For hiking and backpacking, you need a camera that is lightweight, durable, and capable of capturing great images. Depending on your budget, there are plenty of options in the compact camera, mirrorless camera, and full-size DSLR categories.
Best Compact Camera For Hiking
There are various types of cameras worth using on a hike, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Digital SLR cameras are waterproof and offer a wider choice of lenses, but they tend to be bulkier and heavier. Mirrorless cameras are lightweight and fast, but do not have an optical viewfinder.
Compact and bridge cameras are convenient because you get everything you need in one camera, but they tend to struggle in the dark because of their small sensors. There are also action cameras that are completely waterproof and light enough to carry around, but again, the small sensor is a drawback.
We have compiled a list of 9 cameras of all types. As such, this list contains a mix of old and new models.
Best Compact Camera For Hiking | Comparison Table 2022
Top Quality | 5 Star Pick | Great Prices
|Compact Digital Camera for Photography, Rechargeable 20MP Point and Shoot Camera with 2.8" LCD 8X Digital Zoom for Kids Teens Elders（Blue）||KIDSCAM||Check Price|
|Digital Camera,2.7K 48MP Compact Camera,2.7 inch Pocket Camera,Rechargeable Small Digital Camera for Kids,School,Children,Adults,Photography with 16X Digital Zoom(32GB SD Card Included,1 Battery)||SEREE||Check Price|
|1080P Digital Camera 30MP Camera Compact Camera 2.7 inch Pocket Camera,8X Digital Zoom Rechargeable Small Digital Cameras for Kids, Students, Teens,Beginners with 32GB SD Card and 2 Batteries||CEDITA||Check Price|
|Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera with 1.0-type stacked CMOS sensor (DSCRX100M7)||Sony||Check Price|
|Keculbo Digital Camera 30MP 1080P Compact 2.7 inch Pocket Camera,8X Zoom Rechargeable Small Cameras for Kids, Students, Teens,Beginners with 32GB SD Card and 2 Batteries (DC5P)||Keculbo||Check Price|
|Fujifilm X100V Premium Compact Digital Camera Silver with 23mm F2 Lens and 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 Sensor Bundle Including Deco Gear Travel Bag Case + Photo Video Software Kit + 64GB Card & Accessories||Fujifilm||Check Price|
|Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Compact Digital Camera w/ 1 Inch Sensor and 3inch LCD - Wi-Fi, NFC, & Bluetooth Enabled (Silver)||Canon||Check Price|
|Ricoh GR III Digital Compact Camera, 24mp, 28mm F 2.8 Lens with Touch Screen LCD||Ricoh||Check Price|
|Leica D-LUX 7 4K Compact Camera||Leica||Check Price|
Best Compact Camera For Hiking | 2022 Products Overview
How To Choose The Best Compact Camera For Hiking in 2022 | Ultimate Guide
In pointing photography, pay attention to the zoom range shown. Most have a wide end of 24mm or narrower. The Olympus TG-870 is an exception at 21mm, but I prefer cameras with larger sensors for hiking. The standard 24mm is usable but not ideal for landscape photography and is a point-and-shoot compromise.
When purchasing a lens for a mirrorless SLR or DSLR camera, look for the 35mm equivalent. Most APS-C sized DSLRs and mirrorless cameras come with an 18-55mm kit lens, for example, Nikon comes with a 27-82.5mm and Canon comes with a 29-88mm. This means that to get the best hiking photos, you will almost certainly need to add a true wide-angle lens. Yes, it will increase cost and weight, but the end result should be far superior in terms of field of view and image quality. For more on this subject, including camera and lens matching, see our in-depth review of lenses.
Whatever camera you choose, its small components, made of metal, plastic, and glass, will need to be carried in a bag wherever you go. That’s why hikers and backpackers are always looking for ways to reduce the weight of their cameras while still getting the image quality they seek.
The Point and Shoot are the lightest of any camera, weighing in at about 8 ounces, including batteries and memory cards. It also, as mentioned, has the smallest sensor and lens, which is not the size that landscape photographers prefer. Mirrorless cameras start at about 12 ounces for the camera itself (Sony Alpha a6000) and go up to about 23 ounces for the full-frame Sony Alpha a7R III when interchangeable lenses are included. Digital SLRs are the heaviest, ranging from 14 ounces (Canon Rebel SL2) to 32 ounces (Nikon D850). It depends on the lens and the number of lenses you choose.
Water resistance is one of the factors to consider when choosing a camera for hiking and backpacking. There is no universal standard, but generally, the seals and buttons on the camera body are sealed with rubber to reduce exposure to moisture and dust. Even if the camera is waterproof, water will eventually get in, and while it is not recommended for shooting in heavy rain, it can be very effective in light to moderate rain. If you are a professional photographer shooting outdoors, this camera is almost a must-have.
With the exception of “rugged” waterproof models that are fun but not optically competitive, compact cameras are not waterproof. Even high-end compacts like the Sony RX100 V don’t have this feature. SLR and mirrorless cameras offer waterproofing on some mid-range models and almost all full-size models. Because of the importance of this feature, we have included water resistance in the comparison chart in this article.
The Best Focal Lengths for Hiking
For outdoor photographers, the lens is just as important as the camera itself. For example, it would be a mistake to buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera with only an 18-55mm kit lens and expect professional-quality landscape photography. In most cases, you will need a wide-angle lens, a zoom lens, or a high-quality lens that works well at the wide end (most kit lenses are quite marginal in this regard).
Since most of my hiking photos are landscapes, I find that a focal length of 16-24mm works best. Wider focal lengths require a wider spread and strategic use of the foreground (the header photo in this article was taken at 14mm, which has both of these characteristics, but is very difficult to shoot at ultra-wide angles). As you approach 24mm, you lose the dramatic aperture that makes landscape photography so appealing. I prefer the 16-24mm range for hiking, although people and animals are usually photographed at normal and telephoto focal lengths.
