Best Point & Shoot Travel Cameras

Sony point & shoot camera

Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

Point & shoot cameras used to be first choice of a large percentage of hobby travel photographers. Whoever didn’t want to go too deep into photography used them. Today things have changed. We have completely new category – smartphone cameras, which become the favorite choice of many hobby photographers.

However, there are still photographers who don’t want to rely solely on their smartphone camera on travel and want to have a “real” camera but don’t want to have mirrorless or DSLR.

If you are one of those photographers you are in the right place.

In this article, you will learn which are the advantages and disadvantages of using a point & shoots. Also, we will through the 5 most important things you should pay attention to when you are going to invest in point & shoot camera to be your travel camera.

In the end, we will show you which are our favorite compact cameras for travel photography.

Table of Contents

P.S. If you don’t have a time to go through the whole article, below you will find quick overview of our favorite point & shoot cameras:

Don’t Want to Change Lenses? Choose Point & Shoot Camera

Kid with point & shoot camera

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

No matter if whether you are an experienced photographer or an amateur, sometimes you simply don’t want to think about lenses. You have a smartphone and can take photos with it, but you want a real but pocket-size camera.

Welcome to the world of point & shoot cameras!

Point & shoot cameras now are started from simple cameras to pretty advanced models. These advanced models enable you to get very good results. Almost as you would get if you use mirrorless or DSLR. But with one huge advantage – you won’t think about lenses.

10+ years ago when smartphones haven’t so advanced in terms of the quality of photos and videos, point & shoot cameras were obvious choices for travelers who want to carry a compact camera.

Now things are different – smartphones cut their market. But these cameras still work better for plenty of travelers who don’t want to rely only on a smartphone camera but don’t want to carry a big camera and think about stuff like if the good lens is attached.

Advantages of Point & Shoot Cameras

Woman with point and shoot camera

Pocket-sized but powerful

Advanced point & shoot cameras are much more powerful than you might think. They have a lot of manual controls and we can say almost all features that DSLRs have. There are also point & shoot cameras that have bigger sensors and are able to produce RAW images.

From wide to telephoto in a single lens

Another important advantage over other camera types is usually a pretty large zoom range. You don’t need to think about multiple lenses and how much they will covers. With point & shoot, you will get a camera capable to take photos from wide to telephoto in a single lens.

Beginners-friendly

Usually, point & shoot cameras have very good auto and program modes. It means that they are very friendly to beginners. Also considering that a lot of them have plenty of manual controls, beginner photographers can easily learn and practice advanced things.

Disadvantages of Point & Shoot Cameras

Simple point & shoot camera

Lack of flexibility because of a single lens

No matter how good is not to think about additional lenses, it is also a disadvantage. It means if you ever want to have a different zoom range, faster lens or so on, you will need to change the whole camera.

No option for ultra-wide photos

Point & shoot cameras will give you free hands to get wide and telephoto images. But when we come to ultra-wide photos, they are not so good a choice. Simply, in order to make cameras capable to handle most using zoom ranges, there is no option to “pack” ultra-wide within. To be honest, we’d like to see a camera with a zoom range from 10 to 1000 mm, but physic laws prevent this idea from realization.

Partially limited for post-processing

The fact is that few point & shoot cameras have large sensors and the ability to produce RAW format. But most point & shoot cameras can’t do so. They usually rely on small sensors, and no matter how good the final (JPG) image appears, when you try doing post-processing it will break. You will reach the limit very fast. However, if you are satisfied with images processed by the camera, or have a point & shoot with an option for the RAW format, you can ignore it.

5 Things You Should Pay Attention to

Road in a desert

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

1. Zoom Range

It’s one of the most important benefits of point & shoot cameras. When you choose a camera aim for models that starts at least from 28 mm. On a telephoto, ranges aim for 200+ mm. In any case, you should count that on higher ranges image will be relatively smooth. However, try finding a camera with 8-10x zoom or more.

