➕ Large 1.0-inch sensor
➕ Decent 15x zoom
➖ EVF still feels pretty cramped
With the rise of high-end compacts like the excellent Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V stealing the thunder from compact travel zooms, Panasonic’s response has been to keep the camera body about the same size as its earlier ZS/TZ-series cameras but to squeeze in a much larger sensor. We saw this with the Lumix ZS100 (known as the Lumix TZ100 outside the US), and Panasonic’s continued this with the newer Lumix ZS200 / TZ200. This physically larger 1in sensor enables much better image quality than would otherwise be the case, but the slight downside is that the zoom range from the lens isn’t quite as extensive as some others. That said, The ZS200 / TZ200 still sports a very versatile 15x zoom, while there’s also a handy built-in electronic viewfinder, which makes it easier to compose images in bright light. Not only that, but there’s also high-quality 4K video recording and Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode to help capture 8MP images of fleeting moments. This is still the best travel zoom compact camera available, even if it’s a little pricey.
➕ Large 1.0-inch sensor
➕ 4K movies
➖ Limted 10x zoom lens
➖ Fixed rear display
Until the Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 came along, the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100 was our pick of the travel zoom compacts. Like it’s a newer sibling, the ZS100 / TZ100 enjoys a large 1.0-inch sensor with a decent 20.1MP resolution, but the 10x zoom is one of the shortest available. Not let that put you off though, as the Z100 / TZ100 is a brilliant camera, with a built-in electronic viewfinder, large touchscreen, 4K video, Wi-Fi image transfer and easy-to-use controls. There’s also more advanced manual features as well, including raw capture for those who like to edit their images at a later date. It all adds up to be a powerful travel compact that should now be at an even more tempting price.
Sony revolutionised premium compact cameras with the original RX100 as it was the pocket-sized camera to feature a large 1.0-inch sensor. However, thanks to the pretty modest zoom lenses on previous models, they haven’t really lent themselves as travel cameras. That all changes with the arrival of the RX100 VI, which packs in a decent 24-200mm zoom lens, which while shorter than a lot of rivals, features an impressive fast (variable) maximum aperture. On top of this, the RX100 VI features a stunning (if complex) autofocus system, the ability to shoot at 24fps and advanced 4K video recording. It can be a bit fiddly to use, and is expensive, but there’s certainly nothing else that can touch it when it comes to performance.
The Cyber-shot HX99 features a 30x optical zoom range (identical to that of the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 below) and a pop-up electronic viewfinder. This can be a big bonus in the glare of harsh, bright light when regular LCD screens can be hard to see, but the EVF in the HX99 pops up out of the body when you need it. The downside is that the resolution is a light low, but it’s certainly a handy feature to have. The 18.2MP sensor will capture better-looking photos than your smartphone can, but not by much. If you want better image quality you’ll need to look for models with 1.0-inch sensors, but you won’t find one with the same impressive 30x optical zoom. The addition of raw capture is welcome, giving you greater flexibility to tweak and adjust images post-capture though
Panasonic’s ZS/TZ-series cameras kicked off the whole big-zoom travel camera genre, and the ZS80, also known as the TZ95, is the latest arrival. It’s chief highlights include a 20.3MP sensor, a 24-720mm zoom, a tilting touchscreen and 4K video recording, much like the previous ZS70 / TZ90. In fact, 95% of the spec sheet is pretty much the same, although this new model arrives with a larger and much higher resolution viewfinder. These are still rare on such models, so it’s great to see Panasonic improve it for this new generation camera. Not so fussed about the viewfinder? Then the TZ90 will probably do you just fine – and it’s a fair bit cheaper now too.
6. Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90
A fine camera, now even cheaper than before
On a budget but want a capable all-rounder? The Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90 is better than most at this level. On top of a very capable 30x optical zoom you get decent 4K video recording, an LCD that responds brilliantly to touch and is nice and clear, and even raw shooting. The viewfinder is also something that few cameras at this level offer, and while it’s not quite perfect it does the job. Focusing is nice and snappy and face detection works really well too, and the fact that the LCD flips up to face the front lets you capture selfies and group shots with ease.
The Canon PowerShot SX730 HS is something of a tale of two halves. The good news is that it exhibits a fine build and is generally pleasing to use, with good response across most aspects of operation. If you want a no-nonsense camera with a broad zoom range, and most of the decision-making left to it, the SX730 HS may just be what you’re after. The flipside of this is that the PowerShot SX730 HS lacks several of the features of its rivals, despite being one of the dearest options of its kind. 4K video, touch operation, an electronic level, even the option to move the focusing point; if you want any of these you’ll have to look elsewhere. The model has recently been updated by the SX740 HS which does pack 4K video, although sadly Canon hasn’t found space for an EVF nor raw shooting.
Although the RX10 III has now been updated by the RX10 IV, we still reckon the third iteration is the better buy right now. While not quite as polished on the spec sheet, it still arrives with many of the same core features – including the sensor, the lens, the basic video specs etc – and it’s considerably cheaper too. For your money you get DSLR-style handling, 14fps burst shooting, cracking 4K video quality and a lens that’s brilliantly stabilised for sharp shots. That 1in sensor is also larger than those inside many other cameras on this list, and it works very well across different lighting conditions.
Nikon’s D3500 is our favorite entry-level DSLR right now. The large 24.2MP APS-C sensor will deliver superior images to those of a travel zoom compact camera, while the 1550 battery life is brilliant if you’re on your travels. It’s fair to say it’s not loaded with features, but the D3500 is very easy to use (even if you’ve never picked-up a DSLR before) and it’s pretty compact to. While the D3500 is most often bundled with a 18-55mm kit lens, this will be pretty limiting for your travels, so you’ll want to invest in something like Tamron’s 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD superzoom lens. Thanks to the 1.5x crop factor of the APS-C sensor, this is equivalent to 27-600mm. This offers plenty of range to cover off most subjects, while you can always swap to a fast prime lens for more creative, shallow depth of field shots when on your travels.
10. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
This neat mirrorless camera comes with some neat lenses
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds, 16.1MP | Lens: Sold separately | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 8.6fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner
➕ Compact size, lenses too
➕ Excellent viewfinder
➖ Only 16.1MP resolution
➖ Battery life could be better
Olympus has refined and tweaked one of our favorite mirrorless cameras to make it an even more tempting proposition for new users and enthusiasts alike. Featuring a Micro Four Thirds sensor format sensor (roughly half the area of APS-C), means image quality isn’t quite a match for APS-C rivals like the Nikon D3500, but the effect on image quality is minor and it’s still better than a travel zoom. It also means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. Sporting a 5-axis image stabilization system, decent electronic viewfinder, an impressive 8.6fps burst shooting speed and 4K video, it’s no toy – the E-M10 Mark III is a properly powerful camera. Pair it with a couple of neat Micro Four Thirds lenses and you’ve got a decent little travel set-up.