Travel Photography – what is the best Camera? There ain’t one

What is the best travel camera out there? There are reviews left and right about new cameras from them all. I’ve seen ads for Nikon, Ricoh, Sony. Then there are the retro-looking FujiFilm cameras. In my own admittedly junior status of doing the fun of photography and trying a bit to understand the how; I looked at my own habits and how I chose what I did:

  1. I wanted a camera with the ability to shift from doing people photography to grabbing a lake scene to a crumbling downtown building. The camera had to be able to quickly adapt and also allow me a quick shot using proven settings on Aperture Priority. The ability had to extend to carrying. I wanted something that was innately and wonderfully able to capture fast changing scenes while I moved too.
  2. The camera had to have what I will call “soul”. It had to be fun to use and learn on. I had to feel that it was a learning experience with the camera and it was okay to over or under-exposure all in the name of learning. I also wanted the soul to extend to its looks. I don’t want seriously cool looking gear but what I did want was something that was both unobtrusive but beautiful.
  3. I wanted a mirrorless camera with a permanent lens. It was okay if zooming meant walking. Hell, that’s what I do! I walk. So taking more steps toward a thing or away is not a major deal. I do about 12500 steps each day. The camera had to be easy to stash and use without expensive doodads that came with it. In other words, it had to be all encompassing.
  4. The fourth thingamabob is that I wanted a camera which would let me learn my own style which I have dubbed as “urban” photography. What I like shooting are buildings, signs, people, lakes, hills, signs, graffiti, street art, more people. In other words urban scenes and scenes out of the window of a bus or train or from the back of a cab or whatever.
  5. Finally, because most people list the 5 or 10 things, it had to produce images I liked. In the end I am the sole judge of what I do taking photographs. I don’t sell, but do share. I don’t want or need anything from doing it besides fun, learning, and enjoyment.

The camera I chose which met the most of the criteria is the FujiFilm X100f. It has that seriously retro look with fun knobs and dials. It has a permanent lens so I don’t go hog wild buying more lens. It is so easy to carry in a backpack or camera bag. Here is a big thing folks! I only shoot jpegs so the images I want have that characteristic Fuji look with the film simulations like Classic Chrome, Acros, or Provia. I want the images right out of the camera. I don’t want to futz with RAW files that don’t have the qualities of the film simulation. I am trying to learn what film simulation is best for what kind of thing for me! The Fuji camera also is learnable. You can bracket shots if you want. Take the best!

Its not just me though. Others have weighed in like here and here with their judgements on the camera. In the end though the choice has to be yours. Its difficult to know though if you are starting. Its not a cheap deal to get one. Note that each review has a pro and con part because the camera that is great for you will be a chore for someone else and perhaps one of the cons of the camera is a deal breaker.

So what do you do if you want to get serious? I don’t know because I am not serious. I am after the fun of finding the thing and capturing it. I met a street photographer today with a FujiFilm XE2 and it got me thinking about the great street shots he was getting in black and white. Wonderful sombre images of people in Vietnam at markets and on the streets. Beautiful tapestried shots that invoked a lot of the person in the shot by the mixing of the person and the immediate environment. I loved his work. For him the FujiFilm XE2 with the 18-55 lens was the bees knees. It got him close as he needed without being too close. But we all do different things. For you travel photography may be waterfalls and nature hikes, wildlife and mountains.

What I have come away with understanding is that no one can make a recommendation for you on what is best. Even if a person does the same thing their style and habits and abilities get in the way and color the perspective. So how to go forward? You have to be willing to pay some money I think and try a camera. Perhaps that first one is not the one. Maybe the next one is not either. I don’t know how far you would go with it. It seems like packing a dedicated camera bag with 3 lens, two bodies, filters, tripods, other stuff; kinda runs contrary to traveling light but you are the one carrying it. Perhaps your real needs outweigh the weight and you decide that what you really want to capture are not the urban scenes of my style but other stuff.

Is there a website or photographer that can tell you for sure? I don’t think so. The camera is a mix of art and science. Light and thoughts. Reasons and love. What one person views as art or light another person may think little of or have no reason to adopt.

So don’t rush out and buy the Fuji or Nikon or Sony because someone uses it and posts glowing reviews. Buying the wrong camera is like getting a pair of shoes that don’t fit but you decide to give it a whirl anyways. Since I am not a photographer but just someone who likes photography, my views are slanted and keyed to a specific thing I have found. This is like so many other things out there.

Its the YMMV thing.

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.