2. High ISO - Low Light Performance

A lot of point & shoot cameras have fairly small sensors which influence their ability to produce low-light photos. To be more precious, it’s the hardest thing for cameras with small size sensors. This is the reason why you will rely on

3. Video

Point & shoot cameras in most cases have solid performance for video shooting. We recommend you aim for a camera capable to record 4K videos. Also, pay attention to image stabilization in video mode.

4. Wireless Connectivity

For easy backup and easy file transfer, it’s important to be able to connect your camera with your computer or smartphone. Make sure that your camera supports either wireless, NFC, or Bluetooth.

5. Battery Life & Charging

As longest as possible battery life and spare batteries are a must for a travel camera. Also, a good practice is to have a power bank to recharge it if all your spare batteries drain in the middle of nowhere.

What to Choose as a Point & Shoot Camera?

If you are sure that a point & shoot is an ideal travel camera for you, let us show you our favorites.

First, we want to uncover our methodology:

We outlined our recommendations of the absolute best and budget-friendly flags. Namely, we wanted to give you 2 options for each category. So, you have the absolute best choices (where budget is secondary) and the budget-friendly choices (but not too expensive middleground solutions).

Absolute Best

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 VII

Image source: Sony

Overview

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 VII is one of the most advanced compact travel cameras. This should be your first choice for you if you don’t want to walk around with a mirrorless or DSLR and want an uncompromising pocket-size camera with great zoom range and top-notch autofocus capabilities.

This camera is powered by a large (for compact cameras) 1” CMOS sensor with 20 Mpix and phase detection autofocus system. We liked its 8.33x optical zoom and it’s probably the most compact camera with 200 mm zoom capabilities. 

On the wide side, the lens started on 24 mm which makes it great for landscapes & cityscapes. Max. aperture is between f/2.8 on 24 mm to f/4.5 on 200 mm which makes the Sony DSC-RX100 VII solid (but not excellent) camera in low light. 

The camera is capable of producing 20 frames per second in the continuous shooting mode with autofocus and auto-exposure and without turning off the LCD screen or electronic viewfinder. The autofocus system is the best among compact cameras with real-time subject tracking.

The touchscreen LCD on the back is 3” in size, also it’s tilting by 180° on up and by 90° on down. It’s worth mentioning that the touchscreen can be used just for focus point but not for menu navigation which is a bit strange. This camera is also equipped with an electronic viewfinder for users who prefer to use instead of LCD screen.

Sony RX 100 VII is also a great choice for travel videographers and vloggers. Video is recorded in 4K and 1080p but there is no option to shoot 4K in 60 fps, only in 30 fps. Video is stabilized with the optical and electronic stabilization, which seems to work perfectly for travelers who also want to have a single camera for video. Of course, it’s not gimbal-like stabilization, but it’s useful.

There is also a bunch of wireless connectivity. So this camera can be connected through wireless, Bluetooth, and NFC. The body is made with good materials but you need to pay attention that it’s a bit slick and you should keep it on a bracelet to avoid accidentally dropping it. 

Also, there is a socket for the external microphone, but there is no holder or shoe to fix it to the camera. USB charging is available but you need to buy a separate external charger because it’s not included. The battery life is not so huge so we recommend you to buy additional batteries before your first trip with this camera.

Could Sony RX100 VII replace your smartphone camera?

Yes, it can. Smartphone cameras are just smartphone cameras, but Sony RX100 VII is a real camera. So you will get a quicker autofocus and much stronger optical zoom than on smartphone cameras. This iPhone 11 Pro vs Sony RX100 VII test will show you all differences.

Could it replace your big (mirrorless or DSLR) camera?

Maybe, from time to time. If you are aware of RX100’s limits it can be a good choice for your primary or backup travel camera. These limits are smaller sensor and worse low light performance, lower dynamic range in images, inability to create great bokeh… But if you don’t want to walk around with a big and heavy camera on your trip, Sony RX100 VII is one of the best options.

