Gear: Recommended Cameras for Travel and Backpacking
- Full review of the Leica M9 for travel photography.
- Full review of the Fuji X-Series for Travel
- Full review of the Canon S120 and S110 for travel photography.
Some people will tell you that your camera doesn't matter. That's true for specific types of pictures. If a landscape or coffee shot is only shown on Instagram it does not matter how it's taken.
However you want to subtly edit an image after you take it, retain lots of detail to make the shot interesting to look around, or print the image large you need a larger sensor. If you want to take pictures candidly and quickly you need a small camera with fantastic ergonomics. Your camera absolutely matters. Read [Your Camera Matters](/gear/cameramatters/] for more information.
To start: A Real Digital SLR
Quality pictures come from bigger sensors. Any large sensor camera will do, but if I were starting out today I'd get a Nikon D3300 SLR.
Be careful with mirrorless cameras. They are useful if you want to travel light but they don't autofocus anywhere near as fast as an SLR are generally more expensive. Buy or borrow a real SLR first so you'll know what you're missing when you try other cameras.
I'd buy Nikon's excellent 35mm f1.8 prime lens and only shoot with that camera and one lens for a year before trying anything else. When I started taking photography seriously this is exactly what I did but I used a D40.
Fuji X100, X100S and X100T: The Small Recorder
One of the most ergonomic types of camera with great image quality are the Fuji X100-Series cameras. The newest is the Fuji X100T ($1,299 at writing).
There's no reason to buy the X100T unless you already know what you're doing. Get a Fuji X100 or Fuji X100S ($700 used) instead. Every new release has faster auto focus than the previous release, but the autofocus always sucks. You'll need to zone focus these cameras or spot-focus them and shoot later.
The 35mm equivalent focal length of the Fuji will be difficult to get usable pictures with until you have a lot of skill. It took me months of shooting a 35mm full time until I started to have breakthroughs in how I approached a scene. If you want to try a 50mm equivalent length get an interchangable-lens Fuji or Nikon and a 50mm equivalent lens (google it or ask me and I'll clarify).
Alternative to the Fuji
An intriguing option which I've only demoed in a store is the Olympus OMD EM5. It's good enough to be used by Magnum photographer Moises Saman as his daily camera.
I'm especially fond of this camera since the 35mm equivalent lens (17mm f1.8) can autofocus and has direct manual feedback when manually focusing. Just pull the focus ring back and the lens becomes a traditional manual focus lens with hard stops at 0 and infinity. I'm very close to buying one of these to replace my main camera in dusty and wet environments.