My name is Ali G from Ali G Studios, a professional photographer based in Hong Kong. For as long as I can remember, travel has been a lifetime passion of mine, even before I was a photographer!
Having traveled to 30+ countries, one of my mentors has been Ashraf Talaat, one of Egypt's most celebrated photographers. Ashraf has not only photographed for National Geographic but he has held major exhibitions worldwide!
I have also been running photography workshops for travelers visiting Hong Kong, ranging from mobile to pro cameras and even social media!
I believe the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX80 is the best budget camera for travel photography. It comes with excellent image quality, low-light shooting capability, HD video at 60p, and built-in Wi-Fi so you can easily transfer files.
There are not that many cameras at the same price point that can perform better than the HX80. It's an affordable, powerful, and easy-to-use camera.
Below, I will further break down the device, as well as the other top budget cameras for traveling. I hope that with my explanation of the traits and features, you will understand why I have added them to my recommendation list.
- Best Overall Budget Travel Camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX80
- Best Budget Point-And-Shoot Travel Camera – Canon PowerShot SX620 HS
- Best Budget Travel Camera for Vlogging - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300
- Best Budget Weatherproof Camera - Ricoh WG-6
- Best Budget Compact Camera for Travel - Canon PowerShot SX540 HS
- Best Budget Mirrorless Camera for Travel – Canon EOS M50
- Best Budget DSLR Camera for Travel - Canon EOS Rebel T7
Best Budget Camera for Travel - What to Consider?
As someone looking to buy a budget camera for travel photography, making up your mind is a difficult thing to do. There are so many brands and so many different cameras and styles that it can be overwhelming. It is easy to get confused.
First of all, the camera you pick must match your needs. For example, things like image quality, weight, handling, and above all pricing; the camera you choose must tick all the boxes.
How to get really nice photos is a synergy of several things, the camera being one of the factors. When it comes to travel photography, you need a camera that has good dynamic range, excellent autofocus, a decent amount of resolution, and exceptional handling.
Image quality is a rather broad and expansive term that encompasses several features of a camera.
First of all, it is important to understand that image quality depends as much on the camera as on the lens and the technical prowess of the person who is shooting.
When it comes to choosing the best budget camera for travel, we shall limit ourselves only to the hardware part, and that too only the camera.
Megapixel and Resolution
Sometimes we get carried away by our love of features like sensor resolution or megapixels. Although we need to consider these two things as important, they should not be valued as the most important factors when choosing a camera, no matter which type of photography you're into.
As a travel photographer, you need a decent amount of resolution. So, the question is how many megapixels do you actually need?
Regardless of the budget, anything between 20 to 24 megapixels is more than enough to capture great quality high-resolution photos. Why? Because 90% of the time you will share your photos online, on social media channels, and on chat apps.
The only time you will need more megapixels is when you decide to print your photos or submit them to an offline magazine for print publication.
The camera you choose needs to have some sort of image stabilization built into it. Image stabilization helps to get sharp photos when you are hand-holding the camera, especially in low-light situations or running around in markets!
Except for DSLRs, where image stabilization is still based on the lens rather than the body of the camera, all other cameras including compacts and mirrorless cameras have got in-body image stabilization (IBIS).
Handling is the basic ease of operation of a camera. It includes the layout of the dials and controls of the camera, the handgrip, the position of the shutter button, and other parameters.
If the video recording button is close to the power button and you happen to switch off the camera while activating the video recording then this is a huge handling issue.
If the multi-directional selector button does not respond properly to the finger press then this is a handling issue.
If the flash button or the preview button or the AF button is located in such a way that it is a pain to access it, then also these are considered as handling issues.
Other parameters that also tend to affect the handling factor are the design of the camera body, the grip, and the thumb rest.
Many of these factors are subjective. I mean the opinion keeps changing from person to person. I strongly recommend that before choosing a budget camera for travel you pick up the camera in your hand and make a few test images to check how it feels.
Or else, purchase it from an online store such as amazon, because you know you can easily return the camera if you don’t like how it handles.
Bulk and Weight
The weight of a camera is an important parameter to consider when you are choosing a camera for travel photography. If the camera is too heavy and bulky it will be difficult to carry it around your neck for a long period of time.
A lighter camera is a better proposition if you hate the idea of a heavyweight dangling around your neck as you travel.
