The best value compact cameras for travel photography in 2019

Pro-quality results from a camera that fits in your pocket and in your budget

So you’re in the market for a new camera, but you’re not quite ready to make the jump to an interchangeable lens system (the big, expensive cameras that pros use). That said, you know you want the best results for your hard-earned money, and you’re okay spending a little more to get a lot more in return. In short, you want the camera that offers the best value your money can buy.

This post is for you if:

  • You prefer the compact size and affordability of a point-and-shoot camera body
  • You hope to create artful images with your new camera, not just snapshots
  • You want to learn to move beyond “Auto” or “Program” mode when shooting
  • You have a budget of $650–$750

In this article we’ll look at three cameras that fit these criteria.

Each of these three cameras allows you to take advantage of two critical functionalities that will have a dramatic impact on the quality of images you’re producing: One, the shooting modes include Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Speed Priority; and two, images can be shot in RAW format. If these features seem unfamiliar, worry not! We’ll address them in future articles. For now, rest assured that any of these cameras will suit your needs as a beginning photographer who’s eager to start learning some new skills.

Sony RX100 Mark III

Sony has really made a name for itself with respect to image quality and low-light performance. The RX100 Mark III is no exception. The camera boasts a best-in-class image sensor and lens, full HD video capability, and fantastic low-light performance for its class. Sony’s RX100 line does include a total of six models, but, in my opinion, the Mark III strikes the best balance of price vs. performance for someone just deciding to move away from the budget end of the spectrum. Another potential benefit is that users will find an eventual transition to a Sony interchangeable lens camera system quite seamless should they decide to head in that direction in the future.

Note: This camera’s zoom range (24–70mm equivalent) is good for street, travel, portrait, landscape, and macro photography, but not optimal for wildlife or sports/action photography.

Read a full review of the Sony RX100 Mark III

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

Canon is still the top brand in the camera market by market share, and the G7X Mark II shows why. It’s a powerful compact camera offering many benefits similar to those of the Sony RX100 Mark III, such as a class-leading image sensor and lens. The G7X Mark II offers a slightly increased zoom range (24–100mm equivalent) over the Sony RX100 Mark III, a difference certainly worth noting but not significant enough to put the two in separate classes. With the G7X Mark II, you get the Canon brand coupled with excellent image quality and reliable performance. As with the Sony RX100 line, Canon’s GX line offers both more and less expensive options, but the G7X Mark II strikes a nice balance between cost and performance.

Note: One potential drawback of this camera is that it doesn’t offer an eye-level viewfinder for framing shots when the rear screen is difficult to see (think when it’s bright outside). Also, like the Sony RX100 Mark III, the camera’s lens is ideal for street, travel, portrait, and macro photography, but not stellar for wildlife or sports/action photography.

Read a full review of the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200

One word: Zoom! This camera stands alone in its class with an incredible 15x optical zoom range. Like the Sony and the Canon models, this camera from Panasonic offers a class-leading image sensor, but couples it with a lens that delivers a one-of-a-kind 24-360mm equivalent zoom range. The lens sacrifices some low-light performance and lens speed relative to the lenses on the Sony and the Canon, but if you prioritize shooting wildlife or sports, this is the compact camera for you. It’s also worth noting that this is the only camera in the lineup that supports 4K video—definitely a plus for many users.

Read a full review of the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200

Final thoughts

These product recommendations are not based upon personal use, only on product specifications and market reviews. Lightminded Photo Tours doesn’t receive any compensation from the manufacturers for these recommendations. That said, I’m currently in the market for a compact camera myself and am personally keen on buying one of these. Here’s some additional information comparing and contrasting the three camera models: