Are you looking for the best travel cameras? There are hardly any activities more intertwined than travel and photography. It’s only natural that as we explore the world, we want to try and capture a piece of it to take home.
Photographs have the fantastic ability to capture moments in time. A travel camera should be robust, versatile, lightweight, and capture beautiful images. The perfect travel camera needs to meet a lot of demands. As every traveler is different, there is no one size fits all.
Styles Of Travel Cameras
Before we dive into the best model of travel cameras, let’s break down the various types of cameras. There is no one size fits all travel camera. There isn’t even one size fits all for a particular traveler, as each destination may warrant a different travel camera. For example, what makes the best camera for safari may not perform well in the streets of Greece.
Point-and-shoot travel cameras are the cheapest and lightest option on the camera market, but they fall short of image quality. These days, the hot camera product is mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras as they can contain full-frame sensors and remain more compact than a DSLR. A Digital SLR is the classic route and captures impressive photographs with a large selection of lenses, but they’re big and bulky. So what exactly is the best travel camera? We break it down here.
Sony Rx100 III-VA
Mirrorless Point and Shoot | 20.1 MP | 24-70mm Zoom
- Compact Design
- Great Image Quality
- Stabilized 4K Video
- Fast Lens
- Image Stabilization
- Limited To One Lens
The Sony RX100 is well known for packing a punch despite its compact size. The camera has a wide range of models that vary by price and features. The models offer a one-inch sensor and a solid lens for excellent image quality. It’s an impressive camera that can shoot 24 images per second and a lovely 4K video.
A built-in lens at a 2.8 aperture allows the camera to handle low light and produce a shallow depth of field for professional-looking photos. Hand-held video and shots are smooth, thanks to the sensor stabilization. Although its point-and-shoot nature, users have complete manual control with the ability to shoot RAW images.
The negatives are the size of the camera makes it uncomfortable for shooting all day, okay at landscapes, and it has a small viewfinder and one lens. I find the viewfinder challenging to use in harsh lighting conditions, tough to operate for a full day, and annoying the lack of a spare battery. If you’re an aspiring photographer, it leaves a lot to desire in image manipulation with new lenses.
However, it’s an excellent travel camera for most as you don’t need many accessories, just a memory card with a lightweight tripod. It fits in a pocket, and you can easily take it to sensitive areas. Its compact size is desirable for hikers, minimalists, or anyone who doesn’t want a dedicated camera bag. As a bonus, they make affordable underwater housing for the RX100 at around $300. If you like to surf or scuba, this is a superb option.
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Mirrorless | 26.1 MP | APS-C Sensor | 4K 60 FPS H.265
- Excellent Image Quality
- Superb Build Quality
- Fuji X Mount Lens Selection
- Image Stabilization
- Fantastic Video
- Large Battery
- APS-C Camera
- There Is Better Autofocus
For a travel camera that looks as good as the images it captures, the Fuji X-T4 is an easy choice. The build quality on this mirrorless camera is excellent, with reliable weatherproofing and retro dials that make manual shooting intuitive. It is easily the best ASP-C camera on the market and gives a run at some of the full-frame cameras in function.
The Fuji X-T4 has a superb autofocus function and image capture due to its cutting-edge 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor. It can shoot up to 30 frames per second with its electrotonic shutter and 15 fps with the mechanical. Video is where the camera shines, as the stabilization is excellent. It can shoot video in 10-bit color and the modern codec of H.265.
In form, the camera feels great in hand and features dual card slots, a rotating screen, and multiple dials. The EVF is brilliantly bright, and the rear LCD looks sharp. APS-C cameras are great for travel as they utilize more compact lenses. Fuji delivers an excellent line of razor-sharp lenses for an affordable price compared to full-frame lenses.
The camera is a great stills camera and an excellent video camera, but even better at switching back is forth between the two formats. If you are interested in shooting videos and stills, this is the perfect travel camera. The Fuji X-T4 is the camera we use for work as professional writers and content creators.
