File picture: Jared Wong

New York - For travellers who are serious about their photos, smartphone snaps just don’t cut it - no matter how good the latest iPhone camera may be.

It’s almost always worth lugging around a proper camera if you’re heading out on a trip-of-a-lifetime, whether it’s on safari or to Machu Picchu. Here are five new releases that’ll elevate your vacation photos, whether you’re a total novice or a professional shutterbug.

Fit for adventurers

The reasons for bringing along a dedicated pocket camera are few and far between these days - unless, of course, it’s rugged and waterproof, like the compact Fujifilm XP90 ($200). How else are you going to get those one-of-a-kind underwater shots while snorkelling in the Andaman Islands? You’ll also feel comfortable using it on boats, pool decks, and in other splash-prone places. The list of benefits goes on: It’s stylish and lightweight, and although it’s affordable, it’s also practically indestructible. It’ll survive drops of up to 5.8 feet and can plunge to depths of 50 feet.

The tiny powerhouse

If you want a camera that’ll fit unobtrusively in your pocket (or clutch), but want more power and capability than any smartphone provides, go for the Lumix by Panasonic ($700). It has an F1.4-2.8 24-72mm Leica lens, a 1.4 aperture that’s great for low-light shots, and a 1-inch sensor that’s almost twice as big as the iPhone 7’s. It’s that sensor that makes the biggest difference: It lets in and processes enough light to deliver clean, clear, and natural-looking images from candlelit dinners and strobe-lit dance floors alike.

Pro tip: When you’re shooting 4K video footage, use the Post Focus feature to extract still images from your flick, retroactively change the focus of a shot, or merge similar images together to create the perfect frame.

Style and substance

This slim, mirrorless update of a classic 1960s camera features retro design touches - metal dials and controls, leather grain, a separate viewfinder - that belie the digital smarts within. Among them are an ultrafast autofocus, 5-axis image stabilisation, and a fully swivelling touchscreen, all meant to help you nail those easy-to-miss shots. (Whether that means lions on the prowl in Botswana or celeb sightings in Hollywood is up to you.)

The Olympus Pen F ($1 200) is Instagram-ready, too: Add effects on the fly with dedicated dials on the front and back, which let you play with colour saturation or choose from preset filters, and upload with the help of built-in Wi-Fi.

Like a Polaroid on steroids

Pictures taken with instant cameras aren’t known for their realistic colour, but their faded, grainy look and real-time tangibility go hand in hand with today’s lust for all things analogue. And if you’re going instant, you can now skip the Polaroid and go with a Leica. (Yes, really!) The vintage-looking Sofort comes in mint, orange, or white, with a retractable 60mm f/12.7 Leica lens, built-in flash, and an optical viewfinder ($299). A cinch to operate, the camera features several preset modes, like “Party & People” or “Double Exposure,” and spits out textured keepsake prints on standard Fujifilm Instax cartridges or Leica’s own black-and-white instant film (featuring cream-coloured borders). It even amps up your selfie game, thanks to a reflector mirror on the front.

The DSLR that does it all

If taking best-in-class pictures is one of the reasons you travel, then you need to take a high-performance camera. Problem is, many of these are heavy and bulky. The Nikon D500 isn’t exactly an exception to the rule - its drop-, dust-, and water-resistant carbon-fibre body weighs almost 2 pounds - but it makes its pro-level competitors look like giants ($1,800).

Among its high-performance features are a precise, fast, 153-point autofocus; dual memory card slots (including a next-gen XQD 2.0 memory card slot for smooth and speedy continuous shooting, even with high-resolution images); and compatibility with a multitude of different lenses. With the D500’s 4K video shooting and inputs for both microphones and headphones, you can consider it your camcorder replacement, too.