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The dream of about 50% of Instagram users is to make money with photography, paid to wander the globe taking photos. By that logic, there’s around 400 million of you looking to take amazing travel images. But your smartphone camera, however mind-blowing it is, just isn’t going to cut it to compete with the best. Try putting an ultra-wide lens, telephoto lens or taking a long exposure on a smartphone, you just can’t! If you’re looking to find the best mirrorless camera for travel, then you’re in the right place.
For years, everyone used DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras, but as technology evolved, photographers slowly started to seek out lighter and more advanced cameras. This article serves as a guide to help you choose the right mirrorless camera for a frequent traveller.
How Does a Mirrorless Camera Work?
As the name suggests, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t use a mirror. The traditional SLR cameras have a mirror inside that reflects light up through the lens and into the eyepiece. As a result, they need to be much larger, and heavier.
Mirrorless cameras have since evolved to combine the best of both worlds. The power and performance of the DSLR in a smaller body. They project the image directly onto the sensor, which is then displayed on an electronic viewfinder. This allows for you to see the final image (as the camera sees it) rather than exactly as your eye sees it. Potentially improving the number of keepers you can take away from a shoot.
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How to Choose a Mirrorless Camera
We’ve all been there, standing, staring at a wall of digital cameras wondering which one to buy. In your head bouncing between the price tag, image quality, battery life, 4k video and weather sealing. There are so many options, basically, we just want the best camera without breaking the bank!
Here are some of the considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best mirrorless camera for a travel photographer:
Weight and Size
Since these cameras have no mirror inside, they are much lighter and smaller than their predecessors, which makes them perfect for travel. The best camera is the one you have with you and if it’s light, you’ll have it with you a lot more!
Bad weather can kill your camera quicker than you’d like to think. Weather sealing varies from camera to camera so make sure to read the instructions carefully. But generally speaking, it means that the camera is dust, sand and rain “resistant”. For me, it’s always been an essential feature as I just want to focus on taking shots, not the 2 drops of rain on my lens.
Swapping a mirror out for an electronic viewfinder doesn’t come for free. As a result, they generally have lower battery life than their canon Eos DSLR counterparts. I recommend keeping at least 3 batteries on you if you’re out shooting. One, for now, one for later and one more just in case there’s a problem, or something amazing happens.
Some modern mirrorless cameras come with in-camera image stabilisation. If you don’t have image stabilised lenses, this is essential. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to use a tripod, or shoot at high shutter speeds. For video, some sort of stabilisation is absolutely necessary.
Mirrorless cameras generally come in three sensor sizes, full frame sensors, APS-C, and the micro four thirds. There are larger medium format sensors, but as these are bulkier, I am not recommending them as a travel camera. Not to mention, they have a pretty hefty price tag. The larger the sensor, the easier your camera can absorb light and the better the images.
Travel photography involves you shooting different scenarios. From macro to landscapes and as the light fades you want low light shots, oh and the whole time you’ll be needing to shoot video. Easy! Right? Well unless you’re Elon Musk you’ll probably need to decide where you want to sacrifice a little to save some money!
4K video was once a feature found in select, premium cameras. Nowadays, it seems this is par for the course. Video is essential to telling a story in today’s day and age. Things like autofocus tracking, framerates, the LCD screen and external mic inputs are important to check too!
Advantages of Using a Mirrorless Camera
Mirrorless cameras are relatively a new development in the photography world. They are smaller, lighter, and more portable than their predecessors, but also offer the benefits of DSLR such as interchangeable lenses, manual controls, larger sensors, and superb image quality.
As they generally are newer, and the companies are iterating models faster. Mirrorless cameras are evolving fast. A lot of photographers have a number of lenses from a specific manufacturer and are hesitant to give it all the extra weight for a smaller, lighter mirrorless system.
But, as we see Canon and Nikon entering the mirrorless camera market to compete with Sony and Fuji these people can use their older lenses on a new smaller, more advanced body. I have been very tempted myself and that’s why I analysed the top 5 mirrorless cameras for travel. I’ll be making the switch sooner than I think now!
The Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel
People are very passionate about their brand of camera. This list is aiming to provide the best mirrorless cameras for most travellers at a reasonable price. Meaning we won’t cover the extreme ends, just the best value camera for your trip. Here is a list of the best models to get you started:
Canon EOS M100
The Canon EOS M100 is an amazingly versatile, compact camera that’s perfect if you’re looking to upgrade from your smartphone camera. It’s easy to get the hang of, with a simple point and shoot mode that creates impressive images. With integrated Wifi and Bluetooth connection, you can transfer your images and share them on social media at the touch of the button.
The powerful APS-C 24MP sensor captures beautiful, sharp photos with incredible image quality and super-fast autofocus. If you’re a fan of taking selfies, you’ll love the 180-degree flip-up touchscreen and the dedicated selfie mode, complete with skin smoothing filters for effortlessly Instagrammable shots.
This camera can match the performance of any DSLR camera, but the lack of physical buttons disappoints. If you want more control than the auto mode allows you, To select exposure modes, white balance, or other advanced features, you have to use the fiddly touchscreen interface. This isn’t very user-friendly and can be frustrating if you prefer to have more control than the auto mode allows you. Experienced photographers may find the lack of advanced control options limiting.
- Easy to use
- Suitable for both beginners and pros
- Use it day or night
- Excellent image quality
- Affordable cost
- No 4K video recording option
- Fewer controls than other mirrorless cameras
- No USB charging port
- Awkward touchscreen controls
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase detection
- 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS C) Sensor
- Built in Wi Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
- Intuitive Touchscreen, 3.0 inch Tilt type LCD
- AF Points:Up to 49 points (Maximum)
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9
An update to the earlier DC-GX8 and the DC-GX80, this model is an ideal camera for street, city, and even wedding photography. Light, compact, and with a gorgeous design, the Panasonic DC-GX9 will enable you to take high-quality photos and 4K video.
You’ll be wowed by the extensive range of controls on this model, plus the tilting viewfinder and touchscreen and pop-up flash. Wifi and Bluetooth are included for easy transfer of images, and there’s an internal five-axis stabilisation system to combat blurring.
You can shoot crisp, clear images with this camera that you can blow up to larger sizes without them becoming grainy. If you’re into black and white photography, try out the new L Monochrome feature for amazing black and white images.
This mid-range mirrorless camera is an excellent choice for travellers due to its compact size, but the lack of weather sealing is a drawback. However, treat this camera gently, and you’ll be able to produce amazing photos across a range of styles, from street shots to portraits, city photography to wedding shots. Compact, durable, and packed full of features, make sure you check out the Panasonic DC-GX9!
- Gorgeous, sharp photos thanks to the 20.3MP resolution
- Dual Image Stabilisation to reduce blurring
- Long battery life
- Tilt table live viewfinder
- Hefty price tag
- No weather sealing
- A bit tricky to grip
- No microphone input
- [20.3 MP] high-resolution MOS Sensor with Tuned Three-Dimensional Color Control to detect hue, saturation and brightness for optimal results
- [5-Axis Dual I.S.] combines an O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer, 2-axis) and a I.B.I.S.(In-Body Image Stabilizer, 5-axis); 5-axis Dual I.S. enables up to 4-stop slower shutter speeds
- [Live View Finder] 2760k-dot high-resolution LFV tilts up by approx. 80 degrees with nearly 100% color reproduction; 1.39x / 0.7x (35mm camera equiv.) magnification and 100% field of view
- [49 Focus Points] plus Custom Multi AF mode quickly and freely select focus blocks from via the touch-enabled LCD screen
- [4K Technology] 4K 30p video, 4K Live Crop and 4K PHOTO burst with a new Light Composition mode to capture perfect moments
Canon EOS RP
A stand-out model from Canon, the EOS RP is one of the best full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market today. Canon has worked wonders by greatly improving upon the popular Canon EOS R, taking this camera to the next level with a unique combination of performance and affordability.
