With advances in camera technology happening so rapidly, I end up purchasing a new camera every 12 months; and in the past I’ve managed to get by with owning only owning one camera at a time; but the more I travel, the more apparent it becomes that expecting my one camera to perform all of the various functions required while traveling isn’t rational. When I am traveling I’m doing so many different activities that it’s impossible to get by with just one camera. One day I might be snorkeling or SCUBA diving and require an underwater camera. The next day I might be hiking and require a camera with a long-range zoom to shoot wildlife photos, plus a camera to shoot landscapes. Another day I might be limited in what I can carry, so I require a powerful pocketable camera. No single camera serves all of the functions; so I’ve realized that the minimum number of cameras that I can take with me on my trips is actually 3!
If I were to be able to fit all of the below features into one camera, that would be ideal:
- Low Weight / Portability / Pocketability.
- Long-Range Zoom.
- Impeccable Image Quality.
Apparently there is no such thing, and from the looks of it, there won’t be one anytime soon, so I set out to find the best travel cameras under $1000 that could fulfill as many of my travel camera requirements as possible.
My current camera is the Sony Alpha a6300. This is my daily shooter and I use it for everything, BUT, you have to buy (and carry) at least 3 different lenses in order for it to be effective (macro, fixed, telephoto), which puts this camera WELL over the $1000 price tag, but the camera itself is well under $1000. The Sony Alpha a6300 and the a6500 are my #1 recommendations for the ultimate camera for most travelers; but if you’re not experienced with mirrorless cameras and DSLR’s, you should go with one (or all) of my recommendations below.
My pocket camera is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V. According to the leading authority on cameras, Digital Photography Review, “The RX100 V is peerless. The fact that 315 phase-detect points quickly refocus on erratically moving subjects, automatically prioritizing faces and eyes, at 24 fps is simply unprecedented. Limited customization and lack of touchscreen mean I often use the RX100 as a point-and-shoot, but sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for when leaving the DSLR at home. The RX100 V takes just about everything we liked about the previous model and cranks it up to eleven. The 24 fps burst shooting is something you have to see to believe, and the over sampled 4K video is incredibly detailed with little to no rolling shutter to speak of. We still think the ergonomics make it a hard camera to really take full control over, but it otherwise continues to be a powerful, shirt-pocketable package.” No matter how much research I do on pocketable cameras, I cannot find anything else out there that even comes close to this camera, but at $1000 retail, it certainly doesn’t fit into most people’s travel camera budget. Fortunately, an earlier model of the same camera does; the Sony DCS-RX100, and it performs amazingly well for 95% of you that need a stellar pocketable camera. At the time of this writing, you can get the Sony DCS-RX100 for only $448. I used that camera for 1 year and loved it; which is how I ended up with the current model as my pick in the pocketable camera category as the best travel camera Under $1000.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V, although remarkably convenient to carry while traveling, only has a 3.6x zoom. This short zoom range became debilitating on a recent trip to Peru. Every time I encountered a wild monkey, a rare bird, a snow-capped remote mountain top, or anything else that I wanted to zoom in on, I wasn’t able to get even remotely close enough to capture the shot that I wanted. 3.6x zoom is terrible, it is enough to adjust a landscape photo while shooting, but not even 10% of what is needed to capture wildlife. I decided that before I took off on any other trips that I was going to research and purchase the best long-range zoom (also called ‘superzoom’) camera that I could find under $1000 and solve the Sony’s zoom inadequacy.
I spent a lot of time researching superzoom cameras, and narrowed my list of potentials to three models: Canon PowerShot SX60, Nikon Coolpix B700, & Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000. I decided that since I’d already bought the $1000 Sony, I wouldn’t spend more than $1000 on a superzoom camera; considering that it’s only purpose is to take long-range photos to supplement the Sony. I ordered the Canon and tested it; finding that the 65x zoom was excellent; but it didn’t amaze me with the image quality or autofocus. Between the Nikon and the Panasonic, it came down to reading online reviews, and the Panasonic won hands down. This camera won a Gold Award from Digital Photography Review, which is rare. They said “The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 is a very impressive superzoom camera with an F2.8-4, 25-400mm lens and a one-inch sensor. Both photo and video quality are impressive, and support for 4K videos make the camera future proof. The FZ1000 has a beautiful XGA EVF and a fully articulating LCD. Handling and build quality aren’t perfect, but the camera’s features make up for it.” The best travel camera with a long-range zoom under $1000 is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000.
Lastly, I can’t count the times that I’ve been traveling and have found myself under water; snorkeling, SCUBA diving, (or wading through the Everglades), and I have needed a camera that can take great photos underwater and is durable enough for adventure travel. My first thought was to buy a waterproof housing for my Sony DSC-RX100 V but the underwater housings run from $300 all the way up to $4000. For $300 I figured that I could find a dedicated waterproof camera, rather than potentially risking a water leak with my Sony, and being out $1000. Again, I did hours of research, and found that the best option for an action camera with underwater capability is the GoPro Hero5 Black. It’s waterproof down to 33 feet without the need for a housing. It is capable of 12MP still images in JPEG and Raw. The GoPro Hero5 has a 2″ touchscreen, a range of voice activated controls, GPS, 3 microphones and electronic stabilization in 1080p. It’s pretty much the ideal camera for adventure travel and you can grab a used one for around $300, and a new one for $350 at the time of this writing. The best travel camera in the “Action Camera” category is the GoPro Hero5 Black.
In the end, I realized that there is no such thing as ‘the best travel camera under $1000’, and in reality, there really isn’t one “best travel camera” at any price point. No single camera has low weight, a long-range zoom, impeccable image quality, a GPS, WIFI, and is waterproof. Unfortunately until that day comes, I’ll probably be stuck using a minimum of 2 cameras while traveling.