travel camera comparison shopping

I have a lot of cameras in the house, but only two that I use with any regularity–my iPhone, and my Canon EOS 30D. The latter, however, spends a lot of time sitting in its bag, because it’s so bulky (especially with my telephoto lens) that it’s not convenient to carry around or travel with.

Dubrovnik is so incredibly beautiful, though, that I know I’m going to want to be able to take better photos than my phone will allow. So I posted a query on Facebook about good compact camera options. Since there are a lot of serious photographers on my friend list, I got great responses. I still haven’t made a final decision, but here are the top contenders based on a combination of Facebook recommendations, reviews from DPReview, price range (I don’t really want to spend much more than $500), and features (I want decent zoom and wide angle if possible for sightseeing trips). I’m still on the fence about which of these to get, but I’ve got some time to ponder before my trip.

Canon Powershot S110 ($399)

Recommended to me by Ian Bogost, this is an update to the well-reviewed S100, adding WiFi and a touchscreen. It was included in DP Review’s recent roundup of enthusiast compact zoom cameras. The lens goes from 24–120mm, which is good, but nowhere newar the kind of range I’ve grown to love with my 70-300mm telephoto. I have a long-standing love for Canon cameras, and the small size and high quality of this one make it very appealing.

Canon Powershot G15 ($449)

Slightly more expensive–and also slightly larger–than the S110, this is a step below the G1X that my pro photo friend Hank Randall recommended, but more within my price range. This one made the cut on DPReview’s “enthusiast compact zoom cameras” list, but it also got picked as one of their top five compact cameras last month. It’s got a slightly better zoom (28-140mm) than the S110. It doesn’t have wifi, but it *does* have an optical viewfinder, which could make a big difference when doing outdoor shooting on sunny days (something I’m hopeful will happen a lot).

Panasonic Lumix ZS20 ($249)

The lowest-priced of the cameras I’m considering, this came recommended by my colleague Gordon Goodman, who’s done a great deal of travel photography. The big plus on this one is its extraordinary 20x zoom–24-480mm. DPReview dings it a bit (though not a lot) for the lack of RAW shooting capability and manual focus, but also put it on their list of “Top 5 Compact Cameras.” The price and zoom combination may well make this the winner, since the money saved could go towards more excursions on which to take photos!

Sony NEX-5R ($698)

The only interchangeable-lens camera I’m considering, this Sony is part of the new breed of compact mirrorless DSLRs. This one comes very highly recommended by my friend Jonas Luster, and it’s got a lot of nice bells and whistles–including connectivity to my phone, for remote control and photo downloading/uploading. It’s well over my price range, especially considering that I’d have to buy a telephoto lens ($200-$250) (Edit: more like $350; I was looking at Alpha lenses, but the NEX actually uses E-mount) to do the kind of photography I’d like to do. On the other hand, this could actually replace my 30D, and if I were to sell that with its two lenses I could probably get $400-$500. That would take this back into a very viable price range. And since Elouise has an NEX-5 as well, once I’m back we could share lenses. There is the downside of needing to carry and swap out lenses, though, which the compact zooms would not require.

Once I make a decision, I’ll update this post to reflect what I purchased.

Update: Because the ZS20 was on sale on Amazon for $50 less than its usual discounted price, I went ahead and bought it. They’ve got a 30-day return policy, so if I decide it’s the wrong choice, I can send it back and get something different.


  1. You can get an alpha to e-mount adapter used on eBay for $40 some days, which is something I did a while back when I started collecting lenses from friends who moved to Canon.

    On the lens lugging, I agree. As soon as it’s financially feasible (and I am in Europe where these things are sold, the US kit lens is 18-55) I’ll get the 12-35 lens (140€) and just have a 30 prime in addition. Since I do mostly food and inner city I don’t need the massive zoom of an 80-200 or so 🙂

  2. Ultimately, the best camera is the one you have with you. I love my Olympus 4/3 pen. Great optics and lovely image quality (for its price) but even it is too big for me. I love having a camera that fits in a pocket. “F11 and be there” as old press photographers once said.

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