The best travel camera, is there such a thing? For the best in the photo and video imagery without compromising portability, I will review the best full-frame DSLR and Mirrorless cameras of 2018.

If you’re looking to produce the best travel photographs then you need the best camera to procure those images. Full-frame sensors are the way to go if you want the best in image quality. The camera you chose will also need to be light and portable without sacrificing comfort. While in the past, bulky DSLRs have dominated the full-frame market, there are now several options that are lighter and more compact. For example, Sony now offers the Alpha a7 Mirrorless series that aims to disrupt the market while Leica has always been at the forefront of the compact camera production.

Navigating through the myriad of options currently in the market can be daunting. Which lens system should you go for? Should you switch from Canon to Nikon? Go mirrorless or stick with DSLR? Don’t worry, I’m here to help you pick the best travel camera based on your style and needs. I’ve had cameras from ancient wooden 4×5 film cameras and one of the very first early adopters of digital cameras back when there were only 3-megapixel offerings. Rather than give you a biased view of which camera system to use (I’ve pretty much used them all), we’ll cover the pros and cons that matter to you most and tip your choice to a particular camera.

Let’s take a look at our options for 2018.


The Best Travel Cameras of 2018


Sony Alpha a7 III

Sony Alpha a7 III

MSRP: $1,998
Form Factor: Mirrorless
Resolution: 24.2 Megapixels
Weight: 22.9 oz.
Pros: Professional features at very affordable prices
Cons: Won’t win any pixel peepers heart

Sony has really outdone themselves after the release of the Alpha a7 III. This camera takes professional features the Sony a7R III like a burst rate of 10 fps, 4K video functionality, FZ100 battery that lasts twice as long than the a7I, and a better autofocus. All that for under 2k and that’s why this camera is on the top of this list – you’ll have more money for travel where it matters most.

The Sony a7 III isn’t going to win the megapixel race on this list. The a7R II with its 42.4 megapixels is probably a better choice if you want to print and enlarge to insane proportions. Personally, I just don’t see most people printing billboards or hanging massive prints on their walls. I think anything over 20 megapixels is more than adequate for 99.9% of photographic situations.

The Sony Alpha a7 III is my personal favorite choice for travel and is the camera I often use. I don’t have a particular attachment to a brand or product so even though I use the a7 III it’s not necessarily at the top of the list for you because there are better cameras specs wise – but for the price and the features you get, this camera should be at the top.

Sony Alpha a7 III

Image Quality4
Weight and Size5
Video Recording5
Shooting Speed3
Lens System4
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Nikon D850

Best Travel Camera Nikon D850

MSRP: $3,297
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 45.7 Megapixels
Weight: 32.3 oz.
Pros: A professional full-frame travel camera
Cons: 
It’s a little bulky and heavier than other cameras on this list

Most professionals have spent years accumulating lens that is specific to a lens mount system and it would be an extremely expensive divorce if they find they are lured into another lens system such as Sony’s mirrorless FE. Even if the future looks to sway the mirrorless route it’s a tough sell to abandon the myriad of already excellent Nikon full-frame lens selection.

The Nikon D850 is an upgrade to the already amazing Nikon D810 and is one of the DSLR favorites currently available in 2018. The whopping 45.7 megapixels of resolution is enough to blow prints that equal or surpass medium format. The superior autofocus, fast-buffering speeds, higher resolution LCD screen, and very long battery life compared its competitor the Canon 5D Mark IV will have most professionals jumping ship from Canon to Nikon.

The Nikon D850 has all the features a professional would ever need. It’s not the cheapest camera on this list but if you already have a Nikon Lens collection you’d be hardpressed to find a better option.

Nikon D850

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Video Recording4
Shooting Speed3
Lens System5
Ergonomics5
Battery & Power5
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony Alpha a7R III

Sony a7R III

MSRP: $3,198
Category: Mirrorless
Resolution: 42.4 Megapixels
Weight: 23.2 oz.
Pros: A host of new and useful features compared to the older a7R II
Cons: Some people still can’t get over the electronic viewfinder

The Sony A7R III is leaps and bounds a major improvement over its predecessor, the A7RII. If you’ve got the cash then this camera is a worthy upgrade. The most notable improvements were duplicated from the more sports-oriented A9 to attract professionals. It doubled the burst rate to 10 fps with an improved autofocus, faster buffering, and an electronic viewfinder with higher resolution with touch capability.