If you’re new to photography, you might not know why amateur and budding photographers dream of a full frame camera above any other feature, even megapixels. The reason is that a full-frame sensor measures 36x24mm, allowing for a greater dynamic range and a generally improved image quality. The Canon EOS RP is, by far, the cheapest full frame mirrorless camera around.
Onto the features, you won’t be disappointed by the EOS RP. Boasting 26.2 megapixels, 4K video, DIGIC 8 Image Processor, 4K frame grab, Anti-flicker mode, and much more, you can create some fantastic images. The camera body feels durable and light in your hand, with a great grip that you can use all day comfortably. If you’re looking to invest in your first full-frame camera, you need to get a Canon EOS RP. It beats all the competitors, hands down.
- One of the more expensive mirrorless cameras around
- Comfortable grip for all-day use
- Not weather sealed
- You need extra stabilisation for shooting video
- Can’t send images directly from camera to laptop
- INCLUDES: Canon EOS RP Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) + Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R + Altura Photo Venture Camera Bag + SanDisk 64GB and 32GB C10 Ultra UHS-I SDXC Memory Cards + Altura Photo Rapid Fire Neck Strap + Altura Photo Mini Tripod with Pistol Grip + Altura Photo Rapid Fire Wrist Strap + Altura Photo Hard-Shell Case + Altura Photo Accessory Kit + 3 Sizes MagicFiber Microfiber Lens Pouch
- IMPRESSIVELY small despite having a large full-frame sensor, the Canon EOS RP offers flexible imaging capabilities along with a portable form factor. Featuring a high-resolution 26.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor along with a DIGIC 8 image processor, both stills and UHD 4K video can be recorded using a broad sensitivity range, from ISO 100-40000, to suit working in a variety of lighting conditions.
- CANON accessories included: Canon EOS RP Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) + LP-E17 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack + LC-E17 Charger + R-F-5 Camera Cover + ER-EOSRP Strap + Canon Limited 1-Year Warranty
- CANON AUTHORIZED DEALER. Includes Canon USA Warranty.
Sony Alpha A7
If you’re looking to get started with a full-frame mirrorless camera, the Sony Alpha A7 is a great place to start. This entry-level camera may not be the most responsive. But with 24.3 megapixels, a superb dynamic range, amazing clarity, and NFC One-Touch and Wifi connectivity, the features and performance more than make up for it being slightly sluggish.
The Sony Alpha A7 fits snugly in the palm of your hand, so you can slip it into a pocket or a small bag and take it anywhere with you. You even get a 28-70mm included, so you can literally take it out of the box and start shooting. Sony designed their own affordable range of lenses for this camera, making it even more appealing to the photographer on a budget.
The Alpha A7 has a smart design, from the intuitive buttons to control the wide variety of features and modes to the easily-accessible SD card slot. You can really play around and create spectacular images, even in low light, and this camera also produces beautiful bokeh effects.
- Full frame sensor
- Great for anyone on a budget
- Ideal entry-level full frame camera
- Works well in low light
- Customisable controls
- Doesn’t have a touchscreen
- The kit lens is lower quality than the camera itself
- Lenses cost more than for APS-C cameras
- 24.3 MP full frame CMOS sensor. Compatible OS - Windows Vista SP2*4, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8, Mac OS X (v10.6-v10.8)
- Up to 4 FPS in Speed Priority Continuous shooting
- ISO 100-25600(AUTO ISO 100-6400), 1080/60p/24p HD video (AVCHD/MP4)
- 3" tiltable LCD with 921,600 dots. 1/2-inch XGA OLED color electronic viewfinder with 2.4M dots
- Raw and Raw + JPEG shooting. Multi-interface shoe (optional external flash sold separately)
The X-T100 is Fujifilm’s entry-level offering to the range of mirrorless cameras available, and it’s definitely worth taking a look at. Suitable for both amateurs and pros looking for a smaller camera for street or travel photography, it’s packed full of useful features and is easy to use.