How it performs for stills?

The overall quality of the photos is excellent. Color reproduction is close to natural; sharpness, and noise levels are very good. There is also an option to shoot in RAW so you will be flexible in post-processing. Considering that images speak louder than words, we encourage you to take a look at the galleries with sample photos we shared with you below.

How it performs for video?

The same as for photos – the quality of 4K video is excellent. We noticed that the rolling shutter is not significant. Autofocus is precise together with the subject tracking. If you use a combination of optical and electronic image stabilization (Sony called it SteadyShot Active) you will get a video with a small crop (1.19x) but stabilized enough to be useful. However, you shouldn’t expect to get anything close to gimbal like stabilization. 

Smartphone flagship cameras offer better-stabilized videos when they are stabilized electronically, but the quality of videos made by Sony RX100 VII is a class above smartphone cameras. 

So if the overall video quality, faster autofocus with real-time subject tracking, and 8.33x optical zoom is a higher priority for you, chose to make travel videos with RX100 VII. But if you prefer to have a better-stabilized video on a go without using the gimbal, then chose to make videos using smartphone camera with good electronic stabilization. 

One thing that could be a disadvantage for more advanced travel videographers is that this camera lacks a built-in ND filter.

Samples

Sample images:

Gallery of sample images on Flickr
Gallery of sample images on Imaging Resource

Sample videos:

4K video samples
Real-time subject tracking
Stabilization test (no stabilization vs active SteadyShot vs intelligent active SteadyShot in 4K and 1080p)

Pros as a travel camera:

  • Overall the most advanced compact travel camera;
  • Great zoom range;
  • Larger sensor than most other compact cameras;
  • Top-notch autofocus with real-time subject tracking;
  • Excellent continuous shooting mode;
  • Tilting LCD screen;
  • Bunch of connections (wireless, Bluetooth, NFC);
  • USB charging.

Cons as a travel camera:

  • Solid in low light, but not excellent;
  • No touch screen capabilities for moving through the menu;
  • No 60 fps video in 4K;
  • No built-in ND filter;
  • No external charger included;
  • Without a holder for an external microphone.
Canon G7 X Mark III

Image source: Canon

Overview

It’s one of the most powerful pocket cameras on the market. In short, this camera is an excellent choice for people who want advanced cameras without needing to think about additional lenses and want to pack lightweight.

Canon G7 X Mark III is equipped with a large (for a compact camera) 1” CMOS sensor with 20 Mpix. The zoom range is from 24 mm to 100 mm + there is optical image stabilization. We can say it covers the most popular focal lengths, but we’d like to see a slightly longer telephoto end. One of the most important advantages over other compact cameras is its low light performance, due to wide maximum aperture. On 24 mm you can count on fantastic f/1.8, while at 100 mm it’s f/2.8. Those values are fantastic, especially if you know the camera is power by a larger sensor than most other compact cameras.

Also, the camera is very fast. It’s capable to capture up to 30 images per second and with a buffer of 15 photos. Focus speed is also very high, so subject tracking is fantastic.

There is 3″ LCD display on the rear. The display is touchscreen, also you can use it to make selfies easily considering it can flip up to 180 degrees.

Canon G7 X Mark III is also great choice for anyone interested for good video capabilities. You will be to record 4K video up to 30 fps and 1080p up to 60 fps and slow-motion 1080p videos at 120 fps. This camera is also fantastic choice for travel vloggers considering it’s able to live stream video on YouTube directly from the camera. Plus this cameras is capable to shoot vertical videos which is another strong point for vloggers. Also there is a socket for an external microphone.

The overall look & feel is very good regarding materials. When you see this camera it looks like a premium compact camera with no doubt. The only thing we don’t like is that there is no electronic viewfinder.