The battery life was also doubled by Sony, which is a known issue with the first and second generation of the A7 series. The Canon and Nikon DSLRs are still the kings in this regards, but Sony has been making massive strides in this area.

A lot of pros are starting to move into the mirrorless domain. Some won’t because they prefer an optical viewfinder over an electronic viewfinder. The now older Sony a7R II can be had for just under $2,000 with virtually the same image quality.

Sony Alpha a7R III

Image Quality4
Weight and Size5
Video Recording5
Shooting Speed4
Lens System3
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power3
Mechanical Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

MSRP: $3,299
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 30.4 Megapixels
Weight: 28.2 oz.
Pros: An improvement in resolution over its predecessor and added 4K video
Cons: Lacking in critical features vs. its Nikon competitor the D850

The latest iteration of the beloved 5D series boasts some drastic improvements like 30.4 megapixels, seven fps burst rate, 4k video, and even built-in WiFi. It may not attract serious action-shooters, but serious hobbyist will find a lot to like especially ones who are already invested in Canon’s lens system.

If you’re starting out or graduating into a semi-pro DSLR, you’re better off with a Nikon D850. It seems Canon and Nikon are always leapfrogging each other with new camera releases, but this time Nikon hits the finish line with more megapixels, better autofocus, better features, and priced about the same.

It’s mostly a matter of preference but having worked with both cameras; I much prefer the Nikon’s ergonomics. The buttons and dials are laid out in such a way that it’s easier for me to work with. Regarding build quality, they’re about on par with each other.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Image Quality4
Weight and Size4
Video Recording5
Shooting Speed3
Lens System5
Ergonomics3
Battery & Power5
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Canon EOS 5DS R

Canon EOS 5DS R

MSRP: $3,699
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 50.6 Megapixels
Weight: 29.7 oz.
Pros: The most resolution you can buy in the full-frame arena
Cons: Expensive with no 4k video

It’s official, medium format is dead. Canon’s release of the 5DS R with a whopping 50.6-megapixel sensor produces images up to par with any medium format cameras on the market. Landscape photographers should be very happy with this one. It’s no-frills camera made for shooting only stills. Video options are left out, which isn’t the main draw to this camera anyways.

It might be a bit overkill for travel since the higher resolution also requires more storage space. Pros would probably get the 5DS version which lacks a low pass filter but will slightly produce sharper images – ideal for the pixel peeper. If you don’t need video or think about ever using your full-frame for video, this camera simply wins in the resolution department. Landscape photographers should be swooning over this camera.

Canon EOS 5DS R

Image Quality5
Weight and Size4
Video Recording2
Shooting Speed3
Lens System5
Ergonomics5
Battery & Power5
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

MSRP: $1,899
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 26.2 Megapixels
Weight: 24.2 oz.
Pros: Fairly affordable full-frame
Cons: Lacks some video features

The Canon’s 6D series is one of the cheapest entries into the full-frame world. I’ve always maintained that image quality is more dependent on the lens than on the camera sensor and Canon happens to have a wide selection of excellent lenses. Coming in at 26.2 megapixels, it’s more than good enough to resolve any optics you can throw at it. It has an advanced autofocus system, faster shooting, with touchscreen functionality, compared to its predecessor.

If you’re looking for a budget full-frame DSLR, consider the Canon 6D Mark II. It’s lightweight could make it a very good travel camera that can be paired with excellent Canon optics. It’s a better buy than the Nikon D750 with more modern features but if you’re looking for 4k video, you’re better off with the EOS 5D Mark IV above.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Image Quality4
Weight and Size5
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed4
Lens System5
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Pentax K-1 II

MSRP: $1,996
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 36.2 Megapixels
Weight: 35.2 oz.
Pros: Cheap alternative full-frame camera with good resolution
Cons: Not as established as its competitors and fewer lenses to choose from

After Ricoh released the Pentax K-1 it firmly established itself as a viable option from the big names like Canon and Nikon. The mechanical and build quality of the camera is something to be reckoned with a price tag that doesn’t break the bank. The weather sealed aluminum alloy body is equipped with an image stabilizer and a decent 36.2 megapixels resolution. It has near to equal the build quality of the Canon’s 1dx series but doesn’t cost 4x as much.

Out of all the DSLRs on this lineup, this would be the one I recommend, and I would even go down to the first generation Pentax K-1 model for $300 less if you don’t need video and the various upgrades. The camera is one of the heaviest on the list, but that’s due to the robust body that’s meant to last from the rigors of travel.