Best Budget Camera for Travel - Top Recommendations
Here are my most recommended budget cameras for travel.
- Key Features: 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS Sensor, 24-720mm Built-in Zeiss lens, Built-in Wifi, and NFC
- Size: 10.2 x 5.8 x 3.6 cm (4.02 x 2.28 x 1.42″)
- Including Battery Weight: 245 g (0.54 lb / 8.64 oz)
This is a sleek camera powered by a 1/2.3-inch BSI Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor and paired with a BIONZ X image processor. BSI sensors have excellent low light capabilities. If you love street photography, this is a very useful feature.
BSI stands for back-side illumination technology for super low light photos, while CMOS stands for Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. This is top of the line sensor design technology.
The built-in Zeiss lens offers a focal length range of 24-720mm (35mm format equivalent). It shoots full HD videos at 60p. HD stands for high-definition. A resolution that is higher than Standard Definition (SD) is referred to as HD.
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication is a wireless technology that allows devices to pair and share information within a range of 4cm) allow you to transfer images to your smartphone as you shoot. Image stabilization is built-in too. Furthermore, it has a Selfie-ready 3" Xtra Fine LCD™ multi-angle display.
I love using Sony cameras during my travels, especially for video! Most of them are very lightweight, easy to operate, capable of producing high quality photos and videos, but also more expensive too. DSC-HX80 is an exception, it’s so affordable and yet powerful.
The only downside is, you will need some time to play with the Pop-up viewer and flash before you can get used to these features.
- Key Features: 25x Optical Zoom with Intelligent IS, 20.2 Megapixel CMOS Sensor, 1080p Full HD Video
- Size: 9.7 x 5.7 x 2.8 cm (3.81 x 2.24 x 1.1 inch)
- Including Battery Weight: 182 g (0.40 lb / 6.42 oz)
This is a pocket-friendly camera that works as your replacement for a smartphone. The HS in the specification stands for High-Sensitivity. This is a low-light technology designed to produce high-quality photos in low-light settings.
There are several reasons you may prefer this to your mobile.
First, the 25x Optical Zoom with Intelligent IS brings a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 25-625mm. This is handy when you are traveling and want to capture something at a distance. Second, this has built-in image stabilization.
Third, you get a full HD video recording. The fourth factor is that the built-in 20.2 Megapixel CMOS Sensor is bigger than that of a smartphone camera and that has a bearing on the low light capabilities of the camera and the overall image quality.
The downside of this canon camera is the menu is a bit too complicated and you need to play around with it a bit.
- Key Features: Vari-angle screen, 4K video and photo, full-range F2.8 Aperture, Dustproof camera
- Size: 13.2 x 9.2 x 11.7 cm (5.2 x 3.62 x 4.61 inch)
- Including Battery Weight: 691 g (1.52 lb / 24.37 oz)
I highly recommend choosing a camera that has a vari-angle screen and one that you can flip all the way to face you so that you can see what you are recording as the best budget travel camera for vlogging.
And in that sense, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is the automatic choice. It comes with built-in image stabilization and 4K/UHD video recording at a maximum of 30p.
Thanks to the 25-600mm Zoom with Full-Range F2.8 Aperture, this camera comes with a pretty good low light shooting ability as well.
This is also a dustproof and rugged camera, you can take it to areas such as snowy mountains and deserts with no problem. Given these features and the price point, this is an excellent choice for travelers of all ages.
The cons are that this camera is the heaviest option among all of our recommendations. Don't forget to check out our tripod recommendations in this blog as well!
- Key Features: All-Weather-Proof, 20 megapixel BSI sensor, Built-in 24-140mm lens
- Size: 11.8 x 6.6 x 3.3 cm (4.65 x 2.6 x 1.3″)
- Including Battery Weight: 246 g (0.54 lb / 8.68 oz)
If you are an active person who loves all sorts of activities, from scuba diving to skiing and snowboarding, the Ricoh WG-6 is a great budget camera for you.
This all-weather-proof compact camera with a 20-megapixel BSI sensor and a built-in 24-140mm (35mm equivalent) lens produces beautiful images in all kinds of lighting.
The rugged design and the feature-loaded menu controls make it suitable to take anywhere you go. It is weather sealed up to a depth of 20 meters and is capable of withstanding a pressure of up to 100 Khf.
I found that the LED light ring will wash out the colors a bit, so you need to spend more time adjusting the exposure when you want to take underwater photos.
