Best travel camera on a budget

Are you looking for a great budget travel camera that you can also use for vlogging? Something not too heavy and big but still with great low light performance. It shouldn’t break the bank and it should do photos and video and be expandable with an external microphone and the price should be around $500. That’s exactly what I was looking for so I decided to write an article on what points I compared and how I chose a camera for myself.

I have used an Olympus E-520 DSLR for years when traveling but I some point started feeling it’s too big for some trips so decided not to take it on some trips just carrying my smartphone. Smartphone cameras produce quite nice results but immediately if you try doing something more with the photo the quality just isn’t sufficient.

Things to consider when selecting a camera for travel

Size of the camera body and lenses

Since we are looking at travel cameras that would be lightweight and smaller taking less space in the backpack we are limiting the search into mirrorless camera designs since the DSLR are quite a bit bigger and heavier.

Having a mirrorless design helps keep the camera size smaller and the lenses tend to be smaller as well.

We want something clearly better than a smartphone camera so we are not really looking at small sensor compact cameras at all. Some compacts and bridge cameras with 1-inch sensor sizes are interesting but considering the low light requirement, it’s hard to find anything at a budget that would do as well as a camera with an interchangeable lens using a fast prime lens.

Articulated LCD

Do you also want to capture video of yourself in a vlogging style? If you do then you want to know if you are in frame and in focus when you are talking to the camera. A fully articulated LCD screen makes this possible. This means that the screen can be flipped towards yourself when you are pointing the camera at your own face. This narrows down the options quite a lot since many cameras only have a tilting lens. You could mount an external LCD on the camera but that will be more expensive and easily quite bulky.

Microphone port for audio

If you are recording videos most likely you have noticed that the audio quality in many smartphones and other cameras with internal microphones is not that great. If it’s winding it can be especially bad. So the possibility of adding an external microphone to the camera is really valuable.

Sensor size and crop factor effect on field of view and depth of field

You need to realize the effect of sensor size on the field of view and the depth of field. This is very important when comparing lenses. The below chapters give you a brief overview but for more details, you could refer to this article on crop factor.

The comparison is always to a full-frame sensor size which refers to the standard of 35mm film.

Typical sensor sizes and crop factors:

  • Full frame, Crop factor 1x
  • APS-C, Crop factor 1.6x
  • Four Thirds, Crop factor 2x
  • 1″, Crop factor 2.7x

Field of view

If you are used to for example a 50mm focal length giving you a certain field of view you will need to use the crop factor as a multiplier to get the same field of view. The sensor size doesn’t affect the focal length since that’s a physical property, but it does affect the field of view.

For example, my Olympus E-520 is a Four Thirds camera so the crop factor is 2x. My Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 18-180mm 1:3.5-6.3 lens would in terms of field of view match a full-frame zoom lens with a focal length of 36-360mm.

Depth of field

The aperture is not directly affected by the crop factor but based on what I read I would need to multiply the aperture by the crop factor to get the same amount of background blur as in a full-frame lens assuming I want the same composition.

For example, my Olympus E-520 is a Four Thirds camera so the crop factor is 2x. My Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 18-180mm 1:3.5-6.3 lens would in terms of depth of field and background blur match a full-frame zoom lens with an aperture of 7-12.6.

Tony Northrup explains in his blog post and videos that you need to multiply the aperture by the crop factor to compare lenses regarding the background blur.

Lens ecosystem and price

First of all, you need to decide do you want interchangeable lenses. The ability to change lenses is handy if you want to change between a lens for low light conditions and something for shooting with during the day when you want to zoom in etc.

If you have concluded that you do want interchangeable lenses then the availability and prices of lenses are worth checking since lenses can be really expensive.

Canon lens ecosystem

The Canon M series (Mirrorless) cameras use the EF-M mount which has some lenses but the selection is not that great. However, the Canon EF mount has plenty of lenses and many are very reasonably priced and one can get inexpensive adapters to fit the EF lenses onto the M series cameras and based on the camera experts I listened to on youtube they are saying these work great.

Sony lens ecosystem

Based on my limited research many are saying that the Sony lenses for the mirrorless cameras I’m interested in are rather expensive. Will need to look into this in more depth.

