Best Outdoor Camera: Documenting Your Adventures

Best outdoor camera
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Have you ever been on the trip of a lifetime, come home, and then find out that all the pictures you took at the Eiffel Tower are all blurry? How about returning from a trek to the Grand Canyon with your best outdoor camera and then finding out that all your memories are overexposed?

These are just some of the problems that plague vacationers. Photographs are supposed to be frozen moments in time that we can remember and reflect on when we’re down, feeling whimsical, or just want to remember.

Vacations and trips are basically for having fun, relaxing and creating memories you want to remember. Photographs are usually some of the best souvenirs in the world. You can frame them up, show them to family and friends, and post them on social media.

One of the reasons why you take bad photographs is not because you’re a bad photographer but because you don’t have a good camera. Professional photographers can argue about skill and cameras but since not all of us are professionals, we need all the help we can get including the aid of a good camera.

Important Features of A Digital Camera

Digital cameras have come a long way since they arrived on the scene during the 1990’s. New digital cameras are more affordable, easy to use, and are versatile compared to their older cousins.

Outdoor camera features

When it comes to buying a best backpacking camera to document your adventures, there are many different brands to choose from. But aside from choosing the best to suit your needs, buyers also need to consider the features of a camera to help narrow down their choices.

  • Batteries. Digital cameras use a lot of batteries. Depending on the model you buy, you could end up using as many as 4 alkaline batteries. Bringing along extra batteries is recommended, especially if you take a lot of pictures. Luckily, there are digital cameras that have rechargeable batteries so you don’t have to worry about bringing spares.
    For these kinds of cameras, you only need to plug the camera to the charger and you should be fine for another day. Digital cameras with rechargeable batteries are a better investment compared to battery operated ones, especially on backpacking trips where you don’t have a lot of room to carry extra supplies.
    Just make sure you have a power source to plug in your camera at night if you don’t have access to a wall socket. In this case you will need a power bank which you can also use to charge other gadgets.
  • Megapixels. If you want to print your photos you will need a digital camera that is at least 7 megapixels. Some people are alright with 5 or 3 but we find that 7 is the minimum if you want clear looking 8×10 photographs to frame.
    Some people want to store images that take up less memory space and are happy with cameras with lower megapixels, but cameras today can let you choose the setting to shoot pictures and videos so it is still better to get the most megapixels you can afford. As a general rule, however, the more mega pixels a camera has, the more expensive it becomes.
  • LCD Viewfinder. Unlike the cameras of old where you peek through a small window to see your shot, digital cameras today have a LCD viewfinder that makes it easier for you to see your shot and take your photos. The size of the LCD differs from brand to brand. While your LCD size does not affect your pictures, having a large screen could be easier for you to take pictures.
  • Zoom. Zoom is another feature that has no effect on your picture. Basically, a zoom is just the stretching or contracting of an image. If you want a close-up or a wide picture you just adjust the zoom.
    Cameras today usually come with a 5x optical zoom and even 20x optical zoom. The more zoom, the tighter the picture you can shoot. Having lots of zoom can be advantageous if you intend to take photographs from a distance. This basically means that you can get a close shot of your subject without moving.
  • Memory Cards. Memory cards are the storage devices where you store your pictures. The standard today for memory cards is the microSDcard. The more GB or gigabytes your memory card has, the more pictures and video you can store in it.
    But aside from the storage capabilities, you also need to look at the memory card’s speed. For best photographs, look for a camera that accepts a Class 10 for high resolution photos and videos.
    At the very least, try to look for a Class 6 memory card for storing pictures. If the camera of your choice does not accept microSDcards, don’t worry because you can buy an adapter for that.
  • ISO. ISO is a measure used on how sensitive your camera is to low light. Generally speaking, the wider the range of the ISO, the better the camera is at taking low light images.
    Cameras with low ISO sensors can still take pictures in the dark but the result is usually photos that are noisier.

