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Choose the Best Mirrorless Camera for Travel Photography

Updated on January 30, 2016

Are you looking for the top rated mirrorless cameras for travel photography?

Written by Mathieu Gasquet (Official photographer of the Turin Cinema Museum) and Heather Broster

Please note that you can find an updated version of this article on our website MirrorLessons - The Best Mirrorless Camera Reviews.

Lugging behind your DSLR camera and the many lenses that go with it can be hard not only on the body but also on your wallet. How many times have you had to pay $40 to check in your luggage at the airport because you had your camera backpack with you? I thought so!However, as technology evolves, manufacturers are continuously able to build smaller products without compromising image quality. Mirrorless camera are a very good example: disposing of the mirror-based optical viewfinder that you find in every reflex camera, producers are able to reduce both the size of the body and the lenses as well. Plus, with CMOS sensors becoming more and more advanced, we are beginning to see smaller cameras capable of handling light, dynamic range and ISO speed like a DSLR.The leading producers in digital photography - Canon, FujiFilm, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony and Olympus - have each developed a new and innovative mirrorless camera for your travelling convenience. The good news is that each company has attempted to make their model different from the rest. Some aim for a bigger sensor and high image quality, while others aim for better performance or design. The choices are vast but not so hard to make. Below, you will find a description of each model, their pros and cons, and additional reviews by professionals so that you can choose the best mirrorless camera for your travels.Take that, heavy backpack and $40 check-in fees!

Nikon 1 Mirrorless Camera Review - A fast and compact mirrorless camera with DSLR quality

Amazon
Amazon

The Nikon 1 system is an entirely new system created by Nikon to follow the success of micro four-thirds cameras such as the Olympus Pen and the Panasonic GH2. The Japanese manufacturer practically reinvented the concept by giving it unique features that distinguish the product from its competition. The 1 cameras are the fastest mirrorless cameras available on the market, with a continuous shooting speed of up to 60 fps, a speed that you generally see only in high-end professional DSLRs. There are also other advanced features such as motion snapshot, smart photo selector and the ability to record video and photo simultaneously that make the 1 system perfect for advanced amateurs and professional photographers who want a powerful tool to photograph their family and kids without carrying around a heavy DSLR. There are six models, the J3 and S1 (coming soon in February 2013), the J2 and the V2 and the J1 and V1.

Advantages

- small enough to fit in your coat pocket (depending of the lens you have mounted on it)

- very fast auto focus system thanks to the EXPEED 3 processor

- full HD video

- Up to 60 FPS continuous shooting

- start-up time is 1 second

- the Smart Photo Selector takes 20 photos in succession and suggests the best four

- the Motion Snapshot Mode allows you to take a short video and combine it with a photo of the most touching moment during the video

Disadvantages

- some of the advanced functions DSLR users like, such as aperture priority, are hidden in a sub-menu

- the original 1 mount is only compatible with 1 lenses. You will need an adaptor to use standard Nikon Lenses

- the Nikon CX sensor is the smallest in its category: the crop factor will be 2.7 if you use DSLR lenses (wide angle lenses will be significantly less wide)

- electronic viewfinder on the V1 and V2

The difference between the various models:There are currently six models in the Nikon 1 system: the J1, J2, V1, V2, J3, and S1. The V2, the latest entry, has been redesigned for users who want a product closer to a DSLR both in design and functionality. It is the most powerful of the four in terms of both speed and quality. The "V" models don't have a flash incorporated, a characteristic retained only by the "J" models. The J3 is the newer version of the J2 and J1, adding more quality and speed than its predecessors.Some accessories are also available, like an external speed light for the V models, a GPS unit, stereo microphone, wireless image transfer and more.

