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Camera Options for Travelers


From the professional photographer to the casual user, almost everyone brings some type of camera on her travels, whether she’s packing for a weekend getaway or a year (plus) round-the-world trip.

I was pleased with my point-and-shoot camera until I met some travelers with a D-SLR. I knew the quality of their photos was a blend of the camera itself and their skills, and I instantly knew I wanted to learn how to take better photos and upgrade to a D-SLR.

Once I was traveling around Australia, I quickly realized that my entry-level D-SLR (Nikon D3000) might not be the most travel-friendly camera. I wondered if I should also purchase a point-and-shoot. Months later, I owned an iPhone 4 with a built-in camera.

I’m still wondering which camera I want to pack on two upcoming trips and realized that the pros and cons of various cameras will heavily influence my decision. Which style of camera do you travel with? A D-SLR, point-and-shoot digital camera, or a camera phone?



Ability to change lens – in addition to the kit lens that comes with most camera bodies, a variety of other lens are available for your brand. Choose the ones that meet your travel and personal needs. I love to take photos of food, and my next lens will be one that better allows me to capture my meals.

Manually alter depth of field, ISO, shutter speed, etc. – Have more control of your photos and get the image you desire. You may only be here once!

>> See the positives in taking a DSLR on a trip


Price – Can you afford the initial investment (and additional lenses) while you’re curbing your spending habits to save for your next trip? If you break a part on the road, it will be expensive to replace. I accidentally broke my kit lens in month two of my trip and had no choice but to buy a new one.

Size and weight – You can’t easily take it everywhere… especially if you are carrying multiple lenses. I traveled with two lenses, and sometimes wished I didn’t have to tote my camera equipment everywhere – especially on hikes where one false move could have resulted in disaster.

>> See the negatives in taking them traveling


Point and shoot digital camera


Compact – In size and weight. Most will fit into the palm of your hand, in pants or jacket pockets, or into even the smallest of purses.

Quality of higher end models – Both the number of megapixels and features in the best point-and-shoot cameras will be more than enough for most travelers.


It lacks the pros of the D-SLR and a (smart phone) camera phone.

camera phone

Camera phones

While most cameras now include a built-in camera, I am discussing only smart phone cameras here.


Quality – The megapixels and quality equal many point-and-shoot models (e.g., 5 in the iPhone 4 and 8 in the iPhone 4s).

All-in-one – Pack more with less equipment.
Instantly share your photos – Share your experiences with family, friends, and social media followers via email and social media.

Apply effects and filters using apps – Hipstamatic and the popular (and free) Instagram are two of many!


Keeping it safe – How often do you misplace your phone (temporarily) at home? Lose it on the road and you’ve lost both your phone AND camera.

Fewer features of a higher-end camera – Among others, they lack the range of zoom and attempting to do so with an object at a distance may look grainy.

For the none-smart phone cameras – The quality of the camera varies widely and some may offer only a couple of megapixels. Sending photos via text can be expensive.

* * * * *

Next weekend I plan to travel within the US and fly with carry-on only. I love to take photos with my D-SLR, but I don’t think I have enough room to bring it. Perhaps it’s time to once again invest in a quality point-and-shoot so I can spoil myself for choice when I travel.

What type of camera best suits your needs, and does your choice vary based on the trip you’re taking?

Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Rachel says

    I just got a micro-four-thirds (or mirrorless) system camera. It’s a good compromise between point and shoot and DSLR for travelers. They’re smaller and lighter than DSLRs but have a nice big sensor so the picture quality is much better than point and shoot – and you can also change the lens (though they don’t have quite the quality of a DSLR – still, they take great pictures). They are kind of new but getting more and more popular – most of the major camera companies make one now. I’d definitely recommend checking it out! I also travel with an iPod Touch for quick snaps or if I don’t want to have a camera with me.

    • Heather says

      Rachel, great addition — and an idea I may have to write about soon! I’ve heard of these cameras but haven’t checked them out for myself yet. You’re the second person I know who owns one, and it’s great to have a positive review.

  2. Vicky says

    I have a canon rebel dslr with the kit lens 18-55 and a 55mm prime lens (which I use for my food blog). I definitely want to take my dslr on my backpacking trip but have been torn in terms of lens. I’m thinking of selling the 18-55 and buying an 18-135 for the wider zoom and bringing that along with the 50mm (since that lens is small, cheap and light anyway).


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