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  • Best Compact Camera for Travel

    Today, I’d like to share with you the process I went through a few months ago when I chose the best compact camera for my photography.

    Best Compact Camera for Travel

    I hope that my experience helps you make the best compact camera selection for your travels.

    But, before I share my experience, let me first explain how the evolution in compact camera development impacted both my photography and my business.

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    The Rise of Premium Comact Cameras

    Years ago, when I was still shooting with my Canon DSLR, I always had two cameras in my bag. I used one as my primary camera and the second as my backup in the event my primary camera failed. This setup was and still is very common among photographers.

    The two-camera setup was in constant rotation. When I bought a new camera model, I kept the old body as a backup and used the same duo until it was time for the next upgrade.

    The status quo, however, changed in 2008 when Panasonic released their new compact camera model, the Lumix LX3.

    Best Compact Camera for Travel: Panasonic, Lumix LX3

    Panasonic, Lumix LX3

    The Lumix LX3 was a very small, pocket-size camera with the full functionalities of a professional DSLR, a high quality and fast Leica lens (f/2-2.8) with a useful zoom range of 24-70mm (full frame equivalent). It had a lower pixel count sensor (this was during those silly megapixel wars), which allowed it to achieve a high image quality that was unprecedented for small sensors. On top of everything else, it also had a quality body with a beautiful design.

    It was an entirely new concept in compact cameras—premium compact models.

    After a few weeks of shooting with the Lumix LX3, I realized that I no longer needed my second DSLR as a backup. The LX3 had not only become my backup camera but, in some cases, was even my primary when I didn’t want to or couldn’t carry my bulky DSLR. The biggest benefit was how it offered the ability to photograph in dark conditions without the use of flash like in museums and churches where DSLR cameras and tripods are not allowed.

    Best Compact Camera for Travel: Panasonic, Lumix LX7

    Panasonic, Lumix LX7

    After the Lumix LX3, I upgraded to the LX5 and, later, to the LX7 model. I used the LX7 for the longest time and appreciated it the most because of its fast lens (f/1.4-2.0) and manual aperture ring.

    The only feature missing from every LX model I owned was an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). This made it difficult to compose shots in bright conditions, which always bothered me.

    Because of this, I knew I wanted an EVF in my next compact camera.

    After visiting Burning Man, my Lumix LX7 slowly started to die. This was perfect timing because Panasonic had just released the LX7’s successor—the Lumix LX10.

    Related: Top Rated Nikon d5600 Bundles Deals Today

    After going through the specs of the new model, I knew it was a perfect compact camera for my travel photography with only one exception—it still did not have an EVF. This was surprising since Panasonic managed to include nearly every advanced feature imaginable from its high-end mirrorless models like Post Focus and Focus Stacking into the camera’s tiny body. Still, they omitted an essential feature.

    This is when I started researching to find the best compact camera for travel photography.

    In Search for the Best Compact Camera

    After a few days of going through various reviews, I made four conclusions about the status of today’s premium compact cameras:

    1. The rise of smartphones and iPhones has nearly disseminated the entry level compact and point-and-shoot markets. To stay relevant, compact camera manufacturers have had to stay ahead of the latest smartphone technology, making premium compact cameras the only survivors.
    2. Top premium compact cameras are not only on par with high-end DSLR and Mirrorless models, they sometimes have even more advanced features like 960 f/sec video shooting or f1/4 zoom lens (24-70mm).
    3. The prices of premium compact cameras have significantly climbed and now are more expensive than entry-level DSLR or Mirrorless models.
    4. There are only a few models across all manufacturers that offer a built-in EVF.

    My research narrowed my choices down to only a few models, all of which were made by Sony.

    Sony Compact Camera Options

    Sony entered the premium compact market in 2012 with their RX100 model and, over the years, have released four additional models: RX100 II, RX100 III, RX100 IV and the RX100 V.

    What was unconventional and surprising in the Sony RX100 lineup was that the newer models did not replace the old ones; instead, they complement them with more advanced options. This means that Sony has continued manufacturing all five models that are still available for purchase today.

    To choose the best compact camera for my travels, I created a table that lists the most essential features of each RX100 model.

    ?

    Sony RX100 I

    Sony RX100 II

    Sony RX100 III

    Sony RX100 IV

    Sony RX100 V

    Release Date

    June 2012

    June 2013

    May 2014

    June 2015

    June 2016

    Sensor Type

    CMOS

    BSI CMOS

    BSI CMOS

    Stacked CMOS

    Stacked CMOS

    Resolution

    20.2 MP

    20.2 MP

    20.1 MP

    20.1 MP

    20.1 MP

    Sensor Size

    13.2 x 8.8mm (1″)

    13.2 x 8.8mm (1″)

    13.2 x 8.8mm (1″)

    13.2 x 8.8mm (1″)

    13.2 x 8.8mm (1″)

    ISO Range

    125-6400

    160-12,800

    125-12,800

    125-12,800

    125-12,800

    Image Processor

    Bionz

    Bionz

    Bionz X

    Bionz X

    Bionz X

    Phase Detection

    No

    No

    No

    No

    Yes

    Lens Focal Length (35mm)

