The last time we talked about travel cameras we focused on making a list of five retro machines. It was a pretty excellent list. Picking any one of the cameras on it would serve any vacationing photophile well. But while those machines were beautiful, classy, and capable, they required loading of stinky, unforgiving film. What’s that all about?
Film cameras are wonderful and charming, for sure, but not everyone wants to shoot film (for some reason). For those photophiles who just can’t muster up and shoot like it’s 1969, here’s a list of digital cameras that are perfect for any kind of vacation. Like the film cameras covered earlier, these machines are small, capable, and good-looking. From snorkeling to street photography, these five cameras will easily handle the photographic needs of any traveler.
Fujifilm X100T (X100 and X100S)
For those travelers looking for a perfect blend of style and capability, there can be no better travel camera than Fuji’s X100 series. First introduced in 2011, the X100 was an immediate hit, and has since seen significant upgrades over the years. The original X100 sported a 12.3 megapixel sensor that was perfectly capable at producing astounding images. The introduction of the X100S increased this respectable count to 16.3, and advanced a number of other features which included a faster autofocus system. Now, the X100T continues the advancements with a new electronic viewfinder, and a very slick digital rangefinder to aid in manual focusing.
The camera looks amazing. It’s got enough retro character and modern tech to make even the grumpiest anti-hipster concede defeat. Image quality, sharpness, bokeh, and low-light performance are all among the best you’ll find in any machine. It’s 23mm ƒ/2 lens provides a perfect equivalent focal length of 35mm, and will give just the right perspective for almost any type of shooting. Street photographers and journalists all over the world love it for its silent operation, discreet size, impeccable build quality and unbeatable image quality. Travelers will love it for the same reasons.
If you’re looking for an all-arounder, this camera won’t disappoint. Alternately, buy the previous generation machines to save some cash. The X100 and X100S are just as good, just not as new. The Fujifilm X100T retails for $1,299.00.
Nikon 1 AW1 Underwater Camera
Nikon has quite a legacy in the world of underwater photography. Basing their Nikonos range of 35mm cameras off of a bespoke machine originally created for the legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau, they quickly became a leader in waterproof film photography. For more than 30 years they helped explorers bring the oceans’ mysteries out of the darkness and into books and magazines everywhere. Now they continue that legacy in the digital age with their Nikon 1 AW1 camera, the first interchangeable lens, mirror-less, underwater camera in the world.
The 14.2 megapixel image sensor is capable of 15 FPS burst shooting, which means you’re sure to get the shot even in the most challenging situations. And for those times when photos simply don’t do justice to the action happening in front of the lens, it’s capable of full 1080p HD video.
The ability to use all Nikon 1 lenses allows a complete range of photographic latitude. Some of these Nikkor grade lenses are pretty fantastic, and a wide range of focal lengths help the AW1 feel just as comfortable sitting in a cafe as it does parasailing. Its compact size makes it great for street shooting and tourist shots, but to be fair, this camera is built for action.
Its durability allows you to take it kayaking, snowboarding, mountain biking, or diving, without worrying you may be damaging your new toy. More than just waterproof, it’s resistant to drops as high as 6.6 feet and freeze proof down to 14º F, making it the perfect camera for anyone looking to push the limits. With built-in GPS the camera’s sure to remember exactly where you sustained your concussion, even if you don’t.
The Nikon 1 AW1 kit comes with the waterproof 1 Nikkor AW 11-27.5mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, and retails for $699.95.
Sony Alpha α7
One of the most exciting and polarizing cameras when it released in 2013, the Alpha 7 finally delivered on something enthusiasts and pro photographers had been asking for for years; a full frame, mirror-less camera. Whether you love or hate the idea of mirror-less replacing DSLRs, it’s tough to deny that this thing is a beast. With a pro-grade spec sheet, massive sensor, and a complete suite of creature comforts, the α7 is one of the most powerful and capable cameras around today. Couple this with the fact that it’s among the smallest, lightest, and prettiest digital cameras out there and you’ve a camera that’s tailored for travel.
