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Have you ever thought ‘What camera should I bring to Japan?’. Having graduated with a degree in photography, and spent the last year with a camera strapped to my neck while walking around Japan, I know the importance of a good camera for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Japan is beautiful, and you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re taking the best photos of your trip that you can!
If you’re looking for something to take snapshots and save memories at the most, your phone will probably be enough. If you want to print your photos out, create high-quality images, and edit them, you’ll need to look at a travel camera, ideally mirrorless to save weight while traveling in Japan.
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?
Honestly? Not really, unless you’re buying second hand. 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.
“But what about the 10% tax discount?” You absolutely can get that in most of the places, but they’ll normally mark up the price another 10% beforehand.
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. Plus Sony won’t let you switch languages in-camera which means you’ll be stuck in Japanese!
Which is the better camera out of x and x?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely 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 realize 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
After we’ve done that, I’ll give you a few different series of cameras to look at, rather than specific cameras that may or may not be around when you come to read the article. That way, it’ll stay as relevant as possible for as many people as possible!
Loved by professional photographers and amateurs alike, DSLRs are the powerhouse of the photography world. All DSLRs feature interchangeable lenses which makes them adaptable to pretty much any situation.
Taking pictures of faraway animals? Zoom lens
Taking landscape photography? Wide-angle lens
With hundreds of lenses available, there’s no situation you can’t be prepared for.
If you’re considering a DSLR, you should expect high-megapixel photos (more detailed photo quality), great ergonomics, adaptability, and a robust build.
Some of the higher-end models feature advanced weather sealing which IMHO is one of their best features. For example, the camera I used to 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 landscape of Sapporo.
There are a lot of elements fighting against your camera on a day-to-day basis and that’s especially true for travel photography.
Top tip: Don’t change your lenses on the beach, you’ll be finding sand in your camera and lens for months to come!
Anyway, would I recommend this as the best camera for Japan? Absolutely not.
We’re in a time now where much smaller cameras can do exactly the same thing while weighing a hell of a lot less. That was the reason I sold my 5DIV in favor of a Sony A7IV – the weight and size.
If you can only get your hands on a DSLR, or you already own one then that’s totally fine, your photos won’t be any worse than those who own a mirrorless camera. Plus if it weighs anything like my old camera did, you’ll come back from your trip far fitter than you were if you’re lugging one of those around!
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, lightning-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, especially the earlier ones. Admittedly they’re much better now, but you’ll still run the risk of getting dust into the sensor if you’re not careful when changing lenses.
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 weight, size, and technology by far outweigh the cons making them a fantastic travel camera for Japan and more than worth a look into.
Bridge cameras ‘bridge’ the gap between digital cameras and DSLRs. As far as I’m concerned they just aren’t 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. In fact, scrap that, there’s been such a big resurgence for these things that I’m struggling to find a simple point-and-shoot for an acceptable amount of money.
They don’t come with all the bells and whistles of mirrorless or DSLRs but they work perfectly well and more importantly, you can slip them in your pocket or bag and forget they’re there. They offer a significant step up from a phone camera (depending on your phone and the point-and-shoot camera you’re looking at), come with a cheap (sometimes…) price tag, and can fit in your pocket.
Point-and-shoot cameras often 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 loose debris such as sand and dirt. All these features combined mean you won’t have to worry too much about chucking in your bag or even dropping it. If you’ve managed to get one cheaply, that is!
My favorite way to photograph Japan, but it’s also the most expensive and least reliable.
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. Sankyo Camera in Ginza is my favorite place to find them!
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! We used a gopro on our recent trip from Sapporo to Niseko and up onto the slopes. It was epic and I’m so glad we had this little thing!
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 and won’t be too heavy to carry around.
The best travel cameras for Japan
While I don’t recommend buying a DSLR specifically for Japan, if you do other kinds of photography as well as travel, then it might make sense. Here is a list of of a few DSLR cameras I’d recommend, though it might help to do your own research to see which cameras have succeeded these ones in the future. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these were the last of their kind, giving way to the mirrorless cameras instead.
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 and I loved it so much that it’s going on the list. 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 traveling to and has been tried and tested by professionals across the world for years.
If you do other work as well as travel photography, this could be perfect!
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 that’s something you’re interested in of course! You might be wondering why someone would use a manual old-fashioned camera lens on a digital camera (especially for travel photography). My reasons for doing so in Japan and China a number of times have been as a way to disconnect from media.
It may seem like a small change but it keeps you present when you’re traveling 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 A7IV which is what I own now (Better in every way, but also more of a pro camera)
Mirrorless – High-End option
Canon EOS R5
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 definitely one of the best cameras for travel photography. …That’s if money is no object.
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. If you’re into adventure sports then this could be worth investing in.
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.
Update: There’s now an RX100VIII which is still a great camera for travel photography. It’s small, shoots outstanding photos, and is easily recommendable for shooting in Japan.
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
This canon AE-1 program is all you need to get started in the world of film photography. In fact, you can get started with a lot less, but I’m happy to personally recommend this one because I’ve taken so many photos with it. They can be picked up for as little as $100 and the optics of the 50mm are perfectly adequate for travel photos.
So grab a pack of Fuji 35mm film, and go and shoot Japan in all its 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. That is especially true with GoPro’s new HyperSmooth 3.0 technology.
If you thought the camera you have now can stabilize with its in-body image stabilization, just wait until you see theirs!
Update: There’s now a hero 12 which has better features, but this is still a great action camera to have for a smaller pricetag.
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 is bound to take better photos than your camera phone, but at the same time, a camera phone might be all you need.
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 mountains or anything with sand, nothing will beat a high-end mirrorless with weather-sealing (including lens) for robustness.
Or if you’re looking for a camera that can go anywhere and you love video more than still photography, go for a GoPro.
If you want to keep things simple, take a look at some of the fixed-lens cameras like the Ricoh GR, Fuji X100 series, and Leica Q series. Those are all hugely popular cameras with their own cult following, and for good reason as well.
I bought a Fuji X100T and shot with it in Japan on my first trip, it was awesome! Shooting with a somewhat simpler camera is a great way to photograph Japan and if I’m being honest, this is definitely my preferred way. 95% of the photos on this website were taken with the A7IV and a 35mm lens, it’s perfect for what I’m looking for.
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.