Mirrorless cameras are an excellent choice for travel photography. They’re small and compact, but packed with features that you normally find in bigger, bulkier DSLR cameras.
In our travel guide, you will see what specifications to pay attention to when choosing the right camera, as well as the 6 best mirrorless models available for both beginners and professionals. This includes brands such as Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm and Panasonic.
Best Mirrorless Cameras for Travel Photography
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What’s Important for Travel Photography?
Weight & Size – Mirrorless cameras are compact, thus perfect for photographing on the go. Because they have no mirror on the inside (hence their name), this allows them to be much lighter and smaller than DSLR cameras, while still keeping the same advantages that makes them better than regular cameras; bigger sensor, faster auto focus and so on.
Frames per Second – For many of you, traveling can also mean photographing sports and animals (zoo or wildlife). Mirrorless cameras are very quick and can often shoot more than 8 frames per second, which is ideal for action photography.
Memory Cards – Most mirrorless cameras use SD cards. If your camera’s memory card slot supports UHS-II speed, this means you can get much faster writing and reading speeds compared to UHS-I, which is what the majority of cameras have today. UHS-II means less waiting times for each photograph to be written onto the card and can make a difference in such quick situations as wildlife or sports. Imagine having to wait a few seconds after every shot… luckily, this is not the case nowadays, at least not if you have a memory card from a quality brand (Sandisk, Lexar, Kingston, Sony etc.).
Video Recording – Nowadays, more and more models come with 4K recording. If this is important to you, most of our recommended models come with it, but if Full HD is enough for you, then you’ll be glad to know that every single model on the market can do it. You’re not sacrificing image quality by going with a camera that has good video performance, so no need to worry about that.
Weather-proof – It helps if the camera is environmentally sealed, in case you’ll find yourself in difficult to shoot terrain (sand, rain, ice, dust etc.). This is usually reserved for more expensive cameras (over $1,000), and even if your camera won’t have it, it doesn’t mean a single drop of rain will harm it. You’ll just have to be more careful.
Battery Life – Seeing as mirrorless cameras use a lot more power, their battery life isn’t as long as with DSLRs. Still, while the majority state they last up to ~350 shots, you can expect twice as long life in actual use. We seriously recommend you to buy 2 or even more backup batteries, especially if you plan on traveling for days/weeks.
Image Stabilization – Many cameras have built-in image stabilization, so even if the lens you use doesn’t have it built-in, your images will still be stabilized thanks to the camera. Since traveling can mean photographing in difficult conditions (low light, long tiring walks and so on), it helps having stabilization so your images don’t come out so shaky. This is a huge advantage, and one we paid a lot of attention to!
Sensor Size – We have 3 different types of sensors in mirrorless cameras. The first, biggest, are Full Frame sensors. Second are APS-C, while the smallest ones are called Micro Four Thirds. While you don’t have to worry too much about this, it helps knowing that there’s this thing called crop factor. If you put a 100mm lens on a full frame (FF) camera, the field of view stays the same. If you put that same 100mm lens on an APS-C camera that has a 1.5x crop factor, it now suddenly appears much longer; it’s identical to a 150mm lens on a FF camera (100mm x 1.5 = 150mm). Micro Four Thirds sensors are even smaller, and therefore have a 2x crop factor, literally doubling your focal length equivalent. Nothing happens to your camera, lens or image quality, it’s simply due to the difference in sensor size.
If you’re confused, just remember:
- 1. Full Frame Sensor (Sony only = no crop factor)
- 2. APS-C Sensor (Sony, Canon and Fujifilm = multiply the lens number by 1.5x)
- 3. MFT Sensor (Olympus and Panasonic = multiply the lens number by 2x)
1. Olympus OM-D E-M10 III
If you are looking for a small, compact and cheap camera that has plenty of exciting features, the Olympus E-M10 III is our top pick.
It’s the cheapest Olympus OM-D mirrorless model, but this little camera can record 4K videos at 30fps or even HD at 120fps.
Inside, you will find a 16MP sensor, built-in image stabilization, an articulating touch screen LCD, 8.6 frames per second and 121 AF points (compared to 81 on the previous model).
