Best mirrorless camera for travel 2020: compact and lightweight

best mirrorless camera for travel

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If you’re interested in taking beautiful photos on your travels, consider buying a mirrorless camera. These compact devices offer the quality and control found in a DSLR camera but in a smaller and lighter package. The best mirrorless camera for travel is a portable powerhouse that allows you to capture incredible images without having to lug around anything too bulky.

With a mirrorless camera you can capture stunning landscapes, street scenes and wildlife as well as candid portraits of your loved ones on vacation. Most also offer decent video capability if you want moving footage.

In this article you will find our round up of the top rated mirrorless cameras for amateurs and those with more experience in photography.

Best Travel Camera Reviews

We’ve compiled a list of the absolute best mirrorless cameras for travel. The cameras on this list all offer exceptional quality while being lightweight and portable. View the top three cameras in our summary below or skip forward to our reviews of the top 10 best mirrorless cameras on the market.

 CameraWhy buyProduct link
Fujifilm X-T3Best overall camera> click for prices
Fujifilm X-T20Best entry level camera with great video capability > click for prices
Canon EOS M100Best budget camera - perfect for portraits > click for prices

Overall Best Mirrorless Cameras

If you’re looking for high-quality and have a decent budget (over $1000), the following are hands-down the best cameras for travel photography.

Fujifilm X-T3 – Best overall mirrorless camera

The Fujifilm X-T3 is a high-end mirrorless camera that aims to capture the essence of a retro film camera. It does so with a classic design and built-in film simulation modes.

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 26.1MP
  • Weight: 539g / 19oz
  • Battery life: ± 390 shots
  • Best for: All-round use

The camera features an APS-C sensor with a resolution of 26.1MP and is known for capturing incredibly high-quality images. It has a rugged build quality and is weather-sealed.

The Fujifilm X-T3 is an amazing all-rounder and great for shooting 4K video.

Pros:

  • Built-in film simulation modes
  • Amazing image quality

Cons:

  • The small handgrip can feel a bit unsteady with larger lenses
  • No in-body image stabilization

Product links:

  • Fujifilm X-T3 body > click here 
  • Fujifilm X-T3 Bundle with XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS lens, 32GB SDHC card, camera case, filter Kit, cleaning kit, card reader, PC Software Pack and more > click here 

Sony A7 III – Best Camera for Travel

Sony’s A7 III is an exceptional mirrorless camera, boasting outstanding image quality.

  • Sensor: Full-frame
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Weight: 650g / 23oz
  • Battery life: ± 610 shots
  • Best for: Portraits and street photography

It features a professional-standard, full-frame sensor, which is one of the best on the market.

This camera is ideal for capturing shots of loved ones in the picturesque streets of Florence or Rome. It also shoots high-quality 4K video. The camera is brilliant in low-light conditions and is weather-sealed.

All things considered, you can’t go wrong with the A7 III. It’s an incredibly high-quality piece of travel gear and arguably the best compact camera for travel.

Pros:

  • Full-frame sensor
  • 4K video
  • Weather-sealed

Cons:

  • Sony’s menu system is a little disorganized

Product links:

  • Sony A7 III body > click here
  • Sony A7 III bundle with 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD full frame E-mount lens, 64GB memory card, bag, flash, monopod and accessories > click here 

Sony A9

The Sony A9 is similar to the Sony A7 III in many ways, but the A9 boasts some distinct advantages.

  • Sensor: Full-frame
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Weight: 673g / 23.7oz
  • Battery life: ±480 shots
  • Best for: Wildlife photography

The A9 shoots incredible, high-quality images and video. This camera’s full-frame 24.2MP sensor features technology that allows for faster image burst shooting and general processing speed. It also boasts a higher-resolution viewfinder and display.

The A9 has the best features for wildlife and bird photography and is certainly one of the best mirrorless cameras for travel photography in general.

