A detailed guide to help you pick camera gear for travel. Includes tips on choosing travel camera equipment, with options for varying budgets and photography styles.
I’ve been working as a professional travel photographer for the past 4 years. During this time, I’ve shot for national tourism boards and world-leading photography brands like Manfrotto and LowePro.
But, it’s been a long road to get to where I am today. I’ve been traveling and taking photos as a hobby since 2015, funding my way around the world by working online jobs, while obsessively sharpening my skills through constant practice on the road.
While practice is more important than gear, choosing the right camera kit is undeniably the most important first step for beginners.
So, to help you kickstart your journey, I’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to choosing the best travel photography gear. Whether it’s your dream to become a pro travel photographer, or perhaps you just want to find a good camera for your next vacation, this guide will cover all budgets and photography styles.
- TLDR: The Ultimate 2023 Beginner Travel Photography Kit
- Designing a Photography Kit For Travel
- Camera Gear For Travel: Travel Photography Gear List
- Technical Camera Terms You’ll Need to Learn
- Wrapping Up
TLDR: The Ultimate 2023 Beginner Travel Photography Kit
Want the quick answer? Here are my top recommendations for a great beginner travel photography kit in 2023.
Designing a Photography Kit For Travel
One of the most common and obvious questions you hear from people first starting out with travel photography is "what is the best camera for travel?" This is a good question because the camera is the foundation of your travel photography kit.
Hence, everything you choose to buy from lenses to accessories will need to be compatible with the camera that you choose.
As you might expect, with the boom of smaller mirrorless and even micro four-thirds cameras, there are just so many options on the market these days.
To narrow down the search, I've selected a few that I believe are the best cameras for travel photography in 2023. Again, I've also included various options to suit different needs and budgets. If you continue reading, I've also included recommendations for the best lenses and accessories to craft your perfect travel photography kit around the camera of your choice.
Buying Photography Equipment For Travel: Considerations
Here's what you want to look for when selecting gear for your travel kit. At the bottom of this post, I've also included a guide covering technical terms for those with no experience with photography.
- Keep it Minimal
One of the most important things to consider is that in most cases, you want minimalist travel photography gear. The last thing you want to do is to be lugging around unnecessary, bulky (and expensive) camera equipment on the road. This is usually why most travel photographers use zoom lenses to cover a wide range of focal lengths, rather than dozens of prime lenses.
- Prioritise weight and size
This one is a no-brainer. Stick to smaller and lighter camera systems like mirrorless, micro four-thirds, or point-and-shoot bodies. This typically rules out huge DSLRs like the Canon 1DXII. In most cases, these systems are overkill for travel photography.
- Consider the brand
The camera brand is important. I've shot on Canon and Sony systems but have always preferred the images produced by Canon. Everyone has their personal preference– but it's a good idea to do your research first in terms of lens offerings.
- Future-proof your gear
In 2023, the majority of camera manufacturers have stepped away from DSLR to focus on mirrorless technology, which is superior in almost every way.
The camera systems I'm recommending are "future proof" and relevant in 2023, meaning that while you won't need to replace your gear any time soon if you would like to a few years down the line, the process will be easier and cheaper.
Camera Gear For Travel: Travel Photography Gear List
Here's a useful travel photography gear list with recommendations. A comprehensive kit includes:
- Action Camera/360 Camera
- Essential Accessories
Remember you don't need to have all of these items to take great photos. You might decide that a simple GoPro or Insta360 camera is enough for your travel photography kit. However, I've included everything that I use every day to cover all the bases of a great travel photography gear list.
The #1 Photography Accessory
Enter the Peak Design Capture Clip. I've used this for years to quickly clip my camera to my backpack's shoulder strap. This is the most comfortable way to carry a camera and will save your neck a ton of strain.
1. The Best Cameras for Travel
Best beginner camera: Sony ZV-E10
What I use: Canon R5
|GoPro Hero 11||Action||$|
|Panasonic Lumix TZ220||Compact||$|
|Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV||Micro Four Thirds||$$|
|Sony SV-E10||Mirrorless (APS-C Crop Sensor)||$$|
|Sony A7IV||Mirrorless (Full Frame)||$$$|
|Canon R5||Mirrorless (Full Frame)||$$$$|
The Panasonic Lumix TZ220 is Panasonic's flagship compact camera and is nicknamed the company's Ultimate Travel Companion. While it is technically a little more expensive than the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, the in-built 15x zoom means that you won't need to spend anything more on lenses.