Other Features

Aside from the above features, camera buyers should also look into:

  • Weight: cameras today are lightweight but some weigh more than others. People who travel a lot or like to backpack or camp should consider lighter cameras.
  • Size: just like weight, size matters if you’re constantly on the road. Consider a compact camera if you are one of these people.
  • Waterproofing: you should probably consider a camera that is waterproof. They might be more expensive but can be cheaper especially if you’re in an area where you run the risk of getting wet. There are also waterproof cameras that can take photos underwater.
  • Wi-Fi: some cameras are now Wi-Fi capable. This is an important feature if you like sharing with friends or on social media. Wi-Fi may not be widely available for some camera manufacturers due to additional cost.
  • Price: it would be much easier of we just bought a camera that we can afford. But this is not always the case because some costlier features are better to have around than not.

Before parting with your hard earned money and buying the best hiking camera you can afford, it is always prudent to check out reviews first. This way you can narrow down choices and features that you need in order to maximize the use of your camera.

Top Digital Camera Review

Canon PowerShot S120 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera

Canon PowerShot S120 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera

Price: $594.44

Weight: 217 grams

Dimensions: 100.2 x 59.0 x 29.0 mm

Specific Features: built-in Wifi, upload in Android or iOS from anywhere, free download of Canon Camera Window app, 12.1 megapixel high-sensitivity 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom and 24mm wide angle view, 1080p full HD video in stereo sound

Best Use: serious photographers looking for a compact camera

Description: At 12 megapixels, the PowerShot 120 from Canon is a handsome looking camera. The High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor delivers crystal clear images. By using a light-capturing design, it has high sensitivity for improved ISO making it a good choice if you want to capture images in low-light.

The camera looks understated and compact so it can easily be slipped into your pocket or backpack. There are no hand grips on the camera but it is covered in tactile coating which makes it easier to handle. It features a built-in wifi making it easier for the user to share on social media or with friends.

There is also automatic switching through the Image Sync function that makes it easier to organize photos and videos. Aside from photographs, your videos will also look great thanks to the DIGIC 6 image processor which can capture videos at full HD.

The LCD panel of the PowerShot 120 is also a delight at 3 inches with touchscreen capabilities. It can easily respond to 1 or 2 finger touch operations such as spreading and pinching to change magnification during playback. You can also adjust the touchscreen sensitivity to your liking.

This camera also enables users to shoot in RAW mode which records all info from the sensor so that you can have complete flexibility and control when editing images.

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Price: $628.00

Weight: 12.2 ounces

Dimensions: 4.7 x 1.8 x 2.6 inches

Specific Features: Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, OLED electronic viewfinder, 24 MP APS-C CMOS sensor, Up to 11 FPS continuous shooting, Hybrid AF with 179-point focal plane phase-detection, 3-inch tilting LCD, ISO 100-25600 (expandable to 51200)

Best Use: Photographers that want something small but capable.

Description:  The new a6000 from Sony is actually an update from the well regarded Sony NEX-6. This new camera features the Bionz-X processor which provides the user a three times increase in processing power.

This extra oomph is very notable when starting the camera. Simply turn on and shoot away even when using hi-speed burst mode. Autofocus is also faster at just .06 seconds according to CIPA standard.  You can use burst mode to shoot up to 11 fps continuous for 21 frames RAW jpeg or 49 frames fine jpeg, making this camera good tool when capturing sporting events and action.

The in-camera ISO setting of the a6000 has also included multi-frame noise reduction rather than through an app which was the case with the NEX-6.

It is deployed in low-light and fired in 6 rapid frames and then stacked together so that you get pictures with almost no noise. For those who like video, the camera can shoot Full HD AVCHD Ver.2.0.

But the biggest change to the a6000 is the sensor. The Exmor APS-C sensor that can capture 24.3-million-pixel images has a gapless on chip phase detection design that can cover a larger area of the frame. The improved light gathering capabilities of the sensor allows for improved low-light shooting and reduced noise.

