With a camera now included in every cell phone, tablet and handheld gaming console, it's hard to imagine why one would need another camera. Phone cameras are great for snapping a quick shot to share on Facebook, but the quality of the pictures is not as good as photos taken with traditional cameras. For projects such as scrapbooking, or for enlarging prints to frame and display, a digital camera will take more clear photographs. Digital cameras, including many point and shoot cameras, let you choose settings that will create beautiful, professional-quality photographs that you can enjoy for generations in photo albums and wall collages.
Point and shoot cameras are perfect for capturing those fleeting memories without worrying about fidgeting with knobs or guessing if your shutter speed is correct. Point and shoot digital cameras are small and compact, so they can fit in your pocket, purse or backpack. With a digital camera in tow, you can be ready to capture the beautiful scenery from the top of Diamond Head, snap your son's first soccer goal or enshrine the memory of your weekend trip to Vegas. Since point and shoot digital cameras have automatic settings, you don't have to worry about fuzzy, blurry or grainy photos.
Thanks to the advent of digital media, cameras are more readily available and varied than ever. We compiled a comprehensive list of the best point and shoot cameras. We are impressed with all of the cameras we reviewed, and many of the differences are subtle, but three stand out above the rest: the Panasonic Lumix Point and Shoot, the Olympus S and the Canon PowerShot A series. To discover fun and clever ideas for using your digital device, read more articles on point and shoot cameras in our Learning Center.
The CIPA – Camera and Imaging Product Association – sets the standards for all cameras worldwide. The CIPA suggests choosing a point and shoot camera that feels natural and comfortable in your hand, and that isn't too heavy. The best digital cameras give you clear, beautiful, professional-looking pictures without the headache of having to figure out complicated controls. The best point and shoot cameras have a CCD image sensor, which means it can handle more exposure to light without washing out your images.
When comparing the best point and shoot digital cameras, you'll find the devil is in the details. In order to figure out the absolute best, we explored a wide range of qualities and features. We also considered the CIPA recommended standards and guidelines. Here is a breakdown of some of the features that are important to consider in your search for the best point and shoot camera.
Image resolution is determined by how many dots, or pixels, are used to create the picture. The more pixels that are used, the clearer the picture will look, especially when you print it or enlarge it. Image resolution is measured in megapixels. The minimum recommendation for a point and shoot camera is a 6-megapixel resolution for standard 4 x 6 photos. All of the cameras we reviewed have resolutions well over the minimum standards.
The best digital cameras let you specify the resolution you'd like before you take the photo, and the resolution you choose will depend on what you intend to do with the photos. If you plan to print and share your pictures through a scrapbook or in a frame, you'll want the digital pictures to look as close to traditional analog film as possible. You do this by selecting the highest resolution available on your camera. However, if you're only going to post your pictures online, you can turn down the resolution and save some storage space on your camera.
Another resolution consideration relates to the type of image sensor in the camera, whether it's a CCD or CMOS. Image sensors determine how sensitive your camera is to light. CCD image sensors use every pixel to capture light and are able to create beautiful, near-analog images. With CCD sensors, your images show more detail, and the sensor can eliminate shadows without the need for additional shadow adjustment features or software. An efficient CMOS sensor, on the other hand, can capture nice, accurate pictures without consuming as much storage space or battery life as a CCD sensor. However, your images will have more shadows and darkness in the background.
All digital cameras, including point and shoot cameras, come with both digital zoom and optical zoom settings. An optical zoom moves the lens physically closer to your subject, and it won't affect the resolution quality of your photo. A higher optical zoom will let you zoom in closer without losing resolution. Digital zoom, however, is more like internal image editing software that simply crops parts of the photo and enlarges the part you want to zoom in on. You have very little control of how much the camera will crop out, and image quality is always lost. We suggest not bothering with digital zoom options and sticking with optical zoom as much as possible.
Settings and Effects
Point and shoot cameras come with settings already programmed, so you don't have to worry about adjusting anything for great pictures. If you're interested in learning new techniques and increasing your knowledge of photography, look for a camera that gives you the freedom to play with as many image settings as possible.
Most modern point and shoot cameras offer basic features, like image stabilization, red-eye reduction and a self timer. The differences between point and shoot cameras are found in the extra imaging settings and photo effects. Chose a camera with features that allow you to create photos that reflect your personal preferences.
Some point and shoot cameras let you do basic touchups, such as red-eye reduction, color contrasts and blemish removal, directly on your camera before sharing your photos online or sending them to a photo center for printing. Other cameras let you record HD videos so you can film your daughter's ballet performance or capture your nephew's perfect pitch at the state championship. Many cameras let you view photos you have taken in a slideshow on your camera's display screen.
Battery Life & Storage
Most point and shoot cameras come with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, freeing you from ever needing to buy batteries for your camera. With these batteries, a charge can last for several hundred pictures, so you can confidently cover your weekend ski trip and leave your charger at home. The CIPA standard is 260 images per battery charge. This varies with the size and type of image you are snapping, but anything less will result in your having to recharge your camera battery more often.
Many cameras also feature internal memory and are ready to take pictures after the first charge. Memory that is under 30 megabytes can only save about 10 images. Most cameras allow further storage through a memory flash card like an SD, SDHC or SDXC card. This can increase your image storage capacity to over 500 pictures, so you don’t have to continually download or delete photos to free up memory space.
All point and shoot cameras are designed to be small, lightweight and portable. Some cameras have larger LCD viewfinder screens. You'll want to choose a point and shoot camera that fits naturally and comfortably in your hands and that weighs around 4.5 ounces or so when the batteries and memory card are in place. Anything heavier begins to move away from the point and shoot camera category. While screen sizes vary, a display screen that is at least 3 inches allows you to view your subject accurately and see the area that you will be capturing clearly.
Help & Support
All of the point and shoot cameras we reviewed come with a standard one-year warranty. Some manufacturers offer extended warranties for an additional price. The top-scoring cameras in this category offer online manuals, FAQs, phone and email support. Some companies offer live online chat with a service representative.
Point and shoot cameras give you the portable design necessary to capture any moment. With automatic settings, these cameras are great for beginners. The best point and shoot cameras also allow you to adjust settings and controls so you are able to explore new techniques and methods without spending an arm and a leg.
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