The Las Vegas Strip
Ahhh vacation. Summer days lead to summer trips, be they to lands far away or to the beach just a few minutes away. It is natural to want to remember these wonderful journeys and look back fondly at the pictures we took to remember these trips. Of course the question becomes what camera to take on such a journey. Unless you are shooting for Travel+Leisure or on assignment for Newsweek, dragging a large DSLR and a collection of lenses just isn't optimal, unless of course you are on Safari in Africa. What is needed is something small, yet that produces very high quality images. Thankfully over the last few years a new group of cameras have come to the forefront that are perfect travel companions, providing quality that equals most any DSLR. This would be the Mirrorless System Camera and the Large Sensor Compact Camera.
Time Square NYC
The benefits of each of these systems is that they feature sensors the same size as many of today's top DSLRs. Add in the compact size of both lenses and bodies and the kit you carry will be small enough to fit in a messenger bag. The difference between both groups is fundamentally more having to do with lenses. Mirrorless Systems sport interchangeable lenses, allowing for better flexibility. The drawback is the fact that one will have more to carry and the higher quality lenses will be more expensive. The Large Sensor Compacts on the other hand have the lens permanently fitted to the body. Usually that lens isn't a zoom but a fixed lens in the 28-35mm FOV range. While this may seem a big drawback, in practice, especially in urban settings, this becomes a real non issue. In the end it comes down to one's personal shooting style and skill. Here I present to you my personal favorites in each of these groups. I don't expect all of you folks to be happy with these choices, but again as I said these are my personal choices.
Financial District NYC
Sony Alpha A7
The Sony Alpha A7 is the first here on our list. What the A7 provides is pure quality at a reasonable price. Sporting a 24mp full frame sensor, the quality of images from the A7 is just amazing in a very small and light weight package. Sony makes two variants of the A7, the 36mp A7r for those wanting to squeeze every drop of quality out of the lenses they use and the 12mp A7s, designed for low light photography.
The Fujifilm X-E2 is my n choice. I love the quality of images the X-Trans sensor generates. I also love the rangefinder style design and traditional controls of the Fuji X-System cameras. The quality of glass is also amazing for the Fuji X-System. You simply cannot go wrong with this camera.
Olympus OMD E-M1
My last choice is the Olympus OMD E-M1. The OMD is a very small camera with very fast autofocus and overall yeoman IQ. Quality glass is available and highly recommended. The video quality is excellent for shooting short clips (the Sony A7s is best in this range) and the small size of the lenses available make for the most compact system with interchangeable lenses available.
Large Sensor Compact
Moving on to compacts let's start at the top with the Sony RX1. The only Full Frame compact on the market, the IQ from the RX1 rivals all but the best DSLRs. Mated to the camera is the outstanding Carl Zeiss 35/2 Sonnar. The lens is designed to match perfectly to the sensor, making this one of the best image-making machines regardless of type. While pricey, consider that this is a full frame camera with a world class lens on it. About the only knock is the fact that it doesn't have a built in VF.
The X100s is the updated version of the classic X100. This is the camera that basically proved that if you build it they will buy in droves. Using the same 16mp X-Trans sensor as the X-E2, the X100s sports the amazing Hybrid V,F good AF performance, and outstanding IQ. About as bulletproof as they come, with its 35mm FOV, and a wonderful urban documentary camera.
Finally, perhaps one of my favorite cameras is the Ricoh GR. Personally I consider it the BEST LSC on the market. You can read our full review of this camera here.
Please share your favorites below in the comments and I hope this article will help you in your choice for a great travel camera!
All Photos by Sandy Ramirez