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Canon EOS M50 II
Compact Mirrorless | 24 MP | APS-C Sensor
- Excellent Auto Features
- Great Images
- Dual Pixel Autofocus
- Build Quality
- APS-C Camera
- Limited Lens Selection
- Video Footage Is Okay
- Limited Battery Life
The EOS M50 Mark II is an excellent compact mirrorless camera with an impressive 24MP APS-C sensor that utilizes Canon’s Dual Pixel autofocus. Despite its small size, the camera feels comfortable in the hands and offers a good EVF/rear screen display. The appeal of the M50 is the beautiful auto mode that can help novice photographers produce impressive images.
Settings are easy to adjust, yet it’s feature-rich enough to grow with the camera experience. It also features a nifty Bluetooth/WiFi connection that works reliably. Autofocus on the camera is reliable, and the Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system is quick to find its subject. Its images are sharp and deliver the color quality we expect from Canon.
It has a few negatives. Most notable is the limited lens selection with the mount and lackluster video. It’s a poor choice if you like to shoot many videos, but it does shoot beautiful images in its well-designed body.
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Mirrorless | 24 MP | Full Frame Sensor
- Affordable Full Frame Camera
- Excellent Image Quality
- Superb Build Quality
- Image Stabilization
- 1.7x Crop On 4K Video
- ISO Noise Reduction
- Only 24 MP
Nikon’s Z5 mirrorless camera is one of the most affordable full-frame cameras ever. It features an in-body stabilized 24MP CMOS chip with phase detection autofocus. Those impressive specs are inside a robust, weather-resistant camera body. Nikon has been building the amazing camera body for decades, and this is what we come to expect from the camera behemoth.
The camera function is good with two control dials, a tilting touchscreen, an AF joystick, and a high-resolution EVF. It’s comfortable in hand, and the two control dials are customizable. Autofocus performance is terrific, as is the autofocus subject tracking. Battery life is decent, with the average charge lasting just under 500-400 shots.
Image quality is the real stand out with the Z5 as it has excellent ISO performance, color rendition, and dynamic ranges. The camera crops the image 1.7x down when in 4K mode, so it’s challenging to get a wide-angle or gauge the correct lens. It’s also only 24MP for a full-frame camera. Regardless it’s a capable still camera that is excellent for those looking to up their photography.
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Fuji Instax SQ6
Instant Film Camera
- Requires Travel With Film Packs
- Limited Results & Quality
- Not A Digital Camera
We live in a digital world, and it feels like most photos now only exist on our phones, cameras, or the cloud. With a fun camera like the Instax Square SQ6, you can take instant photos as a fun keepsake. We tried several instant film cameras out and found the quality of the Instax Square line to be the best.
The camera is lightweight and relatively compact, so it’s easy to travel within your carry-on or suitcase. It’s affordable, and since most of us travel around with a great camera in the form of a smartphone, it’s an excellent alternative. We travel with a large camera bag and work professionally as travel photographers but still carry one of these for personal use.
Images are of decent quality but are not anything like modern digital cameras. The camera is limited in its shooting environments, and you are stuck with a fixed lens, so no zoom here!
Shop For Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
Mirrorless Point and Shoot | 20.1 MP | 24-360mm Zoom
- Zoom To Size
- Built-in EVF
- Image Quality
- 4K Video Recording
- Long Zoom Lens Sacrifices Some Image Quality/Sharpness
The Lumix LX DC-ZS200 is a compact point-and-shoot camera that still can satisfy even the most experienced photographer’s expectations with its 20.1 MP 1″ sensor. It makes full use of the little Leica zoom lens that can reach up to 15x for a range of 24 to 360mm.
The TZ200 is so versatile that its interface is simple enough for novice photographers while providing extremely sophisticated manual settings that allow experts to have limitless creative control. Its lens has an aperture equivalent of 1.7-2.8, making it perfect for macro photography and shooting in low light. On top of everything else, the TZ200 also shoots in 4K ultra-high definition.
One would think the TZ200 would also include a tilting touchscreen for so many advanced functions, which is pretty standard with most newer cameras on the market today. If dependent on the EVF (electronic viewfinder), be prepared for the battery to drain quickly. Most impressive is the weight to the performance of this camera, as it weighs only 340g and can hold its own against larger format cameras.