- 15x Zoom Leica Lens in-built
- 1-inch Mos Censor in a tiny form-factor
- Very lightweight at 340 grams (0.75 lb)
- Built-in 5-axis image stabilizer
- Decent image quality
- No tilt screen
- Can't use different lenses
- Small design makes controls harder to use
- Softer images at telephoto-end
Best for: The Lumix TZ220 is probably the best compact camera out there for travel. This one is best for people who don't want to spend a fortune on buying different lenses and would like to keep their travel photography gear as lightweight and discrete as possible.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a 20-megapixel micro four-thirds camera with 5-axis in-built image stabilization and includes a great range of high-quality compact lenses.
This is the entry-level camera in Olympus' micro four-thirds range of compact DSLR-style cameras. However, I believe that it's best option in this price range with all the features you'll want in a low-budget interchangeable-lens camera for travel.
- Great camera form factor for travel
- Great in-built stabilization
- 4K 30p video
- USB Charging (don't need to carry additional chargers)
- Wifi + Bluetooth
- Decent battery life
- Loads of great lenses to choose from
- Contrast-detect AF system isn't as good as Dual-pixel or hybrid
- No mic/headphone input
- Slow 5fps max shutter
Best for: Olympus is a great entry-level camera for travel photography serving as a perfect platform to learn and grow as a photographer.
The Sony ZV-E10 is an interchangeable lens camera aimed at the vlogging market. However, it is also my recommended camera of choice for travelers starting off with photography, as well as and photography-enthusiasts looking to upgrade their gear to a purposed-travel kit.
While many of the features, including impressive "4D autofocus", 4K HDR recording (at full width of the sensor), and a convenient flip screen are great for creating video, this travel-friendly camera also packs in some great photography specs.
- Awesome autofocus
- Good balance of excellent image quality and size
- In-built image stabilization
- Great battery life
- USB Charging
- 4K video recording
- Fast 11fps burst speeds
- Tilting screen
- Headphone and mic sockets
- Quite expensive for a crop-sensor camera
- Buttons and controls are a little cramped
- No UHS-II card capability
- Serious photographers might prefer full-frame
Best for: The Sony ZV-E10 is one of the best options, ticking nearly all the boxes for excellent travel photography gear. The images and video this thing produces are incredible considering just how compact this mirrorless body is. This is a great camera for beginners and enthusiasts serious about travel photography.
The only downfalls are that due to the small size, it is a little more difficult to use the buttons and controls than compared to some of the larger, pro models below.
These last two camera bodies see us step up into the pro-level travel photography gear. The Sony A7IV is a big step up from the super popular A7III, which I used to recommend in this constantly-updated article for several years.
This updated model is easily one of the best-performing full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market and more than capable as an excellent full-frame camera for travel.
- Great full-frame image quality
- 94% autofocus coverage with great performance
- In-body image stabilization
- Many excellent lenses to pair with
- Dual SD card slots
- Oversampled 4k 60p video recording capability
- Great size for a full-frame camera
- Best bang-for-buck camera on the market
- Weather sealing is not as good as competitors
- Need a fast card for video performance
- Slow max shooting speeds
Best for: The Sony A7IV came in very close to taking the top spot for the best camera for travel photography. While it's a little pricey, you Sony certainly offers great value for money through excellent performance and great features that make it the perfect camera for pros or those really serious about travel photography.
The Canon EOR R5 is the holy grail of small form factor, full-frame mirrorless cameras. I've been a Canon DSLR loyalist for years, shooting on bodies like the Canon 6D and the Canon 5D Mark IV but this camera finally gave me enough reasons to swap to mirrorless.
This camera has incredible features and insane specs, but be prepared to fork out a bit of cash for it.
- 45MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- 8K 30p and 4K 120fps video recording
- Insane auto-focus and tracking capability
- 20 FPS burst mode
- Completely silent shutter mode (great for wildlife)
- Tilt and swivel screen
- Great Canon build quality and weather sealing
- In-body stabilization
- New Canon RF lenses are incredible (EF-mount adapter available)
- CF Express cards are expensive (required to shoot in 8k)
- RF Lenses are expensive
- Shorter battery life than competitors
- Slightly bulkier than Sony A7RIV
Best for: The Canon EOR R5 is best for professional photographers who make a living with their gear. This camera will give you the best image quality and more than enough features for all travel photography needs. However, this is by far the most expensive camera and is very overkill for beginners or hobbyists.
