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The cameras that come in smartphones continue to improve, so camera-makers have had to step up their game to compete. And while no one will argue with the ease and efficiency of those devices, smartphones have their limitations, which is why a good point-and-shoot camera is a travel essential. They typically boast better lenses (or “glass”), better-handle zoom, shoot in far lower light, and can be far more rugged than the best smartphone case. Some even come with Wi-Fi. They also offer a more intimate shooting experience, which undeniably leads to better photos.
In selecting the best camera, budget is always a good place to start. From there, consider your typical subject matters. Those who love to shoot in low light (or at night) will want a camera with a big ISO setting, which reflects how well the camera can take advantage of what light is present. Resolution is also a consideration — most modern cameras shoot very high-res images, but if you plan on pixel-level manipulation in post, look for models that shoot in RAW format.
Those who want to get in on the action (whether that be at a sporting event, concert, or on safari) should look for cameras that handle the zoom within the lens, rather than just digital enhancement, which tends to generate grainier images. Portraiture photographers, meanwhile, can get by with a high-quality fixed lens and keen understanding of their subject. Action fiends can explore models with image stabilization, and budding videographers should consider models that also shoot high-res video as well as stills. Take a peek below to find the best point and shoot cameras to bring along on your next trip.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100
With a price point that hovers around the same cost as most DSLR kits, at first blush the RX100 may seem like a lot for a point-and-shoot. But that’s just because you don’t know the RX100. The camera employs a 1.0-type image sensor that captures movies and stills in microscopic detail, along with 0.05-second auto-focus based on 315 auto-focus points. Its continuous shooting mode (just hold the button down) fires up to 24 frames per second for 150 frames, making it easy to capture fast action rather than trying to hit the shutter at the right moment.
Images can be captured at 20.1 megapixels, and video can be set to 4K, and can record footage at super-slow motion (up to 960 frames per second). You can frame off the LED screen, which tilts 180 degrees for otherwise-awkward framing or triggers the XGA OLED Tru-Finder to pop up and provide a more intimate shooting experience. As you’d expect from a high-end camera, it comes with a slew of presets as well as the ability to manually select the shutter speed, aperture, and other settings via the on-screen settings or with the control ring that rests at the base of the large-aperture ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens.
The ISO setting can be set as high as 1280. And it’s also compatible with Sony’s image editing software/app suite. All this in a camera that’s only four inches wide, 2.3 inches tall, and 1.6 inches thick.
Best Value: Panasonic LLIMIX 30X Travel Zoom Camera
If the high-end Leica cameras — those boutique German products preferred by famed street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson as well as legions of others — have caught your eye and triggered sticker shock when you saw that most models run in the four-digit range, the Lumix 30X offers a much more budget-friendly alternative. It uses the same Leica glass, but at a fraction of the cost. This compact model boasts Leica’s own 24 mm DC Vario Elmar lens with 30x optical zoom (a range from 24 to 720 mm) that delivers a range of images without noticeable distortion.
It shoots video in full HD and MP4 formats and stills at 18 megapixels along with the option for RAW — a solid find for a camera with this price point. A five-axis optical image stabilizer automatically detects and compensates for blurring and also adjusts the horizon line, with 10-frames-per-second speed-burst shooting. You can frame off the three-inch LED screen, which also puts all the other camera controls at your fingertips, or opt for the Live View Lens for lower-light situations, which displays the frame with 1.116k-dot resolution.
A control ring at the base of the lens offers easy manual control over exposure, zoom, and focus, so you don’t have to constantly modify the controls via the LED monitor, or choose from a handful of presets, including a sharp Macro option, which can capture images as close as 3 cm.
Star-gazers and creatives will also lose hours playing with the time-lapse feature, which lets you set the start time, shooting interval, and number of images before triggering the camera into action. With a max ISO of 6400, it’s not the best low-light shooter, though the high-sensitive MOS sensor does well to process ambient light and reduce noise.
Best for Zooming: Sony RX10 IV
The RX10 IV isn’t exactly a compact point-and-shoot, which is a good thing considering most cameras that rely on digital zoom enhancement generate images that look pixelated and noisy. Bulky — but worth it, the RX10 IV comes with a range of 24mm up to 600 via the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens, anchored by 1.0-inch sensor and Sony’s BIOZ X image processor that pulls out high-res images all the way to the edge of the frame, enabling panoramas as well as bokeh and seriously close close-ups.
It shoots movies on auto-focus at 4K, and images at 20.1 megapixels — and can fire off up to 24 images per second when shooting in continuous mode for up to 249 shots. ISO goes up to 128,000, and to 256,000 in the multi-frame noise-reduction setting. It comes with a dedicated viewfinder, essential for tight zoom shots, and the rest of the controls mirror the intuitive user experience found in DSLR cameras, including easy dial zoom and a hold-focus button on the lens and body, as well as a focus range limiter control to adjust the auto-focus based on your distance from the subject.
Additional controls sit on the back side of the camera, supplemented by the touchscreen LED screen, which tilts up to 109 degrees and down to 41.