Pros: 

  • Full-frame 24.2MP sensor
  • Higher-resolution viewfinder and display

Cons:

  • Sony’s system is a little disorganized

Product links:

  • Sony A9 body only > click here 
  • Sony A9 bundle with 64GB memory and battery grip super bundle (flash, tripod, lens cleaner etc) > click here 

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III offers solid image quality and features a retro design.

  • Sensor: M4/3
  • Resolution: 16MP
  • Weight: 410g / 14.5oz
  • Battery life: ±320 shots
  • Best for: Landscape photography

The camera boasts in-body image stabilization and a high-quality viewfinder. Unlike the previously discussed cameras, it also has a built-in flash. The Olympus is affordable too. It’s a fantastic camera for its price range, and one of the best on this list for landscape photography.

Pros:  

  • In-body image stabilization
  • Relatively affordable

Cons:

  • Relatively small sensor
  • Doesn’t shoot video in 4K
  • Not weather sealed
  • Slightly below-average battery life

Product links:

  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III body with 14mm-24mm lens > click here 
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III with accessories bundle including camera bag and memory card > click here 

Best Entry-Level Mirrorless Cameras for Travel

If you’re new to photography and you’re looking to step up your game, these are some of the best travel cameras for beginners.

Fujifilm X-T20

Fujifilm’s X-T20 is a toned-down version of the X-T3. This small camera features a similar retro design but comes in at around half the price.

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24.3MP
  • Battery life: ±350 shots
  • Weight: 383g / 13.5oz
  • Best for: All-round use

It houses a 24.3MP APS-C sensor that captures exceptionally high-quality images for the price. And it even shoots 4K video.

The X-T20 is an amazing camera for the price. It’s small and light, and really is perfect for travel photography.

Pros:

  • 3MP APS-C sensor
  • 4K video
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Not weather-sealed
  • Smaller viewfinder than X-T3
  • Missing some of the physical controls found on the X-T3
  • No in-body image stabilization

Product links:

Olympus PEN E-PL9

The Olympus PEN E-PL9 is a stylish, pocket-sized camera, perfect for beginners and a favorite with bloggers.

  • Sensor: M4/3
  • Resolution: 16MP
  • Battery life: ±350 shots
  • Weight: 380g / 13.4oz
  • Best for: portability and style

This camera features brilliant in-body image stabilization and can shoot in 4K.

The PEN E-PL9 doesn’t offer the same level of control and quality that you’ll find in the pricier options on this list. But it does provide great image quality for the price and is a good entry point for those stepping up from a phone camera or compact camera.

This tiny camera is also amazingly portable, making it a great option for travelers.

Pros:

  • Small and portable
  • 4K video
  • In-body stabilization

Cons:

  • Small sensor
  • Limited control
  • No viewfinder

Product links:

  • Olympus PEN E-PL9 kit with 14-42mm lens > click here 

Panasonic Lumix GX85

The Panasonic Lumix GX85 is a compact, inexpensive mirrorless camera, perfect for those new to photography.

  • Sensor: M4/3
  • Resolution: 16MP
  • Battery life: ±290 shots
  • Weight: 426g / 15oz
  • Best for: Video

The M4/3 sensor in this camera offers surprisingly good performance for its size.

One of the camera’s best features is its great in-body stabilization. This, in conjunction with 4K capabilities, makes it a fantastic little camera for video recording. The GX85 offers amazing value for money and makes a perfect companion for those entering the world of travel photography.

Pros:

  • Compact
  • Affordable
  • In-body stabilization

Cons:

  • Relatively small sensor
  • The viewfinder is in an odd position
  • Relatively short battery life

Product links:

  • Panasonic Lumix GX85 bundle with two lenses > click here

Best Affordable Mirrorless Cameras for Travel

If you’re looking for options under $500 USD, these are some of the best budget travel cameras on the market.

Canon EOS M100

If you’re stepping up from a compact camera or smartphone, the Canon EOS M100 lightweight camera is a great entry-level option.

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Battery life: ±295 shots (410 in eco-mode)
  • Weight: 302g / 10.7oz
  • Best for: People-based photography

It boasts a 24.2MP APS-C sized sensor, which is rare to find in such an affordable camera.

