Mirrorless cameras are the new gold standard in digital photography, and especially in travel photography. Whether you’re a pro photographer, a budding amateur, or someone who’s hoping to capture all the best moments on your next trip, mirrorless cameras are now the obvious choice for anyone looking to purchase a new camera.
With more advanced features, state-of-the-art new technologies, and more compact dimensions, mirrorless cameras are becoming the premier choice for travel photographers all over the world. And while it hasn’t happened fully yet, DSLRs are beginning to go the way of the dinosaurs.
While it’s true that mobile phones can take incredible photos these days, there is really no comparison to a dedicated camera.
But choosing the best mirrorless camera for travel is no easy task. There are so many things to consider, like the feature set, ease of use, lens options, and most importantly—price.
So, if you’re looking for a mirrorless travel camera, where do you start? Right here, my friends!
I’ll guide you through everything you need to know about the mirrorless revolution and how it can help you get the most out of every journey. I’ll also provide an in-depth look at the most popular camera models as I give you product advice along the way.
This is my list of the best mirrorless travel cameras on the market!
The mirrorless market is filled with so many camera models that making a choice seems almost impossible! There’s a lot of competition in the photography industry, so you’ll never run out of options. But which is the best mirrorless camera on our list?
If you don’t have the time to sift through this entire guide, I’ll give it to you straight. These are my top three picks based on performance, build quality and ergonomics:
Without getting too technical, a mirrorless camera is a camera that doesn’t use a mirror to record an image.
The humble DSLR uses a mirror to reflect the image up into the viewfinder (so you can see it), and moves the mirror out the way very quickly so that light can pass via the lens to the camera sensor.
In a mirrorless camera, there is no mirror (duh!), so a photo can be taken without any ‘obstruction’ between the viewer’s eye and the sensor.
Since the mirror takes up a large amount of space within DSLRs, without it, a camera can be much smaller in size.
That’s what makes a mirrorless camera so perfect for travel photography.
Mirrorless Cameras vs. SLRs vs. DSLRs
The precursor to the well-known DSLR is the SLR, which stands for ‘Single Lens Reflex’ and it has the same internal mechanism used by old school film cameras. The mirror mechanism reflects the image up into the viewfinder (so you can see it), and when you click the shutter, it moves the mirror out the way very quickly so that light can pass via the lens to the camera sensor.
While this worked like a charm for decades, technological advancements made way for electronics to take their place. As we developed into the digital age, newer technology gave us the DSLR camera or the ‘Digital Single Lens Reflex’ which allowed us to start writing images onto memory cards instead of film.
While the format has changed, the cameras pretty much used the same technology to flip the mirror with each shutter click.
You can see why, after all these years of using the same camera technology, it’s time to move on to the next generation.
Mirrorless Cameras vs. Compact Cameras
If you don’t think you’ve ever used a mirrorless camera before, it might surprise you that you’ve got one within hand’s reach—your smartphone uses the same mirrorless technology minus the high-resolution quality.
While smartphones are great for snapping a quick pic for the ‘Gram, it doesn’t produce the same flawless look that we all know and love. That’s because your phone has a much smaller sensor than any “real” camera out there.
And while it wins in portability, it’s still a far cry from being an ideal travel camera.
The point-and-shoot (compact) camera has been around for decades, and they offer great value for most consumers. They’re ideal for people who want to start learning about the basics of photography without all the complicated controls.
The collapsing lens makes them easy to stash in your pocket, but your depth of field won’t be that impressive. You won’t achieve any of those wondrous bokeh shots (blurry background), but they’re easy to use—hence the name.
The action camera (like a GoPro) is another competitor for photographers who want to capture fast-moving images or POV shots. Action cameras have risen in popularity for outdoor vlogging and sports coverage, but they aren’t ideal for taking photos and videos with your family and friends.
While the GoPro is a crowd favorite for its easy to use features and sturdy build, there are restrictions in the photo modes—not to mention, they’re terrible for selfies!
The Best Mirrorless Cameras For Travel Reviewed
Nowadays, you don’t have to sacrifice image quality for convenience! Mirrorless cameras are fully capable of delivering consistent results, making them a great option for street photography, landscape photographers, and action shooters.
But which one should you buy?