Canon EOS M 18.0 MP Compact Systems Camera

The Canon system is the latest entry in the market. It features the same APS-C sensor you can find in Canon low and middle entry DSLRs, which is good news because it carries the same technology and the same quality, such as excellent ISO speed range (good sensitivity for indoor and night shots), high resolution and a fast processor. A number of websites call it the little sister of the 650D. The name EOS used by Canon is a clear reference to its reflex lineup. This M version is meant to combine DSLR quality with the simplicity of a compact system (lightweight, touchscreen). It is available in four colors. There isn't a variety of lenses available yet (actually only two: a standard zoom lens and a fixed lens). However, the price is reasonable starting at 799$ with the 22mm f/2 "pancake" lens.

Advantages

- very easy to use

- 18 million pixel APS-C format sensor

- excellent image quality

- uncompressed raw format at 14-bit

- large touchscreen compensates for lack of controls on camera body

- Video mode in full HD 1920x1080

- hybrid AF system for both still and video

- ISO of 100-25,600

- compatible with all the existing Canon EOS DSLR Lenses (adaptor required)

Disadvantages

- no optical or electronic viewfinder, the only feature that could make you miss your DSLR

- Only two EF-M lenses (designed especially for the M system) are available at this time . You will need a mount adaptor to use the standard EOS DLSR lenses.

- no built-in flash (an external speed light especially made for the M system is available)

- continuous shooting speed at only 4.3fps

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mirrorless Camera Review - The most DSLR of the mirrorless camera collection!

Over the past few years, marketers have used nostalgia about old film cameras as a way of closing the gap between the fascination for old photography equipment and the usability and quality of modern photographic technology. Companies started to make retro designed compact cameras to attract costumers, and with a more than positive response, the next big step was obvious: to build small cameras, with interchangeable lenses, DSLR features and a retro design.The mirrorless system was the perfect solution for that, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is the most advanced example of this new trend. With a water/dust sealed body, as you would find in the most expensive DSLRs, the E-M5 follows the design and usability of its historical film lineup. Users who once owned a film camera will experience a pleasant sense of familiarity. Inside, there is the most advanced Olympus technology: one of the fastest autofocuses ever built and stunning image quality that makes this camera one of the best in its class. The price could make you think twice, as it is one of the most expensive mirrorless cameras on the market, but the Olympus line is also the most versatile when it comes to lenses, offering the widest micro four thirds range on the market today.

Advantages

- has an attractive retro appearance

- water and weather resistant

- 16.1 megapixel m4/3 sensor for clear and high quality images

- very good in low-light situations (check out our high ISO test at the National Cinema Museum in Turin)

- fast autofocus

- very good JPG files (of course, it shoots also in RAW format)

- wide selection of Olympus Zuiko lenses

Disadvantages

- cramped button layout

- menu can be a little confusing for those not used to Olympus cameras

- as pricey as a DSLR camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Mirrorless Camera Review - The best hybrid mirrorless camera for photography and HD video

Panasonic was, along with Olympus, the first to embrace the mirrorless concept with micro four thirds sensor. Its most well-known product has always been the GH series, which has had much success in the video community as well. With DSLRs becoming more and more popular for professional filmmakers, the GH1 and the GH2 have become fair competitors in this particular and growing market. Panasonic pushed the concept further with the GH3, which is the most clear example of a hybrid photo/video camera, with no compromise in quality in either photo or video, and with features that suit professional needs in both sectors. The Panasonic GH3was released in November 2012.

Advantages

- very good image quality with 16 mp of resolution

- Full HD recording in all-intra avchd codec, with 50p and 60p in 1920x1080

- clean HDMI out, mic input

- wireless capabilities for photo transfer, multiple flashlight use

- improved image processor that reduces image noise on high ISOs

- wide choice of lenses from Panasonic and Leica- splash/dust proof design

Disadvantages

- as expensive as a DSLR camera

- the viewfinder isn't very good

Sony Nex-7 Mirrorless Camera Review - One of the most popular mirrorless cameras on the market

Another series that has seen a wide success in both the realm of photo and video is the NEX lineup by Sony which has some very interesting features. First of all, the NEX 7 is the mirrorless camera with the highest resolution available on the market with a 24 APS-C megapixels sensor. Its size puts the Nex 7 in direct comparison with the new Canon EOS M. On the video side, the NEX 7 offers a robust codec for recording (avchd) in FullHD up to 50p. The camera is also fast, offering 10fps continuous shooting. I have often seen news videographers with a Nex 5 or Nex 7 in hand.