This section discusses a number of technical specifications that should be considered when purchasing a camera. The first of these is the level of zoom offered by the camera.
When purchasing a compact camera, optical zoom is usually indicated by a number, such as 3x optical zoom or 40x optical zoom. The higher the number, the more you can magnify distant objects.
For greater photographic freedom, we generally recommend a camera with at least 3x optical zoom. Those who like to photograph wildlife will need a much larger zoom, from 10x to 40x.
If you are considering a camera with interchangeable lenses, such as a mirrorless or SLR camera, the zoom of the lens is indicated by a number called the focal length. The smaller the focal length of the lens, the smaller the zoom, and the larger the focal length, the larger the zoom.
For general travel use, lenses from 18mm to 200mm are recommended and can cover most situations. If you do not take many pictures of distant subjects, lenses from 18mm to 70mm are sufficient.
In general, the longer the zoom lens, the heavier the camera. In other words, zoom and weight are two factors that must be balanced against each other.
One side of the exposure triangle in photography is the aperture. The aperture is the hole inside the camera lens through which light passes to reach the sensor; the larger the aperture, the more light can pass through.
The larger the aperture, the more light can be let in, and the better the performance will be in low-light situations. This makes the lens more useful in a variety of shooting situations, such as indoors or in dark outdoor locations.
Versatility is essential for cameras that are expected to be used in a variety of shooting situations, such as backpacking and hiking.
The disadvantage of large apertures is that they often limit the zoom of the camera. Achieving a long zoom with a large aperture lens requires a very heavy and large lens, making it unsuitable for hiking and backpacking.
For hiking and backpacking, a lens with an aperture of around f/2.8 is ideal and should be at least f/5.6.
The closer the number is to 1, the wider the aperture. However, many zoom lenses have a maximum aperture of about F5.6, which allows much less light through.
Again, it is all a compromise. If you want a long zoom lens with a large aperture, it will be expensive and heavy. If you want a lightweight lens with a large aperture, it will not zoom as well.
To learn more about aperture and how it affects your images, see our guide to the Exposure Triangle.
You may be wondering why cameras come in different sizes and why larger cameras produce higher-quality images.
One of the main factors is that larger cameras can accommodate larger sensors. A sensor is a component inside the camera that is exposed to light and records that light information as a digital image.
Larger cameras can be equipped with larger sensors, and as a general rule, a larger sensor produces better images than a smaller sensor. This is because a larger sensor can capture more light, especially when shooting in dark areas.
Of course, the disadvantage is that a larger sensor is more expensive to manufacture and requires a larger body to accommodate it. It also requires a larger lens. In other words, a larger sensor is usually heavier and more expensive than a camera system with a smaller sensor.
Again, it is up to personal preference as to what is important to you, whether it is price, weight, or image quality.
Battery life is important to hikers and backpackers. Battery life should be a consideration, especially since you may be away from an electrical outlet for extended periods of time.
Most cameras have a nominal value indicating the number of pictures that can be taken on a full charge; a single full charge can yield about 200 pictures on the low end and about 1,300 on the high end.
In general, SLR cameras are the most battery-efficient because they can take pictures through an optical viewfinder and do not require a power supply for the monitor. Even an inexpensive DSLR camera should be able to take 600 to 1,300 pictures on a single charge.
Mirrorless SLR and compact cameras generally consume more battery power. This is because they must supply power to the screen and motorized zoom function. This consumes a lot of battery power.
Of course, you can always carry a spare battery, but it will be heavier. We suggest trying to find a backpacking and hiking camera that will take at least 400 photos on a charge, or use a very small battery to make up for it. Of course, this will depend on the number of photos you want to take, but for a week-long trip, this should be sufficient.
You should also consider whether the camera allows manual controls for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc., focus points, etc., and whether it can shoot in RAW.
If you want more creative control over your images, manual control is a must. If you want to let the camera do the work for you, then manual controls are not as important.
We prefer cameras with full manual control, but of course to each his own. It’s not a major differentiator specifically for hiking and backpacking, but it’s something to consider.
In general, smartphones and low-cost compact cameras do not have manual controls, while high-end compact cameras and all SLR and mirrorless cameras have manual controls.
Of course, there are many other features that may or may not be important in choosing a camera. For example, you may need a touch screen or a screen that rotates and tilts with respect to the camera body.
The camera should have WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS beacon capabilities. It may be desirable to have specific dials to control different functions. You may want a camera with image stabilization or one that is optimized for video.
If video is important to you, you may want a camera that supports high-quality 4K video and an autofocus system to track your subject. Also, if you are shooting on your own, a rotating screen would be very useful for video. Other features, such as support for an external microphone, are helpful to get better sound quality to match the video.
These features are less important, especially when choosing a camera for hiking and backpacking, but of course, your needs will vary. So if you really want a camera with a particular feature, make sure to prioritize that feature in your final decision.
Best Compact Camera For Hiking | Video explanation
The best camera is the one you always have in your hand! These fancy features and comparisons mean nothing if your camera is designed to be stored in a backpack.
These cameras are useless if you don’t have them hanging around your neck all the time while hiking.
I also don’t think much of special bags (that you can attach to your shoulder strap). By the time you turn on your camera, you’ve already lost precious seconds. Those few seconds and the extra obstacle are more daunting than you think.
Those few seconds and the extra obstacle are more of a deterrent than you think. In nature photography, of course, appreciating the moment is often an obstacle! In such a situation, is it really worth spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a camera that is only used occasionally?
Again, the “best camera” is probably the one on your smartphone that you probably already own and will have on hand when the perfect scene comes along.