During our recent trip to Hawaii and California, I put a few of the hottest new cameras head to head to answer the question what is the best travel photography camera? There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a camera.
Keeping all of these considerations in mind we are going to take a closer look at 5 cameras. Your phone (mine is an iPhone X), the latest GoPro Hero 6, the Sony A6000, the brand new Sony a7 Mark III, and the camera I use, the Canon 5D Mark IV.
They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and these days everyone has a smartphone that’s much more capable than even the best DSLR from a few years ago. The iPhone X I use has a 12 MP wide-angle and telephoto lenses and can shoot slow-mo video up to 240 frames per second at full HD! If you couple this extremely capable camera with an app like Lightroom or pro camera that lets you shoot raw – there is no reason for someone beginning their photography journey to carry another camera unless they are wanting to dive deeper and learn how the settings affect the image. Even still Pro camera and Lightroom Camera let you adjust all of the settings except the aperture.
The next camera is the latest from GoPro, the Hero 6 Black. The latest release has great improvements on in body video stabilization and gives you the ability to shoot full HD at 240 frames per second. You are able to shoot raw photos, but only in the wide format, which isn’t too much of a problem when you import the photos into Lightroom and apply a profile lens correction to them. While the GoPro is lightweight and compact, I personally don’t like the lack of control around ISO, F-stop, and shutter speed when composing my image. I use the GoPro with the karma grip for some video but will admit it never left my camera bag during this trip to Hawaii and California because my phone is just as, if not more capable.
Switching gears to interchangeable lens cameras, the first one we will talk about are probably the perfect entry-level interchangeable lens camera on the market, the Sony A-6000. Sony has released several versions (A-6000, A-6300, and A-6500) each becoming more capable when it comes to video. My first interchangeable lens camera was the Sony A6000, but it was before I become comfortable shooting in manual, so I didn’t utilize it to its full potential.
All A6000 level cameras are mirrorless with an APS-C sensor meaning there is a 1.6x crop factor compared to the full frame cameras I’ll discuss below. These cameras and the lenses they use are compact and lightweight making them great for traveling. With fewer controls and dials the interface is pretty easy to use, and most importantly you can shoot raw images. The a6300 and a6500 both have 4k video capability. You can get the a6000 with a kit lens for less than $550, the a6300 will run you about $900, and the a6500 about $1400. These cameras are more compact and just as capable as Canon’s 70D and 80D line. Canon’s somewhat recently begun sticking their toe’s in the mirrorless water and developed The M-line that range from $600-$1200 with a lens.
I rented the Sony A7 Mark III and 24-70 f2.8 GM lens from lensrentals.com. Lensrentals is a great option if you want to try out a camera or lens before buying or if you just need something on a one-off basis, so go check them out. This isn’t sponsored I just use their services all the time! The Sony A7 Mark III will cost you just under $2000 and is Sony’s entry-level full frame mirrorless camera. The lens will cost you an additional $2200 New or you can find it used online from about $1700. Pretty expensive for an entry level setup, but still more than $1000 less than the pro-level Canon 5D Mark IV I use or sony’s pro-level mirrorless A7R Mark III.
The body of the A7 III is light and compact, which is great for travel – until you put the lens on it then it becomes a front heavy camera that’s just as big as my canon. The 24-70mm f2.8 lens weighs more than twice as much as the compact A7 III body making it kind of uncomfortable to wear around your neck. Another downside is the lack of good third party lenses available with Sony’s E-mount. With the Canon EF-mount, I can find high-quality lenses at a fraction of the price of Canon or Sony lenses like the Sigma 35mm art, the Tamron 70-200mm, and the brand new Sigma 14-24mm which I also rented and Loved on this trip to Hawaii!
I have to admit as a Canon user I find the A7 III’s controls a lot less intuitive or user-friendly than Canon. After shooting with the A7 III for two weeks I was still getting the controls mixed up costing me time and the ability to get quick shots in the moment. I also can’t believe there is still no touchscreen on A7 III. Being able to tap to focus when shooting live view photos and video makes life so much easier. Even with those UX cons, I still believe the sony A7 III is a great camera if you’re looking to take your photography and especially your video to the next level.
The A7 III can shoot full HD in up to 120 frames per second giving you that silky smooth slow motion for b-roll. As a full frame camera with 24.2 megapixels, you still get 6000×4000 pixels images which are large enough to crop down quite a bit if necessary and roughly the same size image as my Canon 5D shoots. One other downside to the A7 III is there is no built-in intervalometer, so if you want to shoot a time-lapse or shoot photos with you in it you need an external intervalometer. I also had some trouble with SD write speed when shooting bursts as the camera sometimes couldn’t keep up and had to wait to write images onto the SD card.
And finally the camera I use on a daily basis for everything from my Instagram, brand shoots, youtube, you name it- the Canon 5D Mark IV. Now on sale, you can get the Canon 5D Mark IV for $3100. Like I said before the Canon mount has a much wider variety of high-quality third-party lenses available, but my goto is the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, which will run you approximately $900 making it even more affordable than Sony’s a7 III with the 24-70! If you’re looking at Canon’s 24-70 f 2.8 it will run you about $1600, but the Tamron option is only $1200 and several of my blogging and Instagram friends use the perfectly capable Tamron lens.
When I first got the 5D Mark IV, it was my first Canon, and the controls are so intuitive and user-friendly that I mastered them within minutes. The 5D is a bit larger and heavier than the Sony, but when you put a lens on they are comparable in size. I like the slightly heavier feel of the Canon because I feel like I have a little more control over it. The 5D Mark IV has a touchscreen that definitely comes in handy for video and live-view shooting.
The Canon 5D Mark IV has a 30.1 Megapixel full frame sensor putting out 6720×4480 pixel images, which are large enough to throw up on a billboard and still have a sharp image. The autofocus and dynamic range of the camera are also both fantastic. You can have a nearly completely dark image and bring back the shadows to a pretty great level without too much noise. The one downside of the 5D Mark IV compared to the Sony A7 Mark III is the video. The Canon 5D Mark IV can only shoot full HD up to 60 frames per second, which gives you slow motion, but only half as slow as Sony. If there is a place Canon could improve, it would be on the video side, especially with how popular video has become.
I won’t be switching from Canon to Sony anytime soon, but Sony has created one hell of a line up when it comes to mirrorless cameras. The only issue is how expensive their lenses are. You can get prime lenses from Sigma for the Sony mount, but the versatility of a 24-70 or 70-200 are not available from third-party manufacturers. I’d love to see Canon bring 4K without a crop and 120 frames per second to the 5D line so I don’t have to switch to the 1DX Mark II because that thing is a beast to carry around and isn’t particularly convenient to travel with. Only time will tell, but until then I’m going to keep shooting on the 5D! I’d love to hear what you guys shoot on, and what you think is the best camera for travel, so let me know in the comments!