Advantages

- high resolution electronic viewfinder

- 24.3 megapixel APS-C sensor for great image quality even at high ISO

- full HD video up to 50p with avchd codec

- shoots at up to ten frames per second

- compact and robust body

- built-in flash

- nice features such as HDR and Panorama mode

- vast range of lenses available

Disadvantages

- autofocus can hesitate sometimes

- a little pricey

- uses Sony proprietary memory cards

- menu system can be confusing

Fujifilm X-Pro 1 Mirrorless Camera Review - The best mirrorless camera model for professionals

Fujifilm X-E1
Fujifilm X-E1

The Fuji X Pro series is probably the most desired among professional photographers. Like the Olympus EM5, it combines a retro design inspired by the old film reflex with some of the most interesting tech features on the market today. The most interesting is the hybrid viewfinder: you get a true optical (not electronic) viewfinder and an electronic high resolution screen. This one characteristic alone makes the Fuji X Pro 1 comparable to the DSLR usability we know and love.But that's not all: this camera has an APS-C sensor, as big as the ones found in the Canon Eos M and the Sony Nex 7. The difference here is the different type of CMOS sensor especially developed by Fuji to deliver great image quality even at high ISO (up to 25600, which makes it the most sensitive on the market along with the Eos M).The X Pro series also offers very high quality and fast prime lens. The only real con is that it is the most expensive system of all reviewed in this article. But there is an answer to that too! Fuji just released a cheaper version, the X-E1. This new model shares the same sensor as the X Pro 1, which means that you will get the same quality and performance. The main difference is that the X-E1 is smaller and doesn't have the hybrid viewfinder. Instead, it has an electric viewfinder which is very sharp and detailed thanks to amoled technology (the same technology used Samsung smart phones like the galaxy S3). And as opposed to the X Pro, the E1 has a built-in flash - a nice plus. So, if you are on a budget, the X-E1 is a great alternative.

Advantages

- hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder makes a difference for the user

- Impressive image quality and sharpness even at high ISO

- Film Simulation mode brings the look of old Fuji films

- great build quality and design

- high quality and fast lenses made especially for the X Pro

Disadvantages

- the most expensive mirrorless camera on the market (but the X-E1 is cheaper)

- Internal software can be slow

- no built-in flash (but present in the cheaper X-E1)

- the autofocus isn't the fastest in the market (it has been improved in the X-E-1 model)

Conclusion

Mirrorless cameras in a nutshell

Still undecided? Despite the technical specifications of each camera, every model has a specific purpose. They can all take very good pictures, so the focus is more on how you plan to use it during your vacation. If you're looking for speed and performance so you never miss an important family moment, the Nikon 1 is what you need. If resolution and image quality are what matter the most, the Sony Nex 7 or the new Canon Eos M are two of the best choices. If you have a weakness for old fashion film cameras, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Fuji X Pro 1 not only offer exactly what you're looking for but they are also two of the best all-around mirrorless models available today. Finally, if video matters as much as to you as photography or even more, you'll want to have a look at the Panasonic Lumix brand, with particular attention to the GH3. Finally, if it is money you're worried about, keep in mind that almost every model quoted above has a less expensive version in its lineup. Good luck to all of you!

Are you interested all things mirrorless? Then be sure to check out Mirrorless Curation, a new website featuring curated mirrorless content from around the web.

The Top Mirrorless Camera 2013 Guestbook - Which do you think is the best mirrorless camera brand?

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    • profile image

      backdropexpress 5 years ago

      Great info you got! I really want to know more about mirrorless camera.

    • profile image

      NYThroughTheLens 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! One of my cameras is a Lumix and it's such a high quality camera. You have a great collection here with good info.

    • profile image

      naugleb 5 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your lens. Very attractive photos.