By the way, if you love sports and photography, probably it’s a good idea for you to check out my article talking about motion photography tips as well.
- Key Features: 20.3 Megapixal CMOS sensor, full HD/ 60p video, 24-1200mm zoom range
- Size: 12 x 8.2 x 9.2 cm (4.72 x 3.23 x 3.62 inch)
- Including Battery Weight: 442 g (0.97 lb / 15.59 oz)
I love the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS. It’s a compact bridge camera with a powerful optical zoom.
The 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor is paired with a DIGIC 6 image processor. It incorporates Canon’s HS system for better image quality in low light conditions.
It is also capable of shooting full HD videos at a 60 fps frame rate. But the highlight of the camera is the zoom range. It ranges from 24-1200mm (in 35mm parlance), which makes it a very handy camera for travel.
If you have read my other articles, you will notice that I usually Nikon cameras, however, when it comes to a budget choice, Canon wins.
There is a drawback to this camera - you need to remove the battery to charge it while most of the cameras can be charged directly on the camera with a USB cable these days.
- Key Features: 24.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 Image processor, OLED viewfinders, vari-angle touchscreen
- Size: 11.6 x 8.8 x 5.9 cm (4.57 x 3.46 x 2.32 inch)
- Including Battery Weight: 390 g (0.86 lb / 13.76 oz)
The EOS M50 is the cheapest mirrorless camera that you can buy. We have also recommended the M50 as the best budget friendly mirrorless camera for beginners.
Comparing with other recommendations in this article, this product may be slightly over the budget but consider it as a mirrorless camera that comes with a lot of functions. It’s a high-value option.
The M50 is powered by a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and paired with Canon’s DIGIC 8 image-processing engine, the quality of the image delivered is undoubtedly clear, detailed, and crisp.
The EOS M50 comes with one of the best OLED viewfinders in the business and you will be impressed how easy it is to check out the details of your pictures. This is a handy feature for travel photography because you want to make sure everything is right before leaving the location.
It also comes with a 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen that can do wonders for your photography and videos. Not to mention that it can also shoot 4K videos.
There is a downside of this canon camera though, the battery life is a bit short and this is more of a vlogging camera. It takes great photos but when you are using the autofocus, it sometimes misses the mark.
- Key Features: 24.1 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) Sensor, full HD video recording, 9 point autofocus
- Size: 12.9 x 10.1 x 7.8 cm (5.08 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
- Including Battery Weight: 475 g (1.05 lb / 16.76 oz)
This is the cheapest DSLR that you can get in the market brand new. However, there is no reason to underestimate this small compact DSLR. It still comes loaded with features such as a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and full HD video recording.
The 9-point autofocusing system is great and fast for capturing moving objects. For easy transfer of images, the camera comes with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
This is also a very easy-to-handle camera and I highly recommend it if you love traveling and want to get some great photography out of it.
The downside is that this is a camera that cannot grow with you. It performs really well for travel photography, but if you are looking for a DSLR that can do more than travel photography, it’s better to go for other options.
Below are some useful tips for taking amazing travel photos:
Tip #1. Before you travel to your destination, take some time to read up on the key places and culture.
Here are a couple of great books to check out:
- The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet)
- The Rainbow Atlas: A Guide to the World’s 500 Most Colorful Places (Travel Photography Ideas and Inspiration, Bucket List Adventure Book)
- Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World's Most Amazing Places
Tip #2. Invest in a good camera bag, something which can help you carry everything: from camera, lenses, laptop/ipad, extra clothes, water and all sorts of accessories like lights and even a small tripod. These are my go-to camera bags:
Tip #3. Make sure to have external drives with you. There's nothing worse than taking amazing travel photos and losing them if your computer crashes!
My trusted drives are Lacie and Seagate:
- LaCie Rugged Mini USB 3.0 / USB 2.0 4TB External Hard Drive
- Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD
Considering the price, size and functions offered, I believe the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX80 to be the best budget camera for travel. It is easy to carry around, comes with great low-light shooting capacity, and a nice zoom range.
Unless you want to expose yourself to extreme situations, this is a very affordable camera to fulfill most travelers' needs.
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Thank you for stopping by!
A big thanks to Phottix for the professional lighting equipment provided to Ali G Studios.
All photos are © Ali Ghorbani and Ali G Studios
Disclosure: As an amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases