Smartphone photos are fine, but these pocket cameras will take your travel photography to the next level

As a travel journalist, I am constantly taking photos for the articles I produce. Over the years, I’ve grown tired of lugging around heavy SLRs and lenses in favour of mirrorless cameras, but eventually found I was taking the bulk of my photos on my smartphone.

While the portability of a smartphone is ideal when travelling, there are times that you want more creative control when taking a photo or wish you had a long telephoto lens to get you closer to your subject.

A few years back, I invested in a Canon SX720 HS, a compact point-and-shoot camera that has a massive 20.3 megapixel sensor, but more importantly for me, it has a 4.3-172 mm lens which is like having a single lens that ranges from a wide-angle to a high-power telephoto.  It’s incredible 40x optical zoom might not be as razor-sharp as you’d see with an SLR, but for something that fits in your pocket, it’s the perfect photographic tool. 

If you’re looking to improve your travel photography and a smartphone doesn’t cut it any more, then consider some of these top-rated point-and-shoot pocket cameras that offer professional-level features that have to be seen to be believed.

BLOW THE BUDGET

Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera

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In case you missed it, Sony is quietly becoming a camera-making powerhouse. Their top-end RX100 VII is powered by a newly-developed 20.1 MP CMOS image sensor and a cutting-edge image processor. These technologies work together to deliver peak autofocus and speed performance that has never before been available in a compact camera. Couple the inner workings with the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* 24-200mmviii F2.8-4.5 high magnification zoom lens, and the RX100 VII becomes a versatile choice for any type of photography, but especially travel photography.

Five-star review:  “My background is about 30 years of professional and semi-professional photography. When I evaluate a camera after a few months of using it, I always ask myself the following question: Would you take this as your only camera on a year-long trip around the world? With the latest generation Sony RX100V, the answer is: Absolutely, yes! The image quality is excellent and can hold its own even compared to cameras with bigger sensors.”

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MIDDLE OF THE PACK

Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera w/40X Optical Zoom

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This is the next generation of the Canon camera that is my main choice when I travel, but this model comes with even more enhancements. The SX740 HS still boasts an eye-popping 40x optical zoom with optical image stabilizer and zoom framing assist, but now captures video and time-lapse video in 4K. In addition, it has a 180-degree tilt-type screen to help you compose your shots, even if you’re in them yourself. One of its coolest features are the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC connections that make it easy to get your photos off your camera and onto your phone or computer in order to share them right away.

Five-star review:  “What I disliked was it was a bit bigger than expected, then I quit whining and completely enjoyed the capabilities of this camera. The clarity and options are absolutely amazing. I have purchased no less than 12 cameras since 1976, including Canon, Nikon, Minolta, and various others. This is the most practical for travel and everyday use. I had a Canon body with many lenses, filters, flash and various other goodies to achieve good photos. This PowerShot is all I take now and am more than satisfied when I develop my family or travel photos.”

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BARGAIN PRICE

PANASONIC LUMIX 4K Point and Shoot Camera with 30X Leica Lens

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This the updated model of another camera which I use. I like it because of the high-power Leica zoom lens that delivers photos with unparalleled sharpness. Like many compact cameras, the Lumix lacks an optical viewfinders, something that’s a pet peeve of mine, but this camera has a cool feature for when harsh sunlight makes the camera screen difficult to view. The LUMIX ZS60K Viewfinder activates automatically when you lift the camera to your eye, so you can see every detail and capture the shot you’re looking for. It’s a nice touch.

Five-star review:  “Replaced an older model of the same Panasonic. I have a much more expensive DSLR with expensive lenses but this gives virtually the same image quality except in low light conditions. Much less of a hassle to take along this small camera than the big DSLR. We end up using this 75% of the time rather than hauling around the big camera with all the lenses.”

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