Not every camera has the same features, so I’m going to take you through the ins and outs of popular mirrorless models on the market. By the time we’re finished, you’ll have a better understanding of how each mirrorless camera works and which one will suit all your travel needs.
Fujifilm is at the top of my list with its “Little Giant X-T30,” giving us almost 100% frame coverage and 26.2 million pixels of incredible detail at a physical size that is so small, it’s simply perfect for travel.
The X-T30 is the lower-priced version of Fuji’s current flagship X series model, the X-T3. You don’t get as much weather sealing, but all the features remain the same, which means you get incredible features and image quality at an amazing price point.
The Fujifilm X-T30 stands toe-to-toe with some of the much more expensive professional cameras, and due to its compact size, it delivers the best size-to-feature ratio in this class.
In fact, the features themselves are on par with some cameras that cost twice the price!
Fujifilm lenses are another selling point of this camera since they cost about 2/3 the price of their main competitor: Sony. If you’re looking to expand your lens kit, the Fujifilm X-mount lenses will go easy (ahem…easier) on your wallet.
Fujifilm is also well known for their incredible color replication. So, if you want vibrant landscape shots straight out of the camera, Fujifilm is your man.
Lightweight and small
Color replication and film simulation modes are all excellent
Great price point, especially given the premium performance
It’s too small for some, especially if you have large hands.
The handgrip isn’t very deep which means it’s difficult to grasp.
Sony comes in second with its hybrid digital mirrorless camera: the Alpha A6000 .
This is the world’s best-selling mirrorless camera for a reason. It offers you the full benefit of a compact Sony RX100 digital camera but with all the features of a higher-end model like the a7iii (which I’ll cover soon).
The a6000 changed the game with its high-speed contrast-detection and custom manual camera settings.
It boasts the world’s fastest autofocus lens, with an 11 frames per second burst mode that are perfect for stills and 4k video shoots.
The most surprising thing about this mirrorless camera is the affordable price tag—you’ll get the best value for your money with this handy model. In my opinion, it’s a great value option for any enthusiast who wants to break into travel photography without breaking the bank.
Excellent in low light with its long aperture range
The Sony a7 III is one of the best full-frame mirrorless cameras out there, period, especially at this price point. The Sony a7 III meets you half-way between affordability and premium functionality.
Among the Sony a7 series of full-frame mirrorless cameras, this is the most balanced choice by far. It doesn’t have the same megapixel capability as the a7R III or the a7R IV, but you don’t need anything that high-res unless you’re printing large posters.
At 24 megapixels, the a7 III is everything you need for digital images and small prints, should you choose to go that route.
This is the camera I personally use right now and I couldn’t be happier. If you want a camera that provides a truly professional experience at an affordable price point, then this choice is a no-brainer.
Longest battery life compared to other Sony models
Comfortable, rigid grind handle
Interchangeable and supports heavy lenses
Has two slots but only one SD slot for UHS-II high-speed shooting
Sometimes the start-up lags
Really confusing menu system!
Sony a7 III Specs:
24.2 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor
0.5″ UXGA OLED True electronic viewfinder
50 to 204,800
BIONZ X image processor
10 frames per second
Fast Hybrid AF with 693 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection AF points
If you want to level up your travel videography skills, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is your best bet! One of its most-loved features is its powerful in-body stabilization so you can shoot by hand without having to use a rig or tripod.
Packed with lots of customizable options, the GH5 has become a favorite among aspiring music video producers and travel videographers. It comes at a more affordable price compared to similar models, but it trumps its rivals easily with its smooth, high-speed and hi-res shooting capabilities.
One of the most impressive features, and the reason it’s so well-loved, is its ability to shoot 180 fps at Full HD. The GH5S , its successor, can shoot up to 240 fps, but I still find the GH5 to be a superior model overall, whereas the GH5S is useful in more specialized scenarios.
The GH5 also offers unlimited video recording, whereas many other cameras limit the length of recording time to 10 or 30 min. Plus, you get a fully articulating screen, which is a must have for run-and-gun video, and which is a rarity for most other mirrorless cameras.