2. Best Lenses for Travel Photography
The next step in choosing your travel photography gear list is a lens or two to match your camera of choice. The truth is, there are way too many options to list and review for every camera body out there.
However, for travel photography especially, it's best to go for zoom lenses over primes. This will give you a more flexible focal range without doubling up or needing a whole bag of lenses for different shoot types.
To achieve good coverage of lenses for all shoots, consider purchasing:
- A good walk-around lens - a versatile lens for portraits, shots of people, landscapes, food, buildings, landscapes, etc.
- A wide-angle lens or ultra-wide - for landscapes, astrophotography, and architecture
- A telephoto lens - for wildlife and unique perspectives in landscapes (think blown up mountain backdrops)
A Walk-Around Lens (Kit Lens)
A walk-around or general kit lens is a versatile lens that photographers use for a wide range of subjects and shoots. The focal range will depend on the sensor size of your camera, but usually covers the fairly wide to near-telephoto focal range.
This is typically the type of lens that travel photographers use most. However, this varies depending on the style of photography you like. For example, I tend to shoot a lot more landscapes so I actually end up using my wide-angle lens more often.
Best option for the Sony ZV-E10: Sony 16-70mm f/4
What I use: Canon RF 24-105 f4L USM IS for the Canon R5 (cheaper and lighter than the better 24-70mm f2.8L)
|Panasonic Lumix TZ220||N/A||N/A|
|Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV||Olympus 12-45mm f/4||Amazon|
|Sony ZV-E10||Sony 16-70mm f/4||Amazon|
|Sony A7IV||Sony FE 24-105mm F4||Amazon|
|Canon R5||Canon RF 24-70mm f2.8L||Amazon|
Wide Angle Lens
For my style of travel photography, a wide or ultra-wide lens is the most fun and captivating focal range to use. Wides and ultra-wides fit an entire scene into the frame, which is great for landscape vistas, action shots, night photography, and busy streets.
Below I've listed the best wide angle lenses for travel photography for each camera. Note that again, all but one are zoom lenses, allowing them to be more versatile. The Rokinon for the Olympus is a prime, but a great one that shouldn't be passed up if this is the camera you go for.
Best option for the Sony ZV-E10: Sony 10-18mm f/4
What I use: Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8L IS USM
|Panasonic Lumix TZ220||N/A||N/A|
|Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV||Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS||Amazon|
|Sony ZV-E10||Sony 10-18mm f/4||Amazon|
|Sony A7IV||Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM||Amazon|
|Canon R5||Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8L IS USM||Amazon|
Optional: A Telephoto Lens
Telephotos aren't a necessary lens focal length for many travel photographers. Due to their large size and limited use cases, many seem to pass them up to save room in their travel photography gear bags.
However, I've recently started shooting with a super-telephoto by Canon and I absolutely love the unique shots that I'm able to get with it. For landscapes, you can get incredible blown-up backgrounds of mountains, city skylines, or even the moon or setting sun. I also love using a telephoto for wildlife photography, allowing beautiful, up-close photos without needing to get too close to the subject.
Best option for the Sony ZV-E10: Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS
What I use: Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1L IS USM
3. Best Drone For Aerial Travel Photography
Drones have absolutely changed the game! I consider them one of the most useful bits of travel camera gear in my kit. More often than not, my favorite shot from a particular shoot will end up being captured from my drone. The unique perspectives are just too good to pass up.
Below are the best drones for travel photography.
The DJI Mavic 3 is currently the best travel drone you can buy. While it is a little bulkier and a bit more dated than some of the newer, smaller drones by DJI, it still offers the best image quality, range, and features like variable aperture and 5.1k 60p/4k 120p video recording.
The DJI Mavic Air 2S takes an excellent camera and turns it into a tiny drone. This thing is smaller than the Mavic Pro 3 and offers similar specs and image quality. The Mavic Air 2S is more than enough drone for most people's travel photography gear list and is cheaper than the Mavic Pro 3.
However, what it does lack is a variable aperture, which will be enough to turn many of the pros away.
For amateur or enthusiast photographers looking to get into aerial photography on their travels, the DJI Mini 3 is going to be the drone for you. This thing is tiny and weighs less than 250 grams (8.5 oz). Additionally, it folds down to the size of a coke can, which is perfect for travel.
