While there are no reliable statistics on how many digital SLR cameras are stolen on vacations annually, it’s fair to say that the number is high — very high. Digital SLRs, especially in developing countries, attract about as much attention as a gold Rolex or a red Ferrari. But there is a better option for producing near-DSLR quality photos in a smaller, sleeker package that won’t peg you as the well-endowed photographer.
A new wave of compact digital cameras has been hitting the market steadily over the past few years, with each new release getting closer to pro-level DSLR’s in terms of optics quality and resolution. Pocket sized and powerful, these compact cameras are changing the way that consumer and prosumer photographers capture moments while on the road. Before you head out on your next adventure, consider leaving the DSLR behind and opting for one of the more sensible options below.
While some may scoff at this little Pentax — due to its comparatively low resolution and rather unintuitive dial layout — it still makes for a great travel camera. It is able to accept all Q-mount lenses, and for existing Pentax shooters, it allows you to use everything in your existing lens collection. And, at $347, it’s a reasonably priced entry into the compact digital market.
Sensor: 12.4MP CMOS
Lens: Can be used with all Q-mount lenses
Unique Features: 3-inch LCD monitor, bokeh control function
The pocket-sized X70, like the rest of Fuji’s X series, features Fuji’s film simulation mode, which, while not as nice as actual Fuji Velvia, does a serviceable job at emulating film. The X70 also features manual dials for adjusting settings, which many compact digital cameras lack (and which analog shooters will appreciate).
Sensor: 16.7MP X-Trans CMOS II
Lens: 18.5mm f/2.8
Unique Features: Film simulation mode
Canon G7 X Mark II
Canon’s new G7X Mark II is the brand’s most powerful PowerShot yet. The compact camera shoots both RAW and JPG files at speeds of up to eight frames per second. RAW files are also processed in-camera, which means that you can review and tweak the files directly from the rear touchscreen.
Sensor: 20.1MP CMOS
Lens: 8.8-36.8mm f/1.8 (35mm equivalent: 24-100mm)
Unique Features: Built-in wi-fi, in-camera RAW conversion
If you like to record video footage of your travels as much as you like shooting photos, the DL18-50 is a solid option. It records in ultra-HD 4K video for super-crisp shots of, say, tuk-tuks speeding around corners or blue whales surfacing. It also supports continuous shooting up to 20 frames per second.
Sensor: 20.8MP CMOS
Lens: 18-50mm f/1.8
Unique Features: OLED tilting monitor, SnapBridge integration for real-time wireless sharing of images
The new Olympus Pen-F is almost exactly the same size as the original 35mm Pen-F — and it looks nearly identical as well. But the Pen-F is more than just a pretty face. As a street shooter, it’s tough to beat with its 20.3MP sensor and the ability to use any micro four thirds lenses made by Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, etc.
Resolution: 20.3MP 4/3 Live MOS Sensor
Lens: Can be used with all micro four thirds mount lenses
Unique Features: 5-Axis in-body image stabilization, OLED viewfinder
Sony RX1R II
While a fixed lens can sometimes be a handicap, it isn’t always a bad thing. The RX1R II makes the most of its fixed-lens setup by employing a 35mm Zeiss Sonnar. The Sonnar offers superb image quality and at f/2, opens wide for beautiful bokeh — perfect for candid street portraits.
Sensor: Full-frame Exmor R CMOS 43.6 MP
Lens: Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2
Unique Features: OLED viewfinder
The Leica Q follows the spirit of compact Leica cameras of the past, like the M series of film cameras, which are still lauded for their quality today. With a 24MP full-frame sensor, the Q is about as close as you can get to a pro-level DSLR in a compact camera.