It has been said that as cell phone cameras get better, point and shoot cameras are becoming obsolete. If you know of anyone who has said this, hopefully you have already whooped them soundly. The truth is that these cameras are more necessary than ever because there isn’t time to set up the perfect shot, adjust your lighting, and wait for a fleeting muse to shower you with inspiration. You need a camera that works fast and can capture all of a shot, not just the tiny, grainy little sliver you get from a cell phone camera.
When you pick your device, the first thing to know is that megapixels aren’t everything. Being buried in pixels is only important if you plan on making enormous prints. Instead you’ll want to check sensor size and the ratio of pixels to sensor. You also don’t want to just go for zoom power but rather focal length so you know if it will shoot wide or narrow. Finally, you will want a good LCD for framing your shot, excellent stability, and an auto focus that can keep up with the action. Weighing these factors, we’ve given you the 9 best point and shoot cameras.
Cheap and Sassy: Normally if you are going to buy a camera for less than $100 then you would be better off just getting a pencil and some paper and sketching rather than trying to squeeze any useful photography out of such a device. This is especially true with the cameras we are looking at here, but the W800/B is a surprising find. It’s a point and shoot with the soul of a compact. It has a resolution that tops 20 megapixels coupled with a 1/2.3″ CCD sensor. You’ll only get a 5x zoom out of it, but it works well without overreaching. It has a 26–130 mm focal length, so you’ll get a lot of range without much refinement.
Everything about the W800 is geared toward the true simplicity inherent in point and shoot technology. The menu system even has an “easy” mode to minimize the options you have to scroll through before you just get down to business and take some damn pictures. It can shoot 720p video, though that is like saying the Browns can win the Super Bowl. Don’t bet anything you can’t lose on the chance. Mostly this is a good camera to buy with the money found in your couch. [Purchase: $78]
Top Pics for the Price: If you need something that is a step up from the Best of the Bargain Bin, but still don’t want a costly piece of equipment to lug around, then many professional photographers suggest the MX-1 as their go-to for everyday carry. It checks off all the major boxes: 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor with 12 megapixel resolution. 100-12800 ISO. 28–112 mm focal lens. Hell, it even has a 4x zoom. The 3″ LCD screen is easy to see and simple to use. If you’re usually a dSLR shooter, but want something tough enough to ride in your bag and still give you quality at a moment’s notice, try an MX-1. You’ll be surprised. [Purchase: $250]
Canon PowerShot G16
Social Butterfly: If you are trying to get your hands on a one of these cameras with an optical viewfinder, but have a budget ceiling of about $500, then the G16 is your only rational choice. It also has a strangely broad ISO range allowing for 80 on one end and 12800 at the other, though it works much better in sunlight than in shadow thanks to the 1/1.7″ BSI-CMOS sensor and 12 megapixel resolution. It also shoots in full-HD 1080p video if that is what you desire.
Where the PowerShot excels is in its Wi-Fi connectivity and easy interface with social media networks through the Canon Image Gateway. If you can’t wait to get all of your vacation shots out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even Flickr, it just takes a few swipes with the G16. It also has no problem working with nearby Android or iOS devices for versatile storage options. With a 28mm-140mm range and 5x zoom, what it lacks in beautiful photos it more than makes up for in versatile usability. [Purchase: $449]
Olympus Tough TG-3
Outdoorsy Type: The TG-3 showed up as one of the best waterproof cameras, but it is more than that. The Tough is also built for the crowd that need to snap some quick pics while they are strapped into a roll cage or capturing the moment during a fly-along with the Blue Angels. While the other options on this list are fine for tourists, adventurers will want bring a TG-3 with them to keep dust, dirt, grit, water, and blood from ruining their vacation photos.
Not only is the TG-3 able to withstand abuse, it can get some lovely, frameable pictures thanks to the 16 megapixel resolution and 1/2.3″ BSI-CMOS sensor. The problems you will run into are in taking low-light shots since the ISO only goes up to 6400. The focal range is also somewhat limited to 25–100 mm. With a zoom that only hits 4x, you’ll be getting lots of marvelous wide shots, but very little in the way of close-ups. Still, for pure machisimo, the TG-3 won’t let you down. [Purchase: $470]
Nikon 1 J4
Speed Freak: The J4 comes from a philosophical place where more = better. Rather than trying to help photographers slowly setup the perfect shot, align the lighting, adjust their beret, and order another mock turtle-neck for their next poetry slam, this just jacks up the shutter speed to 1/16000 sec. The assumption being that if you take a few thousand pictures really quickly, one of them will work. Or you can just make a really bitchin’ flip book.