Pentax K-1

Image Quality4
Weight and Size3
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed3
Lens System3
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power5
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Nikon D750

Nikon D750

MSRP: $1,797
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 24.3 Megapixels
Weight: 26.5 oz.
Pros: A sub $2,000 full-frame camera for a fraction of the price
Cons: Pixel count is not going to blow you through the roof

This is the camera that Nikon should have released instead of the D610 and D600 full-frame cameras. The D750 can produce professional quality images for a fraction of the costs of the Nikon D810. It’s a perfectly capable camera that has the same image quality as the D810 with fewer megapixels – something that most of us don’t need or ever use.

It also provides 1080p of video and can deliver a burst rate of 6 fps. It has most of the capabilities of the D810 that you’ll ever need for travel. If you want to take advantage of Nikon’s excellent lens line up, then this camera is an excellent option.

Nikon D750

Image Quality4
Weight and Size3
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed4
Lens System5
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony Alpha a99 II

Sony Alpha a99 II

MSRP: $3,198
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 42.4 Megapixels
Weight: 30 oz.
Pros: Sony’s best DSLR offering
Cons: Limited to A-mount lenses

Sony is better known for their Mirrorless a7 series cameras but they do have a fine entry in the DSLR world, the excellent a99 II. It’s a vastly superior camera to its predecessor with 42.4 megapixels with a fast 12 fps burst rate. You also get 4k video with a slew of other features that will give the Canon 5d Mark IV or Nikon D850 something to worry about.

As good as the a99 is on paper its Achilles Heels is the A-Mount lens system. It simply can’t compete with the already healthy offerings of Canon and Nikon lenses. It’s also overshadowed by Sony’s groundbreaking Mirrorless cameras that can also use A-Mount lenses via native adapters. If you’ve got a huge investment in A-Mount lenses then, by all means, make this upgrade, otherwise, you’re better off with the a7 series.

Sony Alpha a99 II

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Video Recording5
Shooting Speed5
Lens System2
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony Alpha a9

Sony Alpha a9

MSRP: $4,498
Category: Mirrorless
Resolution: 24.2 Megapixels
Weight: 23.7 oz.
Pros: 20 fps burst rate
Cons: Sony has better cameras with almost the same features minus the burst rate

Sports and action photographers have a lot to like in the Sony a9; it has the fastest burst rate out of any full-frame camera in circulation. With a fantastic 693-point phase detection autofocus system, Sony’s flagship sports camera now outperforms the leading Canon and Nikon offerings such as the Canon 1DX Mark II (14 fps) and the Nikon D5 (12 fps).

With all that said, do you need the insane burst rate speeds? The a9 would make a fine enough travel camera, but I believe it’s much better suited for action and sports. If you do the occasional action shots, this might be the camera for you. If you don’t care about the burst speeds, the Sony a7R II or Sony a7 III is cheaper and more than adequate.

Sony Alpha a9

Image Quality4
Weight and Size4
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed5
Lens System4
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power3
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Canon EOS 6D

Best Travel Camera Canon EOS 6D

MSRP: $999
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 20.2 Megapixels
Weight: 26.8 oz.
Pros: Cheapest full-frame camera you can buy
Cons: A bit lacking in features

If you’re just looking to get into full-frame, this camera can give you everything you need at a low price point. There’s a newer version in the Mark II but this camera’s image quality isn’t lacking and should be more than adequate for any situations. It’s also got built-in GPS which most cameras on this list don’t offer and something I wish the Sony a7 III had.

The Canon 6D isn’t going to win any races at 4.5 fps, and its autofocus has already been supplanted with a better one in the Mark II. But for the traveler on a tight budget, this camera might be the ticket. Pair it with the 24-105mm kit lens, and you have a winning combination.

Canon EOS 6D

Image Quality3
Weight and Size3
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed3
Lens System5
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Nikon D810

Nikon D810

MSRP: $2,797
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 36.3 Megapixels
Weight: 31.1 oz.
Pros: Good resolution and features
Cons: Supplanted by the D850

The Nikon D810 was the leading full-frame camera and still packs a punch to this day. The camera was descended from the amazing D800e, which I lost on a trek in Patagonia. As it stands, the D810 still leads the newer Canon 5D Mark IV in resolution and still holds a competitive edge in features. Its battery life is great and shoots at a good 5 fps.

For an older model, it’s still commanding a hefty price at $2,797. At this price point, you might as well go for the upgraded model in the Nikon D850. If this camera is priced at what the Sony a7 III is rated at, I will jump on it in a heartbeat.

