Pin Me

5 Travel Compact Digital Cameras - Comparison & Review

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/10/2009

Extreme versatility, portability and plenty of control over exposure, higher end point-and-shoot digital cameras make for the best cameras when travelling. Check out 5 compact digital cameras for travel photography with this comparison and review.

  • slide 1 of 8

    The high end point-and-shoot category is a relatively new niche in the camera business, but one with startling versatility. The smaller size allows one to take pictures inconspicuously, and the portability is absolutely fantastic, allowing you to photograph in places and situations you really just couldn't get into with a larger DSLR camera. Yet these cameras also allow for precise manual control, yielding pictures that can rival their far fancier cousins.

    Probably the single best use for these point-and-shoot digital cameras is for travel. The extreme versatility and portability lends well to the dynamics and surprises of being on the road—or on the sidewalk—or in a bus—or on the subway—no matter where you go. For more on the general advantages of high end point-and-shoots for their use as travel cameras, check out these tips on what to look for when buying a digital camera for travel.

    Without further ado, here are the reviews and comparisons of 5 compact travel cameras:

  • slide 2 of 8

    Canon PowerShot G10

    It's about as budget-friendly as you can get in the category of 'high-end' compact digital cameras, and yet this camera strikes arguably the best balance between practicality and flexibility out of the whole lot. It has a satisfying feel in the hand without being bulky, small enough to slip out of a pocket or a purse to take some subtle street photography but doesn’t feel flimsy or toy-like. The build is about as rugged as you can get without getting out the military grade. The buttons are intuitively placed and easy to understand, wonderful for those spontaneous (Canon) moments when you don't want to waste time fiddling around.

    State-of-the-art software gives you many of those fancy features you see in DSLRs—which may or may not appeal to you, depending on how much you're into such bells and whistles. Face recognition software is top notch. Another lovely feature is the “I-Contrast”, which can decrease the often frustratingly contrasted images between shadows and sunlight in outdoor scenes.

    The manual mode on this critter is absolutely fantastic, allowing for the sort of flexibility you usually expect in more elaborate cameras, with complete control over all the usual settings. It's decently sensitive—it's possible to even be satisfied with images taken at ISO 400.

    The macro mode allows for a sharp, precise manual focus, providing for a creativity that many compact cameras don't quite manage. The lens also manages up to 5x optical zoom, which should suit standard everyday purposes. The 14.7 megapixels should keep even those who like poster-sized blowups of their adventures quite sated. The 28mm wide lens is also quite handy for -scapes of various sorts.

    One of the few real cons of this camera is that it doesn’t use standard AA batteries, but rechargeable battery packs bought through Canon. These also can't be recharged externally, which is a real pain while traveling because you can't just leave a set charging in the hotel room while you ramble round town for the day.

    You can check out the PowerShot G10 at or from the Canon website.

  • slide 3 of 8

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

    The most conspicuous feature on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is its extra wide LCD screen. Though on one hand that makes it all the more easy to scratch (and also saps more power) it also has definite benefits for quickly framing an image. The controls are a bit clumsier to use as a natural consequence of having all that backside space being used for the screen, which might frustrate those with meatier hands. Another possible slowdown is the removable lens cap, which could prove irritating in hurried environments. This is also the smallest of the cameras reviewed, coming in around a quarter kilogram. Something in particular that should be noted is this camera's distinct lack of an optical viewfinder—it is entirely dependent on the LCD screen, though whether this is for better or for worse is a matter for the individual.

    However, the image quality is decent, though the noise starts getting conspicuous around ISO 400 as with most other comparable cameras—except with this camera's comparably lower f-stop of 2.0, you're actually getting something around an ISO 800. One neat software feature is the ability to switch the actual ratios of the lens, allowing for alternative ratios that might save a little time on post-processing work; another is the ability to do multiple exposures, software usually reserved for DSLR cameras. The battery life on this camera has also been described as uncanny by many, which definitely comes in handy whilst traveling—although again with the inconvenience of having a special battery that can only be charged in-camera.

    You can check out the Lumix DMC-LX3 at or from the Panasonic website.

