Thursday, December 31, 2009

What is the best-all-in-one compact travel camera?

Say you are going on a trip where speed, light weight, and image quality are of the upmost importance. A DSLR is not going to make the cut for you because of weight and size issues. What do you do? Fear not, there are some truly great compact cameras out there right now.

The Canon s90 and Panasonic LX3 are two of the best choices for a compact all-in-one. Both have great lenses and full manual control, along with slightly larger sensors than most compacts in order to capture more light in dimmer conditions. This results in less grain at higher iso, leading to better image quality.
The Lumix (Panasonic) has an F2.0-F2.8 lens, which is one to three or four stops faster than other cameras in this category. The s90 is an F2.0 on the wide end (matching the Panasonic) but is a dismal F4.9 on the long end, which is much slower. This means your iso will have to be much higher in low light to have the same shutter speed as the Panasonic. The Canon G11 is also good camera, as it handles well; but is much larger, has the same chip as the s90 and also a slow lens on the wide side. The Olympus Pen/GF1 twins are far better in low light than either the Panasonic of s90, but the interchangeable lenses are limited in selection, and again, the two cameras are larger than the s90/Lx3 (not to mention 2-3 times the price).
My choice would be for the LX3 as the do-all camera for travel, with the s90 running a virtual tie. After that, I would go with the GF1 over the Olympus (as it focuses much faster with virtual identical images) and then last the G11. However, if the best quality images are what you are after (in a small package price no option) then you really can't beat a Canon 5D Mark II (without the grip) with a 28mm f1.8 and a 24-105is lens. Truly a great travel combo. I know, I shot a 21 day job in Europe primarily with that setup.


  1. thanks for this post. I was looking for a decent all around travel compact. My big DSLR doesn't cut it in most travel situations with two kids in tow.

  2. Thanks for this! Had the exact same debate in my head about what to bring on a Eurotrip, and you confirmed my conclusion of going with the LX3. I love it! But I still can't decide about leaving the SLR at home all together or just using the LX3 for nights out and days of traveling light.