You’re probably thinking you’re losing a lot of features since the Olympus OM-D E-10 III is so cheap. Is that true?
The only negative thing we could find is the same as with its predecessor; there’s no weather sealing. Not a deal breaker since many more expensive cameras don’t offer that either, but we had to point out something. If you’re serious about video recording, you should also know that there is still no external microphone port so you’ll have to spend more if professional audio quality is a must for you.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 III is a brilliant camera if you want to spend as little as possible, yet still receive all the latest features such as 4K videos, built-in stabilization, 8.6fps and great imaging sensor. It is extremely light and compact so it’s excellent for daily photography, traveling and also other types of photography; from sports, landscape, weddings and so on. Put it in your pocket and go!
Why is it good for travel?
The Olympus E-M10 III is extremely light and compact, making it an ideal companion for hikes and traveling. Sometimes carrying too much gear results in you not even using the camera, so if you think that describes you, do consider a small camera system.
The 16MP sensor is nothing to boast about resolution, but it’s a good choice for any type of photography. Yes, you can still print big and crop, just not as much as with other cameras. Despite its cheap price tag, the Olympus still comes with built-in stabilization, articulating LCD touch screen and even 4K video recording! For around $600, you won’t find anything better.
2. Sony A6500
The announcement of the Sony A6500 was quite a surprise. We expected the camera of course, but not so soon as it came out only a few months after the A6300 was released.
It uses the same 24.2MP APS-C sensor so image quality, colors, dynamic range and noise are all identical. The amazing 425 phase-detection AF point system is still as fast as ever.
The 3 biggest improvements are:
- 5-Axis Built-in Image Stabilization
- Touch-Screen LCD
- Bigger JPEG and RAW Buffer
The built-in stabilization is a huge huge advantage, especially if you own lenses that don’t have any. If you use a lens that does have OS then the two work together. For video, telephoto and low light situations, anything that can compensate for your movement is a welcome addition. 5 stops is a difference between shooting at 1/8 instead of 1/250, while still getting a crisp shot. It depends on each situation of course, and it does not freeze a moving subject, only a fast shutter speed does that.
Having a touch-screen LCD monitor (same size and resolution) makes the process of selecting the focus point quicker and easier, especially when recording videos.
Both cameras shoot at 11.1 frames per second, but the Sony A6500’s buffer is bigger. In JPEG mode, you can now take up to 231 instead of 44 shots, and 110 instead of 22 RAW files. All of this thanks to a new LSI chip (it basically handles most operations of the camera). The shutter lag time has also been slightly reduced and the camera turns on 0.1s quicker.
It can record 4K videos at 30/25/24p and even 120fps in Full HD, perfect for slow motion clips. If you’re interested in video capabilities of the new A6500, check out the NoFilmSchool preview. Unfortunately it seems like recording 4K videos for too long still sometimes results in overheating.
We really like the A6500, even though there aren’t many new features added. The ones that are new though, such as 5-axis IS and touch-screen, are super helpful and will result in less blurry photos and videos. It does cost $400 more but it’s worth it.
Why is it good for travel?
If you want a Sony camera but find the A7R III below too expensive, this is your best choice. It’s one of the most compact cameras on the market besides the Olympus above.
24MP sensor, built-in stabilization, touch screen articulating LCD, 4K videos and superb AF system with 425 AF points. There are quite a few E-mount lenses that are perfect for landscape/travel photography, and an even bigger selection of FF E-mount lenses (bigger and heavier, but they fit and work normally).
3. Sony A7R III
The Sony A7R III is a camera that delivers in every department.
First, it’s got a monster 42.2MP sensor, just like its predecessor. However, the A7R III has an improved image processor, which makes this 42 megapixel sensor perform better in low light (maximum ISO of 102,400). With such a high resolution, the entire Sony A7R line continues to be a perfect choice for landscape, studio, commercial and portrait photography.
Second, the A7R III can shoot 10 frames per second. That’s blazing fast, especially for a camera with so many megapixels. Many other models can’t come close, even with less pixels, although this is a benefit of the mirrorless technology. Because of the 10 frames per second, you can use it for sports, action and wildlife, and expect a lot of different shots to choose from.
