Ask LH: What's A Good Point-And-Shoot Camera For Travel?

Hey Lifehacker, I was wondering if you had any recommendations on a point-and-shoot compact camera for travelling. A relative has asked me for advice and my first thought was a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, but they didn't like that idea. Any ideas or recommendations? Thanks, Looking For Lenses

Photo picture from Shutterstock

Dear LFL,

Personally, I'm a big fan of Canon's PowerShot G-series. These are high-end compact models that provide prosumer-level functionality without compromising on portability or ease-of-use. I've found that they consistently produce excellent results in low-lighting even when sticking to auto mode: which makes them a good choice if you're relative isn't technically inclined.

Most G-series models also come with a swiveling LCD display and a wide-angle lens which provide the photographer with more versatility when it comes to framing shots. Other noteworthy features include Full HD video recording, RAW support and Canon's tried-and-tested DIGIC image processors.

In other words, they offer the best of both words with plenty of advanced features to compliment their point-and-shoot convenience. The only downside is a limited optical zoom of 5x or under. This wont be an issue for landscape and portrait shots, but can prove frustrating if you're trying to capture a closeup of something in the distance.

I also tossed your query across the office to Gizmodo's new reviews maestro Campbell Simpson. Here's what he had to say:

My advice for a travel camera would be to head into a camera store and try out a few different models, and see what works best for you. The ‘right’ camera is always relative to your photographic desires; I’ve happily lugged a DSLR around on holidays, but I don’t think your relatives would be too keen on that.   These days, almost any camera will capture decent pictures as long as you’re in acceptable lighting. As you pay more, you get a larger range of features, some of which will come in handy and some of which will be effectively useless. Superzoom point-and-shoot cameras like Panasonic’s TZ60 rate highly with travellers, thanks to their huge zoom range, decent lenses and image quality and middling price tags.   For a suggestion that’s more out of left field, I’d re-recommend a small mirrorless camera like the Panasonic GM1 or Sony a5000 – with a collapsible power-zoom lens, they can be just as small as a point-and-shoot with hugely improved features and image quality. If I was buying a new holiday camera, they’d be up the top of my list.

If any amateur photographers want to suggest some recommendations of their own, fire away in the comments section below!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I used the G series for a while until Canon lost the plot a bit. I swapped to using mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic and Olympus, which are the same size and allow you to quickly swap between pancake and zoom lenses.

    I have been doing the same sort of research, and a lot of sites have recommended the Sony RX100 or RX100 II as the best pocket camera out there. It's not cheap, but I have seen an awful lot of praise for them.

      i got a rx100 mostly for my USA trip last april. it was fantastic (still is)
      i didnt want to take lenses with me, just a versatile camera that takes great photos.
      and i got some great photos.
      it lived in my pocket for most of the trip, highly recommended despite the relatively high cost

        Just got back from a 6 week holiday that involved lots of cold, snow, ice and generally harsh photo environments. My RX100II was hugely up to the task and I can't imagine using anything else while on holiday. Just about perfect for what it needs to do. I even went heliskiing with it at -20 degrees!

    Sony NEX series. I'm the same with carrying around my Canon 5D MkII with the stock lens but truth be told it is really heavy (over a kilo, or more if i add the flash or sound recorder). I only notice this when i hand it off to someone else to take a photo of me and some scenery. Most of the other times i opted for my IPhone 5s for panoramic as they are simple and my phone is always handy. Lastly i wish, i wish, i wish i had a GPS tracker in my camera..... everything i wanted is in the NEX series even interchangeable lenses, full frame and a panorama mode.

    I only travel with my Panasonic DMC-FT3 due to its ruggedness - I travel rough and treat my gadgets rough and this thing just cannot be killed.

    It can be problematic in low light conditions and has trouble working out the right settings, but 99% of the time it is awesome.

    For something a bit cheaper I would suggest the Sony WX300 or WX350. Great compact camera with a good zoom. Doesn't do RAW but takes good quality pictures just on auto for those that don't want to play with the settings.

    similar to @singlemalt72: I used to travel with a small point and shoot (FinePix F10) but that's ten years old now, so I treated myself to a new point and shoot that suits my style of travelling: Olympus TG2.
    I have a larger camera but I don't use it much because it's too much to lug around. I'm not carrying 1kg or more of camera up a 2000 m mountain.

    After many years of Canon G, and more recently a Powershot S100, an iPhone 5S with Lifeproof case running the standard phone app is the most practical balance between picture quality, robustness and battery life. Small point and shoots usually mean small batteries (apart from the awesome Nikon 1 V1 but it barely fits the definition), and the dearth of USB charge-in-cam point-and-shoots means that an iPhone 5 with a USB power source is ideal for me in the great outdoors. On a hike this the ideal situation.

