Travel and photography. My two passions in life. So, it would make sense that I write an article that combines them both! I have done a lot of research and used my knowledge of these topics to provide you my list of the best cameras under $400 for travel in 2020.
These are the best cameras under $400 for travel in 2020:
- Canon PowerShot SX620HS
- Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II
- Panasonic Lumix Bridge (DC-FZ80GN-K)
- Nikon Coolpix W300
- DJI Osmo Action Camera
Read on for an in-depth guide on what to look for in a travel camera as well as more information on each camera mentioned above. This guide will teach you everything you need to know from start to finish.
A few things come to mind when looking for a great camera for travel. It may seem overwhelming, but these are the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a travel camera.
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What to Look for in a Travel Camera
Firstly, compactness. Obviously, compact cameras are great for travel. The compact camera market has seen rapid expansion over the last few years. No longer do you need an SLR camera to take amazing shots. The quality and price of great compact cameras is coming down. All you need is a small bag for the camera with a few memory cards and charger and you are good to go.
While compact cameras used to limit functions and have not as good image quality, this is less the case these days. It is true you won’t get the same features as a professional SLR on a $400 compact camera. However, you will still be able to take great images of your travel. The pictures you take will be at a high enough quality to have large prints made as most cameras have over 18 megapixels today.
The second thing that comes to mind when talking about travel cameras is image quality. It is important to purchase a camera that is going to take amazing pictures of your adventures. The quality of the cameras sensor directly impacts the image quality of the camera.
Megapixels refers to the size of the image, but it does not correlate with the image quality. This is a common misconception in the camera world. A high-quality sensor is what provides great tones and colours with minimal noise to produce amazing images.
A good quality compact camera will have a better image sensor than most of the mobile phone sensors. So, there is still a market for compact cameras for a while to come.
Optical zoom is another feature that gives these cameras an edge over over mobile phones. The bigger the zoom, the further you can see. Pretty straightforward. However, there is a few things to keep in mind when researching optical zoom.
Not all optical zooms are the same. For example, a 10x zoom may be different between camera models because of the lens width. The zoom number refers to the times closer the subject is. A wider-angle lens is going to put the subject further away. This means when fully zoomed in it won’t be as close as a longer focal length.
For this reason, to ensure your zoom is going to be enough, I recommend something at least 8x zoom if optical zoom is important to you. Having a good zoom is always a good idea as you will never know when it can come in handy. You can get a decent zoom while still maintaining the compactness of the camera.
When you take an image there will be natural blur from the hand moving slightly. Image stabilization helps correct this. The camera will compensate for pan and tilt, as well as rotation electronically. Camera shake is a problem mostly with slower shutter speeds. Using automatic mode will select the camera shutter speed without any control from the user. This means selecting a camera with image stabilization is important to having high quality images.
Image stabilisation is a great feature to have on the camera. However, it does not eliminate blurring completely. Movement of the subject during image capture or extreme movements of the camera will still result in blurry pictures. Minor shake caused by natural hand movement is what image stabilisation is best at removing.
There are two ways of implementing image stabilization. Lens-based or body-based stabilization. These refer to where the image stabilization is located on the camera. The majority of cameras made these days are going to have some form of image stabilization. All of the best cameras under $400 for travel list have image stabilization. However, it is important to still know about and understand why it is important.
Any decent still image camera these days is going to offer a video option as well. What is going to set them apart though is the quality, resolution and frames per second (FPS) the camera is capable of recording in.
4K is currently the high standard for video resolution. This resolution is becoming more common after many years of 1080p being the benchmark. 4K is going to allow you to utilise the maximum resolution on most monitors and TVs made today. However, 1080p is still a great video quality and will usually allow you to record at a higher frames per second.
Frame rate will greatly impact the quality and experience of the video. Different frame rates will create a different viewing experience. Cinematic movies often use 24 frames per second. Humans see the world in a similar way. So, this creates a cinematic look. Other common frame rates found on cameras is 30 FPS and 60 FPS. Some cameras will also offer even higher frame rates at lower resolutions for extreme slow-motion videos.
There is no correct frame rate, with different rates producing different styles of video. It’s important to go with a frame rate that will suit the style of video you are trying to record. For travel videos 30 or 60 fps is going to be the most common frame rate.