Ability to shoot 180 fps at Full HD
Splash and freeze build with weather-sealed magnesium alloy body
Reduced blurring and beautiful, vibrant colors
Has some difficulty with auto focus since it doesn’t use phase detection
Menus can be confusing unless you rearrange them with customization
Display button location takes time getting used to
Instead of using an optical viewfinder, the mirrorless camera uses a large image sensor to transmit the light into the electronic viewfinder and onto the screen. The new sensor technology meant there was no need to use a flipping mirror mechanism that takes up space inside the body.
Thanks to modern-day innovation, we can enjoy more sights and sounds instead of fussing over equipment that weighs us down!
The Benefits Of A Mirrorless Camera
There are lots of benefits to owning a mirrorless camera, and the best part is you don’t have to be a professional photographer to use it! Mirrorless lenses are used in point and shoot cameras, smartphone cameras, and even action cameras.
However, mirrorless cameras takes things to the next level by producing quality images that rival those of high-end DSLRs. Imagine getting all the perks of a portable camera without having to compromise on image quality!
Mirrorless cameras have interchangeable lenses, are lightweight and provide added versatility for travel photographers, videographers, and enthusiasts. The advantages combine functionality, ease of use, and continuous shooting with minimal effort on your end.
The best part? The shutters can totally silent, making it easier for you to observe without being intrusive. However, mirrorless cameras do have their disadvantages, such as cost, decreased battery life and handling.
Types Of Sensors
Before we get into it, let’s talk about sensors.
The sensor size in your camera will affect the image quality and pixel count. It also dictates its ability to take good photos in low light conditions. A camera sensor works hand-in-hand with image processors to create the image data through dots in pixels.
Still confused? The differences between sensor terms can be confusing, so here’s a crash course on the kinds of sensors you’ll find in mirrorless cameras:
Micro Four Thirds Sensor – The micro four thirds (MFT) system sensors are the smallest sensors with a sensor size of 17mm x 13.5mm, allowing users to shoot in the 4:3 aspect ratio. Olympus and Panasonic developed the micro four-thirds sensor for most of their mirrorless cameras.
APS-C Sensor (CMOS or MOS) – This is a smaller sensor size for beginner-friendly and mid-range models, with most camera brands producing this to suit beginner-friendly budgets. The size dimensions are generally 24mm x 16mm and you can typically find them in Sony, Fuji, and Canon models.
Full Frame Sensor – This is the largest sensor size available for full-frame mirrorless cameras and it’s one of the best for taking 4k video or large format images. It’s more expensive than most since it measures 36mm x 24mm and can perform extremely well in all lighting conditions!
What To Look For In A Mirrorless Camera
The mirrorless camera market has a wide selection of cameras ranging from entry-level to professional—depending on your photography skills, you might need different specifications for your camera.
If you aren’t sure where to start, look no further! Here are some considerations for you to remember when looking at products online or at a store:
Camera Sensors & Sensor Size – Choose between a full-frame sensor, APS-C sensor, or a micro four-thirds. If your camera has a smaller sensor, it won’t perform as well in low light conditions. This is one advantage to full-frame cameras.
Camera Stabilization – Taking a shaky or blurry photo is a no-no—thankfully, mirrorless cameras usually come with either in-body image stabilization or in-lens image stabilization. IBIS usually performs better, but that typically only matters for pros.
Autofocus System – You don’t always want to manually snap away when you’re multitasking! Older models used to have shaky focus points features that would defocus randomly, but new releases have improved this issue.
Frames Per Second (FPS) – Continuous shooting is a must for travel photography, so the shutter speed is a crucial part of capturing a great image. The FPS burst rate is a good indicator of the camera’s processing engine, but unless you need high-speed shooting for sports, you can stick with lower frame rates for stills.
Video Recording Capability – Most travel photographs double as vloggers on social media, so having video capability is an important tool to have in your travel cameras! Look for cameras with 4k capabilities to get the most out of video shooting.
Camera Body & Size – Form factor plays a huge role in choosing a good mirrorless camera. While some people want a more robust build that feels like a DSLR, others prefer a small handheld device for easier grip. It’s all a matter of preference!
Megapixels (MP) – This tells you how many pixels go into each photo and how large your resolution can be when printing your photos. For the average traveler, a minimum of 12 megapixels is more than enough. 20+ megapixels is enough to print a poster. Beyond that is unnecessary unless you really need it for a specific reason.