Shop For Panasonic DC-ZS200
Mirrorless | 24.2 MP | Full Frame Sensor
- Full Frame Camera
- Excellent Image Quality
- Superb Build Quality
- Image Stabilization
- Small EVF
- Complex Menu Structure
The Sony A7C is one of the largest cameras on this list, but it delivers a full-frame sensor, excellent high ISO quality, and an impressive 24.2 megapixels. Image quality is superb and is only better with larger MP cameras that move in professional categories.
It features full-screen auto-focusing that performs wonderfully and reliable image stabilization for excellent video and images in dark environments. 4K video is incredible, and the battery can power the camera for a full day of shooting.
The 28-60mm kit lens is a nice size for travel, but it’s far from groundbreaking image quality. Sony has an impressive line of lenses for the camera with exceptional optics, but many of the lenses are very heavy and oversized. The Nikon Z5 above is slightly larger but offers similar image quality at a lower price.
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Mirrorless | 26.1 MP | 3″ Screen | APS-C Sensor
- Fujifilm Lenses Line
- Image Quality
- Automatic Mood Shooting
- Build Quality
- Excellent IBIS (Image Stabilization)
- Lacks Weather Sealing
- Small Electronic Viewfinder
- Not Traditional Fujifilm Camera
The Fujifilm X-S10 is an outstanding choice for a travel camera. It’s a well-designed mirrorless camera that can meet the demands of hybrid shooters who want an excellent combination of video and stills. An ASP-C 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor lies at the camera’s heart and allows it to shoot 4K video at 30 fps, ISO sensitivity from 160-12800, and continuous shooting up to 8 FPS with the mechanical shutter.
The X-S10 not only shoots in 4K video, but is mirrorless, compact, has excellent image quality, and along with a nice autofocus sensor. Image quality is impressive, and the camera feels well suited for full auto with 18 film simulation modes for stylized images. You get your money’s worth in features for this moderately priced model.
To further this point, the X series of lenses appears at the moment to be an excellent investment. Fujifilm’s latest cameras continue to use the line, and it feels little need for a change in the series. They are some of the sharpest lenses we’ve had the pleasure to use and at a tremendous value too.
There are a few nitpicks with the camera. It lacks weather sealing, so it’s not well suited to adventure photography or those in harsh elements. A relatively small EVF can make your eye strain if you shoot a lot of images in one day. Most notable is it lacks the classic retro dials of similar Fujifilm cameras—granted, if it’s your first Fuji, you likely won’t miss them.
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Olympus OM-D E-M10 IV
20MP Four Thirds Sensor | IBIS | 4K/30p Video
- Good Image Quality
- Image Stabilization
- Battery Life
- Flip-Down Selfie Screen
- Price Point
- Entry Level Image Quality
- AF System A Little Slow
- Complex Menu Structure
This mid-level mirrorless Olympus camera packs quite a punch for its small body and relatively low price. The Mark IV includes a tilting screen, as well as touchscreen autofocus. The 4K video on the camera looks great, and the image remains stable thanks to reliable IBIS.
This camera also has tons of lenses and accessories available to allow further customization. Combining the camera with a wide-angle lens and the flip-down screen makes it easy to take fun selfies.
The autofocus in the Mark IV lags behind the competition, but it still performs amicably. It’s decent image quality, but don’t expect the Olympus to knock you out of the water as it is an entry-level camera.
Olympus delivers a friendly camera in a small body for an affordable price with the OM-D E-M10 IV. It’s easy to see why the Mark IV appeals to travelers who are just dipping their feet in photography. What set’s this camera apart is the price point at around $500!
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Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II
Mirrorless | Bridge Camera | 20.1MP 1″ MOS Sensor
- Simple Design
- Decent Image Quality
- Articulating Touch Screen
- Responsive AF Screen
- Bridge Camera Limitations
- Plastic Construction
- Crop In 4K Video
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II is a bridge camera. It fills the gap between the old-school point-and-shoot cameras and an interchangeable lens camera. A bridge camera has a fixed lens with optical and digital zoom. It offers the simplicity of point and shoots with superior image quality. For the price point, it’s a tough camera to compare due to its lens range! You can buy better cameras, but they won’t come with an equivalent lens.