Sony Alpha a6300 ILCE-6300 E-mount 4K Mirrorless Camera

Sony Alpha a6300 ILCE-6300 E-mount 4K Mirrorless Camera

Price: $999.00

Weight: 15 pounds

Dimensions: 2 x 2 x 2 inches

Specific Features: 32GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1, R94 W70 Memory Card, HDMI to Micro-HDMI Gold Audio/Video Cable, InfoLithium H Series NP-FW50 Camera Battery with rapid battery charger

Best Use: Multi-media makers

Description: Sony’s A6300 is a versatile camera designed for multi-media image makers. It comes with a 24.2mp APS-C CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 51200. Coupled with the BIONZ X image processor, the A6300 can give users clean image quality.

The High-density Tracking AF Technology can track moving subjects in a variety of lighting conditions. The camera also uses a phase detection point which enables photographers to use A-mount lenses through lens adapters with AF compatibility.

The powerful processor also enables fast response and true aim through the world’s fastest autofocus with less noise.

Get the best of both worlds when you use the camera to shoot videos with 4K recording. With this feature you can enjoy movies like the pros.

Other noteworthy camera features include silent shooting mode ideal for taking photos in noise sensitive areas, Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) that can help improve images in a backlit scene with high contrast detail, you can also configure ISO Auto settings at minimum shutter speed to get sharper images, use Clear Image Zoom to magnify scenes and extend the reach of focal length lenses.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.1 MP Digital Still Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV 20.1 MP Digital Still Camera

Price: $899.80

Weight: N/A

Dimensions: 2.8 x 1.6 x 4 inches

Best Use For: capturing swiftly moving subjects.

Specific Features: WiFi with NFC Capability, 20.1 MP Stacked CMOS image sensor, Contrast Detection AF System, 4K movie recording up to 30 fps, Slow motion movie recording up to 1000 fps, Up to 16 fps continuous shooting, tiltable 3″ LCD, 280 shot battery life, 2.36 Million dot OLED viewfinder

Description: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV is so compact you will sometimes forget that it’s in your pocket. Shoot crystal clear images even in low-light thanks to the new Exmor RS CMOS sensor.

With amazingly fast shutter speed of 1/32000 allows for detailed 20.1 megapixel photos and breathtaking 4K movies. Aside from this the RX100 can capture slow-motion HFR movies up to 40 times slower than regular time.

It can be hard to take photographs of fast moving subjects like Usain Bolt running or the motion of a swinging golf club, but with the RX100’s blazing fast Anti-Distortion Shutter system, it is now possible to get a clear shot of a fast moving object.

But this camera is also perfect for taking stills and portraits thanks to the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens with 24-70mm zoom (35mm equivalent) which you can use to take macro shots and defocused backgrounds.

Capture fleeting moments and decisive opportunities faster than any other camera. With its autofocusing system that enables high-speed contrast detection, the RX100 brilliant quality images and movies.

SeaLife Micro 2.0 WiFi

SeaLife Micro 2.0 WiFi

Price: $550.99

Weight: 279g (10.1oz)

Dimensions: 4.2″ x 2.1″ x 2.9″ (10.7cm x 5.3cm x 7.4cm)

Specific Features: SeaLife Micro 2.0 WiFi 64GB w/ 10x Lens and screen protector, waterproof, Full 1080p HD video at 60fps or 30fps, 16MP SONY® CMOS image sensor, WiFi to wirelessly preview

Best Use: underwater operations, wet locations

Description: Are you looking for an easy-to-use underwater camera? If you are, the SeaLife Micro 2.0 is a good choice. Built around a 16 MP Sony CMOS image sensor, this camera can deliver beautiful clear images and full HD video.

It features a 130-degree field of view lens and coupled with SeaLife’s piano key dials, this camera is a joy to use underwater.