    If driving I give the iPhone some juice in the car on the way to whatever I'm going to see. A point and shoot battery charger plugged into an inverter in a cigarette lighter - a bit yuck.

    For video, nothing touches the image quality of an iPhone 5 running Filmic Pro in 50mbps mode, at least none of the video modes in any point and shoot i've seen. Check out the reviews of that amazing app on serious video/photography sites.


    What recommended for my mum on her hiking travels through Spain was the Samsung Galaxy camera- She's taken some pretty amazing shots with it, plus she saved on gear weight since it has full android and network connectivity so it worked well for communication, maps, booking accommodation, social media, photo editing, auto backup of her photos etc.
    Ideal travel camera.

    I travelled for a bit with a Canon G10 but have since changed to a Canon S110. Its much smaller but has the same functionality (except for the swivel screen on the more recent G cameras.)

    I have a Fuji X100s. It has only a fixed lenses 35mm but very versatile and relatively easy to use if you come from a film background - not a great battery life though. For wildlife I take a canon 5d and a range of L series lenses, but it is quite heavy - about 7kg I think all up. And I use a Sony phone Xperia Z1 which has a nice 20 MP camera for casual shots. Also I use the Olympus Z1 which is very nice for a compact camera. Really it is about what you need and is in your budget and skill or aspiration level - As the article suggested research online for camera's that might suit then try instore for comfort and shooting speed. Just be aware the results may be different to what appears on the LCD or viewfinder.

    A lot of people suggesting the somewhat chunky Canon G series cameras. I personally think it depends on where you go and what sort of photos you want to take.

    I did my first big holiday to Japan with a crappy old point and shoot that my parents owned, and all around me were people with prosumer dslr cameras taking much better quality photos than I could.

    After a bit of research I decided to buy a Canon G12 for my next holiday, thinking it was a good compromise over a full dslr. Unfortunately I was going to Vietnam, and I had underestimated how common it is for guys on motorbikes to snatch your camera, so I spent half my time putting it away and getting it out, which is inconvenient when walking through food markets or festivals. Meanwhile a lot of people had little point and shoots that fit snugly into their fist and they could quickly get that photo when they needed to.

    I've eventually settled on using my smartphone for quick shots and my G12 for more planned or special shots.

    So i think where you're going defines what camera you should get.

    hmmm, might consider buying a camera before I go on holidays ...

    I always recommend the same thing: Any camera that is waterproof at least and that uses a standard SD card.

    EDIT: Unless you dabble in artistic photography somewhat.

    Last edited 26/03/14 4:55 am

    The following comments apply to true point and shoot cameras that the average travel snapshot taker who just wants a photographic record of where they have been will use. They don't apply to the higher end or arty photographer.

    No dangly bits: eg pop-up flash or fold-out screen - they will get snapped off.

    Make sure the battery compartment won't open when you put your thumb on the bottom of the camera - it will get snapped off. Put tape over it to keep it shut.

    No hope of getting this one - try and get one that uses non-proprietary USB power/data cable. If you lose/bend the cable you are in deep doodah because you won't be able to buy a replacement in the local gizmo shop.

    Get a spare battery because the battery will go flat at the worst possible time. Third party ones for $10-$20 seem OK compared to $90 genuine. If they don't last quite as long as genuine, who cares. For the price differential you can afford to get several.

    If you wear the camera in a pouch on your hip get a hard shell case (or put a hard shell container such as a soap container) in the pouch. When you get into the car the power button will be activated and the lens will come out. When you sit down the lens will be crushed into the camera.

    If you are going to use the camera while in car (as passenger = OK, as driver = they haven't caught me yet) attach the camera to a lanyard around your neck. Otherwise, you will put it in your lap and it will fall on the ground when you get out.

    Contentious point - Taking photos with more pixels than the resolution of the monitor you will display the photos on is a waste of storage space, upload data quota and time to save or display photos. In my experience (YMMV) it is extremely unlikely that you will print or zoom in on (the usual reasons why high pixel photos are touted as being essential) any of the thousands of photos you take. In practice, this isn't a huge restriction because the lowest resolution (other than VGA) that most cameras provide is still 3 or 4 times larger than monitor resolution so you can zoom in and print normal sized photos (though why anyone would print photos is beyond me). Therefore, I recommend you set camera to lowest resolution and maybe, just maybe, increase for special photos.

    Wide angle cameras are a pain because subject ends up being too small. If you want a wide photo Swing Panorama mode (available on Sony) can produce great ultra wide photos.

    As much optical zoom as you can get is good. All digital zoom does is enlarge the pixels. Switch it off.

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