These 2 improvements alone would be worth the higher price tag, but there are a lot more features to the camera. It’s got 425 vs 399 contrast AF points and focuses a lot faster, especially in low light. The built-in 5-axis image stabilization has been improved and now helps up to 5.5 stops, instead of 4.5. As you can see, the A7R II is great, but the new model is even better.
If you want to record videos, you’ll be happy to know that the A7R III can comfortably record 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. Because of the new image processor, videos shot at higher ISO should look better now. One excellent addition is the touch screen capability that allows you to focus/operate the camera simply by pressing anywhere on the screen. This is slowly becoming a standard for all cameras, regardless of their price.
For transferring images, the Sony A7R III finally has a USB 3.0 port. When a camera has 42MP, the files it creates are huge, so you’ll really want fast transferring in this case. Speaking about files, it now features 2 x SD memory card slots (one supports UHS-II speeds). To top it of, you’ve also got an AF joystick on the back of the camera so you can choose your focus point/group quicker, while the battery lasts up to 650 shots compared to 390.
To sum up, the A7R III is not the cheapest camera, but if you’re looking for the absolute best in almost every department, you will love it, especially if high megapixel count is important.
Why is it good for travel?
42 megapixels. That’s mind blowing. If you decide to crop like a mad man or print huge, you will still get beautiful images with plenty of resolution so no one will even know it’s not the original shot. Image quality is fantastic, same goes for colors and dynamic range.
Then there’s the built-in stabilization up to 5.5 stops, 4K video recording, 2 x SD card slots, USB 3.0 port for quickly transferring those big files, and a 650 shots battery life. It’s the most expensive on this list, but absolutely worth the money. It just depends on if it fits your type of photography needs.
4. Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 II is the most advanced Olympus up to date. Unlike Fuji and Sony, Olympus uses Micro Four Third (MFT) sensors in their mirrorless cameras. Instead of a 1.5x crop factor, it’s 2x, so any lens you mount has a field of view that’s twice as long as if you would mount it on a full frame camera.
Is that a big deal? No, because there are a lot of ultra wide angle lenses for MFT to compensate for that, and you’ll actually appreciate the longer crop factor when shooting wildlife and sports.
Onto the E-M1 II. The camera has a new 20.4MP sensor and weighs a mere 20.2 oz (574g) with the battery. A big reason for the small weight and size is because of the smaller sensor. The E-M1II is weather-sealed and up to standards of any nature photographer, so no need to hide when it starts, snowing or when the temperature drops.
What we really love about Olympus is their in-camera image stabilization (up to 5.5 stops). It makes the E-M1 II a much better choice for shooting on the go compared to cameras without it, simply because you don’t need to carry a tripod or raise the ISO when shooting in low light situations. Naturally a tripod is always the best choice for sharp results, but the built-in IS is something we all want in a camera. It works very well for video too, otherwise your footage may look shaky if you don’t have any support.
Speaking about video, it offers DCI 4K at 24p, a headphone and microphone jacks and of course the built-in 5-axis stabilization. Unfortunately Full HD video looks soft, so if you’re going to record, do it in UHD 4K for maximum sharpness.
The ISO range goes from 100 to 25,600 but can expend down to 64. Image quality at 6,400 is still quite good, and the shots look usable. Go over and you’ll see the limitations of a small sensor for noise performance, so stick to levels below that. For sports photography, it manages to shoot an impressive 18fps with a JPEG buffer of 118 shots (102 for RAW). It’s faster than others on this list because it has a smaller sensor.
It has a 3.0″ touch screen LCD that can fully tilt and swivel, making it easier to shoot in difficult positions (subjects way below or above you). Battery life is also impressive with 440 shots. Not only that, the battery recharges 50% faster than the previous model.
Why is it good for travel?
The 20MP sensor has plenty of resolution, built-in stabilization helps a lot and the auto focus performance is usable for stills and action.
Its body is weather-sealed (including freeze-proof). You’ll really appreciate this when shooting in the rain, snow, desert or any similar difficult weather situation.