Nikon D810

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed4
Lens System5
Ergonomics5
Battery & Power5
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Leica SL

Leica SL

MSRP: $5,995
Form Factor: Mirrorless
Resolution: 24 Megapixels
Weight: 29.9 oz.
Pros: It’s a Leica
Cons: Extremely expensive for the features you can get on other full-frame cameras

Leica has always been synonymous with great image quality. If there’s ever a camera on this list that can sell only by its name it would be the Leica SL. Famous photographers swear by the Leica name and with the SL, they’ve come to challenge Sony in the Mirrorless domain. The Leica SL comes in with 24 megapixels, 4k video, amazing EVF (Electronic View Finder), 11 fps, and a nice top-mounted LCD.

Is it worth 2x as much as Sony’s a7R II? That question begs to be answered by the size of your pockets. A Prius can get you from point A to B just as efficiently as a Lambo would –  if you’d say I will go for the latter then the Leica SL is a no-brainer.

Leica SL

Image Quality4
Weight and Size4
Video Recording5
Shooting Speed4
Lens System5
Ergonomics5
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Nikon Df

Nikon Df

MSRP: $2,747
Form Factor: DSLR
Resolution: 16.2 Megapixels
Weight: 25 oz.
Pros: Great build and mechanical quality like that of Nikon’s F-series
Cons: Expensive and lacking in features

The Nikon Df is a major throwback to the film cameras of yore when Nikon dominated the market with their F-series cameras which I loved. Here, the camera is using the same sensor as the Nikon D4 and can take advantage of Nikon excellent lens lineup. Another thing that might make this win your heart as a travel camera is its weight, it’s lighter than any of Nikon’s full-frame offerings at 25 oz.

In terms of features and specs, the camera is lacking when compared to the Nikon D750 or D810. This camera is definitely more style than substance. It seems more like a collector’s item than a camera you would use on a daily basis. If the retro look is for you then this camera is a great conversation piece.

Nikon Df

Image Quality3
Weight and Size4
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed3
Lens System5
Ergonomics5
Battery & Power5
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Leica M10Leica M10

MSRP:$7,295
Form Factor: Rangefinder
Resolution: 24 Megapixels
Weight: 24 oz.
Pros: Image quality associated with the Leica name
Cons: The Leica M10 is the most expensive here

Leica glass and cameras are the epitome of image quality but also the epitome of lavishness. This camera is not cheap by a long shot and won’t be easily obtainable by most travel photographers. This is the camera choice of luxury and if luxury travel is your thing this could well be the camera for you. A lot of big name photographers are associated with the brand, and they swear by it.

The Leica M10 has all the features you would get from other full-frame cameras on this list with a giant price tag to go along with it. The camera’s lens selection has no equal, Leica glass are some of the best in the business and has a longstanding record of being used by the best in the market.

Leica M10

Image Quality5
Weight and Size4
Video Recording5
Shooting Speed4
Lens System5
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power4
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony Alpha a7 II

Sony Alpha A7

MSRP: $999
Form Factor: Mirrorless
Resolution: 24 Megapixels
Weight: 16.7 oz.
Pros: 
Cheap entry to the mirrorless full-frame world
Cons: It’s past its prime and newer cameras have better features

Sony’s first and second generation a7 series broke a lot of grounds. It offered full-frame photography to the hands of most consumers. The Sony a7 II comes equipped with in-body image stabilization which means all native lenses can benefit with the 2-3 stops of correction from camera shake.

Although I’ve been using the Sony a7 II quite successfully for many years (most of my portfolio are shot with this camera), it does have a lot of shortcomings that mitigated my upgraded to the a7 III. The short battery life is my number one gripe that has been largely addressed with the newer model. If you can get this camera used for a fraction of the cost, then I recommend it – it does produce amazing images. Just carry a few extra batteries or so.

Sony Alpha a7 II

Image Quality4
Weight and Size5
Video Recording3
Shooting Speed3
Lens System4
Ergonomics4
Battery & Power3
Mechanical & Build Quality5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

What to look for in a Full-Frame Travel Camera?

For starters, it has to be very compact and portable without sacrificing image quality. You could always go with a cropped sensor Point-and-shoot camera but they are lacking in image quality and noise performance will not up to par with full-frame. Mirrorless full-frame cameras that have interchangeable lens are ideal but DSLRs with their myriad of professional lenses should not be discounted. I have compiled a comprehensive list of cameras in the sub 30 oz weight territory to consider as your travel camera of choice. However, you should also consider and take into account what lens system you already have and make your decision based on that.

