Point and shoot digital cameras are intended to be the easiest way to capture high-quality images quickly. With the increasing popularity and quality of smartphone cameras, modern point and shoots have to do more than simply take a passable image. Today, the best point and shoot cameras offer a wide variety of impressive features that simply cannot be replicated by a smartphone.
With the ever-increasing pixel-counts found in smartphone shooters, it can be difficult to understand why a point and shoot camera with similar megapixels might actually produce better images. Keep in mind that pixel counts really only determine file size, not image quality. When comparing cameras, it's far more beneficial to look at its sensor size, lens quality or physical features that make manual shooting easier.
Cameras like Sony's Cyber-shot RX100 offer a large 1-inch sensor for unparalleled image quality, while others, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, offer impressive f/1.4 lenses for clear images with appealingly blurred backgrounds. Photography enthusiasts will appreciate advanced features like a built-in viewfinder and intuitive manual controls found on the likes of the Canon PowerShot G16. Each of these features are things that you won't find in a smartphone camera, and they provide good reasons to consider buying a separate point and shoot camera. To learn more, read our articles on point and shoot digital cameras.
Point and shoot camera manufacturers try to balance image quality, zoom capabilities and design features in a compact and convenient package. We sorted the most important point and shoot camera characteristics into the following categories to help you decide what's most important to you.
The best point and shoot digital cameras typically have sensor sizes between 1-inch and 1/2.3-inches. Cameras that focus more on outstanding image quality and low-light performance will have larger sensors, while those with extended zoom ranges tend to have sensors on the lower end of the spectrum.
Lens quality also has a lot to do with how your images turn out. When it comes to point and shoot lenses, there are two major components to take into account: aperture and zoom range.
Aperture is often represented with an f-stop or f-number like f/1.8. Low f-numbers signify large apertures that are capable of channeling plenty of light to the image sensor. This translates to sharper images overall and greatly improved low-light performance. It is important to note, however, that lenses with large apertures are often limited in their zoom capacities.
Zoom-oriented cameras, on the other hand, generally have smaller maximum apertures but offer lenses with up to 30x optical zoom. While theses cameras will have lesser image quality over short distances, they have the unique ability of producing clear close-ups of distant targets.
Aside from aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the other methods of controlling how much light the sensor gathers. Shutter speed dictates how long the sensor is exposed to light and ISO levels determine how sensitive the sensor is to that light.
Slow shutter speeds allow more light to reach the sensor, but the slightest movement while the shutter is open can lead to blurring. To minimize blurring, fast shutter speeds are preferred. Because every situation is different, it's best to have a wide range of available shutter speeds. The best cameras have shutters that can remain open for long periods for night photography, or shoot at up to 1/4,000 of a second for crisp action shots.
The same goes for ISO. High ISO settings allow for brighter images in low light, but can also lead to grainy and unappealing photographs. Much like shutter speed, it's a good idea to look for a camera that can offer both high and low ISO settings.
The best point and shoot cameras are designed to be compact and convenient. While size is often the primary concern here, many designs also include additional features that don't directly relate to size or image quality.
One of these features is Wi-Fi. Having built in Wi-Fi allows you to easily share your images or transfer them from your camera to a mobile device. Some Wi-Fi enabled cameras also have mobile applications that allow you to have total control over your camera from a mobile device.
Some point and shoot cameras also include a built-in GPS. This allows for easy location tagging in all of your photos. Using GPS, you'll be able to easily track your travels and keep your location data as a part of the visual memory.
Most of the cameras in our point and shoot camera reviews include many of the same software features. Still it's important to understand exactly what you're getting when comparing your options.
Nearly all of the cameras include the typical utility functions like a self-timer, red-eye reduction and face recognition. The self-timer option makes it easy to set your camera on a tripod and take self-portraits, while face recognition helps to keep images properly exposed and focused on your subjects.
Creative filters and effects are also easy to find on most point and shoot cameras. This allows you to select from premade editing options to give your pictures a processed feel without having to use a desktop editor.
Other options include panorama and HDR shooting modes. Panorama modes allow you to take several consecutive photos of a particular landscape and stitch them together for a wide field of view. HDR operates by automatically taking several photographs of the same scene at different exposures. The camera then combines the best-exposed components of each photo into one well-exposed image.
Help & Support
A one-year warranty against defects in parts or workmanship is standard for point and shoot cameras. Many companies offer manuals, guides and other helpful information on their websites. Contacting manufactures is often as easy as picking up the phone or sending an email. Some companies also offer live chat support.
A point and shoot camera should be able to produce quality images while remaining compact and lightweight. Some specialize in increased image quality, some have extended zoom ranges and others place importance on advanced design features. It is important to discover which of these components is most important to you as you search for a point and shoot digital camera.