On the other hand battery life is not so good. With one charging this camera is able to shoot 235 photos by CIPA standard. However, the camera is equipped with USB-C port and can be recharged quickly (i.e. via Power bank).

Regarding connectivity Canon G7 X Mark III is equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

How it performs for stills?

The overall image quality is very good for compact cameras because of very good lens paired with fantastic image processing. Sharpness is very good throughout the range, but for some users maybe it’s bit softer on wide-end especially at high ISO values. Colors are “Canon-like” so you should except a bit more saturation in JPEG. In case you want to avoid it, you should shoot in RAW and later process image by your taste.

How it performs for video?

The quality of 4K video is very good. Colors are good as well as sharpening. There is also built-in ND filter. Autofocus is relatively fast, but we noticed that it can hunt from time to time. Beside of optical image stabilization, Canon G7 X Mark III is equipped with electronic image stabilization adjustable on 3 levels. Of course, with electronic image stabilization you will get cropped video. All in all, we are pretty satisfied with video capabilities.

Samples

Sample images:

Gallery of sample images on Flickr
Gallery of sample images on Imaging Resource
Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife

Sample videos:

Video stabilization test
Low light sample video
Another sample video

Pros as a travel camera:

  • Very large sensor for a compact camera;
  • Very good in low light;
  • Very good image stabilization;
  • Tilted LCD screen for selfies and vlogging;
  • Very good touchscreen capabilities;
  • Ability for live stream directly from camera;
  • Built-in ND filter;
    Input for an external microphone;
  • Premium building quality;
  • USB charging.

Cons as a travel camera:

  • Not so long in telephoto (we’d like to see 150+ mm at long end);
  • No 60 fps video in 4K;
  • Battery life is poor.

Budget-Friendly

Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS80

Image source: Panasonic

Overview

Want an ultra-zoom camera to throw in your pocket? Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS80 is the one. 

The most prominent feature of this camera is its fantastic 30x optical zoom together with a precise autofocus and image stabilization. The camera is powered by 20 Mpix able to produce photos up to 10 fps with single-shot AF, or 30 fps in lower resolution (8 Mpix) plus the camera can record 4K video at 30 fps. All of these in pocket size. 

Also, the camera has a tilted (180°) touch screen 3” LCD and electronic viewfinder. Autofocus is fast and precise. You need to be aware that this is contrast detection autofocus, without more advanced phase detection autofocus. The touchscreen on LCD is fully functional, which means you can use it for settings as well, not just for touchpoint autofocus.

The lens starts from a very useful 24 mm and on the long end, you will get a fantastic 720 mm! Of course, you shouldn’t expect to get image quality like you would with a mirrorless/DSLR with an expensive and heavyweight 500-700 mm lens, but you will get a good enough photo, especially if you add the price point and size of the Lumix DC-ZS80 into consideration.

Max. aperture on the wide end is f/3.3 and F/6.4 on the long end. Those are not fantastic, so you don’t need to expect excellent low light performance, especially considering the small 1/2.3” sensor and noise levels on high ISO. 

Optical 5-axis image stabilization works OK but you shouldn’t expect miracles (nothing close to gimbal-like stabilization). But we like the level shot feature which helps you to get a perfect horizontal level.

Battery life is OK (around 350-380 photos using LCD) and this camera comes with a micro USB socket for charging. The external charger doesn’t come with the standard package. 

Regarding connectivity, Panasonic Lumix SZ80 has wireless and Bluetooth so you will easily transfer photos and videos to your smartphone. This camera also has a very good grip so no matter the size of this camera, it will fit in your hand comfortably.

How it performs for stills?

The overall image quality is good for compact cameras. It means it’s somewhere between mirrorless/DSLR and smartphones. Image processing is very good. 

In the daylight, colors are accurate, close to natural and the image is full of details (with low ISO values). On the long end, the photos are still acceptable, but significantly lower in quality than on wide or mid parts. 

