So, what is the best DSLR camera for travel?
A complicated question, no doubt, and every traveler who has ever packed a DSLR will have a variety of opinions.
With the exception of a four-year period in the early 2010s, I’ve been shooting Canon cameras for around 20 years.
Much in the way I feel about Apple products, it’s not that I’m loyal to the brand so much as both Canon and Apple happen to produce the best products that meet my specific needs – not to mention making durable products that last for a very long.
If something better comes along in the future and I’m in need of a replacement, I have no qualms about jumping ship.
But for now, it’s Canon and Apple, because they do what I need them to do, reliably, intuitively and with high quality results.
Here’s my take on what the all-around best DSLR camera for travel is (and why), plus what else I have in my camera bag.
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Is This the Best DSLR Camera for Travel?
My primary shooter since early 2014 has been the full-frame Canon EOS 6D, which I absolutely love —
— not because of its various doodads (and it has several), but because it’s a well-made, light-weight travel camera with a focus and metering systems that work exactly as intended, giving me consistent and reliable results.
Honestly, the camera is almost too good at what it does.
With my old D300s, I prided myself on being able to manually adjust nearly all aspects of the settings for each shot without looking at the camera (e.g. aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering and focus type, etc.).
It’s a completely different ballgame with the 6D. I rarely tweak with the metering and auto ISO because the camera generally does a better job of choosing what’s optimal for the scene.
I’m so pleased with this camera that, many years on, I have no intentions of replacing it any time soon.
Out of the dozen or so SLRs I’ve owned over the years, that’s a first!
These days, I use three lenses with my Canon 6D
- Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM – the fantastic and incredibly capable kit lens that comes with the 6D.
- Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM – lightweight, inexpensive and very sharp.
- Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM – my portrait and candid low-light lens.
While the 24-105mm is my primary do-everything travel lens, I’ve been finding myself using the 50mm increasingly more, particularly ever since our first son, Noe, arrived on the scene.
The 50mm makes for a very lightweight and inconspicuous shooter that fits nicely into a small daypack that is nearing its capacity with baby accoutrements.
Prior to the 50mm, I tried the 40mm f/2.8 STM “pancake” lens.
I thought it might be a perfect travel lens due to its incredibly low profile (half the protrusion of the 50mm!) and slightly wider-than-prime focal length, but ultimately found the images mushy and devoid of life.
My particular copy also didn’t seem to play well with the 6D’s metering system, as everything I shot came out underexposed.
To my eye, the 50mm f/1.8 STM’s images blow away the pancake lens and for much less money!
For that reason, I won’t even bother linking to the pancake lens here. In my mind, it’s overpriced junk.
I’ve also toyed with getting a telephoto (something in the 70-200mm range), but can never justify the high price tag or the weight of the better lenses, particularly given that my kit lens goes to 105mm and the resolution of the 6D allows for quite a bit of cropping (digital zoom) flexibility if I’m in a pinch.
Through some trial and error over the years, I’ve landed on the three lenses above as they work best for my purposes.
Down the line, I hope to add an ultra-wide or fisheye to the mix, but for now, these three are serving me quite well.
The Camera Gear I Use + Recommend
Canon EOS 6D Full Frame DSLR Camera
A Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera body with 24-105mm L lens is my trusty primary shooter, which is responsible for about 75% of the photos I post here. Hands down, the best travel DSLR on the market, in my opinion.
UPDATE: As of mid-2017, the Canon 6D Mark ii is the latest version of the 6D family.
Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
The so-called “Nifty-Fifty” Canon 50mm is my lightweight, inexpensive and ridiculously sharp companion for less conspicuous, all-day shooting.
When I’m not packing my 6D, I use my trusty iPhone SE. I’ve been very pleased with the quality of the photos, but the newest iPhones produce even more amazing results!
A 13″ MacBook Pro has been my blogging, photography and consulting workhorse for the past five years — light, powerful, reliable. Not cheap, but worth every penny for their power, reliability, ease of use and longevity.
And That’s My Take on the Best DSLR Camera for Travel
Have you used a Canon 6D for travel photography? Tell us about what you think in the comments section below.