Unlike previous versions of the Mini range, the Mavic Mini 3 actually packs in a great camera! You'll get great 4K/60fps video and 48 MP stills!
4. Choosing an Action/360 Camera For Travel
Another great piece of camera gear for travel is an action camera. For some, you could easily skip this. For others, you might choose to replace your entire kit with a single, tiny, high-performing camera.
Personally, I'm a big fan of action cameras like GoPros. Similarly to drones, they've changed the game in travel and adventure photography. They allow photographers to get insane perspectives and capture quite good images and video with a camera that fits in your pocket.
Recently, the industry is changing once again. With the introduction of high-quality 360 cameras, many like myself will end up replacing their traditional GoPros with 360 cameras since they do it all, with the ability to create awesome, 360 images and video.
Below I'll include the best action cameras for travel for you to consider.
The GoPro hero range is the most-sold camera in history. And, the Hero 11 is the best yet. Its tiny size, waterproof construction, and excellent image quality with features like a front LCD screen, 5.3K 60p recording, insane hypersmooth image stabilization, and 27MP sensor make most really rethink whether it can replace a traditional camera altogether.
I recently traded in my GoPro for the Insta360 One X3. This new camera is one of the funnest pieces of equipment I've used in years. 360 video and photo is really starting to take off, and I've even used this tiny camera to make professional 360 room tours for hotels!
Thanks to the single lens mode, the Insta360 One X3 is a great action camera as well. It can now record 4K 30p. Additionally, in 360 mode, it records a 360-degree view at all times, allowing you to trim and crop video to turn it into immersive perspectives even in traditional formats.
The Insta360 also has powerful 360 image capabilities at a whopping 72 megapixels!
The GoPro Hero Max is GoPro's answer to the 360 camera. While I believe they've made too many sacrifices in their attempts to create an "all-in-one" action cam, it's still one of the best action and 360 cameras on the market.
5. Essential Camera Accessories For Travel
By now, you'll probably have quite the shopping list or Amazon cart. But I'm sorry to break it to you, it doesn't end there. When it comes to crafting a perfect travel camera gear list, you can't go past some of these accessories.
Again, as I mentioned at the start of this article, the goal is always to keep things as minimalist as possible. There are loads of nifty accessories on the market but the hardest part for travelers is sifting through what you actually need.
For example, as a start, you'll want to find a suitable SD card for photography. Additionally, if you're also looking to create travel videos, with your camera equipment, you'll want to consider getting a good shotgun microphone and even a gimbal.
But, if you stick to taking photos, your kit will be lighter.
Below I've listed travel camera gear essentials that I couldn't live or work without.
Lens filters are arguably the most-used photography accessory. Usually, these screw onto the front element of the lens so you'll need to buy filters to fit your lenses. Below are the most commonly-used filter types and why you should use them for travel photography.
- UV-filters: UV filters reduce UV light rays slightly but are better used to protect your lenses. They are fairly cheap so if you drop or scract your camera, you can just replace a filter rather than your expensive lens.
- ND-filters: Neutral Density filters reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor. The good ones achieve this without affecting the image. This is useful for videographers to maintain the desired shutter speed for their frame rate and for landscape travel photographers taking long-exposure photos.
- CPL filters: Circular Polarizing filters reduce glare and increase saturation. If you've ever worn polarized sunglasses, you already know what I'm talking about. I often use CPL filters when shooting over water or if I want to make lush forest greens pop.
A camera clip is my personal favorite travel camera accessory. These clips are made by Peak Design and allow you to easily clip your camera on and off your backpack or belt. This is a game-changer for long hikes and outdoor shoots and I honestly couldn't live without it.
Of course, you're going to need a camera backpack to store all of your gear.
Recommending the best camera backpack for travel is a difficult task as there are just so many variables to consider. Generally, backpacks are better for travel than sling bags or big pelican cases. That's because are easy to transport, more comfortable and more secure, and discrete for traveling.
Below are my recommendations for camera backpacks based on what I've used and reviews from photographers.
My camera backpack: F-Stop Tilopa 50L Duradiamond
F-stop makes some of the best outdoor camera backpacks in the world. They're tailored for outdoor conditions and are comfortable for long hikes.
The Tilopa has great features with loads of pockets and a huge back-access pocket for all of your gear. The great thing about F-stop backpacks is their modular ICU systems. This means you can change up your backpack depending on whether you need lots of camera gear or more space for clothes and other things.