If you’re active on social media, you’ll love the X-T100’s awesome selfie mode, complete with tilting LCD screen. The images you’ll shoot with this camera will make any smartphone photo pale in comparison – the 24.2-megapixel sensor creates stunning images with jaw-dropping clarity. With the Advanced SR Auto mode and intelligent, automatic flash, it’s as simple as pointing and clicking, and you’ll take some of the best photos you’ve ever taken.
But this camera isn’t just for enthusiastic beginners! More advanced photographers will enjoy experimenting with the advanced features. Added extras such as the external microphone port, film simulation modes, X mount, and constant Bluetooth connectivity make this a perfect mirrorless camera. The cool retro design is the cherry on the top!
- Fast continuous shooting mode – 6 fps
- Excellent autofocus
- 4K video and images
- Long-lasting battery life
- Variety of compatible lenses to choose from
- Hard to get a good grip – slippy material
- Heavier than many mirrorless cameras
- 24.2 Megapixel APS C size sensor with Color Reproduction technology refined over 80 years; Artistic expression are made easy with the x t100 with film Simulation and advanced filter modes
- Featuring super: fast autofocus and a variety of automatic functions, including an evolved SR plus auto mode which is capable of subject recognition together with conventional scene recognition
- Compatible with existing XF/xc Lens lineup of 26 Fujinon high quality lenses which cover focal lengths from 15mm to 1200mm (35mm equivalent)
- Features three way tilting LCD monitor with a high resolution and high magnification (0.62x) electronic viewfinder, along with a powerful battery capable of 430 frames per charge
- Bluetooth low energy technology allows for quick and seamless image transfer; Touch screen : Shooting Mode: Touch Shooting, AF, Focus Area, OFF, Touch Function, EVF Touch Screen Area Settings(ALL, RIGHT, LEFT, UPPER RIGHT, UPPER LEFT, LOWER RIGHT, LOWER LEFT, OFF) Playback: Swipe, Zoom, Pinch-in / Pinch-out, Double-tap, Drag
Sony Alpha A6500
Sony offers the best value camera with the Sony Alpha a6500. It has a range of specifications, including 5-axis image stabilization to keep shots nice and sharp, 24.2 megapixels, APS-C sensor that is a great choice for creative travellers looking for an alternative to big and heavy DSLR, 11fps continuous shooting, and 4k video.
The alpha a6500 also comes with several features such as a tilt-angle touchscreen, bright viewfinder that makes it easy for you to see when the image is sharp and correctly exposed, a touchpad mode that allows you to quickly change AF points and control rack focus speed with a touch of a finger, weather-sealed body, impressively-fast autofocus, not forgetting built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity that allows you to share images.
- Fast performance
- Excellent electronic viewfinder
- Made from a weather-sealed and durable magnesium alloy, which offers durability
- Comes with a very capable autofocusing system
- Some users cited overheating when shooting a video for an extended period of time
- Larger lenses feel a little unbalanced
- Low battery life
- 24.2MP APS-C Exmor sensor w/ advanced processing up to ISO 51.200
- Wide 425 phase detection AF points, Fast 0.05 sec. AF acquisition
- 5-axis in-body image stabilization steadies every lens. Silent Shooting. Noise Reduction :Long exposure NR: On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 sec., High ISO NR: Normal/Low/Off
- 11fps continuous shooting to 269 frames at 24.2MP w/ AE/AF tracking
- 4K movie w/ 2.4x oversampling4, full pixel readout, no pixel binning
Fujifilm’s X Series cameras are generally ideal for both beginners and professional photographers. But, the X-T20 is by far the best budget camera for travelling in the series that still offers high-quality images. Some of its key specifications include 24.3 megapixels, APS-C sensor format, X-Processor Pro Image Processor, 8.0fps continuous shooting, and 4K Video that comes with different drive modes like panoramic shooting.
