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The Best Compact Camera for Travel Photography

Updated on February 25, 2013

The Hunt for the Best Compact Camera to Travel With

5 months spent testing 6 different cameras, and 867 photographs to sort through. These are the stats of the long hunt my wife Becki and I went on to find the perfect compact camera to travel the world with. Becki and I are getting ready for some extended, long term travel. We're both big photography buffs but when the rest of the world transitioned to digital cameras, we forgot to transition with it.

You see, we both took classes with old school SLR cameras, and it wasn't easy for us to make the change to all the automation and lack of control that comes with new cameras. We also had spent plenty of money on our regular, old fashioned SLR cameras, and we just couldn't bring ourselves to spend even more money on new digital cameras. So for years now, we've purchased pretty low-end digital cameras, just to have something to take photos with.

But now that we're looking to do some extended traveling, we don't want to come back from a once-in-a-lifetime trip with sub-par pictures. So we decided to hunt for the best compact (read: good for traveling) camera we could find. Here's what we came up with...

What We Looked For In A Great Compact Travel Camera

We came up with 6 criteria in our search for the perfect camera to take around the world with us. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Under $400 dollars - We wanted to find the best camera for the average traveler. If you're comfortable spending more, go for it. But most people probably won't want to spend more than $400 on a camera unless they're going to be making money with it some day.
  • Excellent image quality - I suppose this goes without saying, but of course we compared this on all the cameras we tested, and the no matter how great it was in all other aspects, if a cameras images weren't great, it couldn't be the winner...
  • Can fit inside a pants pocket - If all you wanted was a great camera, you'd get a DSLR, right? To make it practical for the average traveler, it shouldn't need it's own backpack or scream, "Steal me!".
  • Lots of optical zoom - You only get one chance when you're traveling, and then you're gone and onto the next destination, so you have to make it count!
  • Good amount of megapixels - Most people think this has something to do with the quality of image your camera will create - not true. This is really only important if you're going to print your image. The more megapixels you have, the clearer a large print will be. Many travelers do print out a few pics to frame, so we wanted a decent number here.
  • GPS - This might not be a huge concern for a lot of people, but since it is travel cameras we're looking at, we wanted to make sure this was an option.

And The Winner Is! - ...Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX20V

This camera is nothing short of AWESOME! Overall, it definitely had the best picture quality, and some of the best options, but those aren't the things that pushed us over the edge to pick this camera - it's that this camera made taking pictures fun again.

We found ourselves taking the camera and going outside just to take pictures - no other reason than for the pure joy of photography. That hadn't happened with any other digital camera we've ever owned, and really it hadn't happened since our old analog SLR days.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Black) (2012 Model)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Black) (2012 Model)

What more can I say? It met all our requirements outlined above, but more than that, we just loved taking it out and taking pictures with it. We even found ourselves arguing over who got to use it while we were out and about. That should tell you something about how much we really love this camera :)


See What This Camera Can Do - Squidoo lowers the quality - see below for full detail images

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Iguanas at the Denver ZooFisher BirdSunset in Keystone, COLovebirdsTweet TweetRCPM ConcertSad Komodo at the Denver ZooWise Old ElephantTilt-Shift of Loveland Pass (Continental Divided) in ColoradoShy Cat
Iguanas at the Denver Zoo
Iguanas at the Denver Zoo
Fisher Bird
Fisher Bird
Sunset in Keystone, CO
Sunset in Keystone, CO
Tweet Tweet
Tweet Tweet
RCPM Concert
RCPM Concert
Sad Komodo at the Denver Zoo
Sad Komodo at the Denver Zoo
Wise Old Elephant
Wise Old Elephant
Tilt-Shift of Loveland Pass (Continental Divided) in Colorado
Tilt-Shift of Loveland Pass (Continental Divided) in Colorado
Shy Cat
Shy Cat

Get The Full Story And Higher Quality Images Too...

Right now, you've only been told half the story. If you want to read about all the other cameras we tested, and why we chose the Sony HX20V over all of them, check out the full story here.

You can also see the photos from all the other cameras and compare them for yourself. Becki and I spent a lot of time and effort reviewing all those cameras - we just hope we helped you in your quest to find the camera that's right for you.

What Are You Shooting With? - Have a camera you love to take traveling? Let everyone know!

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    • DiscoverWithAndy profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: Thanks bloomingrose, you won't be disappointed!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      I am going to take your recommendations! I think the Sony HX20V sounds great.


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