Sony’s full frame masterpiece comes in three models. The original α7 is the all around performer. With a full frame 24.3 megapixel sensor, it’s quickly become a tantalizing lure for professional photographers looking to replace their bulky (and decidedly less stylish) DSLRs. The α7R followed quickly, and improves on the original with a 36.4 megapixel sensor and magnesium-alloy body. Unfortunately, it loses the advanced hybrid auto-focus system found on the lower resolution model. Coming latest is the α7S, an extremely sensitive version of the α7. While the sensor on the S has only 12.2 megapixels, each pixel is larger and takes in more light more quickly, allowing extremely high ISOs up to an astounding 409,600. The S is also the only one of the three that’s capable of recording 4K video. Pretty amazing in such a small package, and a sure way to make your vacation videos look close to pro.
Sony’s α7 suite features a robust lineup of lenses, and a massive cult of legacy glass has sprung up around Sony’s full frame mirror-less. There are adapters for virtually every lens out there, allowing nearly limitless shooting possibilities. Snap on a vintage Nikkor, Rokkor, or Leica M mount lens and the world of creative photography opens up.
With these three cameras and the nearly endless options of lenses, the α7 range has a solution for every type of shooting and every type of vacation. Its size and weight make it a joy to carry all day long, and its high-tech chops will leave you feeling pretty damn slick.
Ricoh GR Digital
This camera is the digital successor to the 35mm GR series of cameras made famous by Japanese street photographer Daidō Moriyama. His shots helped make the original GR a staple in the street photography world, and while subsequent digital GRs have been polarizing among photo geeks, the newest GR is certainly a worthy travel camera, especially if you’re spending your hard-earned vacation days in a gritty, urban environ.
All of the cameras on the list are compact, but the GR takes it to the next level. This thing is tiny, and light. Throw it in your jacket pocket and you’re liable to forget it’s there. This would be unfortunate, as you’d also be liable to miss a shot. The wider-than-average 28mm focal length (equivalent) is perfect for congested city streets and back alleys. Made of magnesium, it can take a few licks and keep on clicking. Automatic and full manual controls help connect the shooter to the camera, and lead to interesting artistic expression.
A number of image effects help create a camera that really offers options to keep things interesting, especially for black and white shooters. A built-in neutral density filter allows even further exploration of creative shooting.
If you’re a street photographer looking for a pocketable camera that will give your vacation snaps some street cred, the Ricoh GR is a great choice. It retails for $696.95.
Canon Powershot G1X Mark II
For travelers looking for straight point-and-shoot action from a maker that’s well-known and well-respected, the Canon Powershot G1X Mark II is the way to go. This little camera offers all the assets of a point-and-shoot, and very few of the liabilities of this much-maligned segment of cameras. The massive 1.5-inch, 12.8 megapixel sensor offers DSLR image quality in a package that’s substantially smaller than even the most diminutive DSLRs.
It captures RAW files, has built-in Wi-Fi, and uses a pretty staggering 31-point auto-focus system. Lens barrel control rings allow fast focusing and manual aperture adjustments, harkening to the wonderful days of film machines, and the capacitive touch panel LCD is an extremely spacious 3 inches. Image quality is astounding (especially for a point-and-shoot), and it’s one of the only machines in the segment that can produce consistently pleasing bokeh. Optical image stabilization helps during adventures on the road, and its ability to capture full 1080p HD video makes it ideal for those looking to capture their trip in motion. All told, the G1X Mark II addresses nearly all of the common complaints surrounding point-and-shoot cameras.
For travelers who’s ultimate concern is portability, the G1X is the answer. It’s about as close to pro-grade as a point-and-shoot gets, and it retails for $799.99.
The most important thing in travel is to become fully immersed in the trip. By carrying a lightweight camera it’s easier to experience the people and places that make a particular destination special. Having a machine that’s photographically exceptional is an added bonus. These five cameras offer just that; lightweight, interesting, and extremely capable, they offer the chance to get the very best out of any trip.