If you’re on the move and want to travel light, lugging a DSLR, a couple lenses and a lot of other camera gear probably isn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, modern pocket cameras are better than ever, with amazing zoom lenses, 4K video ability and sharp optics. These are artistic tools, but they can still take great snapshots and can often send them to your phone for sharing, just for good measure.
Here are the top cameras to put in your pocket, purse or pack.
The 16-megapixel Nikon A1000 makes a lot of “Best of” lists for good reason: It takes great photos and offers top performance for snap shooters and experienced photographers alike. The A1000 shoots RAW-format photos for maximum flexibility in editing, along with crisp 4K video. The lens features a remarkable 35X optical zoom, and the camera features numerous wireless options for getting your shots to social media or a computer for editing simply and quickly. It also features full manual exposure controls, is lightweight and has a traditional viewfinder.
Sony RX100 II
Sony’s slim and sleek RX100 was a favorite high-end travel camera for years, and then Sony went and made it better. With a large 1-inch 20.2-megapixel image sensor, it captures amazing detail and color. The lens may not be of the super-zoom variety, but the 28mm to 100mm range is ideal for close-quarters shooting and the f1.8 Zeiss optics are brighter and sharper than most. The RX100 II can also capture full 1080P HD video, but this is more of a still photography tool. The big 3-inch LCD is visible in sunlight and what can I say? The price is right for this kind of performance and size.
Canon G9X Mark II
Canon has been making pocket cameras since there were pockets, and while I love the look of this classic G 9 X Mark II, it’s not just the style that helps it make this list. There’s a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch image sensor, 3-inch touchscreen LCD, manual controls and 1080P video. The lens is only a 3X but the bright wide angle setting is great for street shooting, small rooms and tight quarters. I also love the vintage-style controls and pop-up flash as well, and when you shut it off, it’s super-thin and light.
One knock against pocket cameras is that they don’t perform as well in low light, but Panasonic’s Lumix LX10 is ready for night duty. The camera features a 3X 24-72mm zoom lens but with an ultra-bright f1.4 to f2.8 aperture range that floods the 1-inch 20.1-megapixel sensor with photons. There’s even a dedicated aperture ring behind the multi-function main ring on the lens, just like cameras of old. The LX10 also shoots crisp 4K video thanks to Leica optics and there’s a 3-inch LCD out back that flips up for that bokeh selfie. Full manual controls also let you get creative.
Leica D Lux 7
Look, it says “Leica” on it, so this camera is going to cost a bit more. But you get something quite a bit different. In pure tech terms, the D Lux 7 features a 21.7-megapixel sensor attached to a very bright Leica f1.7 zoom lens. Sure it, shoots 4K video, but the high point of this camera is the layout and look that closely imitates Leicas of old, with manual control dials on the body and the lens and contrasting body colors. Yes, you pay a little extra for the high style and name, but you’ll be very happy with the photos and video as well.
Sometimes you just need a camera that’s going to get the shot with minimum fuss. Or cost. Or size. The Sony DSC-W800 is just such a camera. Likely the smallest camera on this list, it still packs a 5X zoom and 20.1-megapixel sensor, and it even shoots 720P HD video. And the price? You should get one for yourself and some more for your friends before that epic trip.
Fujifilm cameras may have odd alphanumeric names, but they are borne of photographic experience, and their high-end film cameras are rightfully prized. For photographers who want that classic feel, manual controls and analog experience— without the film—there’s the X100F. There is no zoom lens here, just a fast, sharp 23mm f2.0 lens coupled with a 24.3-megapixel sensor and an auto-parallax correcting analog viewfinder. But it also features huge digital features and a rear LCD. You can even have it simulate Fujifilm’s classic film emulsions, like Provia and Velvia. If you’re a hard-core film photographer looking for that analog experience in a digital camera, Fujifilm has the answer in the beautiful, classic X100F.