Buyer’s Guide

Full-frame cameras, whether mirrorless or DSLR, are not cheap. There are several things you should consider when buying a camera and detailed below are factors you should take a look at before laying down your hard-earned money.

Image Quality

The cameras listed here all have a full-frame sensor that measures around 36 x 24 millimeters. The image quality in terms of noise, moire, and megapixels are going to be great. You won’t see much of a difference between the cameras’ image resolutions unless you print really big or do a lot of post-processing. Frankly, it’s hard to justify paying for more megapixels if you’re not selling a lot of prints. But if you must have the Megapixels, you can’t go wrong with the Nikon D850, Canon EOS 5DS R, or the Sony Alpha a7R III.

If you don’t mind the limited lens options, then consider the Pentax K-1. It delivers 36.4 megapixels of resolution that comes in at just under $1,7000.

Weight and Size

It used to be that there weren’t many choices in weight and size of full-frame cameras. DSLRs body alone can weight 2lbs and more. It’s wasn’t uncommon for professional photographers to schlep around bulky camera bags for all their gear. That all changed with the entry of mirrorless cameras. Removing the Reflex Mirror and Optical Viewfinder has enabled the design of compact and lightweight full-frame cameras like Sony’s A7 series.

While it’s true that you may be saving weight with the camera body with a mirrorless camera, the lens options may not save much weight. You should also consider which lenses you’re going to take with you on your travels. A lens and camera setup with a DSLR and a couple of zooms might end up being lighter than a Mirrorless setup with your choice of lenses.

Video Recording

Professional quality videos are easily recorded by the current offerings of modern full-frame cameras. The sub $2,000 camera, Sony A7III offer 4k Video resolution with superb low-light performance. Cameras like the Nikon D850 and the Canon 5D Mark IV have a myriad of outputs, excellent autofocus, great audio, and all sorts of manual controls that rival cameras used to produce professional movies!

It’s interesting to see manufacturers produce more cameras geared toward Video more than stills. But to be frank, there is equipment better suited for capturing videos than a DSLR or a Mirrorless camera. Having exceptional video quality is nice but it shouldn’t be the only factor in determining which camera to buy.

Shooting Speed

In most travel situations, most of us don’t need a dozen frames per second. Travel isn’t about sports after all except maybe for a few adventure shots. If you really want fast shooting then the Sony Alpha a9 should serve you well. It clocks in a very impressive 20 fps. Canon’s Canon 1DX Mark II can almost catch up with a very impressive 14 fps. If you have Nikon lenses go for the Nikon D5, which is capable of shooting 12 fps.

Of course, having such fast shooting speeds means the resolution will take a hit, and the camera itself will be much more expensive. However, if you make a living of shooting fast moving objects/subjects, then it’s not even a question of spending the cash, but for travel, it’s a cool feature, not a must.

Lens System

If you’re just starting out and not invested into any lens system, you should do your full research on which camera lens system to go with. In fact, I would advise you to look at the lens system first before the camera itself. Some entry full-frame cameras like the Canon 6D Mark II comes with an impressive kit lens that can give you high-quality images without forking another couple grand for lenses. For travel, a good super wide-angle zoom lens is probably all you would ever need.

Ergonomics

Most Camera models on this list have a myriad of automatic shooting modes that will help you take the best travel pictures. A good camera should also have manual adjustments to adjust focus, exposure, ISO, white balance, etc., The button and screen layouts are all a matter of preference but should be taken into account. Some of us can spend hours and hours taking photos and holding the camera in our hands. When choosing a travel camera you should look at how it feels in your hands with the lens of your choosing. If it doesn’t feel right it could eventually affect your shooting.

Battery & Power

The battery should be considered when you purchase your full-frame camera. Most cameras have a proprietary battery style you won’t easily find overseas and might require a special order. You should also consider the quality of the battery, how long it lasts, how it’s affected by the weather, and how fast it recharges. If the battery doesn’t last long during shooting, you would need to carry more and it negates the weight saving value of the camera.

Mechanical & Build Quality

All cameras on this list have good mechanical build and quality. It’s something you should consider when looking at a new camera body. How is the autofocus? Does it pick up and track subjects in low light? How long does the shutter last? Is it weather sealed? What happens when you drop the camera? What about the batter covers and latches? You don’t want your camera falling apart on you during your travels.

 


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