But in low light due to the shorter aperture size photos are not even close to daylight. However, we are pretty sure that it’s the maximum that engineers were able to catch from such a small lens with such a huge range.

How it performs for video?

Videos in 4K and 1080p are very good. The quality is similar to what you get on smartphones. The colors are accurate, contrast and exposure are OK and there is also a useful subject tracking autofocus. 

Stabilization is not as good as on flagship smartphones, and if you are going to record a lot of videos on the mid ranges or long end, we recommend you use a tripod.

Samples

Sample images:

Gallery of sample images on Flickr
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife

Sample videos:

Video zoom test

Pros as a travel camera:

  • Pocket size camera + a powerful 30x zoom (24-720 mm);
  • Autofocus with subject tracking;
  • 10 fps continuous shooting in max. resolution;
  • Tilted LCD with touchscreen;
  • Level shot feature to get perfect horizontal level;
  • Good battery life;
  • Ability to easily charge on the go via Micro USB;
  • Wireless & Bluetooth.

Cons as a travel camera:

  • Not so good in low light due to limited max. aperture size;
  • No external charger in the standard package;
  • The LCD screen is tilted only up, but not down.
Nikon Coolpix A1000

Image source: Nikon

Overview

If you want a compact camera with an extreme zoom range, Nikon Coolpix A1000 should definitely be on your bucket list.

Nikon Coolpix A1000 is powered by a 1.2/3” CMOS sensor with 16 Mpix. But this camera is unique because of its zoom range. On the wide end, you will start with 24 mm, but on telephoto, you will reach a fantastic 840 mm. This means that this camera has 35x optical zoom. Also, this camera has optical image stabilization and is able to provide 3 f-stops of compensation. On the other hand, the maximum aperture on the wide end is f/3.4 which is not that great. On telephoto, things are even worse with a maximum aperture of f/6.9. However, you should accept some compromises because of the extreme zoom range you will get with this camera.

Autofocus is pretty solid in terms of speed and performance. It’s not the fastest on the market, especially in low light, but fast enough in almost all situations. There is a 3” touchscreen LCD on the rear which is also tiltable. Also we like to see that there is an electronic viewfinder, but we need to stress that it’s a bit smaller than we like.

Regarding video capabilities, Nikon Coolpix A1000 is able to record 4K videos, but up to 30 fps. On the other hand, 1080 videos can be recorded at 60 fps.

The camera is pretty compact with a weight of just 330 g. The downside is battery life, considering that with single charging you can shoot 250 photos by CIPA rate. On the other hand, you can easily recharge batteries via USB.

How it performs for stills?

The overall image quality is pretty good. Color reproduction is close to natural, but we noticed that in high-contrast scenes there is a lack of details. The good thing is that there is an option to shoot photos in RAW format.

How it performs for video?

The quality of 4K video is solid. Optical stabilization works very well, but there is also the option to turn on electronic image stabilization. There is no option for 60 fps videos in 4K, so for more smooth videos you should use full HD format only. Also there is no option to record videos in H.265 format.

Samples

Sample images:

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife

Sample videos:

4K sample video
Handheld zoom video
Another sample video

Pros as a travel camera:

  • Pocket size camera + a powerful 35x zoom (24-840 mm);
  • Effective image stabilization;
  • Electronic viewfinder;
  • Tilted LCD with touchscreen;
  • Ability to easily charge on the go via USB.

Cons as a travel camera:

  • Not so good in low light due to limited max. aperture size;
  • Poor battery life.

Travel Accessories For Point & Shoot Cameras

When choosing your ideal point & shoot camera you definitely need to evaluate additional accessories in order to leverage the full performance of your camera. Some of those accessories are the same as for mirrorless and DSLR cameras, so we will just copy/paste what we recommend there. Eventually, we added some specifics for point & shoot cameras.

For Easy Storage and Power Backup

Photo by Samsung Memory on Unsplash

1. Make sure you have enough storage: memory cards + external storage for backup

Nowadays, it’s better to have as much free space as possible on memory cards, even though JPEGs are much larger in size than they used to be.