Unlike other underwater cameras, the SeaLife Micro is permanently sealed so there are no O-rings to maintain. It features Full 1080p HD video and 60 fps for slow motion. The piano keys make it easy to operate and its adjustable ISO settings can handle low-light images. Choose between 32 or 64GB internal memory for storage.  It is waterproof up to 200ft (60m).

Featuring a shockproof rubber armored body; the SeaLife Micro is easy to hold. Transferring images is a cinch. Simply remove the rubber plug that covers the USB and then slide in the adapter. The camera is also wifi capable so you can also transfer and share using this feature.

It also records video in Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps. This camera is ideal for divers who are looking for something easy to operate underwater and provide clear pictures. By the way, you can also add Sea Dragon or third-party lights for better looking images in poor lighting conditions.

Leica X-U (Typ 113) Under Water Digital Camera

Leica X-U (Typ 113) Under Water Digital Camera

Price: $3,227.45

Weight: 1.3 pounds

Dimensions: 11.4 x 9.2 x 7.1 inches

Specific Features: 16.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor, Summilux 23mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens, Water, Dust, and Shockproof Constructio

Best Use: underwater photography

Description: The Leica X-U is designed to be dust-proof, shockproof and waterproof and can withstand extreme envirnoments. Leica has been setting benchmarks for cameras for many years now and even today, Leica is still ahead of the pack with their first underwater camera with APS-C sensor.

This camera was built along similar lines with its predecessor the Leica X (Typ 113), it has the same interface and image quality for the most part. The difference between the two can be seen with the X-U’s bigger size. This is mainly due to the thermoplastic elastomer armor and larger dials of the X-U.

The UW on the camera triggers the underwater mode which automatically corrects for color cast and distortion of images when below water surface. Another difference between the earlier models is the placement of the flash.

Leica has moved the flash on top of the lens because light does not travel as far when in the water. With this new location, light can travel faster underwater and eliminate the chance of creating a lens shadow.

Made in Germany and collaborated with Audi Design, the X-U is stylish and minimal great for underwater photography.

It has a failsafe double locking system so that the battery compartment and memory card slot remain safe at all times. If photographs are not enough to capture the moment, the X-U can take full HD videos.

Olympus TG-4 16 MP Waterproof Digital Camera

Olympus TG-4 16 MP Waterproof Digital Camera

Price: $379.00

Weight: 0.54 pounds

Dimensions: 2.6 x 1.22 x 4.41 inches

Specific Features: 4X wide-angle optical zoom, Waterproof to depths of 50 feet, Freeze proof to 14 degrees F, Shockproof to 7 feet, Crushproof to 220 lb., RAW capture, Wi-Fi / GPS / e. Compass, 1080P HD video

Best Use: Underwater stills and video

Description: Good build quality, fast lens (at wide-angle), support for RAW pictures and superb performance. What else can you ask for with the Olympus TG-4 16 MP Waterproof Digital Camera?

Built for extreme environment, you don’t have to worry about this camera getting crushed when you’re packing for your diving trip.

Aside from underwater adventures, you can also bring this camera along when backpacking or hiking. Meaning you can go mountain today and the corals tomorrow. Did we mention that it is also freeze-proof to 14°F/-10°C? Yup, you can bring it with you to Mt. Everest after your vacation in the Great Barrier Reef.

One of the best things about the TG-4 is the super bright lens at wide angle. When shooting at 25mm, the lens can bring in more light allowing you to use a lower ISO to minimize noise.

In order to get the best out of its 16MP CMOS sensor, go to RAW in the highest resolution and then edit it for better results and creative control. Aside from giving users fantastic photographs, the camera can also embed location on photos, tell you the air pressure, altitude or direction.