Best for Low Light: Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
Other point-and-shoots deliver the same high ISO rating as the PowerShot G7, which can go up to 12,800. But none marry that with this camera’s auto-focus tracking and image clarity, thanks to Canon’s own DIGIC 7 Image Processor. Its f-stop lens range from 1.8 to 2.8 also helps make the most of the available light. It shoots stills in 20.1 megapixels, and can record files in JPEG, RAW, or both — and shoots at eight frames per second in all formats. The video is transcribed in full HD at 60 frames per second, with stereo audio in MP4. The G7 X also packs in loads of additional features, including the ability to connect to Wi-Fi with the flick of a single button so you can share or upload images easily, a time-lapse movie setting, and a three-inch tiltable LED screen, which allows you interact with all the camera settings. This is supplemented by a control ring that lets you jump between menus, shift shooting modes, or modify aperture settings or shutter speeds, as well as adjusting the focus on the fly, even when shooting video.
Best for Legacy Shooters: Leica CL
Leica has been making some of the industry’s most coveted cameras since 1914, and has been the shooter of choice for legions of pro photographers, producing some of the most iconic photographs in the last century. All this expertise comes at a price — more than some people’s mortgage, in fact. But for loyalists, there’s no substitute. And the CL may be the perfect combination of Leica’s film-centric legacy and the modern era of the digital point-and-shoot cameras.
You get that timeless Leica look, including their vintage red logo as well as a classic sequence of controls. Images are captured on a 24-megapixel sensor, reinforced by their Maestro II series processor and lightning-fast auto-focus with 49 metering points, which also works seamlessly when shooting 4K video. It comes with Leica’s top-quality 18-56mm lens, with an ISO that varies from 100 to 50,000 for top-notch image capture in the lowest of lights. You can frame off the LED screen, or use the EyeRes digital viewfinder, which boasts a resolution of 2.36 million dots.
And, as if to offer further proof that Leica stands firmly in the modern world, it also includes Wi-Fi connectivity and works with the Leica CL App, which transforms your smart device into a remote for the camera.
Best for Rugged Environments: Olympus Tough TG-5
Built for serious use — and abuse — in all aspects of the great outdoors, the Tough TG-5 is the ideal point-and-shoot for the active traveler. It’s also specifically engineered to help capture high-octane images and video thanks to action track sensors, 20-frames-per-second sequence shooting, and time-lapse F2.0 wide-angle lens. It’s shockproof up to seven feet, crushproof to 200 pounds, waterproof down to 50 feet, freeze-resistant down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and shrugs off dust, dirt, and sand.
With a 12-megapixel sensor, it doesn’t produce the highest-res images, but that’s supplemented by the ability to shoot in RAW as well as ultra 4K HD video. In addition to fast image capture and a handful of other presets (as well as auto-and auto-assist modes) the TG-5 comes with a Micro setting, which provides 44x amplification for truly minute macro imaging. It also is Wi-Fi-enabled.
Best for Wi-Fi Connectivity: Nikon’s Coolpix B700
Most modern point-and-shoots come with Wi-Fi connectivity, but the Coolpix B700 ups that with NFC and Bluetooth options so that you’re always connected to your smart device. This lets you run Nikon’s SnapBridge app in real time in any location to edit, share, and upload your photos instantly. You also get free cloud storage with the app, and can use it as a remote to control various aspects of the camera. The B700 also comes with a big 60x digital zoom paired with a 120x dynamic fine zoom in its super-telephoto Nikkor ED lens. This means it isn't the sleekest point-and-shoot, but if you want to get in on the action from far, it delivers, recording images thanks to a 20.2-megapixel low-light CMOS image sensor (which can save RAW files) and on 4HD video.
Controls mirror the intuitive construction found on Nikon’s award-winning DSLRs, and is supplemented by the three-inch flip-out, full-swivel LED screen, which you can use to frame the shot if you opt of using the digital The video. Settings run the gamut, from full auto, aperture- and shutter speed-assist, as well as various presets. It also employs a cool “creative mode” sequence, which lets you tweak things in-camera like layering multiple shots into one image or transforming your video into a fast-paced file via the Superlapse feature.
Best for Retro-Modern Chic: Fujifilm X100F
The look of the X100F is a call back to the point-and-shoot film cameras of yesteryears, with its silver or black color options and legions of manual controls bristling the compact camera, rather than everything being nestled in some clumsy digital interface on the LED screen. Even the optional all-brown-leather case looks back to times when film was the only option.
But with a 24.3-megapixel sensor, this winner from Fuji is all-modern when it comes to capturing stellar images. It comes with an eight-way focus lever, which utilizes up to 325 points when using auto-focus. Other modern functions — like changing ISO or shutter speed, or to set the five-step exposure compensation — return to the dial sequences of old.
In-LED operation is handled via controls positioned for your right thumb, enabling easy one-handed adjustment. No video capture here. Instead, the X100F focuses on stellar still images. It even leans into Fujifilm’s legacy of making some of the best 35mm film options, with a Film Simulation setting, which replicates 15 types of film types they used to make that range from vivid and soft to classic chrome or sepia. Modern, with a classic twist.
Our writers spent 20 hours researching the most popular point-and-shoot cameras for travel on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different cameras overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers, read over 15 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 3 of the cameras themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.