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Have you ever thought ‘What camera should I bring to Japan?’. Having graduated with a degree in photography, I know the importance of a good camera for a once in a lifetime trip. And having been to Japan a number of times, it’s no different.
So, the quick answer? Your smartphone won’t cut it. You’ll need to take a DSLR or even better a mirrorless camera. This will ensure your photos do justice to Japans beautiful landscape and that you’ll have some stunning photos to remember your trip by.
I’ll be writing this article based on three assumptions:
- You’ve booked your trip to Japan and want to know your best options for photography
- You haven’t booked your trip to Japan yet, but love to research (Totally me)
- You’re interested in the best travel cameras – Maybe you aren’t considering Japan as a holiday destination just yet, but have a look around the site and you’ll probably change your mind! 😉
Whichever of the three categories you fall into, this is the right place for you!
Frequently asked questions about travel cameras
Is it cheaper to buy a camera in Japan?
Quite simply, no. Whilst there will be a far greater choice in some of the camera shops in Tokyo, they don’t come with a lower price tag.
The only instance you may find cheaper cameras is in the second hand market. But once again that isn’t 100% guaranteed and is extremely dependent on the quality.
Moral of the story?
Buy a camera way before you go to Japan to make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals.
Which is the better camera out of x and x?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely to research what camera you should take to Japan.
As someone who has lost count of the cameras he’s bought, there won’t ever be a right answer.
You have to pick the camera that works for you in this very moment. Sure there will probably be a later and greater model coming out in a couple of months, but if you need one now then it has no relevance to you.
The number one factor to consider when buying a travel camera is likely to be price, followed closely by size, and image quality.
It’s extremely important to realise no camera will be perfect for your needs, and unless you have money to burn you’ll likely have to compromise somewhere.
What are the best travel cameras to take to Japan?
If you’re new to the world of photography, it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed. There is a plethora of camera models, types, brand names, lenses, accessories, etc. For the time being, we’ll stick to the basics and talk about the main camera types:
Loved by proffessional photographers and amateurs alike, DSLRs are the powerhouse of the photography world.
All DSLR’s feature interchangeable lenses which makes them ideal for travel photography.
Taking pictures of far away animals? Zoom lens
Taking landscape photography? Wide-angle lens
With hundreds of lenses available, there’s no situation you can be prepared for.
If you’re considering a DSLR, you should expect high Megapixel photos (more detailed photos quality), great ergonomics, adaptablility, and a robust build.
Some of the higher end models models feature advanced weather sealing which IMHO is one of their best features. For example the camera I currently own, the 5DMKiV, has a metal alloy frame as well as weather sealing all throughout the body. This is a feature you can expect the high end lenses to have as well.
I don’t feel like I need to tell you why weather sealing is a fantastic feature in travel cameras BUT I suppose I can for those newer to photography.
Imagine your whistle stop tour of Japan starts on the sandy beaches of Okinawa, then the tightly packed streets of tokyo, followed by the snowy mountains of Hokkaido.
There’s a lot of elements fighting against your camera on a day to day basis and that’s especially true for travel photography.
Top tip: Dont change your lenses on the beach, you’ll be finding sand in your camera and lens for months to come!
The only downside to these beauties is the weight. With top of the line lenses and camera bodies, your wallet might not be the only thing aching.
That’s where mirrorless camera come in.
A mirrorless camera might just be the best camera to take to Japan. It has all the same technological specs as DSLRs and then some.
In fact, over the last couple of years mirrorless cameras have become technologically superior to their DSLR cousins in practically every way.
Thousands of focus points, AI technology, WYSIWYG viewfinder, lightening fast autofocus, etc. These are just a few of the incredible feats these cameras can do.
You can be absolutely certain that a good mirrorless camera will perform in any travel situation you get yourself into.
Well, mirrorless cameras tend to be a little more delicate than DSLRs. Yes, they’re lighter and smaller and can produce the same quality photos but they arent as rugged.
Because they have no mirror, it means the sensor of the camera is more easily exposed to the outside world. So that tip I just gave you about not changing lenses on the beach is even more important with mirrorless.
So yes, they are more delicate but their weigh, size, and technology by far outweigh the cons making them a fantastic travel camera for Japan and more than worth a look
Bridge cameras ‘bridge’ the gap between digital cameras and DSLRs. As far as I’m concerned they just arent the best choice for travel photography.
Maybe they were once upon a time, but technology has improved significantly since then and has almost made them redundant.
In fact I’m so confident there are better choices out there that i’m not recommending any specific cameras below. Sorry!
Point and shoot Digital Cameras
Honestly not a bad shout to buy one of these cameras if you aren’t willing to spend a lot.
Look, they don’t come with all the bells and whistles of mirrorless or DSLRs but they work perfectly well!
They offer a significant step up from a phone camera, come with a cheap price tag, and can fit in your pocket.
Point and shoot cameras also come with a built-in zoom lens allowing you to take a variety of subjects quickly and easily.
And even more important, without a detachable lens your camera will be slightly less susceptible to lose debris such as sand and dirt.
All these features combined mean you won’t have to worry about chucking in your bag or even dropping it.
My favourite way to photograph Japan.
If you’ve never shot with film before, don’t let that put you off. Not only is it a great way to digitally detox, but it’s also a great way to stay present with your surroundings.
In fact these might be the only cameras I would advise you to buy whilst you’re in Japan.
Later on in the article I’ll show you my best recommendations for a beginner film camera for travel.
Always nice to have an action camera on any trip, and Japan is no different!
Using an action camera for travel photography will drastically open up shooting possibilities and allow you to capture moments that no other camera will.
Whether you’re skiing down the slopes of Mount Yōtei or swimming in the Pacific Ocean, an action camera will be your best friend.
