First, you want to make sure you have room for your camera and equipment in your travel bags. With all of the weight and size restrictions on baggage that airlines impose, keeping your camera equipment in check is important.
Second, you want some versatility out of the camera you pick. If your camera is only great at portrait photos, it may work well for portions of your vacation, but it won't be a good travel camera for the entire trip.
Third, the camera should have the ability to use mid-range to large telephoto settings, because you don't know just how close you will be able to move toward various landmarks. A large zoom can prevent this problem.
You may want built-in Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities in your travel camera, allowing you to geotag your photos and then upload them automatically to a backup server, so you don't lose any of your vacation photos if your camera is lost or if the memory card fails.
And fifth, you'll want to decide how you plan to carry the camera. Will you want a camera that fits in your pocket? Or do you want to haul a camera bag with you for the entire trip?
Continue reading to see my list of the best travel cameras that will meet the majority of the criteria listed above!
Canon's smallest DSLR camera -- the award-winning Canon EOS Rebel SL1 -- is now available. This is the smallest DSLR camera on the market that contains an APS-C sized image sensor. If you want to carry a DSLR camera on your vacation, the SL1 is small enough to help you conserve room in your luggage.
The SL1's CMOS image sensor offers 18 megapixels of resolution. Canon has designed the Rebel SL1 to be an easy-to-use camera for those photographers looking to make the jump from a point and shoot model to an interchangeable lens camera by including a mode called Scene Intelligent Auto Mode.
The SL1 also offers a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD, four frames per second shooting options, and full HD video recording. You can purchase the SL1 with a kit lens or with the camera body alone. The SL1's camera body alone weighs 14.36 ounces, making it the lightest DSLR on the market with such a large image sensor. As with other Canon DSLR cameras, the EOS Rebel SL1, which made my list of 2013's best cameras, is available in black only.More »
The ELPH 520 HS includes a 12X optical zoom lens, which Canon claims makes the 520 HS the world's thinnest 12X zoom camera. The ELPH 520 HS measures 0.76 inches in thickness.
It has a nice mid-range zoom lens, while still easily fitting in a pocket.
The sharp-edged design of the Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS gives it an interesting look for a point and shoot camera. And it has some good photographic features to match its cool design. The ELPH 520 HS uses a 10.1MP CMOS image sensor, which should improve low light photography results. It has a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD and full HD video capabilities. The ELPH 520 HS is available in blue, red, silver, and black camera bodies, depending on your location in the world.More »
The SX50 HS has a 12.1MP CMOS image sensor, full HD video capabilities, an articulated LCD that measures 2.8 inches diagonally, and Canon's High Sensitivity (HS) system designed for low-light photography.
However, the star feature of the SX50 HS is the 50X optical zoom lens, which carries an amazing 24mm to 1200 mm range. The SX50 HS has one of the largest optical zoom lenses on a fixed lens camera currently in the market, which may appeal to you when traveling. Just don't expect to slide this bulky camera into a pocket.More »
Small ultra zoom cameras are growing in popularity, and Nikon's latest contribution to this market is the Coolpix S9500.
The S9500 offers a 22X optical zoom lens as well as an impressive 18.1MP CMOS image sensor. This thin Coolpix model includes an impressive 3.0-inch OLED display screen and full 1080p HD video recording options. You'll also find built-in GPS and WiFi features with this camera, both of which are really nice features to find in a travel camera.More »
While the Nikon Coolpix S9700 has a few flaws, this model's strong versatility makes it a great travel camera.
The 30X optical zoom lens will give you the option of shooting photos over a variety of distances, which can be handy when you're traveling, because you won't know how close you can get to landmarks ahead of time. And with the Coolpix S9700 only measuring 1.4 inches in thickness, it should fit easily in a carry-on bag, making it easy to travel by air with this camera as well as fit in a pocket while you're seeing the sights.
Image quality is pretty good with this model, and its autofocus mechanism is able to achieve very sharp photos throughout the 30X optical zoom range. You will notice some image flaws from time to time, so don't expect to make extremely large prints with the Coolpix S9700's photos.More »
Small cameras with big zoom lenses are becoming a bit of a special niche for Olympus, and one of the company's latest offerings is the SZ-15.
