Best compact travel cameras

We're now well into the holiday season and if you're lucky then you'll be off to sunnier climes for a much-needed vacation. This is the perfect to time to invest in a new snapper to capture all your holiday memories, but with so many options available, making the right choice isn't always easy. 

We've already taken a look at the best waterproof cameras and the best touchscreen compacts, so this time we're turning our attentions to the best travel cameras. Granted, not everyone will be looking for exactly the same thing, but there are a number of factors that are certainly worth considering if you're after a travel camera - including zoom, for capturing shots when you're unable to get up close and personal with the subject, GPS for tagging your shots, battery life for worry-free shooting and compact size, for slipping into your daypack.

We've concocted a round-up of the best travel compact cameras around. Read on for our pick of the bunch.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

This smart 12.1MP compact from Canon replaced the SX210 and features the same 14x zoom, which is perfect for capturing shots from a long way off. So, it would be great for a safari holiday where you need to keep a safe distance from the wild beasts. Along with a strong zoom offering, the Canon PowerShot SX230 also throws full HD 1080p recording into the mix. What's more, the GPS feature will tag your photos with where they were taken, while the integrated GPS Logger software can record your journey.

The cameras weighs in at 223g and is 33.2mm deep, so it shouldn't be too cumbersome to carry around all day. This camera has raised a few eyebrows over its relatively short battery life, but it's worth noting that turning off the GPS when you're not using the camera will help to save some juice. There's also an optional waterproof case available (the WP-DC42) that will make the XS230 waterproof up to 40m. Yours for £253.90.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V

Sony's latest travel snapper is a little on the chunky side compared to some of its svelte contenders, but the 16.2MP sensor and a mighty impressive 16x zoom certainly help to sweeten the pill. This feature-packed camera also includes full HD video capture, along with the option to shoot 3D snaps. You can tag your photos using the GPS function and then plot your travels on a map when you're back at your computer. 

There's also an in-camera help guide, in case you get stuck, while Sony's Sweep Panorama mode is also ideal for taking on your hols as it can produce fantastic panoramic shots of the local landscapes at the touch of a button. The best bit is that you get all this for just £299.99

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20

An updated version of one of Panasonic's best-selling models, the DMC-TZ10, this multi-talented snapper has a brand new 14.1MP sensor, along with 16x optical zoom for capturing far-away subjects. The TZ20 (known as the ZS10 in the US) also offers full HD video capture, and unlike some competitors, the zoom lens can be deployed during recording. A built-in GPS unit means that you can tag your pictures as you go along. Panasonic's iA mode automatically sets the best shooting settings depending on the conditions and also works on the video recording mode.

At 219g, it's one of the lighter cameras on offer here, while its depth of 33.4mm means that it's not razor-thin but not exactly massive either. Like Sony's DSC-HX9V, the TZ20 (£255.21) is also capable of capturing 3D images to really help bring your holiday snaps to life.

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Samsung WB650

This travel snapper from Samsung combines a 24mm wide angle lens with a 15x optical zoom so that you can squeeze as much into each shot as possible. It's also got GPS functionality so that you can tag your shots to pinpoint exactly where they were taken. HD video capture is limited to 720p, but the WB650 has a few other tricks up its sleeve such as a range of creative filters that enable you to add vignettes and fisheye effects to your snaps.

Setting itself apart from the other cameras on show, the WB650 (£180.53) sports an AMOLED screen, which should be able to cope with bright slightly better with sunlight compared to your average LCD and it's also a fair bit slimmer at just 28mm thick. If you want something even more compact, it's also worth considering Samsung's PL210 (£125.42), one of the slimmest optical zoom cameras around at just 19.7mm deep albeit with a slightly more modest 10x zoom.

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Casio Exilim EX-H20G

Although perfectly respectable, the Casio EX-H20G's 10x zoom isn't quite as high as some of those on offer here, but this travel cam has plenty of other goodies on offer. A hybrid GPS system combines geo-tagging with a motion sensor so that the camera can continue to try and pinpoint your location even if the signal is lost. The camera 'counts' the steps since your last know position while a built-in compass works out the rest. Casio's travel camera also sports a panoramic mode and at 28.8mm deep, it's one of the slimmer models in our round-up.

Where the EX-H20G really excels is its battery life, offering 600 shots on one charge compared to the average 250 offered by other snappers in its class. Not bad for £189.70.

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Nikon Coolpix S9100

Priced at £199.95, the Nikon Coolpix S9100 is one of the more expensive snappers in our round-up, but the slightly higher price tag gets you an 18x optical zoom. The camera's 34.6mm profile, although relatively compact, makes the S9100 one of the bulkier models in this round-up. Along with 921k-dot 3in LCD screen, the camera also features full HD video recording along with a panoramic mode which is fast becoming standard on travel cams.

We reckon that the slightly higher price is worth it for the impressive 18x zoom, although be warned that this one doesn't have any GPS functions.

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Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

Along with its 16MP CMOS sensor, the Fujifilm's FinePix F550EXR's 15x optical zoom makes it a strong contender as one of the best travel cameras around. As you'd expect, there's a panoramic mode along with a few arty filters, such as black and white and sepia - a nice touch that isn't offered on many on its rivals. The F550 features full HD video recording while serious snappers will also be pleased to hear that this model will shoot RAW files.

On-board GPS functions include geo tagging and photo navigation which calculates your distance from the previous place where a tagged photo was taken so that you'll always to be able to find the perfect shooting spot again. At £224.99, It's a little pricier than most of the other cameras here, but considering the strong feature count and that 15x zoom, all in a 32.6mm-deep chassis, it doesn't seem too unreasonable.

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Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

This rugged snapper has the weakest zoom offering with just a 5x optical zoom, but it has plenty else to offer, not least its tank-like build quality, along with a 14MP sensor. Not only is it waterproof to 10m, it's also freezeproof to -10°C, and crushproof - being able to withstand a load of 100kg - great if you're off on an action-packed holiday. The WG-1 GPS also offers GPS tagging of photos along with 720p high-def videos and at 28.5mm it's slimmer that some of the other cameras here.

The camera also has a Digital Microscope mode which combines macro shooting capability with a 5 LED macro light for capturing super-close-up shots of the natural world. Yours for £227.72.

Olympus SZ-30MR

If you're willing to splash a little more cash (£238.08) and compromise slightly on size, then you can pick up a camera with a very impressive zoom indeed. At 39.5mm deep, the Olympus SZ-30MR if a fair bit stockier than the compacts on offer here, but with a stonking 24x zoom and DSLR-esque image quality, you can hardly complain. The 16MP snapper also features full HD video capture, along with the increasingly standard travel-friendly panoramic mode. 

There's also a range of arty filters along with the option to take 3D snaps and a pronounced handgrip on the camera body means that one-handed operation is a cinch. While there's no built-in GPS, this is a great travel camera is you don't mind trading a little extra bulk for a strong zoom offering.

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