Weather Resistance – Having weatherproofing for your mirrorless camera is essential to protect it from damage, especially if you’re going to use it outdoors for landscape photography.
Lens Options – While some brands provide a kit lens, you also have the option to hook up existing DSLR lenses to your camera using a lens adaptor from different manufacturers.
Battery Capacity – Nothing is more important than battery life! Having to recharge constantly can be annoying, and older models weren’t as efficient. The latest models have resolved this with better batteries.
Special Features: Touchscreen, voice commands, Bluetooth, and WiFi capabilities are definitely a plus. The more features, the merrier!
Insurance: Warranty is an important part of making a purchase, so pick a camera that offers customer service and repairs for you as a consumer.
Let’s Talk Lenses
What use is your amazing mirrorless camera without a great lens to go with it? Most cameras are sold as bases, meaning you need to buy a lens in addition to your purchase. Using your free kit lens is fine is you’re a beginner, but if you want to step up your photography, you want to perform well in all possible conditions. Depending on the lens range you’re looking for, you can look into upgrades for your low light, landscape, or action photography.
While there are a wide array of lenses and versions to choose from, you don’t always have to buy a new one! If you already own a bunch of lenses from your previous camera, here’s a variety of all the DSLR lenses you can use to improve accuracy, focal lengths, and perspective.
Micro Four Thirds – Lightweight with a larger sensor, this is ideal for Olympus, Panasonic, and Fujifilm.
Canon EF-M – The mirrorless version of the EF-S DSLR lens, this is perfect for a Canon camera.
Nikon Z mount – Get the Nikon FTZ mount adapter to use Nikon’s F mount line of lenses only.
Sony E mount – Compatible with Sony, Nikon, and Sigma for wide-angle shots, telephoto lenses, and prime lenses.
Leica T mount – These are made for exclusive use by Leica cameras which include a wide-angle, zoom, and telephoto lens.
Pentax Q mount – Built exclusively for Pentax, the design will only fit the same brand of cameras. Otherwise, your photos will look zoomed or misaligned.
Fujifilm X mount – The Fujifilm lenses are one of the best on the market, and they only match up with Fuji cameras.
Leica SL mount – These are designed for Leica LC cameras only, but the camera is compatible with other lenses from different brands!
Each camera manufacturer uses different specs and lens systems, so we don’t advise mixing and matching lenses unless it’s specified that they can be used together. Otherwise, you could encounter some issues with the mount systems.
Lenses are not cheap, and you’ll want to protect them from wildlife, dirt, and moisture. To keep your lenses protected from dust and scratches, buy a matching lens cap along with a few disposable lens wipes. You can even add a lens hood in case you drop your camera by accident!
Making the decision to purchase a mirrorless camera is a big investment. But once you find the perfect camera for travel, you need to put it to good use by doing some test shots! Here are some tips you can follow to get amazing pictures anytime, anywhere.
Charge your batteries to maximum capacity and bring an extra pack or two along with you.
Always carry your camera in a camera bag or with a carrying strap hanging on your shoulder or neck.
Bring your lens mount, lens adaptor, and one to two lenses for specific locations and subjects.
Bring several choices for lens selection depending on the subject you’re shooting.
When shooting landscapes, opt for a full-frame, wide-angle camera lens shot in landscape mode.
When photographing a person, use portrait mode and adjust your focus to blur the background.
Use both the electronic viewfinder and screen to check your shot.
Always bring an extra memory card for backup if you’re shooting a documentary or lots of videos.
If your camera doesn’t have weather sealing features, buy a case to protect it from rain or liquid.
For formats, transfer your photos to the computer as RAW files and convert to JPEG or JPG after editing.
Use accessories like a tripod or a stabilizing alternative for group shots and remote timer shots.
Make The Mirrorless Switch
Anyone can be a travel photographer with the right gear! You’ll enjoy making new memories and compiling all the highlights from your vacation with something that easily fits in your pockets. Just remember to pick the best camera that suits your lifestyle, budget, and photographic preferences.
Now that you’ve seen all the best mirrorless cameras for travel, you’re ready to see the world and your experiences through a better lens. The next time you’re packing for your upcoming adventures, we highly recommend taking your mirrorless camera along for the ride.