The advantages of this camera include a larger sensor than most bridge cameras, and it shoots 4k video. While the lens is not interchangeable, it has a wide range from 25mm to 400mm. The sensor is more significant than most of its competitors at almost 1″, which means it is one of the best in a bridge camera. The camera body is a nice build and will feel natural in your hands.
If you’re looking for a straightforward camera that will be easy to use as a novice photographer, this camera is a great pick. The camera is an exceptional pick for safari-goers who want high-quality images without extensive knowledge of photography or the need for individual lenses. The current price point offers a ton of value if you want the latest and greatest try-out, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV, for a top-of-the-line bridge camera.
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Olympus TG-6 Waterproof Camera
Rugged Point and Shoot | 12MP Sensor | 25-100 mm
- Very Rugged
- Decent Image Quality
- Raw Format
- Lackluster Outside Tough Conditions
- Messy Controls
For those traveling to the edge, the waterproof Olympus TG-6 will be right by your side, whether climbing the most rugged mountains or diving to the bottom of the ocean. This camera is a simple point-and-shoot, so don’t expect to have too many options to manipulate the image quality.
Even with its lack of zoom and manual settings, the TG-6 has a fantastic macro function and an aperture of F2.0. Good news for those wanting to do video: the TG-6 also shoots in 4K video. This moderately priced T-6 is a steal for this camera’s sheer durability and functionality. It makes an excellent second camera and a questionable primary. I’d only recommend going this route for a few budget-strapped and rugged adventurers.
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Do You Need An Expensive Travel Camera?
As we all became photographers, a misconception formed that all travel photographers must travel around with thousands of dollars worth of equipment and a dedicated camera bag. It leaves almost every traveler wondering what is too much and what is too little.
On top of that, many travelers’ lifestyles cannot ensure that they can constantly take care of all that equipment. Nor do many feel comfortable with the potential of losing thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Let alone even having the money to invest in ten thousand dollars of equipment. Thanks to cell phones, we all walk around with some excellent cameras in our pockets these days.
Our cameras over the years have taken quite a beating. I’ve dropped them numerous times and brought them through camera hell. To top it all off, they’ve spent far too much time in humid environments like beach huts in Costa Rica and Mozambique.
Over the years, we’ve lost a Canon 5d Mkii, Fuji XT-20, Sony RX100V, Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, GoPro Hero 5, and a Canon 80D. Now, most people probably won’t be as abusive as we are on their cameras.
However, before dropping thousands of dollars on camera equipment, this is all something to think about before dropping thousands of dollars. Also, travel insurance and insurance on your gear in general never hurt!
Things to Consider When Buying a Travel Camera
The sheer number of cameras on the market today is overwhelming. You can spend days researching brands such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and Fujifilm. Even after settling on a brand, the question of which model to choose will still take up the better part of your day. We’ve found ourselves in endless debates about which camera to choose and, in the past, put off investing in a new camera for a long time.
For those just getting started as travel photographers, words such as aperture, mirrorless, shutter speed, and full-frame may be terms you are not too familiar with the terms. However, once you understand the basics, none of it is too complicated. The key points lie in the type of camera you’d like, cost, photography style, weight, and features.
For the last decade, I’ve worked with cameras, with my previous career path on professional commercial, feature film, and live event production. In that time, I’ve operated digital cameras worth $100 up to $200,000. Read the post and pick a few cameras that stand out to you to further research before making your final decision.
DSLR vs. Mirrorless:
Let me start by saying that the camera market works in trends. When Canon initially launched the Rebel camera, it brought the DSLR “professional” digital interchangeable lens system to the masses. DSLRs reigned supreme for nearly a decade as the digital camera of choice. With the introduction of the Sony mirrorless cameras, a new trend has set, and it seems the whole market’s focus has shifted to mirrorless. Even Canon and Nikon launched full-frame mirrorless cameras to compete.
What’s the difference between these two types of cameras? From the beginning of photography, mirrors have been an integral aspect of making a camera work. Today’s digital cameras have improved a lot, but that doesn’t change that a mirror is still at the heart of most cameras. DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflection refers to the fact that you look through the same lens as the camera’s sensor (what records an image). When you look through the viewfinder of a DSLR, you are looking at a mirror in front of the sensor.