A camera that offers 4K at 30 FPS is a good indication that the video on the camera is solid. If you can find a camera that does 4K at 60 FPS (such as the DJI Osmo Action Camera) under $400 this is a great feature and will provide you with some spectacular videos of your travels.
Eventually you are going to run into that low battery warning that everyone hates to see. But some cameras are going to last longer before showing that message than others. Be sure to look for long battery life on the features when looking for a camera.
Measuring battery life is a difficult process and it is hard to tell how long a battery will last for in the camera. This is due to a number of things, including settings, frequencies of pictures and flash usage. There are ways you can increase the battery life on your camera. If you are struggling with flat batteries, consider turning image stabilization off, turning the flash off if you are shooting during the day, avoid deleting pictures and dimming the LCD screen.
Having an extra battery or two is a must have for travellers. Flat batteries in the middle of the day are the absolute worst. I know well from experience. eBay is a great website to pick up cheap third-party batteries. I personally always carry and extra one or two batteries.
All the above is useless if you can’t work out how to turn the camera on and use it. User friendly controls and software are also very important when selecting a camera. You want to be able to switch the camera on and take a picture, not have to read through a manual the size of a dictionary.
I look for a good on/off switch in a prominent location, a good mode dial to change between automatic and manual modes and an easy to navigate settings menu when selecting a camera.
With all of the above considered let’s have a deeper look into the best cameras under $400 for travel mentioned at the start of the article and how they meet all of the criteria that we are looking for in a great travel camera.
Canon PowerShot SX620HS
Canon has produced this little beauty of a camera which is perfect for travelling. Boasting a huge 25x optical zoom you will be able to see anything you want with this camera. Even with the huge zoom you will be able to easily put the camera in your pocket for easy transport.
The camera has a 3-inch LCD screen is a good size and easy to use. The controls are responsive, and the menu layout is simple and effective. There is no viewfinder on this model however the screen is big enough to be able to compose your shots.
The PowerShot SX620HS has a 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and the image quality is very good for the price. The camera also has image stabilization so you can be sure your pictures will be sharp and well focused, even at full zoom.
The camera only offers 1080p video is a slight disappointment. The video quality will still be good for vlogging and other travel videos. The maximum frames per second for this model is 30 at 1080p. Even at lower resolutions the PowerShot SX620HS will not go above 30 fps.
Overall this camera is a great travel camera and is packs great features for a budget camera. Make sure to grab a good quality SDHC card with class 10 or higher to allow full HD video recording. This camera is a fantastic camera and makes the list of best cameras under $400 for travel despite only being $269.
Specifications That Matter:
- 20.2-megapixel, 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS sensor
- Digic 4+ image processor
- 4.5 – 112.5mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 25 – 625mm)
- Optical 25x, ZoomPlus 50x, Digital 4x, Combined approx 100x zoom
- 7cm (3 inch) sRGB PureColor II LCD
- Full HD 1080p at 29.97 fps video
Read the full specifications brochure from Canon here.
Accessories I recommend that go well with the Canon PowerShot SX620HS:
Panasonic Lumix Bridge Hi-Zoom DC-FZ80
If zoom is what you desire, zoom is what you get with the Panasonic Lumix Bridge DC-FZ80. The camera has an amazing 60x optical zoom and goes up to 120x with Panasonic’s Intelligent Zoom. With the huge zoom, the effective focal length ranges from 20 – 1680mm in equivalent 35mm format.
The Lumix Bridge offers a 18.1 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS Sensor will provide high quality and crisp images. The LCD is the same as the Canon above with a 3-inch screen. However, the Lumix has a viewfinder which is perfect for composing images perfectly.
Video is high quality on the Panasonic Lumix Bridge DC-FZ80. There is 4K video recording at 30 frames per second and 1080p at 60 frames available. This is fantastic for slow motion footage and capturing amazing quality.
This camera model is bulkier due to its impressive lens, weighing in at 616g with memory card and battery. However, the pros outweigh the cons when looking at the Panasonic Lumix Bridge DC-FZ80 for travelling. A good case is recommended for this camera as it will make transporting much easier.