The SZ-15 features a 24X optical zoom lens, 16MP of resolution in a CMOS image sensor, a 3.0-inch LCD, and full HD video recording. The SZ-15 fits in a desirable price point. It's available in red, black, or silver camera bodies.
This model does have a few drawbacks, but with its extremely low price and thin camera body, the SZ-15 is tough to ignore! It will provide you with plenty of versatility on your vacation, while fitting in your pocket.More »
The latest tough camera from Olympus, the TG-830, provides a nice mix of photographic features and "tough" features, which can be beneficial on certain types of trips.
The TG-830 can be used in up to 33 feet of water depth and can survive a fall from up to 6.6 feet. Olympus also included a built-in GPS unit and an e-compass with this camera.
The TG-830 has 16 megapixels of resolution, a 5X optical zoom lens, full 1080p HD video capabilities, and a 3.0-inch LCD. Olympus recently dropped the price on this camera. It's available in blue, red, silver, or black body colors.More »
Panasonic has built quite a few very interesting features into a point and shoot camera that measures only 1.1 inches in thickness with its Lumix DMC-ZS20 model.
The ZS20 includes a 20X optical zoom lens, a 3.0-inch high-resolution touch-screen LCD, and a built-in GPS unit. In addition, the Lumix ZS20, which was introduced at CES 2012, includes 14.1MP of resolution and full HD 1080p video recording capabilities.
That's a lot of high-end features in the ZS20, which is a reasonably-priced camera that's available in black, red, silver, or gray/white camera body colors. It's a good all-around camera that will work great for almost any trip.More »
Pentax has been one of the top camera manufacturers for several years when it comes to tough cameras. One of the latest models from Pentax -- the WG-3 GPS -- should be another really good waterproof camera. And you may want to consider a waterproof camera for a trip that will involve time at the beach.
This camera is usable in up to 45 feet of water depth and can survive a fall from 6.6 feet.
The WG-3 GPS includes a 16MP CMOS image sensor, 4X optical zoom in an f/2.0 lens, a 3.0-inch LCD screen, full 1080p HD video recording, and six LED macro lights.
The WG-3 is also available without a GPS unit, and the GPS adds about $50 to the price of the camera. Look for the WG-3 GPS in either green or purple camera bodies, both with black and yellow trim.More »
Samsung has done a really nice job of late creating thin ultra zoom cameras that give you a variety of great features, which makes them very strong travel cameras. The latest model, the WB250F, is another strong camera along this line.
The WB250F includes an 18X optical zoom lens, a 14MP CMOS image sensor, full 1080p HD video recording, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and a 3.0-inch touch-screen LCD. You also can download a Remote Viewfinder app to allow your smartphone as a camera display.
Look for the WB250F to carry a sub-$250 price point and to be available now in black, white, red, or gun metal gray.More »
It wasn't that long ago when finding a camera that had a 20X or larger optical zoom lens meant working with a blocky, heavy camera.
That's no longer the case. Thin zoom cameras introduced in 2013 are beginning to match or surpass the 20X optical zoom mark with more regularity, including the recently released Samsung WB800F, which has a 21X zoom.
The other specifications for the WB800F are pretty impressive, too, including a 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD, full 1080p HD video, 16.3 megapixels of resolution, and full manual shooting modes.
Look for the versatile WB800F to be available in white, black, or red camera bodies. This is a great travel camera.More »
Samsung has given the WB2200F a 60X optical zoom lens, which is one of the largest zoom settings you'll find on a camera currently in the market. And the dual hand grips that allow you to use this model equally well horizontally or vertically give it the flexibility you like to see in a travel camera.
You'll find 16 megapixels of resolution with this powerful Samsung model, and it provides a bit more manual control over your images than some cameras aimed more at beginners. Samsung calls the WB2200F a "bridge" camera, meaning it will serve as a stepping stone between a beginning model and a DSLR-type of camera.
Both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity are included with the WB2200F, as are a 3.0-inch LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder.More »