Travelling? Leave the DSLR at home

Carlton Boyce / 14 June 2016 ( 14 May 2018 )

Why you don't need a full-size DSLR when you're travelling - and what you could take instead.

I’m always looking to save weight and space in my carry-on travel bag, so I sometimes ditch my MacBook Air in favour of an iPad Mini - which also saves even more space and weight as I don’t need to take a book with me either.

But it’s my DSLR and lenses that take up the real space. In fact, when I carry them all on a plane I need to check my clothing and washbag into the hold because my camera kit takes up my entire hand luggage allowance. If I could ditch my DSLR in favour of something smaller, I could carry everything I need for up to a week away in my hand luggage.

Well, I can: welcome to the world of high-end compact cameras, a world in which the DSLR might be obsolete for a lot of us.

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

Do you really need your DSLR?

If you’re a sports photographer who needs super-fast autofocus and the ability to shoot in low light then the bulk and weight of a DSLR is unavoidable. Similarly, if you shoot wildlife at dawn and dusk with a 600mm lens then you’re probably stuck with carrying 50lbs of camera equipment with you.

For the rest of us a decent compact camera is easily good enough. And remember, I make a living from writing and photography, so I’m not going to recommend anything I wouldn’t use for a paid gig.

Where to get your photos printed

Compact System Cameras

Photographers are magpies. We love collecting lenses and equipment and gadgets, so a compact system camera (CSC) offers almost all of the benefits of a full-frame DSLR (primarily picture quality and the ability spend the price of a secondhand car on setting yourself up with a full kit of lenses and bodies) in a smaller, lighter package.

Cameras like the Fuji X-Pro and Olympus OM-D EM-10 are capable of taking stunning pictures in the right hands, and the range of lenses that are available span everything from a kit zoom lens for a couple of hundred pounds through to high-end primes costing more than a thousand.

While the quality is exceptional, mission creep means that you will almost inevitably end up buying more and more lenses as time goes by and while they will be smaller and lighter (though not necessarily cheaper) than those for your DSLR, you will still end up with a bag full of them.

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Compact cameras

Which is where the compact camera, or point-and-shoot, comes in. The Canon GX7 and Sony RX100 iii/iv are tiny and come with a built-in zoom lens. They almost all come with built-in stabilisation to help get tack-sharp photos even in low light and most have Wi-Fi and NFC (near-field communication), which makes transferring them to your smartphone to edit and upload to social media a doddle.

The quality of picture they take is almost as good as that from a CSC and they are small enough to be able to slip into a trouser pocket, which means you could take one with you wherever you go. I know a couple of professional photographers who’ve bought them as back-up cameras and ended up using them to take photographs for clients.

That’s high praise indeed, which is why it’s the route I’ve taken; I’ve just bought the Sony and am delighted with it. It is as easy to use, edit and post photos as my iPhone and the quality is almost on a par with my Canon 7D2. Of course, I’ll still need the DSLR for a lot of jobs, but for everything else the image quality of the Sony is good enough.

Choosing the best digital camera for your needs


Finally, don’t dismiss your smartphone. The quality is incredible given how tiny the lens and sensor is and I know plenty of pros that use them for web and social media photography. I’ve been away on weekend city breaks and shot all my images for online features using only my iPhone.

There is a bit of a knack to getting the best from them, but it really isn’t that hard.

Take better photos with your iPhone

Have you ditched your DSLR for something smaller? Or are you a die-hard fan who’d never dream of using anything else? We’d love to hear your thoughts - email us at or visit the Saga Facebook page!

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