    • EMangl profile image

      EMangl 5 years ago

      no idea, i like my canon no matter that it's already an old model :-)

    • profile image

      agent009 5 years ago

      I'd love to get some of these for the portability but they cost quite a bit. Are there any websites where they're sold for lower than retail stores prices?

    • marigoldina profile image
      Author

      Heather B 5 years ago

      @agent009: Honestly, I think Amazon is your best bet, especially since you can find them second-hand.

    • vekoslavr lm profile image

      vekoslavr lm 5 years ago

      Very informative. All esentials in one place. Congrats.

    • profile image

      aishu19 5 years ago

      These are certainly easier to carry around than a digital SLR. I have used the Sony NEX and love it...

    • DonD LM profile image

      DonD LM 5 years ago

      Nikon is one of the best cameras out there.. I have nikon camera and I love it. Nice lense.

    • Edwardjames81 profile image

      Edwardjames81 5 years ago

      I have an Olympus EPL-1 as a back up to my digital SLR camera and to use as a travel camera and I love it. I am actually finding I am starting to use my EPL-1 more and more and only take the D-SLR out for "specialist asignments" like wildlife, macro and motorsports.

    • AlexTedford profile image

      AlexTedford 5 years ago

      Olympus PEN

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 5 years ago

      If I was buying one now, I'd probably get an Olympus EP3.

    • profile image

      fayenoman 5 years ago

      my camera is not listed here but it will always be the camera I'd love to use. thanks for posting this. I'll try to see this on the market.

    • Millionairemomma profile image

      Millionairemomma 5 years ago

      I learned a lot of new and helpful info. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 5 years ago

      Exactly what I've been wishing for... a great, smaller camera. Guess I'd better start saving up.

    • ChenB profile image

      ChenB 5 years ago

      Mirrorless cameras are a fascinating idea. They are great for travel and offer high quality results every time. This lens is quite informative in picking out the right one for you!

    • profile image

      sherioz 5 years ago

      Excellent concise presentation of pros and cons of each camera. I think I'll stick with my Canon G11 even though I am getting more and more frustrated with its slowness. This means that in a pinch, many of my photos are not coming out crisp and sharp.

    • profile image

      orawansc 5 years ago

      Great! one stop needed information. Thank You.

    • profile image

      BelieveItOrNot 5 years ago

      My Nikon is doing me justice, i'm stuck with it until.....

    • eilval profile image

      Eileen 5 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      Great information - will bookmark for future use !

    • profile image

      coolmon2009 lm 5 years ago

      Nice article will read again when i am ready to buy a camera.

    • Canvas-Art-Shop profile image

      Canvas-Art-Shop 4 years ago

      Really great selection of the cameras, I think I'm siding more towards a Nikon!

    • MarcoG profile image

      Marc 4 years ago from Edinburgh

      I've never heard of a mirrorless camera until today, lol. Fab lens x

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Like MarcoG, I'd never heard of a mirrorless camera. Thanks for sharing this info with us.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I have my eye on an Olympus.

    • Alenkita1 profile image

      Alenkita1 4 years ago from Slovenia

      Thanks for this interesting lens. Keep up the good work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Love the Nikon 1it`s an amazing camera!!great lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I am a photographer, great lens!

    • profile image

      babythink 4 years ago

      Great lens for photography lover... Fujifilm released second mirrorless camera called Fujifilm X-E1 16.3 MP

    • profile image

      theRFfilmphoto 4 years ago

      Very nice lens! But I vote for the Fuji. X100, X-Pro 1, and latest X-E1, all of them give best colors in my choice

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I am very curious to see how the new canon will stack up against the competition.

    • MayaIxchel profile image

      MayaIxchel 4 years ago

      I still haven't decided, but I need to replace my small travel camera and I appreciate the list and reviews. Thank you so much for sharing! Greetings from 'the land of eternal spring'!

    • profile image

      OptimalExercise 4 years ago

      I love my tech, but this is a new topic to me. I've always been a big fan of DSLR's over compacts but had never heard of mirrorless cameras before. Certainly something I'll be looking into now! My neck muscles are secretly plotting to murder me I think with my DSLR.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      those nikon 1 cameras are gorgeous!amazing lens... very clear and comprehensive info!