The flip-up screen is great for selfies, and the built-in WiFi is handy for quick transfers to your laptop or smartphone. So you can upload your pictures to social media with ease.

The M100’s face tracking is great, making it a fantastic option for capturing pictures and videos of people.

Pros:

  • 2MP APS-C sensor
  • Flip-up screen

Cons:

  • Minimal physical controls
  • No viewfinder

Product links:

  • Canon EOS M100 bundle with 15-45mm lens > click here

Fujifilm X-A3

Fujifilm’s X-A3 is an entry-level, easy-to-use mirrorless camera, with a cool retro design.

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Battery life: ±410 shots
  • Weight: 530g / 17.7oz
  • Best for: Basic photography

It features a built-in flash and a flip-up LCD display. While the X-A3 is slightly lacking in physical controls, the on-screen menu system is decent. This camera may not be of a professional standard, but it’s a great mirrorless camera for the price and a solid option for beginners.

Pros: 

  • Good for beginners
  • Flip-up LCD screen

Cons:

  • Not many physical controls
  • No viewfinder

Product links:

Sony Alpha A6000  – Best Budget Camera for Traveling

Despite the fact that it came out in 2014, many photographers still believe that the Sony A6000 is the best beginner camera on the market. It’s age also makes it a highly affordable option.

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 24MP
  • Battery life: ±310 shots
  • Weight: 344g / 12.1oz
  • Best for: All-round use

This camera is a fantastic option for beginners. It’s light, compact, affordable, and offers great features for the money. It boasts a 24MP APS-C sensor that captures surprisingly high-quality images. And there are plenty of lens options available if you want to expand your setup.

Pros:  

  • Lightweight & compact
  • 24MP APS-C sensor

Cons:

  • The viewfinder is in a slightly uncomfortable position
  • Sony’s menu system is a bit disorganized

Product links:

  • Sony A6000 body > click here 
  • Sony A6000 bundle with 16-50mm and 55-210mm power zoom lenses, 32GB memory card and soft carrying case > click here 

Summary – Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel

 CameraWhy buyProduct link
Fujifilm X-T3Best overall camera> click for prices
Sony A7 IIIProfessional standard great for portraits and street photography> click for prices
Sony A9Best camera for wildlife photography click for prices
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IIIGreat for landscape photography > click for prices
Fujifilm X-T20Best entry level camera with great video capability > click for prices
Olympus PEN E-PL9Well priced and stylish beginner level camera > click for prices

Panasonic Lumix GX85Affordable beginner level camera - video shoots well > click for prices
Canon EOS M100Best budget camera - perfect for portraits > click for prices

Fujifilm X-A3Great entry level camera for basic photography > click for prices
Sony Alpha A6000Excellent budget all round camera for travel > click for prices

What is a Mirrorless Camera?

So you’ve heard that mirrorless cameras are a great option but maybe you are not quite sure what that means or if they are the best choice for you. Here is an overview of the pros and cons of this type of camera.

Mirrorless cameras are digital, interchangeable lens cameras that rival DSLRs in terms of manual control and quality. Both camera types house comparable sensors and allow lenses to be interchanged, but they differ in a few key ways.

DSLR cameras use a mechanical mirror system to reflect light toward the optical viewfinder, flipping out of the way to expose the sensor when a picture is taken. Mirrorless cameras, however, channel light directly to the digital sensor, eliminating the need for a bulky mirror mechanism.

Advantages of Mirrorless Cameras

  • The mirrorless design allows mirrorless cameras to be smaller and lighter than their DSLR cousins, which in turn, makes them easier to carry with you while traveling. They also provide superior control and quality when compared to compact point-and-shoot cameras, effectively offering the best of both worlds.
  • Mirrorless cameras generally make use of electronic viewfinders rather than optical viewfinders. This allows you to see the final image through the viewfinder before you’ve taken the picture.
  • The lack of a mirror mechanism also means that mirrorless cameras can shoot silently. Rather than with the classic shutter sound that DSLRs make. This can be handy in situations where you’d rather be discreet, such as in wildlife shoots.