The X-T20’s manual controls allow you to experience the old fashioned way of taking pictures, capturing images as you see them. Some of its key features include: advanced filters to create unique images, film simulation modes that are available even while shooting 4k video that creates versatile video effects, Versatile AF modes, The X-Trans CMOS III sensor that allows you to capture gorgeous, vibrant, clean, and crisp images even in low-light situations, and AF-C custom settings that makes it easier for you to accurately track a moving image.
- Offers rich and detailed images
- Excellent speed
- Very little shutter lag time, which means it won’t get in the way of you capturing precious moments
- Excellent build and design
- No weather sealing
- Some users reported that the camera is a bit slow to operate after long hours of use.
- 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor with no low-pass filter and X-Processor Pro
- 5.0Fps Live-view shooting, start-up time of 0.4sec., shutter time lag of 0.050sec. And shooting Interval of 0.25sec
- 3.0" tilting Touchscreen panel for operation at almost any angle
- 4K video using the x series’ famous film Simulation effects (including ACROS). you can output recorded video to an external monitor via the HDMI port and input audio from an external microphone
- Af-c custom settings for moving subjects.Operating Temperature:0°C - 40°C (+32°F - +104°F)C
Fujifilm has been perfecting their X Series, and the X-T2 is one of their major flagship models with the biggest improvement of all being the autofocus system (325 AF points, 169 of which offer phase detection). This digital camera is hugely popular among amateurs and professionals.
The X-T2 carries a lot of similar features as the Fuji X-T20 like 24.3 megapixels, X-Processor Pro image processor, and the X-Trans CMOS III sensor, which begs the question of why it’s a bit costly.
Well, it comes with more distinct features over its predecessor like weather resistance, dual card slots, a faster maximum shutter speed, and better ergonomics. It also features a full-frame sensor that offers superb quality images.
- Polished handling
- Extremely well-built
- Comes with a wide range of lenses to choose from
- Fast autofocus
- Quick startup
- No touchscreen
- Some users reported overheating while using the 4k video for an extended period of time
- 24.3MP X Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor reduces moiré and false colors to improve image quality and X Processor Pro engine increases response times, achieves faster AF, lower noise and better color
- Dust and moisture resistant body with approximately 63 points of weather sealing; Freeze resistance to 14 Degree Fahrenheit
- High precision 0.48 inch, 2.36 million dot OLED viewfinder featuring a magnification of 0.77x and Ultra fast Real Time Viewfinder with a lag time of 0.005sec
- Full HD and 4K 3840x2160 30P/25P/24P shooting (Using a card with the UHS Speed Class 3 or higher)
- Tempered glass 1.04 million dot high-precision 3 Inches tilting LCD monitor with three directional tilt and shutter type is focal plane shutter
Sony Alpha a6000
Sony might have released several newer models, but the Sony Alpha a6000 is still the best budget camera for travelling that delivers quality images. Generally, you can get one with a basic lens for less than $600. This mirrorless camera is focused on speed, featuring the world’s fastest autofocus and an APS-C sized sensor that allows you to take up to 11fps.
And, with 24.3 megapixels you can easily capture moments in a blink of an eye. Some of its key features include fast autofocus with incredible facial tracking, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC that allows instant sharing via Smartphone, 1080p video, and a tilting screen.
- Has a wide range of lenses to choose from
- Comes with easy and intuitive controls to help you shoot like an expert
- High image quality
- Lacks modern features like weather resistant, 4K video, and in-body image stabilization
- Le tout dernier capteur CMOS Exmor® HD APS 24,3 mégapixels de Sony ; Mise au point automatique Fast Hybrid avancée ; SVGA Tru-Finder™.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 II has the ability to take stunning, sharp images; however, what makes it the best camera for travelling 2018 is its rugged magnesium alloy weatherproof body, which allows it to withstand elements during travel photography.