Some would argue this camera isn’t suited for travel. However, I disagree with that. It is still compact enough to transport easily with a simple equipment bag, and is much more portable than an SLR camera. That is why this has made the list of best cameras under $400 for travel.
Specifications That Matter:
- 18.1 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS Sensor
- 60x optical zoom, 120x Panasonic Intelligent zoom
- Intelligent Auto, P, A, S, M, Creative Video, C (Custom), Panorama Shot, Scene Guide, Creative Control Modes
- 4K 3840 x 2160 pixels, 30 frames per second video recording
- IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wifi
- 3.0″ (7.5cm) TFT screen LCD display (1040k dots)
Read the full specifications from Panasonic here.
Accessories I recommend that go well with the Panasonic Lumix Bridge Hi-Zoom DC-FZ80:
Nikon COOLPIX W300 Waterproof Camera
For the diving and beach enthusiast the Nikon Coolpix W300 is the perfect accessory. This camera’s major features are its 30 metres waterproof and 2.4m shockproof. On top of that it is also cold resistant and dust proof.
The Coolpix W300 is more than just a beat proof camera. The lens is a f/2.8 NIKKOR lens with a wide focal length of 24mm with a backside illuminated CMOS sensor. This provides amazing image quality, even in low light conditions.
Video quality is also excellent on this camera with 4K recording at 30 frames per second. Crank it up to 60 frames per second at 1080p quality for some great slow-motion underwater footage.
One downside to the Nikon Coolpix W300 is the lack of optical zoom. Due to its waterproof and hard shell this limits a higher optical zoom. It is important to factor this into your decision on what camera you want. The camera weighs in at 231g with battery and memory card which is perfect for travel. This is the real beat me up camera on the list of best cameras under $400 for travel.
Specifications That Matter:
- 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor
- NIKKOR Lens with 5x optical zoom
- Viewing angle equivalent of a 24 – 120mm lens in 35mm format
- 3.0″ (7.5cm) TFT screen LCD display
- 4K UHD Video Recording at 30 frames per second, 1080p video recording at 60 frames per second
- 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
- Waterproof to 30 metres, shockproof to 2.8m, cold-proof to -10°C
- 231g with battery and memory card installed
Read the full specifications from Nikkon here.
Accessories I recommend that go well with the Nikkon COOLPIX W300 Waterproof camera:
Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II
The lightweight Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II is an amazing little travel camera that produces stunning images. Weighing in at only 206 grams, the camera still has a 1.0 type back-illuminated CMOS sensor. Coupled with a 28mm, f/2.0 wide angle lens, you can expect sharp, high quality images in any light conditions.
The Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II is packed with features. Smart charging allows for the camera to be charged on the go with just a USB cable. The camera comes with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC to transfer photos seamlessly.
There is no 4K recording on the G9X Mark II, however 1080p recording can go up to 60 frames per second. This is great for recording highly smooth videos and slow motions.
But the downsides to this camera include the lack of a decent optical zoom. Due to the highly compact build the lens only zooms in 3x. This is disappointing but is the trade off for the highly compact body.
I personally think this is one of the best cameras under $400 for travel, especially for image quality. The lack of zoom is disappointing however the sharp images make up for that. However, with all the features this camera packs in a lightweight body is fantastic and well worth looking at. The camera comes in black or silver with a tan side panel.
Specifications that Matter:
- 20.1-megapixel, 1.0 type back-illuminated CMOS Sensor
- DIG!C 7 Image Processor
- 28 – 84mm focal length at 35mm equivalent
- 3x optical zoom, 6x ZoomPlus, 4x Digital Zoom
- f/2.0 – f/4.9 maximum aperture
- 3-inch TFT LCD display screen
- 1080p Full HD video recording at 60/30/24 frames per second
- NB-13L rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- 206g total with battery and memory card installed
Read the full specifications from Canon here.
Check out the Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II Black on Amazon
Check out the Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II Silver on Amazon
Accessories I recommend that go well with the CanonPowershot G9X Mark II:
DJI OSMO Action Camera
The DJI Osmo Action Camera is DJI’s answer to the ever-popular GoPro. However, this camera packs some serious features for its price, coming in under $400 whilst the GoPro Hero 8 Black is $550. The DJI Osmo even has some features the Hero 8 lacks.
