The Gear

From VR cameras to tripods, our pick of the best equipment for documenting your next trip.


By Eimar Lynch

DRONES

Aerial footage can take your travel video up a notch. But even though consumer drones are increasingly affordable and user-friendly, flying one comes with a list of rules and regulations. You'll need to register your unmanned aircraft system, adhere to weight restrictions (under 55 pounds), and know when and where you can't fly (like over stadiums). Go to faa.gov/uas.

Phantom 4 Quadcopter

DJI's sleeker and younger sibling of the Phantom 3 has the same features plus a system that senses and avoids airborne obstacles—thus protecting your investment. dji.com; $1,399.

ACTION VIDEO CAMERAS

Want to film while schussing down a double-black-diamond? Look for models that keep the image stable during camera movement; daredevil videographers will want slow-motion capabilities and ultra-tough bodies.

GoProHERO4
It's the gold standard for its ultra-high-definition resolution, super-smooth slo-mo video, and ability to shoot in low light and up to 131 feet underwater. gopro.com; $399.
Ricoh WG-M2
You can drop, step on, freeze, and submerge (down to 65 feet) this durable and slickly designed camera, which shoots 4K video and has built-in Wi-Fi. us.ricoh-imaging.com; $299.
VTech Kidizoom Action Cam
This unit is hardy, waterproof, and easy to use—perfect if your kid's an Evel Knievel. Plus it comes with cool filters and accessories to strap it to a bike or skateboard. vtechkids.com; $38.

360-DEGREE CAMERAS

These are the cameras that make virtual reality possible, by shooting with multiple lenses simultaneously in a full 360 degrees, then stitching the images together into one seamless shot. (Watch the footage on a headset like Oculus Rift for a fully immersive experience, or watch and share it on YouTube and Facebook.)

Ricoh Theta
The most accessible to the most people, this camera has two wide-angle lenses that can join video and images together at a super-speedy 30 frames per second (Avatar was filmed at 24 fps). You can live-stream and edit footage on your iPhone using Ricoh's Theta+ Video app; or get even better results using Adobe Premiere on your desktop. theta360.com; $349.
Orah 4i
Until recently, 1080- pixel resolution was the standard. But the Orah 4i, which integrates four cameras into one handheld device, can capture footage at four times that clarity and has four built-in microphones that record immersive sound. Instead of the usual memory cards, it connects with a single wire to its "stitcher," for seamless playback. orah.co; $2,195.
GoPro Omni
Designed for professional-level VR, the action-cam pioneer's top-end equipment captures 360-degree video on what's essentially six GoPros attached to one spherical frame. It automatically syncs up the timing and settings, which results in seamless footage you don't have to edit together manually. gopro.com; $5,000.

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

One of the fastest-growing segments of the industry, mirrorless cameras beam the image straight to an LCD screen instead of bouncing it off a mirror to a viewfinder, as a DSLR does. This means the camera body is smaller, with nearly the same resolution and the ability to fit an array of lenses. The main difference from a DSLR is that most mirrorless cameras lack a manual focus option (a disadvantage for serious photographers).

Sony Alpha a7R II
It has many features associated with high-end DSLRs, including 42.4mp resolution, good stabilization for video, and high light sensitivity. sony.com; $3,199, body only.
Fujifilm X-T1
The superfast focus makes it hard to take a blurry shot, and the 16mp sensor is virtually as sharp as most DSLRs. fujifilm.com; $1,399, including one lens.

INSTANT CAMERAS

Your eighties-era self may not believe it, but instant cameras are back. Not much has changed: the camera exposes an image and prints it on self-contained photo paper. Which doesn't make for amazing image quality, but that's not the point—nostalgia is.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8
This was the company's biggest seller last year, thanks to its small size, light weight (less than a pound), and candy colors. One drawback is that the selfie lens is sold separately. instax.com; $54.
Impossible I-1
After buying Polaroid's German factory, the Impossible Project released this camera modeled on a classic Polaroid, but improved with a lens surrounded by an LED light ring that creates brighter photos. impossible-project.com; $300.

PRO DSLRS

DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras) replicate the multilayer, multicolor technology of an old-fashioned pro 35 mm film camera—but with a digital imaging sensor. Today's DSLRs can have resolutions as high as 50 megapixels (about 25 times that of your standard phone camera), but anything over 20 is a good level. They're generally sold without lenses.

Canon Rebel EOS T6i
All the DSLRs from the Rebel line perform well—and they're generally less bulky than much of the competition—but the T6i stands out for its 24.2mp sensor, built-in Wi-Fi, and speedy focus. canon.com; from $399.
Nikon D500
A lower-priced alternative to the pro-favorite D5, the D500 offers the same 20.9mp resolution, 4K video, and touch-screen controls in a smaller package—for about $4,500 less. nikonusa.com; from $2,000.

SMART PHONES

If you're a traveler who shoots only with a smartphone, you're not necessarily missing out. Most phone cameras now have at least 1920 x 1080 resolution (sufficient for everything except enlarging to poster size) and 4K video (better than you can upload to YouTube).

iPhone 7 Plus
Apple's newest large-format iPhone has a dual-lens camera that allows for better, clearer zooming and for manipulating depth of field, à la a DSLR. Like its little brother, the iPhone 7, it can also shoot ultra-hi-res RAW images. And it's water-resistant. apple.com; from $769.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
This new model is lightning-fast and takes bright, sharp pictures—even in dim light—thanks to a wide aperture, dual-pixel autofocus, and a resolution of 534ppi. It's also water-resistant, shoots RAW image files, and has expandable storage up to 256GB. samsung.com; $770.

GOT IT IN THE BAG?

Every great camera needs a worthy case. The latest ones offer good looks and smart solutions for today's equipment.

Michael Kors
The designer's new retro-inspired leather Scout bag—which also comes in deep red, bright orange, and soft blue—was made to fit Fujifilm's new Instax Mini 70. The brands collaborated on an exclusive metallic version of the instant camera. michaelkors.com; $348.
Killspencer
This update on a traditional camera case is made with leather inside and out, a cross-body strap, and industrial hardware that stands up to heavy use. It has slots for a camera, lens, and accessories; other interior organizers like lens bags are available. killspencer.com; $750.
Mark Cross
A luxe bag that strikes the right balance between style and function: the hard-sided case—curved to sit perfectly on the hip—keeps equipment safe and organized. Saffiano leather, sleek hardware, a playful key chain, and a top handle keep you on-trend. matchesfashion.com; $2,495.
Lo & Sons
The purse that became a camera case: what looks from the outside like a discreet leather handbag contains internal compartments that house a DSLR or mirrorless camera, a small lens, cords, and memory cards, along with your keys, wallet, and phone. loandsons.com; $300.
Ona
With enough room to fit an 11-inch laptop, a DSLR camera, and two lenses, this is the satchel for the serious traveling shutterbug. The double straps make it comfortable to carry, and the water-resistant waxed-canvas exterior keeps everything clean and dry. onabags.com; $279.