    28-100mm

    28-100mm

    24-70mm

    24-70mm

    24-70mm

    Lens Aperture

    f/1.8-f/4.9

    f/1.8-f/4.9

    f/1.8-f/2.8

    f/1.8-f/2.8

    f/1.8-f/2.8

    Startup Time

    2.8 sec

    2.8 sec

    2.0 sec

    2.0 sec

    2.0 sec

    EVF

    None

    None

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Shooting Speed

    10 fps

    10 fps

    10 fps

    16 fps

    16 fps

    Buffer Size

    13 JPEG/13 RAW

    13 JPEG/13 RAW

    48 JPEG/26 RAW

    48 JPEG/26 RAW

    150 JPEG+RAW

    Video

    1080p

    1080p

    1080p

    4K

    4K

    Slow Motion Video

    N/A

    N/A

    120 fps

    960 fps

    960 fps

    S-Log2

    No

    No

    No

    No

    Yes

    Built-in WiFi

    No

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Battery Life

    330 shots

    350 shots

    320 shots

    280 shots

    220 shots

    Weight

    240g

    280g

    290g

    298g

    298g

    Size

    102×58×36mm

    102×58×38mm

    102×58×41mm

    102x58x41mm

    102x58x41mm

    Price

    As you can see, the first two iterations of the RX100 models do not have EVFs so it was easy for me to eliminate these options.

    Next, I could see that Sony upgraded the sensor with the Stacked CMOS design starting with the RX100 IV model but, based on my research, it did not improve the image quality or increase the dynamic range. They both stayed the same.

    What changed was the improvements made in the focusing system found from the RX100 III to the RX100 V and the video features (4K video, 960 fps video).

    This is when I made my final decision. Since I do not produce video content in 4K and I do not shoot sports or any other fast-moving subjects, I have no need for advanced video features and an ultra-sophisticated focusing system. The Sony RX100 III was the perfect compact camera for my travel photography.

    The Verdict

    Best Compact Camera for Travel: Option #1

    If you’re like me and mostly shoot stills where an EVF is essential, the Sony RX100 III is a best compact camera for travel.

    Sony RX100 III 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera w/1-inch Sensor and 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 ZEISS Zoom Lens (DSCRX100M3/B), 6in l x 4.65in w x 2.93in h, Black

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III

    Sensor: 20.1MP 1" BSI CMOS Sensor

    Lens: Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 Lens?

    Lens Focal Length: 24-70mm (35mm Equivalent)

    Video: Full HD 1080p 60 fps

    Slow Motion Video: 120 fps

    Battery life: 320 shots

    Weight: 290g (10 oz)

    Best Compact Camera for Travel: Option #2?

    If you do not care about an EVF, the Panasonic Lumix LX10 is the best compact camera for travel with regards to image quality, features and price.

    Panasonic LUMIX LX10 4K Digital Camera, 20.1 Megapixel 1-Inch Sensor, 3X LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMILUX Lens, F1.4-2.8 Aperture, POWER O.I.S. Stabilization, 3-Inch LCD, DMC-LX10K (Black)

    Panasonic Lumix LX10

    Sensor: 20.1MP 1" MOS Sensor

    Lens Aperture: Leica f/1.4-2.8 Lens?

    Lens Focal Length: 24-72mm (35mm Equivalent)

    Video: 4K Video at 30/24 fps

    Battery life: 300 shots

    Weight: 310g (11 oz)

    Best Compact Camera for Travel: Option #3

    If you shoot a lot of videos and require 4K resolutions, the RX100 IV is undoubtedly the model for you.

    Sony RX100 IV 20.1 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera w/ 1-inch Sensor, 4K Movies and 40x Super Slow Motion HD DSCRX100M4/B

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

    Sensor: 20.1MP 1" BSI CMOS Sensor

    Lens Aperture: Leica f/1.4-2.8 Lens?

    Lens Focal Length: 24-72mm (35mm Equivalent)

    Video: 4K Video at 30/24 fps

    Slow Motion Video: 960 fps

    Battery life: 280 shots

    Weight: 298g (11 oz)

    Best Compact Camera for Travel: Option #4

    If you are a video content creator or a vlogger in need of advanced video features, the RX100 V is what you need.

    Sony RX100VA (NEWEST VERSION) 20.1MP Digital Camera: RX100 V Cyber-shot Camera with Hybrid 0.05 AF, 24fps Shooting Speed & Wide 315 Phase Detection - 3” OLED Viewfinder & 24-70mm Zoom Lens - Wi-Fi

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V

    Sensor: 20.1MP 1" BSI CMOS Sensor

    Lens Aperture: Leica f/1.4-2.8 Lens?

    Lens Focal Length: 24-72mm (35mm Equivalent)

    Video: 4K Video at 30/24 fps

    Slow Motion Video: 960 fps

    Battery life: 220 shots

    Weight: 299g (11 oz)

    Feedback after Using the Sony RX100 for Two Months

    All I can say is that the RX100 is a remarkable camera. The leap from the Lumix LX7 to the Sony RX100 III is enormous. To stay relevant and entice people to use a dedicated compact camera rather than their smartphones, Sony packed all their greatest features into the RX100 models without holding anything back.

    Related: Best Point and Shoot Cameras under $300 Today

    We all know that Sony builds the best camera sensors in the world, but it’s still remarkable that the image quality produced by the RX100’s small sensor and its dynamic range aren’t far from my Sony a6000, which has a much bigger sensor.

    Now, I can go on a long hike or a multi-day trip with a pocketable camera and an ultra-light tripod with complete confidence that the quality of my photos will not suffer.

    The feature I miss the most is the weather-sealed body and lens.

    Download Original Sony RX100 III RAW Images

    Look at two images I shot with the Sony RX100 III in RAW format. Feel free to download and evaluate them on your computer.

    Conclusion

    The introduction of premium compact cameras created a new niche in the digital camera ecosystem that allows photographers to use cameras packed with advanced features and unprecedented image quality. I strongly believe that every traveler should consider complementing their equipment with one of the many premium compact models available.

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