Mirrorless Camera Disadvantages

  • Mirrorless cameras generally deliver slightly less battery life than DSLRs. So we recommend purchasing a couple of extra batteries to carry with you while traveling.

Should I use a Smartphone or Mirrorless Camera?

Using a smartphone camera may work well for some travelers, thanks to the convenience it affords. But mirrorless cameras offer some distinct advantages in terms of quality and control.

You can take advantage of the interchangeable lens capability offered by mirrorless cameras and carry a couple of lenses or buy an all purpose lens to double down on efficiency. 

So if you want to take your travel photography to the next level, a mirrorless camera is your best bet.

Things to Look for in a Mirrorless Camera – Decision Points

There are some elements and features you’ll need to consider when purchasing a new camera. Here’s a breakdown of those which are most important.

Electronic Viewfinder

Viewfinders allow you to see what the lens can see, by looking through the eyepiece. While most mirrorless cameras come with an electronic viewfinder, some of the budget-friendly options don’t. Rather, users would have to use the screen to set up their shots which some may find frustrating.

Autofocus Speed and Accuracy

Autofocus is the system that allows a camera to focus on a subject automatically. Fast and accurate autofocus will help ensure your shots aren’t blurry and allow for quick capture of fleeting moments.

RAW Capabilities

RAW images are uncompressed images that have not been altered. The ability to shoot RAW images means that you will have more control when editing the final image.

Manual Controls

Having physical buttons and other control mechanisms on a camera can make the shooting process a lot more convenient. Some lower-end cameras don’t have many physical controls, meaning you have to dive into the menus and settings to make changes.

Image Burst Speed

Image burst is where your camera shoots a series of images in quick succession. This allows you to capture fast-moving moments and pick out the best frames. The faster the rate, the more of an event you’ll capture.

In-Body Image Stabilization

Image stabilization helps lessen camera shake, which can have a profound effect on your images and videos. In-body image stabilization (as opposed to lens-based stabilization) means that no matter which lens you put on your camera, your shots will be stabilized.

4K Video

Capturing in 4K means recording at 4 times the resolution of 1080p video. This provides crisper image quality and the ability to display the video on larger screens. As well as the ability to crop your shots without forfeiting quality.

Built-in WiFi

Cameras with built-in WiFi offer some special features, such as transferring files wirelessly and controlling the camera remotely from a smartphone. These are great extras, but by no means essential.

Weight and Size

Both the weight and size of your camera are important considerations. The lighter and smaller your camera, the easier it will be to carry with you while traveling.

Battery Life

Being caught with a dead camera battery can mean missing out on some amazing shots. Be sure to check how a camera’s battery life compares to other models before purchasing it.

Weather Sealing

Weather-sealed cameras attempt to decrease the risk posed by wet conditions and condensation. This doesn’t by any means make them waterproof, but it can help protect the internal workings of the camera during normal use.

Sensor Size

A digital camera’s sensor is the component that receives the light in order to create an image. In simple terms, the larger the sensor, the more light the camera can capture and the better the image.

A full-frame sensor is generally the largest you’ll find, measuring 36 x 24mm. APS-C, or cropped sensors, are more common, measuring 22 x 15mm. M4/3 size sensors are the next step down, measuring 18 x 13.5mm.

Megapixels

The resolution of a camera is measured in megapixels. Generally speaking, the higher the resolution the better.

But having very high-resolution is only an important consideration for professional photographers. For casual travel photography and web uploads, anything over ±12MP (megapixels) will be more than sufficient.

Other Buying Considerations

Generally, mirrorless cameras can be bought either as the camera body alone or as part of a bundle deal. These bundles will usually contain extras such as:

  • a camera bag
  • cleaning equipment
  • memory cards
  • editing software
  • an extra battery
  • and, sometimes, a lens.

It’s worth considering the bundle deal when buying a camera if you’re interested in the extras provided. It can save the hassle and costs involved with sourcing extras yourself.

