots and offers extensive camera features and shooting modes. Very lightweight and offers 4GB of RAM.
- Cons: Sometimes not compatible with iPhone-specific apps, doesn’t always perform best in low-light situations.
- Weight: 5.4 ounces.
- Price & Where to Buy: Starting at $310 on Amazon.
Panasonic Lumix G85
- Pros: Shoots high-quality video. Can manually adjust settings. Has unique features, like post-focus and focus stacking. Can interchange lenses. Takes better photos indoors and at night.
- Cons: Expensive. More cumbersome to carry.
- Weight: 1.1 pounds.
- Price & Where to Buy: $998 on Amazon.
Shot 1: Landscape
Winner: The Panasonic Lumix is the best camera for travel if you’re going to be taking a lot of landscape photos. This photo is crisper and clearer than the phone cameras, and balances the light best. As you can see, the Samsung Galaxy S7 photo is a little too dark, and the iPhone 7 Plus photo is overexposed.
Shot 2: Portrait
Winner: The iPhone 7 Plus is the clear winner here for the best camera for travel if you’re going to be taking a lot of portraits or close-up shots. While the Lumix G85 lets you set the camera manually, the iPhone does a better job at quickly shooting with this feature.
Shot 3: Depth of Field
Winner: This one is a little more difficult to judge, but we like the Panasonic Lumix for best camera for travel in terms of depth-of-field shots. All three cameras do a decent job, but the Lumix photo is clearer and you can see finer details. In a pinch, a phone camera would still work well for depth-of-field shots.
The best camera for travel really depends on what type of traveler you are, your environment, and what kind of travel photos you’re looking to take. If you’re looking for a lightweight camera that takes awesome portrait shots, definitely go with the iPhone 7 Plus. But if you’re looking for a better quality camera and don’t mind carrying around some extra weight, look into a mirrorless camera option, like the Panasonic Lumix G85. Even the Samsung S7 does a decent job with depth-of-field and landscape shots, so you really can’t go wrong if you have a Samsung phone and don’t want to carry around anything heavier.