Starter budget travel cameras will help anyone capture their experience without spending a whole lot of money. I’ve written a little about finding the balance between capturing the moment and experiencing the moment while traveling—but what are the easy-to-use and affordable travel cameras best suited for the traveler who still wants incredible captures? I’m gonna share with you all the starter budget travel cameras that I rely on during every trip I take, including a brief review of their pros and cons in my humble fauxtographer opinion, and quick access links to check them out for yourself!
Now, keep in mind, these are my budget recommendations for travelers looking to get some beginner’s travel cameras, without spending too much money. For our blogging photography needs, we have since upgraded to the Canon 80D, DJI Phantom, and iPhone 6s Plus. Subscribe to our email list to be updated when our post for those more advanced travel cameras goes live!
So what entry-level budget travel cameras will help a traveler capture their best photos? Here’s the dirty breakdown of what I always bring with me: a DSLR, a point-and-shoot, a GoPro, and—because you’ll probably have it anyway—a phone!
- 1 Introductory DSLR
- 2 Point-and-Shoot
- 3 Action/Waterproof Camera
- 4 Smart Phone
- 5 Like this post?
- 6 You Might Also Appreciate…
- 7 What budget travel cameras do you use?
What’s in my bag?: Canon Rebel T3
A great DSLR option on the affordable side for a beginning photographer (such as myself), the Canon Rebel T3 once served as my GO-TO travel camera for everything wanderlusty. However, it’s increasingly been put on the back-burner as I’ve collected more compact travel cameras that still serve my uses. While my trusty T3 could certainly use an upgrade, any DSLR is a fantastic camera to have if you have the dough and don’t mind a little bulk. Why should you have a DSLR in your snap-happy travel repertoire? Higher resolution and thus higher quality photos, increased customizability (in terms of settings and accessories), and high quality videos, are among some of the many reasons to invest in one. Of course there are far superior DSLRs than my T3 (with far superior price tags), but this one suited my purposes just fine when I bought it 4 years ago, and this camera range will certainly suit most traveler’s needs. For anyone interested in buying a cheaper DSLR, I would recommend one of the newer models in this range, such as the Canon Rebel T6i, or, to save a hundred bucks, the Canon Rebel T5. Those with more experience and higher expectations, however, will want to invest in a more expensive camera. I, myself, am looking to upgrade to the Canon 6D, but it sure costs a pretty penny. But what about what I’ve already got? Here are the pros and cons of the Canon Rebel T3!
- Like any DSLR, it can be used with a variety of lenses
- User-friendly, making it a fantastic option for beginners
- Fairly light, but still durable—I’ve put this baby through a ton over the past 4 years, a few falls down rocks and waterfalls, and the construction is still unaffected
- Great battery life
- Affordable: more friendly on the wallet than other DSLRs
- Succeeded by newer models with better specs
- No articulating screen (UM HELLO, HOW ABOUT SELFIES?!)
- No rubberized hand grip
- Microphones can’t plug directly into the camera—not important for everyone, but can be a bit of an obstacle for vloggers
- Bulky, like any DSLR
- Stands out a bit too much in those not-so-nice areas that you don’t want to be flashing around a giant pricey-lookin’ camera in (but again, this applies to all DSLRs)
Canon Rebel T3 End Result:
What’s in my bag?: Canon G7X
This camera has been a godsend for vlogging—no doubt the reason I’ve heard vlogger after vlogger recommend it. Compact, easy to use, and cheaper than comparable point-and-shoot travel cameras, the G7X has quickly emerged as my go-to camera for capturing those quick, spontaneous moments no matter where I am. Its small size makes it so easy to pop in your bag (though it might be a little chunky for your pocket), making it far more convenient than a DSLR. A crystal clear flip-up touch screen makes it ideal for vlogging and, yes, taking those Instagram-worthy selfies to show the world you’re alive and proud. And that Wi-Fi capability is a life-changer! It’s easier than ever to snap a high-quality photo or video, transfer it directly and quickly to my phone, and have it up on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook in no time at all. The camera offers the choice to control manual settings, but its automatic settings are super helpful for beginners (or just super lazy people). Sure, the camera has some minor flaws (the roughest points for me being the lack of viewfinder, its struggle to focus, and the battery life), but I still adore it and am so glad I opted to finally invest in a new travel camera after all these years! Here’s the breakdown of the pros and cons of the Canon G7X.
- Cheaper than comparable travel cameras
- Flip-up touch screen
- Captures colors vibrantly
- Compact size
- Continuous shooting with autofocus
- Easy to use for beginners
- Finger grip makes it feel secure in your hand
- Does well in low-light
- Solid construction
- Wi-Fi capability makes it SUPER easy to transfer your pictures directly to your phone
- Not the best battery life! (much better than a GoPro, but worse than my T3)
- Often loses focus on subject during use
- No viewfinder
- Easy to accidentally cover the built-in mic if you’re not careful
- Annoying clicking sound when rotating front ring
Canon G7X End Result:
What’s in my bag?: GoPro HERO3+ Black
Seems like everyone and their mother is packing a GoPro these days—but for good reason. The leader in action cameras, GoPros can be stuffed in nearly any nook and cranny, and they’re damn near essential in any photo-addicted traveler’s camera stash. However, GoPros are not meant for, and shouldn’t necessarily be used for all photo-needs.