What makes the F-Stop Tilopa my favorite travel camera backpack is that I can store my gear, as well as many other things I use day-to-day when living on the road.
Great All-Round Camera Backpack For Travel: WANDRD PRVKE
The PRVKE by WANDRD is a very popular backpack for travel photographers with excellent features. What's great about this bag is that it doesn't look like a camera backpack, but still has the accessibility of one.
The PRVKE comes in three sizes; 21L, 31L, and 41L. I've personally tried one on and consider it pretty darn comfortable. However, it's just not as comfortable as the Tilopa, especially if you spend a lot of time hiking.
I'd say that the PRVKE is the best camera backpack for most travelers, especially for cities and transit.
6. Camera Tripod For Travel
Okay, tripods aren't always necessary for travel photography. However, if you want to step up your landscape photography game, capture time-lapses, or record stable video footage, a great place to start is to invest in a lightweight travel tripod.
At the moment, I'm using the Manfrotto BeFree GT Carbon Fiber tripod. This thing can support 12 kg and weighs less than 1.5 kg.
I've written another comprehensive post on the best lightweight tripods for hiking, backpacking, and travel, that will help you choose the best tripod for your needs.
Technical Camera Terms You'll Need to Learn
Understandably, when starting off with photography, there are a lot of technical terms that are utterly confusing. If you're struggling to choose camera gear for travel because you don't understand what the specs mean, let me help you out with a simple glossary.
- Aperture or f-stop
One of the primary settings in-camera. Aperture is the opening through which light passes through the lens to the sensor. A lower "f-stop" means a larger opening, allowing more light and a shallower depth of field. Lenses with a lower maximum f-stops are considerably more expensive.
- Burst rate
Burst rate refers to a camera's maximum number of consecutive photographs that it can shoot before the buffer is full.
- Crop sensor (crop factor)
A crop sensor is smaller than the standard 35 mm sensor size (full-frame). Crop sensors capture less light since it is taking in less information in a scene. This means that you will need to purchase lenses that accommodate the sensor size of the "crop factor" of your camera.
- Dynamic range
Dynamic range refers to the ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities. A camera with a higher dynamic range captures more information and allows for more control when editing.
Exposure refers to the amount of light captured by the camera's sensor. A common mistake is to severely "underexpose" images (too dark), or "overexpose" them (too bright). Exposure is controlled by the camera's three primary settings, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.
- Focal length
The focal length refers to the distance (in millimeters) between the lens and the sensor. A longer focal length results in a closer (tighter) image, while short focal lengths are used to capture wide scenes.
ISO is an important setting for digital cameras. The ISO setting determines the camera sensor's sensitivity to light. For example, a low ISO of 100 is good for bright scenes in daylight, while an ISO of 6400 is very sensitive to light and should be used in dark scenes. However, higher ISO sensitivity results in more grain added to the image. Generally speaking, expensive, full-frame cameras allow for a much more acceptable range of ISO to be used without adding too much artificial grain.
- IS or OS
IS or OS means image stabilization or optical stabilization. This is a feature in modern cameras and lenses, allowing for smoother video and the ability to shoot hand-held with slower shutter speeds without introducing motion blur.
- Prime vs Zoom
This is important when choosing photography equipment for travel. Prime lenses have a fixed (single) focal range, while zoom lenses allow for a range of focal lengths to be used. I recommend choosing good zoom lenses for travel as they are more versatile.
- Quality (image quality)
Quality or image quality is a very broad term. When comparing cameras and lenses to purchase, image quality is usually used to determine factors such as dynamic range, exposure, aberrations, information loss, etc.
Resolution refers to the megapixels captured by a sensor (dimension). The higher the maximum resolution or megapixels, the more detail photographers get from their images. However, these days you will only notice a difference between cameras with the highest maximum resolution when blowing up the images for large prints.
- Shutter speed
Shutter speed is the time in seconds (or fractions of a second) that the sensor is exposed to light in order to capture the image.
Check out Wix's great guide for a full list of terms.
And that wraps up my comprehensive guide to camera gear for travel. I hope that i's helped you out on your mission to design the ultimate travel photography kit.
My goal is to keep this gear list as relevant and updated as possible to ensure that this always remains a trustworthy resource for my readers. While you're here, make sure to check out my travel guides for your next travel destination, or head over to my prints page to see my fine art available for sale.