Unlike Sony and Fuji, Olympus uses Micro Four Third (MFT) sensors. This camera offers 2x crop factor that come in handy while shooting sports or wildlife.
This mirrorless camera comes with impressive class-leading specs and features, which include an advanced silent electronic shutter that’s capable of capturing 60fps in S-AF Mode and 18 fps in C-AF Tracking Mode, 5-axis in-body image stabilization, 4K video, quick & sharp autofocus system, dual SD card slots, and a tilting touchscreen LCD that makes it easier to shoot in difficult positions.
- Fast shooting
- Longer battery life with 440 shots
- Loaded with a lot of functionality
- Impressive image stabilization
- Needlessly complicated menus
- Ideal image quality thanks to 5-axis image stabilisation in the camera (up to 5.5 EV steps for correction) and a high-resolution sensor with state-of-the-art optical innovations
- Powerful video capabilities and image processing with resolution without blurring (4K Video and Cinema 4K)
- Highest mobility thanks to low weight and compact design as well as a wide range of high quality lenses
- Cold-resistant as well as dust- and splash-proof construction with exceptionally high performance
- High-speed performance with new autofocus system and high-precision algorithm for greater speed and accuracy
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the best mirrorless camera for travel?
- Canon EOS M100
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9
- Canon EOS RP
- Sony Alpha A7
- Fujifilm X-T100
- Sony Alpha A6500
- Fujifilm X-T20
- Fujifilm X-T2
- Sony Alpha a6000
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
What camera should I buy for Travelling?
- Canon EOS M100
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9
- Canon EOS RP
- Sony Alpha A7
- Fujifilm X-T100
- Sony Alpha A6500
- Fujifilm X-T20
- Fujifilm X-T2
- Sony Alpha a6000
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
Why are mirrorless cameras better?
Mirrorless cameras have the advantage of usually being lighter, more compact, faster and better for video; but that comes at the cost of access to fewer lenses and accessories. DSLRs have the advantage in lens selection and an optical viewfinder that works better in low light, but they are more complex and bulkier.
Are mirrorless cameras better?
Mirrorless cameras have the advantage of usually being lighter, more compact, faster and better for video; but that comes at the cost of access to fewer lenses and accessories. DSLRs advantages include a wider selection of lenses and better optical viewfinders.
Is it worth getting a GoPro for Travelling?
GoPros have a lot going for them that make them an attractive option to throw in the backpack for a travel adventure. And while I’m focusing here on using them for photos, their video quality is excellent for the price and size. They’re small and light, rugged, and the image quality is remarkably good.
Why are mirrorless lenses so big?
The main reason for this is because of the shorter flange distance. This helps with allowing the optics to sit closer to the sensor and lenses can be more efficient in design.
How a mirrorless camera works?
While a DSLR camera uses a mirror mechanism to either reflect light into an optical viewfinder, or pass it through directly to the camera sensor, a mirrorless camera completely lacks such mirror mechanism (hence the name), which means that the light passing through the lens always ends up on the imaging sensor.
Are mirrorless cameras the future?
All the rage in today’s photography world is the battle between Mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras. … “Mirrorless systems are up and coming but they aren’t quite there yet…” from the DSLR faithful. “DSLRs are a dying breed. Mirrorless cameras have many more features, are smaller, and simply put – they are the future!!”
The mirrorless cameras mentioned above are just but the tip of the iceberg. Generally, when it comes to travel cameras cost and size/weight are probably the primary guiding factors. All of the above picks offer great results with a few distinct features.
The Sony Alpha a6000 provides the perfect budget-friendly option. If you’re looking for an impressive camera with more features check the Fujifilm X-T2. For those who want the ultimate in travel photography, check out the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II.
We have reviewed other cameras such as the Fuji XT-1 which is a fantastic travel camera although a little dated. If you have given up trying to chase the digital dragon then check out a 35mm film camera here. Travelling with one of these beauties allows you to stay in the moment.
Thanks for reading!
Ben – culturedkiwi.com
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!