Nikon COOLPIX AW130 Waterproof Digital Camera

Nikon COOLPIX AW130 Waterproof Digital Camera

Price: $147.00

Weight: 0.49 pounds

Dimensions: 2.6 x 4.35 x 1.06 inches

Specific Features: Waterproof up to 100ft; freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit; shockproof for drops up to 7 feet, 5x optical zoom with NIKKOR ED wide-angle glass lens, Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS

Best Use: adventures and people that go everywhere

Description: When you constantly travel and like to share your adventures, the Nikon COOLPIX AW130 Waterproof Digital Camera can do this easily with you. Not only does it take awesome pictures, it can also record full HD movies.

It is Waterproof, shockproof and freeze-proof so you can take it with you anywhere and is always ready for your next adventure. The built-in wifi and NFC technology makes it easy to transfer photos and videos as well as share them to family and friends on social media.

It also has a built-in GPS that can be enabled to embed your location on your photos and record coordinates and map your shots. Strap in your CoolPix to your chest and take amazing first-person photos and videos so that your friends can feel as if they were there.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 Tough Shock & Waterproof

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 Tough Shock & Waterproof

Price: N/A

Weight: 188g

Dimensions: 109.2 x 67.4 x 28.9 mm

Specific Features: Wi-fi, 16.1MP, 1/2.3in MOS sensor, 4.6x optical zoom, 28-128mm lens, 30 – 1/1300 sec shutter speed

Best Use: Adventures in extreme environment

Description:  Take the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 with you anywhere you go in the planet and it will survive thanks to its tough build. The camera is very easy to operate and hold with the front grip at the front and well profiled.

The metal front and back covers give the camera extra protection so you won’t need to be extra careful when handling it on one of your backpacking adventures. The FT5 also performs well underwater with bright and clear images.

Cold conditions are also a non-issue so you can take it with you when you’re skiing or mountain climbing in the Alps. It is freeze-proof up to -10 degrees C.

Expect rich color and great photographs with this camera. An inspection of a color chart will reveal that images remain vibrant through the ISO range even when set to the highest setting of 6400. The FT5 also has great connectivity and is a good choice for adventurers who like to share on social media.

You can also use the GPS to geo-tag locations as well as providing real-time information of the location of where you are shooting images. With up to 1 million landmarks stored, Panasonic has one of the most precise GPS antennae on a digital camera on the planet.


The best outdoor camera is out there. Before purchasing a camera make sure to test it at the store before buying it. Some of these cameras are also expensive so before buying consider what you are going to use it for.

Choose your outdoor camera

To save some money, there may be features that you can do without. You can also consider a lower version of the model you want so as not to compromise too much on image quality.

We hope this article has helped you to sort out the main features that you’re looking for in a camera, and which ones you should consider at the top of your list. If you have any suggestions for us, please leave a comment below, and we may include it in a future article.

Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Elisa Blair

    I LOVE my Sealife micro 2.0 WIFI! The only thing I was worried about is that you can’t change lenses, but there is a macro lens that attaches so you can get up close, and it works great! Also, you can remotely take a picture with this camera’s WiFi and a smart phone, there is an app (micro app for sealife) for both iPhone and Android!

  • Mark Foster

    Hi Elisa! Do you spend time in the water a lot? Then you and this camera were made for each other! The 16 MP is impressive, so you get clear pictures. Divers love its easy operation, too. If you want a great camera, invest in this one!

  • Kim Bromley

    Used the Nikon Coolpix AW130 whilst snorkelling almost every day in Bali last summer and managed to get a load of great snaps! I’d recommend taking a couple of days to work out the features on dry land, that way, when you are in the water, you can easily and quickly adjust the light settings. Simple way to get better photos! Really love the fact that it connects to wi-fi – transferring to and viewing them on my laptop is a breeze. Can see them on my laptop quicker than its takes to dry myself from the dive!

  • Mark Foster

    These cameras are cool, right? Easily syncs so your pictures are stored securely to any of your other devices. There’s nothing to add to its great features, the Nikon is an excellent brand – hands down!