  • slide 4 of 8

    Please continue on to the next page to discover the remaining 3 of the 5 compact travel cameras we are reviewing and comparing.

  • slide 5 of 8
    Compact Digital Camera Comparison & Reviews for Travel Photography - Page 2On page two of this digital camera comparison, we'll review popular compact digital cameras that were made for travel. From Nikon to Canon, find out if these point-and-shoot digital cameras meet your needs or your photography, camera reviews, digital camera comparison, travel cameras
  • slide 6 of 8

    Sigma DP1

    Running at an iffy $510 is another of the high end compact digital cameras perfect for travel. Though the color fidelity of the Sigma DP1 compares very well to other cameras featured in this review—really, the Foveon sensor is this camera's only redeeming feature—the poor handling makes it rather impractical. The autofocus is slow, and freezes the image in-screen while focus is being acquired, which makes dynamic situations more frustrating than fascinating. The menus tend to be hard to understand and, even once understood, difficult and unwieldy to navigate. What software features this camera does have are few and hard to even find, though those who belittle the bells and whistles might not mind this so much. Combined with a short battery life, this camera just really isn't suited for travel or street photography.

    However, if your travel photography tends to be less of the dynamic street sort and in quieter outdoor settings, but yet you don't want a DSLR camera, the spectacular brightness of the camera might just might allow for the patience required to puzzle through the menus. For general travel purposes, however, this camera does not distinguish itself into a class above average, and so is not recommended.

    Find the DP1 at Amazon or from the Sigma website.

  • slide 7 of 8

    Leica D-Lux 4

    The Leica D-Lux 4 is probably the highest end - and highest priced - of the cameras in this review/comparison, running at around $700. The main thing that Leica’s got over the competition for the hefty increase of price is lots of little added edges. The best example of this is its increased sensitivity: whereas most of these cameras are only good to under ISO 400, the Leica is fine up to a solid 800. The lens is also that tiny bit faster at 2.0. Another fan favorite of this Leica is the easy-to-navigate menu, which makes all those manual adjustments that much easier to make and practically apply. The extra wide angle lens also has a certain appeal.

    Leica batteries also run expensive ($75), but getting non-brand name batteries reportedly work just as well. Ditto with most of the other accessories. Unless you have a “Leica fetish”, as one Amazon review has put it, this camera is not particularly recommended, especially given the price.

    The Leica D-Lux 4 can be found on Amazon or from the Leica website.

  • slide 8 of 8

    Nikon Coolpix P6000

    Ending this compact travel camera review/comparison is a look at the traditional rival of Canon's response to the G10.

    Quite possibly the coolest feature of the Nikon Coolpix P6000 is geotagging—that is, GPS capability. Any picture you take can have the latitude and longitude coordinates, which can in turn allow you to literally map out your adventures. It's a fantastic feature that would come in especially handy whilst traveling in unfamiliar places when you're down a boulevard whose name you won't be able to remember in two weeks, or once you've found that perfect place to take that cityscape. It takes a few moments to lock onto a good signal, but if you've got those few moments, the world is made a little easier on your memory.

    This camera is also significantly smaller than most of the other cameras reviewed—making the compact camera even more compact. However, the optical zoom drops down to a 4x with this size, which may not quite be enough for many uses—and even with that, there appears to be a fair bit of barrel distortion.

    The ISO drops all the way down to a 64, though it's not any more usable above 400 than the Canon G10 is. Frustratingly enough on this camera is the lack of a good buffer, which means a few seconds delay between shots while the data clears—valuable seconds while taking pictures out and about.

    Another irritating feature of the Coolpix P6000, shared with many others in this camera comparison, is that it requires special batteries that can only be charged in-camera, which can be a tremendous inconvenience and unnecessary expense whilst traveling. The battery is also the same one they were using 4 years ago – it has not advanced an inkling, which can lead to some real pain when you aren't going to be overnighting by any outlets for a few days at a time, and especially if you've got the battery-intensive geotagging feature on.

    Check out the Coolpix P6000 on Amazon or from the Nikon website.