The video below was shot almost entirely on my GoPro, with a few iPhone 4s shots thrown in. As you can see in the video, I love strapping the camera down to a surface on my 360° time lapse mount and just letting it ride—rain (as was the case the day we were in Kandy) or shine.
Action shots, underwater shots, and time lapses—these are perfect uses for a GoPro. Long-distance shots? Forget about it. The GoPro accessories make the GoPro, and you can find anything from mouth mounts to doggy harnesses—but still, the camera has its limitations.
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If you’re looking to buy the newest on the market, the GoPro Hero5 Black is superior in 4k and 2.7k video shooting, and the GoPro Hero4 Silver is great for its LCD screen, although this is a major battery drainer. However, I won’t be upgrading anytime soon. The GoPro Hero 3+ Black is still equivalent in terms of field of view, lens aperture, sensor size, still photo resolutions, burst rate stills, and Wi-Fi capability. Further, while the upgrade in HD recording that the GoPro Hero5 Black provides is tempting, it’s not sufficient enough, for my own needs and budget, to justify dishing out another several hundred bucks. As for the LCD screen of the GoPro Hero4 Silver? It’s hardly necessary since the GoPro app allows you to connect your GoPro to your smartphone and use that as a preview screen. For now, I’ll stick with my Hero 3+ Black. Here are the pros and cons!
- Respectable HD video shooting
- Can strap it on almost anywhere—a washing machine? Check. A camel’s head? Go for it.
- Compact and light
- GoPro app allows you to transform your smartphone into a preview screen
- Comes with free software for easy tweaking
- Wi-Fi Capability
- Easy to use
- The accessories make it the most versatile camera I own
- Requires a great deal of investment in accessories to really get the most out of it—however, you can find these in so many places and price ranges now
- WRETCHED BATTERY LIFE
- No screen, and any screen that you can buy to attach to the camera will drain the already crap battery life
- Not meant for long-distance shots
GoPro Hero 3+ Black End Result:
What’s in my bag?: Apple iPhone 4S
Before I picked up my Canon G7X, this was my selfie and pocket camera. But as I have an old 4s, I’m in dire need of an upgrade, and have been using my phone as one of my main budget travel cameras less and less (really only to snap quick photos of the adorable Korean children I teach, to take food pics for Twitter, or for those you-can’t-write-this-sh*t quick candid moments). Still, my 4s has treated me well over these several years, and it’s done a fine job in documenting many of my travels. My first and only smart phone ever, the iPhone 4s has been super easy to use (which, in case you haven’t already noticed that throughout this post, is kind of a prime plus for me!). And, it’s been durable! I’m a clumsy gal, I take a lot of falls, I drop a lot of things, and my well-cased iPhone has been able to keep up like a champ. Sure it’s a little chunkier than a sleek and sexy iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus (which I damn near bought, but instead decided to get my G7X), or even the iPhone SE (which I also considered, since it has many of the same features as an iPhone 6 in the body of an iPhone 5, but for significantly less—however the very non-iPhone-6 front camera was a definite deal-breaker for me). Still, I have no need for an upgrade in the immediate future. Really, any smart phone you have is a great travel tool, and not only for its camera. Maps, GPS, access to the internet, currency conversion, notepad, book reader, calculator, MP3 player, GoPro preview screen—the many functions of a smart phone for a traveler are astonishing, and make your smart phone one of the most valuable budget travel cameras and tools you can bring with you on your trips!
Check out this list of the 10 Must-Have Travel Apps you need on your phone!
Since there’s nothing particularly special about my granny 4s distinct from other smart phones, I’ll just outline the pros and cons of smartphones in general down below.
- Multi-tool: I rely on this baby for so many things, I can barely remember what I used to do without it
- Compact—it’s literally a little computer in your pocket
- The camera specs of the smartphones being released these days rival most point-and-shoots
- Can be used with mini detachable lenses!
- Ideal for selfies and easy uploads to social networks
- Costly, especially without contracts (and what ongoing traveler needs a contract?!)
- Generally not waterproof
- Fragile without a good case
- Easy targets for thieves
- Even with the developments in their photo technology, smart phone cameras still have their limitations
iPhone 4s End Result:
So there you have it—a basic overview of what budget travel cameras I’m packing, and the things I love and hate about them. I rely on each of these travel cameras for different purposes, and I may decide to leave one at home for the day depending on my activities. If it’s super rainy or I’m spending the day swimming, I’ll forego the DSLR and make the GoPro my main squeeze of the day—such as during our very rainy trek up Sigiriya Rock. If I’m going to be shooting subjects quite far away, the DSLR and my telephoto lens are taking a prime ride with me that day—for example, while shooting distant animals on safari in the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. And for everything else, the Canon G7X has quickly become my staple travel camera! What are the primary guiding factors for my travel camera choices? Affordability, durability, reliability, and ease of use. If these priorities match yours, these budget travel camera recommendations are fantastic starting points for your own research. I’m no photographer and I still have a lot to learn, but these cameras have allowed me to take the best pictures I can in any travel situation, and within my price range!
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What budget travel cameras do you use?
Share in a comment below!