When first put on the market, mirrorless cameras couldn’t hold a light on the old DSLRs in terms of quality. However, mirrorless cameras are now on par with DSLRs – if not better.
Since mirrorless cameras have fewer parts in the body, the cameras weigh less and can provide better speed. When purchasing a mirrorless camera, the only drawback is the lack of available lenses and accessories. Until recent models, mirrorless cameras also lacked weatherproofing, a pivotal detail for professional photographers.
There is a clear trend toward mirrorless, but it does mean you are looking at an EVF or electronic viewfinder, something that may not be the most incredible experience for some people. It’s also a significant strain on battery life as it is needed to power the display. When it comes to video on full-frame mirrorless cameras, they crop the image due to sampling and an overwhelming amount of data coming from the massive sensors, which can make 4k footage a slight pain to record.
Photography is one of the most expensive hobbies; it is easy for enthusiasts to sink thousands of dollars into the camera and lenses, support, and various other accessories. Most travelers should focus more on travel than buying the most expensive, cutting-edge equipment. So it is vital first to determine your budget and set priorities.
Would you rather pay to go island hopping in Southeast Asia or blow your money on high-tech electronics? When we set out to make a new purchase, we like to think about the bottom line and ROI. It’s easy to overcomplicate travel photography.
Many cameras also require the purchase of lenses. It needs to be kept in mind when purchasing a camera. The vast majority of cameras come in kits which include one lens and the camera body. These lenses used to be garbage, but many now offer an excellent kit lens that hits the mid-range focal lengths. It also may be more advantageous to go with a lower model camera to afford an additional lens like a wide-angle or zoom.
If you’re into adventure and landscapes, consider the cost of a wide-angle lens. Someone interested in food or culture may want an excellent prime lens like a fast 50 or 85mm lens. Wildlife or events enthusiasts should have a long lens around 200mm+.
Consider the final price of your camera package; add the cost of the camera, lenses, memory cards, spare batteries, a camera bag, and a tripod. Perhaps, you can not afford the camera you thought you could when you add up the total cost.
When choosing a camera, you need to think about your photography needs. Whether landscapes, portraits, low light, or the night sky, these shots require your camera to do very different things. For portrait photography and working in low light, you will need a faster aperture; in layman’s terms, a bigger opening to let in more light.
Other people may not need to have a maximum of 1.2 aperture. Typically, you would want a camera with a wide-angle lens to get all the scenery into the frame for landscape photography.
These features barely scratch the surface of the various elements which contribute to crafting your perfect shot. Regardless, it is essential to know what kind of photographer you are to sort through what you need and what is unnecessary.
Video is a broad category, but the primary point I’d like to stress is the video capabilities. Even if you do not have plans to be a vlogger or video maker, I’d still encourage every photographer to at least have a camera capable of recording video and to use that camera.
Any camera, as a bare minimum, should record 1080p. Other great features come down to frame rates. Can a camera record in like 60 fps or perhaps 120 fps? It refers to the number of images captured to create a moving image. Higher frame rate cameras allow you to slow the footage down when editing. Creating buttery smooth shots is a crucial component to craft a gorgeous video. Then there is image stabilization in which the sensor operates on small axis motors capable of reducing a shaky hand.
A lot of people believe they need 4k video recording capabilities. To this day, 4K is not a necessity for cameras, and the simple fact is most laptops used by travelers are incapable of editing 4K video footage. Although, that is quickly changing as computers catch up every year, especially the new Apple chips.
Compression vs. Resolution
Resolution is the hot word these days when marketing to the consumer. As cameras continue to push 4k, you see “4K” in gold slapped on boxes of nearly every camera these days. However, resolution refers not to the quality of the video but the quantity of the pixels.
For example, you could take the 4k from the average consumer camera and compare it to 1080p on a professional camera. The professional camera would blow that consumer camera out of the water. Why is that? If the resolution is not all that matters to cameras, what matters? It comes down to the compression, bit rate, and color science—more or less quality vs. quantity.
A high bit rate and compression mean that the camera can record more color values. More color values mean a better-looking image and minor banding when the camera cannot register all of the various shadows and colors of an image. If you want to see an excellent example of solid color space in a camera, check out our most recent vlogs shot on the Fuji X-T3.
Weight and size are essential for all equipment when living the life of a digital nomad. Cameras, of course, are no exception. No traveler wants to be stuck with extra weight in their bag when gorilla trekking in a jungle or exploring the city streets with a full rucksack. As mentioned above, cameras are gradually getting lighter.
With the improvements made with mirrorless cameras, you can get a high-end camera weighing half of what DSLRs weigh. It is much easier to narrow down your choices when you know what you want out of your camera and decide that you are not willing to carry around loads of bulky electronics. We travel far too much, but we’re at that point in our travel blogging career.
Travel Photography Accessories
I rarely am happy with a RAW image right from the camera. Almost every image we like goes through a post-editing process. We edit every shot to be crisper, brighter and enhance colors. We use Adobe Lightroom to edit our photos, and we pay $10 a month for their monthly subscription (monthly fees suck).
There are free photo editing programs and tons of free apps to edit your photos for social media if you are getting started. However, you need to invest in an actual program when you take your photography seriously.
Post-processing of images has and will always be half the work for producing great photography. Even with film cameras, photographers took time to choose film stock and carefully developed their film rolls to produce the desired result.
Side note, don’t waste your money buying some presets, especially if it’s a couple of hundred dollars. It’s one of the biggest scams ever to hit the photography world. Anyone selling these presets edit images individually and not with a preset. Presets are great for bulk editing, but you’ll likely have to tweak each photo individually after a preset is applied. No image is created equal!
We don’t use Photoshop, but if you want to add layers or other elements to your photos (like the milky way to a dark sky or a flock of birds in the background), Photoshop is your friend. You can learn the basics of photo editing on Lightroom and Photoshop on YouTube. Peter McKinnon has fantastic and free tutorials.
Polar Pro VND
Control over the amount of light that enters a camera lens allows for more significant photo manipulation. ND filters have become commonplace for landscape photographers and videographers to achieve lower shutter speeds and better images.
Previously that meant a wide range of filters for varying light conditions. Now variable neutral density filters allow for the strength of the ND to be adjusted with a twist.
PolarPro designs exceptional filters cut from quartz for superior optical performance and scratch resistance. Photographers can choose from a 2-5 stop VND or a 6-9 VND to enable exceptional control for photographs.
PolarPro VND Filter
For long exposures, landscapes, night photography, or self-portraits, you will invest in a tripod. Our latest tripod is the Peak Design Travel Tripod. What makes this lightweight tripod so great? It’s compact and folds up incredibly small, weighs only 3.44 lbs, has impressive stability, and can fully deploy in under 10 seconds, so you never have to worry about missing a shot.
At $600, it is not a cheap investment. There is a more affordable aluminum model for those on a budget. Because of the size and how small it folds up, the Peak Designs tripod is an excellent tripod for travel.
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Peak Design Everyday Backpack
The Peak Design Everyday Backpack is an excellent daypack and backpack that works well for travel and everyday life. We love the gear we have from Peak Design, and it’s all exceptionally high quality. It provides accessibility, organization, and quality we’ve seen in no other backpack so far. What makes it stand out is the bag feels ready to take on everyday life in addition to your photography needs.
Shop For The Peak Design Everyday Bag
Don’t expect to charge your battery every night, and you never know when you’ll have a day that just begs for you to shoot the whole day. There is no worse feeling than not being able to take photographs because your camera is dead.
Extra batteries have come in handy for us when we don’t have access to electricity. Think camping trips or anything off the grid. The photo above is from a three-day canoe safari in Africa, and our spare batteries were essential to our photography.
Where to Buy Your Travel Camera
We shop for almost all of our photography needs on B&H Photo. They’re easily the best camera shop in America and have worked with professional film, video, and photography needs for decades.
They’re responsible for handling the equipment of major feature films, Pulitzer prize photographers, and everyday consumers like ourselves. Their support is tremendous and knowledgeable. On top of all that, they offer free two shipping, so forget about shopping for camera gear on Amazon!