Video quality is what this camera is all about. Perfect for sports, action and travel, the camera offers up to a spectacular 240 frames per second. At 4K Ultra High Definition, it will record at 60 frames per second, a feature which none of the other 4 cameras on this list offers. At 1080p Full High Definition is where it truly shines, going up to 240 fps.
Still images can also be taken on the DJI Osmo, going up to 12 megapixels. The 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor is the same as in the Nikon Coolpix W300.
Waterproof to 11 metres and temperature resistant to -10°C, the Osmo is capable of handling any conditions. Snorkelling a reef or snowboarding you know you will get amazing footage.
The camera has a front facing LCD, perfect for selfies and vlogging. This is a feature not on the more expensive GoPro Hero 8 Black, which makes this camera fantastic value for money. The battery lasts for an impressive 63 minutes while recording at 4K quality, and even longer on lower settings.
DJI has really put the pressure on GoPro with its Osmo Action Camera. This action cam represents great value at over $150 cheaper than its comparable model. I love the whole concept of action cameras and it is a lot of fun to record adventures. The image quality is not great and there is no optical zoom but if you prefer a video memory of your travel this is the camera for you. This action camera produces the best video of any on the list of best cameras under $400 for travel.
Specifications that Matter:
- 12-megapixel, 1/2.3 inch CMOS Sensor
- Video 4K (16:9) – 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24fps
- HDR Video 4K – 30, 25, 24fps
- Back Screen 2.25 inches, 640×360
- Front Screen 1.4 inches, 300 ppi
- 1300mAh LiPo rechargeable battery
Read the full specifications from DJI here.
Accessories I recommend that go well with the DJI Osmo Action Camera:
A tripod is a great way to get crisp and blur free images. Whilst image stabilization will take away some of the blur a tripod is needed for fully stabilized pictures. There are many mini tripods which are perfect for travel available. They will add the stabilization but won’t take up a lot of room in your bag.
These are a few of my recommendations for great portable tripods that won’t break the bank. They are all lightweight and are a perfect accessory for any camera mentioned above on the list of best cameras under $400 for travel.
Manfrotto Pixi Lightweight Tripod
The Manfrotto Pixi Lightweight Tripod is a great addition for your travel. Perfect for compact cameras, it will work flawlessly on still images and video recording.
UBeesize Tripod X, Flexible Camera Tripod
This tripod is perfect for flexibility. The legs are ultra-strong and durable and can be bent and moved to suit any surface. It comes with accessories to attach phones and action cameras.
How to Take Better Pictures
Learning to take better pictures is an art form. Professional photographers have spent years and years learning their craft. However, there is a few simple steps you can take to improve your images quickly. These tips will take one of these on the list of best cameras under $400 for travel and turn it into a camera that looks like it worth thousands.
Learn Manual Mode
Manual mode is the key to unlocking all of your camera’s potential. Learning how parts of your camera works such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO will enable you to see where you can improve your photography skills.
Shooting in automatic can be good if you need a quick snap however it is worth the time investment to learn the ins and outs of your camera.
Turn Off Camera Flash
I see this one all the time. If you are shooting a landscape scene, please for the love of everything holy, turn off your flash. A flash should only be used in low light situations shooting a subject such as people.
Flash makes the lit-up areas quite unflattering and ruins the image. If you are shooting a subject that doesn’t move in low light, consider using a tripod and a longer exposure. The results will be much more satisfying.
Get a Different Perspective
You might see photographers always moving around. Squatting down and looking at different angles. Well this does serve a purpose. A different perspective can totally change a photos composition.
Try getting lower by using one of the mini tripods mentioned above. This will allow the pictures you take to be fresh and stand out from the others.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a simple photography rule that can vastly increase your photos. Simply put, try to not put your main subject in the centre of the picture. Imagine your frame is split up in thirds. Put your main subject along one of these third lines.
Using this technique will add more drama, intensity and energy to the photos you are taking.
With this list of best cameras under $400 for travel, you can now head out and take amazing pictures on your next holiday. Do you have any comments or need any more help? Let me know in the comments below!
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