If you record a lot of 4K videos there won’t ever be too much free space. You will probably take a lot of duplicates before you begin editing, so it’s better to have enough space for all of them instead of deleting some photos before the end of your trip.

Let’s say that 64 Gb of memory is a minimum. If you have a camera with dual card slots think about simulating the use of 2 cards in order to always have a backup copy.

External storage (HDDs) is cheaper, so think about getting one if you don’t want to keep a few memory cards with you and want a reliable device for a backup.

2. Make sure you have enough power: spare batteries + external charger + power bank

There is no need to explain it except to remind you of times when you wanted to use your camera but ran out of battery. So, make sure to have 1 or 2 spare batteries on you while traveling.

Most of today’s cameras come with an internal charger which means that you need to recharge a battery that needs to be in your camera. If you have just a single battery it may not be a huge problem, but if you have additional batteries and need to charge them one by one, it can be pretty inconvenient.

So, it is always better to have an external charger in order to charge all batteries at the same time. Eventually you could consider buying a power bank if you have a camera with USB charging to continue with shooting if your battery is low and you don’t have any spare ones.

To Get Better Photos & Videos

Tripod for lightweight cameras

Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

1. Lightweight tripod

If you are going to shoot in a lot of low light and long exposure conditions, it’s essential to make your camera stable.

If you are going to take HDR photos (to make 3-5 photos with different exposure and combine them manually to get a real HDR photograph), or want to shoot stable videos, you need to have a tripod.

Considering you will be on the move, you definitely need to aim for a lightweight tripod in order to be able carry it with you.

2. External microphone if you are going to shoot lots of videos

Built-in microphones in most cameras are not so powerful. You will often hear unwanted sounds like the sound of the wind or autofocus and whenever you touch the camera with a finger it will also be recorded. Plus, the sound reproduction is pretty basic.

These are the reasons why you should invest in an external microphone. You will get a much better sound quality and no unwanted sounds.

3. Gimbal (if you are a real video enthusiast)

Of course, gimbals are not for everyone, but if you are a video enthusiast and want to record as smooth videos as possible, gimbals will help and work better than any in-body or in-lens image stabilization systems. 

For the average traveler they will be too uncomfortable and too big, though. So, you should consider a gimbal if you really want to use it.

To Carry and Protect Your Gears

Photo by Prince Abid on Unsplash

1. Small bag and protective case

Even if your point & shoot camera is small enough to carry it in your pocket, you don’t want to find scratches on it. This is the reason why you should invest in a small bag or even any cover or protective case.

2. Screen protector to avoid scratching

Your LCD screen is also vulnerable to scratches. Screen protectors work in the same way as they work for your smartphone screens. They are tight enough not to be visible on the screen. But at the same time, they are strong enough to keep your LCD scratches free.

3. Cleaning set

From time to time, you will need to clean lenses to get rid of fingerprints and/or dust. Also, if you change lenses, the chance is that dust will get inside the sensor. This is the reason why you should have a cleaning set in your bag. At least you should have a lens pen, cleaning spray, air blower, and a microfibre cloth.

Conclusion

There are a lot of photographers who don’t want to change lenses but don’t want to rely only on a smartphone camera. If you are one of them you found out why point & shoot cameras are the ideal gear for travel photography.

Of course, point & shoot doesn’t mean just point and shoot, because you still should learn how to avoid taking snapshots if you want to take memorable travel photos and videos.

The most important advantage of mirrorless and DSLR cameras is that point & shoots are really pocket-sized and that you will get much longest zoom range in a single lens. Also if you are a beginner it’s a fantastic way to enter into travel photography. In the end, you learned what are our favorites point & shoot cameras when we speak about travel photography.

What’s your ideal point & shoot camera for traveling? Is there anything else we forgot to mention?

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