When it comes to choosing the best cameras for hiking, I keep hearing that “the best camera is the one you have with you”. I understand the premise, but it’s not that helpful for choosing the best option in the first place. It’s a bit like saying the best pair of pants are the ones you are currently wearing. This is why we are providing you a shortlist of the best thermal pants, sorry…cameras for hiking in a variety of conditions.
The main prerequisites needed in a camera to cover outdoor shooting are decent levels of weather sealing, a camera that can fit or already has a wide-angle lens and, ideally, one that is lightweight.
You could obviously use the latest and greatest smartphones for wide-angle shots. But even with the latest models, images still don’t look the best when they are enlarged. Smartphones also don’t have the rounded capabilities or quality of a fully-fledged DSLR or mirrorless solution with a high-quality lens.
1. Sony a7R III
Taking into account overall resolution and rounded facilities, the Sony a7R III is everything you could ever need for landscapes to wildlife shots. The camera comes with a full-frame 42.4MP CMOS sensor, a fast 10 fps shooting rate and an ISO range of 100-32,000 to cope with low-light conditions.
The built-in five-axis image stabilization system offers up to 5.5 stops of compensation which, when coupled with a compatible Sony lens, provides remarkably low shutter speeds. There are 399 phase-detection AF points, with a multitude of highly-efficient subject detection modes for all types of subject matter.
If you want to quickly flick into video mode, 4K shooting is available at 30 fps and a range of slow-motion modes for intricately showing the last time you were chased down by a flock of angry ducks or a passing bear.
The a7R III also has access to the multitude of wide-angle Sony lenses, making this camera a high-quality solution for any outdoor trip. Get the full details in our Sony a7R III review.
2. Sony RX100 VII
Sony has been consistently building on the success of the RX100 VII, with ever more rounded functionality and features. This camera is a solution for those who want to travel extra light with more point-and-shoot functionality.
The camera comes with a 20.1MP, one-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor, a very usable ISO range up to 12,800, and a high-quality ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens which covers the focal length of 24-200mm for wide to telephoto images. The RX100 VII can also shoot 4K video, with additional features including a burst speed of 20 fps with intelligent subject tracking via the 357-point AF system.
The ZEISS designed lens has a very capable wide aperture range of f/2.8-4.5 for low-light conditions and, with help from the image stabilization system, allows plenty of keeper images.
The RX100 VII may seem expensive for a seemingly compact point-and-shoot camera, but it also provides extremely good image and video quality in a self-contained package that is rugged enough for outdoor use. We go deeper in our Sony RX100 VII review.
3. Fujifilm X-T30
With the Fujifilm X-T30, we are again leaning more towards the very high-quality camera solutions, but the results will be very much worth the initial outlay. The X-T30 comes with a 26.1MP APS-C-format X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor, a reasonable continuous shooting speed of eight fps with the mechanical shutter and a remarkable 30 fps with a 1.25x crop factor.
The 425 AF points cover almost all of the sensor area and if you want to use the X-T30 in video mode, 4K at 30p is available with a host of advanced settings. The manual controls and retro looks are just a few of the main selling points of this camera. Coupled with the highly-regarded film simulation modes, the X-T30 is a very lightweight and high-quality imaging solution that also benefits from a good deal of weatherproofing. See if it’s right for you in our review of the Fujifilm X-T30.
4. Sony a6300
It may seem that we have a slight preference towards Sony gear, but the reality is they have arguably the most rounded range of mirrorless cameras which also fit the bill for hiking or any type of outdoor use. The Sony a6300 weighs only 404g when fully loaded with a battery and memory card, can take interchangeable lenses, and has a reasonable amount of weather sealing.
The camera comes with a very capable 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor, with an ISO range up to 51,200, 4K video at 30p, and a continuous shooting rate of 11 fps. As with most up-to-date mirrorless cameras, there are plenty of AF points, with a total of 425-point phase-detection and 169-area contrast detection versions available. Plus, Sony’s highly-capable subject tracking modes, which are available for both stills and video shooting.
Considering the current price point of the a6300, the camera has a wealth of features that can cover fully automatic to manual modes. This makes the camera a very good solution for building up your photography skills. Our Sony Alpha a6300 review covers all the features.
5. Nikon D3500 (Budget Winner)
Since the widespread proliferation of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs are now seen as the heavyweight alternatives. But the likes of the Nikon D3500, weighing in at only 365g, show that the DLSR platform can still be easy to carry around and is comparatively very budget-friendly.
Centered around a 24.2MP CMOS sensor, the camera has a very usable ISO range of 100-25,600, reasonable shooting speed of five fps and full HD 1080p video at 60 fps. Although the camera only has 11 AF points, it’s still highly capable of quickly locking onto a subject and if you fancy doing all your image processing in-camera, there are a multitude of picture controls for outputting high-quality images.
It’s not as rugged as one of those waterproof point-and-shoot cameras or as lightweight as a very compact mirrorless solution. But it’s still relatively lightweight and with a good quality lens attached, the Nikon can produce excellent image quality. See what it can do in our Nikon D3500 review.
Stomping Through the Best Cameras for Hiking
Hiking can obviously take many forms from a light stroll to a full-on expedition. No matter how adventurous you are, the camera you take with you has to have the potential to cope with all types of weather conditions and be light enough to not be a burden. All the cameras for hiking above cover these departments, but as always, your individual budget will take precedence.
For the latest and greatest features, along with great resolution capabilities, you can’t go wrong with the Sony a7R III if you’re serious about your photography. However, if you want the most budget-friendly option, the Nikon D3500 is still a highly-capable camera, especially when you treat it to some high-quality lenses.