The best travel cameras for Japan
DSLR – Budget option
- 24 Megapixels
- 5fps continuous shooting speed
- 1080p video
- 1,550 shots per battery (leading for it’s price)
If you want to learn everything about photography, getting a DSLR like the Nikon D3500 is a great choice.
The camera has a full auto mode which is great for when you’re just starting out as well as manual mode which will help you get the exact photo you want.
At a little under $600 it’s an absolute steal for it’s capabilities.
I remember buying the Canon 1000D for a similar price when it came out and it couldn’t even shoot video!
DSLR – Mid-Range option
Canon EOS 90D
- 10fps continuous shooting
- 4k video
- 32.5 Megapixels
A great step up from the D3500 if you’re looking to splurge a bit more money.
With 10fps you can be sure you won’t miss any wildlife shots during your trip.
And with 4K video and 32.5MP, everything you shoot will be in extremely high quality.
DSLR – High-end option
Canon EOS 5DMKIV
- Full-frame sensor (More detailed shots)
- 30.4 Megapixels
- 61-point AF system (Quick focusing)
Yes it is bigger and heavier than others you might use as a travel camera, but it’s an absolute powerhouse. If you can get past the weight, its performance will astound you. It’s built with complete weather sealing for all those beaches and mountains you’ll be travelling to, and has been tried and tested by professionals across the world for years.
Mirrorless – Budget option
Canon EOS M50
- 4k Video
- 390g (Thats light!!)
- 24.1 Megapixels
This might be the best camera for bloggers and travel photographers on a small budget.
With 24 Megapixels and 4K video you probably won’t ever feel like you need more detailed photos.
The camera also features a flip out LCD for selfies or blogging as well as built in flash for those low light situations
Mirrorless – Mid-Range option
- Full frame sensor
- 24.3 Megapixels
- 1080P footage
- 5-axis image stabilization
This little camera will always have a place in my heart as it was the first full frame camera I ever bought.
I’ve taken it around the world and back again a number of times and it’s always done me well.
And if you’ve never experienced in-body image stabilisation then you’re in for a treat! It means you can use old fashioned lenses with much slower shutter speeds.
If thats something you’re interested in of course! You might be wondering why someone would use a manual old fashioned camera lens on digital camera (especially for travel photography). My reasons for doing so in Japan and China a number of times has been as a way to disconnect from media.
It may seem like a small change but it keeps you present when you’re travelling which is always a good thing if you’ve only got a few days in your destination.
I chose the A7II for the mid range mirrorless travel camera, but if your budget can stretch then I’d advise checking out the A7III (Practically better in every way)
Mirrorless – High-End option
Canon EOS R6
Price: $4900 with lens
- 45 Megapixels
- 20 Frames per second (Great for shooting fast moving subjects like wildlife)
- 8k video
- Full frame sensor
- 8-stop image stabilizer
- 5940 autofocus positions
Completely over the top, but probably the best camera for travel photography. …That’s if money is no object to you.
Point and shoot – Budget option
- Waterproof to 25m
- Shockproof from 1.8m
- Freeze-proof to -10c
- 4k (Though only at 15fps, not making for the smoothest footage)
It’s cheap, it’s got a decent zoom lens, and it’s basically destruction proof.
What’s not to like?!
Point and shoot – Mid-Range option
Olympus Tough TG-6
- 340 shots per battery
- 4k at 30 fps
Similar specs to the budget option, but much better for fast moving subjects with 20fps.
Point and shoot – High-End option
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
- 20.1 Megapixels
- 24-200mm lens (extremely adaptable)
- Tilting LCD (Great for those hard to shoot places)
- 24 Frames per second shooting speed
- 4k Video
- Electronic Viewfinder
It’s extremely expensive for a point and shoot camera, but it comes packed full of more features than any travel photographer could ever want!
Film – Budget option
Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof
- Easy to use
27 photos, shoot it literally anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about any settings.
Oh and it’s only $11 on amazon!
How is this not the best travel camera for Japan?!
Film – High-end option
Price: Around $100 with lens
- Create timeless photos
I know a few of the options on this list have been quite expensive, but please never bring a film camera more expensive than $100 on your trip. If you’re taking a one of a kind Leica on holiday and lose it, you won’t forgive yourself.
This canon AE-1 program is all you need. They can be picked up for as little as $100 and the optics of the 50mm are perfect adequate for some travel photos.
So grab a pack of Fuji 35mm film, and go and shoot Japan in all it’s glory!
Action Camera – The only one you’ll need.
GoPro Hero 9 Black
- 5K Video
- 20 Megapixel photos
- HyperSmooth 3.0
- 8x Slo-Mo
Having an action camera will change your travel photography. Thats especially true with GoPros new HyperSmooth 3.0 technology.
If you thought the camera you have now can stabilise with it’s in body image stabilisation, just wait until you see theirs!
It’s bloody madness!!
So what travel camera should I buy for Japan?
At the end of the day, only you know what the best camera to take to Japan will be. Any one of the cameras I’ve mentioned in this article are bound to take better photos than your camera phone. Whether or not that’s a romanticised film camera or a high end mirrorless is your choice to make.
If you’ve got no idea what to buy but just want to get some better photos, or if you know you don’t want to learn the ins and outs of photography, buy a point and shoot.
If you’re shooting in extreme environments like on mountains or anything with sand, nothing will beat a DSLR for robustness.
If weight is an important factor for you and you love technology, a mirrorless camera is likely to satisfy your needs.
Or if you’re looking for a camera that can go anywhere and you love video more than still photography, go for a GoPro.
Just remember, If you separate your mind and body from your phone you’re likely to live in the moment more frequently. For that reason alone it’s worth investing in a travel camera for Japan.