Though the J4 seems to lean toward power over precision, that isn’t to say it can’t suit more sophisticated tastes. It has a 1″ CMOS sensor that works very well with the 18 megapixel camera. The ISO range is a very respectable 160-12800 giving it good shots in low-light, but brightly sunshining days might overload it a little. Tack on the ability to handle 1080p video to the mirrorless body and you have a killer combo. [Purchase: $600]
Olympus Stylus 1
Zoom, zoom, zoom: A strong zoom is usually counter to the culture of point and shoot cameras since they require a lot of fiddling to create a quality focus, which takes precious time away from more important tasks like eating an entire rasher of bacon. Nonetheless, the Stylus 1 employs a 10.7x zoom, though the rest of its specs are point and shoot through and through. It has a 1/1.7″ BSI-CMOS sensor with a perfectly balanced 12 megapixel resolution that can – thanks to the huge zoom feature – cover between 28-300 mm in focal length.
To adapt to the changes inherent in long zoom lenses the digital auto-focus works overtime whenever it is engaged. It alters aperture, shutter speed, and minimizes blur for long distance shots and extreme closeups. The motion reduction is tight as a drum so that even if shooting from hand your photos won’t suffer from too much focus fade. When the auto just isn’t enough, the Stylus also includes a manual focus. [Purchase: $650]
Quick Draw: When every millisecond counts and you don’t have time to wait for an auto-focus that takes its sweet time, then reach for the fastest focus in the west (even though it is technically designed in the east), the X100S. While most other shooters on this list attempt to err on the side of compact, the X100S has delusions of being a dSLR with its 23.6 x 15.8mm sensor and true 35mm focal length. Despite that, the hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder tells the tale of a heavy-duty point and shoot.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the X100S is the EXR II processor which is intended for finding the perfect shot with deadly accuracy. Fuji says that to this day it still is the fastest auto-focus in existence and they have the speed tests to prove it. For the more refined photographer, they also include a manual option that works in conjunction with the auto to make pictures from the perfect meld of man and machine. The two things to note about the X100S is it lacks any but a 1x zoom and costs a mint. [Purchase: $1,300]
Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II
Night Owl: The G1X Mark II is a little on the bulky side, but with good reason. Under the hood it is packing a CMOS sensor that is a full inch and a half, which is massive and clearly intended for those that prefer to do their photography in places where the sun don’t shine. Oddly enough, this is one of the rare cases where the camera resolution doesn’t quite keep pace with the sensor, rather than the other way around. The resolution doesn’t even break 13 megapixels, further reinforcing the sense that this is a camera for vampires.
Like most of the new Canon cameras it uses the DIGIC 6 image processing system to reduce noise and blur and eliminate background and foreground blending. The auto-focus is good, but you’ll probably want to use the manual adjustments to create the ideal image. Oddly enough, even though everything else points toward a low-light camera, it claims to only have an ISO range of 100-12800, though the proof shows it can accommodate much more than that. You’ll get breathtaking, professional-grade resolution with this every time. A little costly, but money well spent. [Purchase: $800]
Sony RX100 III
Well Rounded: Ask anyone with a home studio what basic camera you should start with and they will likely point you right at a used RX100 I since it can compete with almost anything else to this day. The Mark II was merely an upgrade from that auspicious beginning and the Mark III…the Mark III can put a baby in us anytime it wants to. The sensor is a full 1″ CMOS which makes the 21 megapixel resolution pop at any size. You can make pinhole prints with stunning clarity or make a mural to go on the side of your van.
The automatic ISO range gives you true 125-12800 and given the size of the sensor, you can bet that even the low-light shots you took from the haunted mansion will come out crystal clear. The 3″ screen makes framing easy and gives you true-to-life picture setup. The one minor flaw, if it can even be called that, is the shrunken size will only permit a 2.9x zoom and the focal length is a narrow 24–70 mm so it has a definite sweet spot, but don’t let the numbers fool you. You’ll still get exquisite long shots, just don’t expect it to be good for surveillance. [Purchase: $798]
Rumor: The Panasonic LX7 was an excellent camera, and it would have made this list if it weren’t two years old with its age showing. However, rumors abound that on July 16th, Panasonic will pull back the curtain on their new LX8 which early leaks have claimed to be a stunning replacement that will shock and amaze. The current claims state that it will employ a 2/3 or full 1″ sensor. Certainly an improvement over the 1/1.7″ on the LX7.
The biggest rumor which has everyone’s ears pricked up is that the LX8 will be the first camera to shoot in 4K, meaning it will take video that can be shown on the new curved screens that are allegedly going to be changing the face of home television viewing forever. So far the company, and even 4K experts, aren’t entirely sure how this might be accomplished using the point and shoot camera model espoused by the LX7. Perhaps the LX8 will be something new entirely…or just another load of internet chatter. (Panasonic LX7 Pictured Above)