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Family walking during the sunset in Vallarta

Our favorite cameras for travel photography

All of us here at DreamArt are passionate about photography. Our business is deeply rooted in tourism, so travel is a huge part of our job.

Whether we’re scouting for new photoshoot locations, or developing partnerships with new clients, each of us have a preferred way of taking pictures on the move, with some methods more advanced than others (yes you, FPV Drone).

In this second entry of our travel photography series, we’ll be helping you choose a type of camera to use while traveling. We reached out to every team member at our company to find out about all of our different preferences. With everyone’s help, we’ve compiled a list of some our very favorite options. 

Our photographers in action

Option 1: The Full Frame

The first type of camera we will be looking at is the Full Frame camera. Most common in professional photography, they are bulky, heavy and very sturdy. Full frame cameras have the largest sensors of the camera bodies on this list.

The potential image quality of a larger sensor size is a hotly debated topic in the world of photography. Generally speaking, the main advantages of a larger sensor are the dynamic range, and the performance in low light situations. Some say the full frame camera is also capable of a better shallow depth of field.

A better dynamic range improves the quality of shadows, which is greatly important for landscape photography. The larger sensor also allows more light to enter the lens, so you can use a high ISO without adding too much noise to the final image.

The bulk of a full frame camera will be a disadvantage for most. It is not easy to carry around for extended periods of time, and so will not make the best camera for wandering around. It is also quite obtrusive, so is not particularly effective at capturing candid moments.

If you prefer a heftier feeling camera however, the added bulk certainly adds a sense of durability. As you won’t be trying to save weight with a full frame camera, it would make a fine pairing with a zoom lens, and is ideal if you intend to shoot landscapes and use the system’s full dynamic range. The resulting images will have a very ‘professional’ look.

Photographer checking the camera during a photoshoot

Option 2: The Crop Sensor

Next up, we have crop sensor cameras. These cameras have smaller sensors than full frame cameras, meaning they can be made to be much smaller and lighter. We like them because they offer a very sharp image quality despite their unassuming size. The lenses available for these cameras will also be very light, so they are a breeze to pack and travel with.

The larger the sensor, the closer the final image will be to one produced on a full frame camera. The most common crop sensor systems are ASP-C and Micro 4/3. ASP-C cameras have crop factors of x1.5/1.6 (depending on the brand) and are very similar to full frame cameras. Micro 4/3 cameras have a smaller sensor still, with a crop sensor of x2.0, and are even more lightweight.

A smaller sensor, in theory, produces an image that is less sharp, and with less dynamic range than that of a full frame camera. In practice, it is almost impossible to tell the difference in image quality, unless you are shooting in very low light settings. You’d have to use a higher ISO, so the noise would be more noticeable.

Crop sensor cameras have evolved very rapidly over the years, and many photographers have been converted, allured by the promise of great quality photos in a small and practical form factor. People have also been making the switch because of the price: these cameras can cost as little as half of the price of a comparable full frame camera.

A crop sensor system is perfectly suited to street photography. Being so small, it is very comfortable to use while walking, and is not so large as to be too distracting for bystanders. You also won’t get tired of carrying it around all day thanks to its light weight. 


Option 3: The Point and Shoot

Another exciting way to shoot travel photography, is to use an old 35mm film point and shoot camera. While our other options may seem more professional, a 35mm film camera is a great option if you are looking for something unique, and decidedly old school. 
Developed throughout the 80s and 90s, most of them are very light and compact and have a distinct funky, retro feel. While they used to be seen in most households in the 90s, they dipped in popularity with the rise of DSLRs.

Most of these vintage cameras feature only the most basic of features, and are built with relatively cheap materials. Compromising on build quality and features allowed manufactures to equip them with outstanding lenses, and so the image quality of a 35mm point and shoot punches way above its weight.

Many of them will have autofocus and autoexposure, and a fixed lens. The lack of settings to play with means that there is not much you can do with them, except “point and shoot”, as the name suggests. This makes them a natural fit for street photography, and they are perfect for shooting candid moments: you can spend more time actually taking photos, rather than composing them.

Thanks to the very basic features, people who do not want to learn a new hobby will still be able to produce some great quality photos, as it will be much harder to accidentally overexpose, or underexpose your photos. Conversely, for someone interested in an analog approach, using this type of camera is a great introduction to the vast world of film photography.

These types of cameras have experienced quite a resurgence recently, and with a renewed interest in film photography globally, some of the more famous models have greatly inflated in price. There are however, plenty of lesser known models waiting to be discovered, that can still be found very cheaply.

Option 4: The Smartphone

The last option we suggest, and this might seem like an obvious one, is the smartphone. Found in all of our pockets, it could be seen as the ultimate camera for travel photography. “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You”, as they say.

Smartphone cameras have seen a drastic increase in quality over the years. The image quality of a smartphone camera is more than good enough for the needs of most amateur photographers. Thanks to new features such as wide angles and extra sensors, you can now take pictures that would have been considered inconceivable in the past.

Taking pictures on a smartphone is a great way to learn more about photography. The newest models allow you to get the most out of your phone photography, with many interesting settings, such as a portrait mode with aperture adjustment. Using some of these in depth settings, you get to practice your composition, and improve your understanding of the factors that go into photography.

Using your smartphone instead of a camera is a great option if you don’t want to have to carry two devices on you. As well as this, it’s also the most portable option on this list, so it is ideal if you prefer not to carry any extra weight while you’re on the move.

You can also find out if photography is for you before spending an absurd amount on a professional level camera. If you find out you are interested in photography after practicing on a smartphone for a while, the skills you have learnt will transfer directly to a more serious camera.

Get Practicing!

Photographer in the floor taking photos

Now that you’ve decided on the perfect type of camera for your needs, all that’s left is to get out and start shooting! Whichever platform you choose, with this guide, you’ll be well on your way to shooting some incredible pictures.
While you should really be out shooting photos instead of reading this, if you find that you’re still stuck for equipment, here are some of the different lenses we recommend.

These are our favorite options for photography while traveling. Tell us your favorite in the comments below!

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