    • profile image

      photomania 4 years ago

      Super lens,Am heading over to Amazon for a Nikon J1. Thanks

    • profile image

      Moon-Light 4 years ago

      You have made my task easy. I was looking for a good camera. Thanks for this very useful article!

    • profile image

      ThatsMyCoffee 4 years ago

      Now if they only made them cheaper.

    • maheshbalan lm profile image

      maheshbalan lm 4 years ago

      that's a smart list of digital cameras

    • hotplate lm profile image

      hotplate lm 4 years ago

      I'm a sucker for old fashion styled cameras. The olympus looks great. Love your explanations.

    • GreenerDays profile image

      GreenerDays 4 years ago

      A very nice list and lens (I learned a lot!). I'm looking for a camera like one of these for some upcoming backpacking trips, and I would have loved to see the weight for some of these posted as well.

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      Nice list!

    • profile image

      Bartukas 4 years ago

      Great lens thank you i liked it

    • profile image

      chrisphillip 4 years ago

      nice!

    • profile image

      chrisphillip 4 years ago

      nice!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Calling the Fuji X-Pro1 a micro four-thirds is quite a big mistake. Some would find it too big for a site trying to assess which camera to choose. Sorry.

    • marigoldina profile image
      Author

      Heather B 4 years ago

      @anonymous: What a horrible oversight, you are right. Sorry for that, we just corrected the error.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      A good overview, however in the Nikon review it is stated "no viewfinder (except on the V2)". This is incorrect as the V1 has a viewfinder.

    • profile image

      ibecamewe 4 years ago

      thanks for giving information...... I really need it

    • marigoldina profile image
      Author

      Heather B 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for noticing the error - we've fixed it.

    • internetsuc6 profile image

      internetsuc6 4 years ago

      Wow what a great info and lensjust awesome! I would appreciate it very much if you could check out mine about go pro 3 hero camera to ;-) ?

    • DiscoverWithAndy profile image

      DiscoverWithAndy 4 years ago

      Wow, very detailed reviews! I just picked up a Sony HX20V to take around the world with me. I would've loved the OM-D or the Fujifilm X-Pro, but I just couldn't justify the price.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      wow! now im crazy to have it.. such a great Fujifilm X-Pro.www.autobahnindustries.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      wow! now im crazy to have it.. such a great Fujifilm X-Pro.www.autobahnindustries.com

    • profile image

      mistaben 4 years ago

      Great options here! I really need a new camera =)

    • profile image

      VladJohn888 4 years ago

      Nice Lens!!!:)

    • profile image

      DiddydelDesigns 4 years ago

      Great Lens, thank you

    • profile image

      purelightphoto 4 years ago

      Great looking Lens! cool cameras this will do good on photography addicts

    • profile image

      Steve999 4 years ago

      Just spent ages reading through your lens. Looks great and full of very helpful information :-)

    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      I am a big fan of the Panasonic!

    • BestHDCameras profile image

      BestHDCameras 4 years ago

      I like Sony Nex-7

    • dmcbane profile image

      dmcbane 4 years ago

      Great reviews. Very detailed.

    • Dashot profile image

      Dashot 4 years ago

      Great review on mirror-less camera! I intend buy one soon.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 4 years ago

      I just bought a compact sony that I love except it has no viewfinder. In bright light, it is impossible to see what you're shooting. What a shame.

    • john-doornkamp profile image

      john-doornkamp 3 years ago

      Lots of information. Useful reference.

    • john-doornkamp profile image

      john-doornkamp 3 years ago

      Taking everything into account - the Olympus will take some high quality images - and is well supported with lenses. Difficult to persuade myself to go anywhere else.

    • profile image

      visit2goa 3 years ago

      Great information about Nikon productsbut my preference is go for full function DSLR of canon rather than having a compact that seems like a dslr.. sorry but that's true..

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