The biggest drawback we can think of is its small sensor, but with so many lenses and landscape photographers using the Olympus system, you’re well taken care of. There are plenty of good options (over 70 lenses), including Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8, 7-14mm f/2.8 and many more.
5. Fujifilm X-T20
The Fujifilm X-T20 Fujifilm X-T20 is very similar to its more expensive brother, the Fujifilm X-T2. We think this one’s a better deal for the price!
They both share the same APS-C image sensor with 24 megapixels, 325 hybrid AF system, 8 frames per second and ISO up to 51,200.
However, you should know that none of the two Fuji models come with built-in stabilization. If you know you won’t need it (because you plan on buying lenses with it), then you can easily save some money like this.
The major differences are; the X-T20 is not weather sealed, has 1 stop slower fastest shutter speed (1/8000 vs 1/4000), a slightly smaller viewfinder, 1 SD memory card instead of 2 and no headphone port. Because of this, the Fujifilm X-T20, which is a great camera, costs a few hundred dollars less. If weather sealing is important to you, you’ve got plenty of other options on our list, and if you really want to go with Fuji, then check out the Fujifilm X-T2.
It does have a few “advantages” though; the LCD is now touchscreen, the camera weighs noticeably less and it also has a built-in flash. If you’re looking for the best image quality, both cameras deliver the same so you don’t have to worry about anything. Expect beautiful, colorful shots. As far as video goes, these two have the same features and record 4K at 30p.
The X-T20 is really a smaller and cheaper version of the X-T2. Great for any type of photography, whether it’s streets, sports or casual/traveling, the X-T20 is definitely worth the money.
Why is it good for travel?
If you don’t need weather sealing or built-in stabilization, the X-T20 has your back. It’s just like the X-T2 on the inside, but cheaper since you lose a couple of features (but not sensor performance).
6. Panasonic G85
The Panasonic G85 is not as popular as the rest of the cameras on this list, but is still ideal for the money.
Inside, we find the same 16.1MP sensor as in the older GH4. You’ve got sensor-shift image stabilization that helps up to 5 stops, 4K video recording, a touch screen enabled 3.0″ articulating LCD and environmental sealing. Seeing as the G85 costs less than $1000, this weather sealing addition is great if you’re looking for a camera to use in tougher conditions.
Seeing as this is a “cheaper” version of the new GH5, what do you lose? Well, you’ve still got 4K video recording, just not with as many additional features. Most people who aren’t serious about videos won’t miss them, so as long as you’re looking to get good 4K footage straight out the camera, the Panasonic G85 is absolutely fine.
The number of focus points is much smaller, with 49 vs 225. It can shoot slightly slower, 9fps vs 12fps, but anything over 7 is excellent for wildlife and sports. Both of these advantages aren’t really “bad” or anything, it’s just that the GH5 offers that much more for the money. You won’t feel limited by them.
Panasonic G85 is perfect if you’re looking for an advanced mirrorless camera that doesn’t weigh too much, offers exciting features such as 4K videos, built-in stabilization, 9fps and touch screen, but doesn’t cost nearly as much as the GH5.
Why is it good for travel?
This is another one of those “compact 4K cameras” we’ve been seeing lately. On the inside, the G85 resembles much of the previous GH4. A 16MP sensor, stabilization up to 5 stops, an articulating LCD screen and 4K video recording.
Why should you get it? If you prefer its size and weight and want to stick to Panasonic. It’s not one of the go-to landscape cameras you’ll mostly hear about, but it does offer plenty for the price.
Mirrorless Comparison Table
|Olympus E-M10 III||16.1||100-25,600||8.6fps||121||2017||Check here|
|Sony A6500||24.4||100-51,200||11fps||425||2016||Check here|
|Sony A7R III||42.4||50-102,400||10fps||425||2017||Check here|
|Olympus E-M1 II||20.2||64-25,600||60fps||121||2016||Check here|
|Fujifilm X-T20||24.3||100-51,200||8.2fps||325||2017||Check here|
|Panasonic G85||16.0||100-25,600||9.4fps||49||2016||Check here|