Micro four-thirds lens ecosystem

There are multiple camera brands behind the four thirds and micro four-thirds lens standard so there are quite many lenses available. Based on my understanding these are more expensive than the EF-mount lenses.

Possible camera candidates

Based on the above considerations I have looked for cameras that have a microphone port and a fully articulated screen.

This table shows possible candidates for comparison.

NamePictureBuy on AmazonPriceRatingSensos sizeCrop factorLens mountImage stabilizationArticulated LCDViewfinder typeTouch screenDimensionsMicrophone portHot ShoeReleasedBrand
Canon EOS M50Canon EOS M50€520APS-C1.6xCanon EF-MNoFully articulatedElectronicYes116 x 88 x 59 mm (4.57 x 3.46 x 2.32″)YesYesFeb 26, 2018Canon
Canon PowerShot SX70 HSCanon Powershot SX70€4601/2.3" 5.6x-127 x 91 x 117 mm (5 x 3.58 x 4.61″)Sep 20, 2018Canon
PANASONIC LUMIX G7PANASONIC LUMIX G7€480Four Thirds2xMicro Four ThirdsNoFully articulatedElectronicYes125 x 86 x 77 mm (4.92 x 3.39 x 3.03″)YesYes2015, MayPanasonic
Olympus OM-D E-M5 IIOlympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II€560Four Thirds2xMicro Four ThirdsYesFully articulatedElectronicYes124 x 85 x 45 mm (4.88 x 3.35 x 1.77″)YesYes2015, FebruaryOlympus
Canon EOS M100€300APS-C1.6xCanon EF-MNoTiltingNoneYes108 x 67 x 35 mm (4.25 x 2.64 x 1.38″)NoNoAug 29, 2017Canon
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II€5001"2.7x-YesTiltingNoneYes106 x 61 x 42 mm (4.17 x 2.4 x 1.65″)NoNoFeb 18, 2016Canon
Canon EOS M3€360APS-C1.6xCanon EF-MNoTiltingNoneYes111 x 68 x 44 mm (4.37 x 2.68 x 1.73″)NoNo2015, FebruaryCanon
Canon EOS M6APS-C1.6xCanon EF-MNoTiltingOptionalYes112 x 68 x 45 mm (4.41 x 2.68 x 1.77″)YesYes2017, FebruaryCanon

The camera I ended up buying based on my comparison is the Canon EOS M50 listed above. The features that were most important for me where the low light performance, the articulating screen, and the microphone port. Also, the camera had to be clearly smaller than my old DSLR. The Canon EOS M50 meets all of these criteria at a reasonable price.

Camera tripods

If you want to make videos you might want to have a small tripod for placing on a table or for some shots outdoors you want to place the camera somewhere to get a steady shot.

For vlogging and traveling the tripods that I came across for travel purposes are listed below. I watched a bunch of videos on these for research on what would fit my camera. The EOS M50 is 390 grams which is a similar weight than other mirrorless cameras with an APS-C sensor. However one needs to take into account the lens weight as well. So depending on the lenses you plan to use you need to check that the tripod can carry both the camera and the lens.

  • SIRUI 3T-35K / SIRUI 3T-35R
    • This tripod can be used as a handheld video tripod or a regular table tripod. This is the one I currently want but didn’t order one yet since I thought it would be a good idea to first get some experience with the camera and see what lenses I’m going to purchase.
  • Joby Gorillapod 3 K Kit
    • Many are using the Joby Gorillapod tripods as handheld video tripods and they are versatile. However many report that the joints wear out and you have the risk of the camera falling over when the joints are not bearing the weight anymore.
  • Manfrotto Pixi Evo
    • This one is sturdy plastic and many report they like it more than the Gorillapod even though it’s not as versatile. Also, it’s too low for a tabletop tripod and you might end up filming yourself from an angle which doesn’t look that good in my opinion. So that’s why I prefer the Sirui 3T-35 tripod even though it’s more expensive
  • Joby Telepod 325
    • This one will not be able to hold my Canon EOS M50 camera but would work with a compact camera or your smartphone.

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