Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
November 3, 2009 Updated: November 4, 2009
Overview

After taking many trips with my DSLR and backpack full of accessories, I was dreaming of an all-in-one system that would allow me to get the level of quality shots I’m used to without being overburdened with gear. It turns out that Canon was one step ahead with the SX20 IS, giving me lots of zoom and a big wide angle, compact portability and HD video all at a price I could afford. The SX20 IS is the ultimate travel camera.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

Traveling with a camera shouldn’t mean lugging a lot of heavy gear through the streets of far away places. And it shouldn’t mean fumbling with lenses every time the scene changes.

With the Canon SX20 IS, you won’t have those issues to deal with or the prospect of sacrificing quality to trim down. In fact, with a 12.1mp sensor and a Digic 4 processor, 20x zoom and 28mm wide angle lens, you have everything you need packed into a solid body that fits nicely in your hand.

Image stabilization and face detection ensure that you will get the shot you want and the face self-timer will allow you to be in the photo too!

And when you get home, your images will make great blow-ups you can hang on the walls and HD videos you can show at 16:9 on your home entertainment system.

Normally, I would prefer to have a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery for power, but when traveling, it sometimes is just simpler to carry extra AA’s. They are much easier to purchase and don’t require any special adjustments in foreign lands.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35

Both of these cameras have identical imaging sensors (12.1) and ISO limits (1600) but the SX20 IS has a little more zoom and a little less wide angle.

Canon has a hot shoe, I prefer that because on more than one occasion I wanted at least 10 more feet of flash.

One of these cameras uses AA batteries (SX20 IS) while the other uses a provided lithium ion battery (FZ35). That is a personal choice, you can always buy rechargeable AA’s.

Comparison with Olympus SP-565UZ

If playing around with added features within your camera is your style, The 565UZ may be the right travel camera for you.

With In camera panorama, perfect shot preview and perfect fix editing and a super macro function, the 565UZ will give you the creative control you won’t find in the SX20 IS.

Pros
  • +
    20x zoom
  • +
    Hot shoe
  • +
    Swivel LCD
Cons
  • -
    Heavier than comparable cameras
  • -
    No Raw
  • -
    2.5 LCD
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS is the Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
  • Best Price: $519
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 20.0x
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Size: 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 600 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35
3
Olympus SP-565UZ
Customer Rating
Price $519.00 $249.99 $558.00
Weight (with batteries) 21.2 oz 15.0 oz 14.6 oz
Easy to Use Yes Yes Yes
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Sensor Size
6.0 x 4.5 mm 6.0 x 4.4 mm 6.0 x 4.4 mm
Max Shooting Speed (burst) 1.1 frames/sec 2.3 frames/sec 1.2 frames/sec
HD Video Available Yes Yes No
Video Sound Available Yes Yes Yes
Optical Zoom 20.0x 18.0x 20.0x
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Manual Focus Available No Yes Yes
Max Shutter Speed 1/3200 sec 1/2000 sec 1/2000 sec
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
?
Viewfinder Available
Yes Yes Yes
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LCD Screen Size
2.5 in. 2.7 in. 2.5 in.
Battery Type AA-size (x4) Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable AA-size (x4)
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35

The Panasonic FZ35 wants to travel. That’s why it’s a lightweight (14 oz), superzoom (18x) camera with quick autofocus and 2.3 fps speed.

Add IA mode with Power OIS image stabilization and face recognition to a wide variety of scene modes for both still and video images and most of the work is done for you. A real advantage when you want to explore new places without fussing with your camera.

Plus, If shooting movies is a big part of your trip record, just hit the one-touch button on the back panel of the camera and you will be filming High Def at 30fps. Take advantage of the Wind Cut function and lose most of the background noise that usually drowns out your witty banter.

The FZ35, a successor to the popular FZ28, is loaded with features that any fan of total control and options to play with will enjoy. Features like Inclusion face recognition that allows you to identify subjects you frequently shoot, baby identification that will automatically switch to baby mode and a playback mode that allows you to playback images according to those subjects you have identified.

And while these functions are fun to use, the operation of the FZ35 is still designed to make picture taking easy and responsive. Just the thing for simple still and video travel photography.

You might even want to take along the 3.5x Telephoto or 0.42x Wide Angle Lens kit for more versatility.

Comparison with Olympus SP-565UZ

These two cameras have a lot of similarities, but the 565UZ has a smaller imaging sensor (10.0mp), more zoom and a bit more wide angle.

I think the difference between these two cameras would be their aggresive use of features that set them apart. If getting to know all of them is your style, I would let each entice you with their unique offerings.

Pros
  • +
    Quick AF
  • +
    IA mode
  • +
    Lightweight
  • +
    Variety of creative functions
  • +
    Additional lenses
Cons
  • -
    No hot shoe
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35
  • Best Price: $249
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • 3.5x Telephoto & 0.42X Wide Angle Lens Kit Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 Includes 0.42x Fisheye Lens + 3.5X Telephoto Lens + Extras
    $82.89 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 18.0x
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Size: 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in.
  • Battery Life: 470 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Olympus SP-565UZ

Now that Olympus has added Image stabilization to it’s SP line of cameras with the introduction of the 565UZ, these lightweight cameras can be considered a great travel companion.

Not being satisfied by offering a 10.0mp imaging sensor, 20x zoom and 26m wide angle and 33 different scene modes, the 565UZ boasts 16 person face detection, In-camera panorama shooting and perfect fix editing and perfect shot preview to give you the control you need to confidently record your great adventure.

Add a TCON 1.7x telephoto lens for even more image stabilized zoom.

Pros
  • +
    20x zoom
  • +
    Super macro
  • +
    16 person face detection
  • +
    In-camera panorama
Cons
  • -
    No hot shoe
  • -
    2.5 LCD
Olympus SP-565UZ is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $400
Where to buy
Olympus SP-565UZ
Recommended with
  • Olympus TCON-1.7x Telephoto Converter Lens
    $94.99 @ Amazon.com
  • Olympus CLA-10 Lens Adapter Tube for Olympus SP-550 UZ
    $20.37 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 20.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Size: 4.6 x 3.3 x 3.2 in.
  • Battery Life: 590 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com

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