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Top 8 Compact Digital Cameras for Travel


Here are my top picks for compact cameras you can slip in a pocket. Don't travel without your camera just because it's heavy and bulky--try one of these compact digital travel cameras, selected for the best image quality for their size. Today you can get some good wide angle lenses on those compact cameras--all the better to fit those travel landscapes and architectural pictures into the frame.

1. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

Canon Powershot SD10 Digital ELPH during Z100's Jingle Ball 2003
Djamilla Rosa Cochran/Contributor/WireImage/Getty Images

For those of us who can't afford the pricey (x3) RX1, this might be your best bet as an overall travel camera. The RX100 features a 28-100mm equivalent lens with F1.8-4.9 aperture range and image stabilization. It can shoot 1080p60 video and capture 17MP (16:9 crop) stills simultaneously. It's perhaps one of the most flexible compact cameras for travel shooting today.

The newest version of this camera is the DSC-RX100 II, which adds a hot shoe and tilting screen. It also has updated wifi capabilities. If these are things you need, the newer version is a great camera, but the older could be a better value if you don't need these improvements.

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2. Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Camera

We've been carrying this camera for a year now, and highly recommend it. With its fast (f2) 5x Optical Zoom starting at 24mm (24-120mm) and GPS Technology that will map your shots, a new image processor that offers better white balance and better low-light shooting, and the ability to shoot hi-def video, this is my camera of choice. For photographers who want the ultimate control of their pictures, the camera offers a RAW output. There is a newer version of this camera that supports wifi uploading, but gives up the GPS. I find the GPS an extremely useful tool for the travel photographer when paired with photo editors like Adobe Lightroom that recognize the GPS and map the pictures for you on a google map.
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3. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1/B Black Digital Camera

What does dumping a while lotta money on the counter get you in a camera you can stuff in your pocket? A full-frame sensor with a fixed Zeiss 35mm F2 lens. Besides being expensive, it's pretty silent, allowing you to shoot inside churches without anyone knowing--as long as they're not looking at you.
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4. Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera

The diminutive and highly rated Elph comes in three colors, red, silver, and black. The 5x zoom starts at 24mm equivalent, a very wide wide-angle lens, good for those tough shots when you can't back up. Camera is less than an inch deep and weighing just under five ounces. And just in case you're into fast-moving action when you're on vacation, the camera has a mode that will slow things down, called "Super Slow Motion Movie." Canon has improved the low-light performance of the camera. At under $200, this camera is a steal.
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5. Olympus VR-320

Looking for a bargain camera that fit in your pocket and has a very long zoom? the Olympus VR-320 offers a travel-friendly 24mm wide angle lens that allows you to zoom all the way out to 300mm, a 12.5x zoom in a camera available for under $150 if you do some comparison shopping! And it weighs under 6 ounces. Does video, but most reviewers warn that video and low light quality isn't up to par with more expensive cameras.
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6. Nikon Coolpix S9100 Digital Camera

Need lots of lens, including a very decent wide angle option? This Nikon has an 18x optical zoom; Focal length: 4.5-81.0 mm (Approx. 25-450 mm); Aperture: f/3.5-5.9. If you get tired of shooting quaint villages and crumbling castles, you can take this one our and try your hand at sports like the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia. The camera isn't expensive; you can get it for less than $300, so the lens isn't the fastest, but should be adequate for most amateur needs. Takes full HD video, too.
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7. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V Digital Camera

If you're looking for a camera that does both good stills and decent full HD video, the Sony might be for you. The lens offers a 16x range with impressive 24mm wide-angle coverage on the wide-angle end. The 16.2MP high-resolution back-illuminated CMOS sensor should do well in low light, like those times you need a food shot in a dimly lit (romantic) restaurant. Good price on a feature-rich digital camera.
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8. Fujifilm FinePix T200 Digital Camera

This may be the value leader for this pack of travel cameras: a 10x zoom, equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm camera gives you a nice range from lanscape and city photography to portraits and sports. Reviewers gush over the image quality from a camera that costs just a bit over $100 dollars. Noise levels are held in check until just over ASA 800.
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