You can also often opt to buy the camera body with just a lens and no extras. Usually, lower-end models come with a kit lens, while high-end models require a lens to be purchased separately.

Check which lenses are available for purchase with your chosen camera and compare them to other options.

The final buying consideration is the extent of the warranty offered with your camera purchase. Cameras can be pricey, so having a comprehensive and long-lasting warranty can really add some peace of mind.

Top Mirrorless Camera Brands

  • Canon
  • Nikon
  • Sony
  • Fujifilm
  • Olympus
  • Panasonic

When it comes to cameras, Canon and Nikon are unarguably the most popular and trusted brands. Both have been crafting top-end DSLRs for decades, and have continued to thrive in the mirrorless game. They both make extremely high-quality cameras and offer a wide range of lenses and accessories, and cameras in every price bracket.

Nikon favors still image performance over video performance, while Canon aims to perform well at both.

Sony may not be the pack leader when it comes to DSLRs, but its range of mirrorless cameras is arguably the best in the market. They make fantastic high-end, mid-range, and beginner mirrorless cameras, and also offer a great range of lenses. Sony cameras are fantastic for action photography.

Fujifilm and Olympus both specialize in film cameras but also produce great quality mirrorless cameras. Both brands opt for a cool retro style (although we think Fujifilm does it better).

Olympus cameras are known for their fantastic in-body image stabilization, and Fujifilm cameras are celebrated for their high-quality images. Olympus tends to use the smaller M4/3 sensor format for their cameras.

Panasonic’s camera brand, Lumix, offers some fantastic low to mid-range mirrorless cameras, generally housing M4/3 sensors.

While Olympus, Panasonic, and Fujifilm each produce their own line of lenses, none of the lens lineups are quite as extensive or high quality as the other three brands.

How to Get the Most Out of Your New Camera

Buying a camera is the first step. The next step is to master it. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your new travel camera.

Read the Manual

Some may choose to skip reading the manual, but they usually miss out on some important features that they could otherwise be enjoying.

Take a Photography Course

Taking a course on photography can really help propel your skills to the next level. It can introduce you to more advanced photography techniques that will bring your photos to life.

Take a look at this in-depth photography masterclass course on online course provider Udemy. With 22 hours of on demand video instruction, 62 helpful articles and 30 downloadable resources, you’ll be snapping like a pro in no time. Content is available on desktop and mobile so you can learn whenever you have some spare time. 

Get the Right Accessories

Some of the most useful accessories include:

  • Camera bag – A camera bag is vital for protecting and transporting your camera and lenses
  • Batteries – Extra batteries will always be appreciated while traveling, especially considering the slightly limited battery life of mirrorless cameras.
  • Memory card – You’ll need a memory card for your camera. A bigger memory card means you can take more pictures before having to transfer.
  • Lenses – Lenses are an integral part of photography. Starting with a basic lens is great. But as you develop and learn, you’ll find the urge to purchase additional lenses for different purposes and effects.
  • Cleaning kit – Keeping your camera and lenses clean is vital. It helps avoid damage caused to the lenses and sensor and prevents dirt from tampering with your pictures.
  • External hard drive – Back up your photos! Always have a copy so you don’t 

Learn How to Edit Your Photos

Pictures can be enhanced dramatically with a bit of simple editing. There is plenty of free photo editing software available but we use the Adobe Creative Cloud suite to edit and manage our photos.

Lightroom in particular is great for transforming dark and gloomy images into things of beauty. 

Make a Photobook

travel photo book idea

Photobooks are a wonderful way to share your photos and memories with loved ones and friends. Blurb offers a top-notch service that allows you to create your very own high-quality photo books. They use book store quality paper and binding techniques so your creation is long lasting. The final printed results look stunning and the prices are reasonable – especially if you print multiple copies.

Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Cameras

best lightweight camera for travel

All in all, we truly think that mirrorless cameras make the best travel cameras, hands down. They offer exceptional performance in an extremely portable package. What more could you want from a travel camera?

On this list, there’s a mirrorless camera to suit all types of travelers, and we’re sure you’ll find the best small camera for you.

 

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