point and shoot

point and shoot

Is a Point and Shoot Camera Still Worth Buying?

With the relatively recent jump in smartphone camera quality and computational photography breakthroughs, it may seem like point and shoot cameras are a thing of the past. But there are scenarios where they still make sense.

For Casual Situations, Stick with Your Phone

Point and shoot cameras are better than ever, but they aren’t the same product they were fifteen (or even ten) years ago. A $100 or $200 point and shoot used to be the perfect item for casual photo taking. But now you’re better off using your phone.

Phones are better than cheap point and shoots for several reasons, but we’ll start by talking about photo quality. On paper, cheapo point and shoots should be better than phones. While phone cameras have 12 MP sensors and tiny lenses, even the dinkiest $100 point and shoots have 20 MP sensors, medium size lenses, and “10X OPTICAL ZOOM.”

But specs don’t dictate quality. A high megapixel camera with a fat lens has the capacity to create highly detailed images, but that capacity hinges on other factors—like lighting, lens hardware, and the software that’s baked into the camera. Your phone camera is built to work in low-light environments at a hardware level, but it also features unique computational software that’s absent from cheap point and shoots.

Wait, I’ve got software in my photos? Computational photography is a relatively new breakthrough that uses software to process and correct photos. Think of red eye correction, except your entire photo is processed to show more dynamic range (crisp whites and deep blacks).

The iPhone’s Deep Fusion software and the Google Pixel’s HDR+ are wonderful examples of computational photography. Each time you take a picture on these (and other) phones, you’re actually taking a burst of photos that are funneled through a DRAM chip and processed pixel by pixel to create one amazing image. Cheap point and shoots don’t do that. Often times, they don’t even have night modes.

Let’s not forget that your phone has built-in image editors, direct access to social media platforms, and potentially unlimited storage through services like Dropbox, iCloud, Google Photos, Amazon Photos, etc. A cheap little point and shoot doesn’t have any of that. They don’t even come with SD cards anymore!

As good as phone cameras are, though, they’re mostly limited to casual applications. If you’re trying to take professional or artistic photos that reach beyond the limits of a phone camera, a high-quality point and shoot might be your best option. It’s just gonna cost you a bit of money.

For Quality, Be Prepared to Spend More Than $400

Point and shoots have always lived a secret double life. On the one hand, they’re cheap and easy cameras for the masses. But they’re also wonderful tools for professional or amateur photographers who can’t (or don’t want to) deal with a huge DSLR.

While cheap point and shoots have fallen behind phones, expensive models have actually caught up with DSLRs. They take full advantage of their hardware to take better photos than your phone, yet they’re still super portable and easy to use.

The problem? You have to drop at least $400 to get a point and shoot that’s noticeably better than your phone.

That may be worth it if you take photos for your job, a hobby, or your own artistic self-satisfaction. But it’s still a lot of money, and there are many professional situations where phone cameras can get the job done just fine (all of the photos in our Pixel 4 review, for example, were taken with a Pixel 4).

And then there’s the question of, you know, why not buy a DSLR instead?

Would a DSLR Get the Job Done?

One of our favorite point and shoots is the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II. It sells for just over $400 and (subjectively) outperforms phone cameras. But it’s also more expensive than the Canon EOS Rebel DSLR, a “starter camera” that offers interchangeable lenses, manual controls, and better photo quality than the PowerShot G9.

We’re mentioning this because, in terms of raw photo quality, DSLRs are better than point and shoots. If that’s the big thing you’re looking for, then maybe its time to drop a few bones on a DSLR. But if you want something that’s portable, easy to use, maintenance-free, and durable enough to throw in a checked bag, then a point and shoot is your best bet.

Our Favorite Point and Shoots

If you’ve made it this far without bailing, then there’s a good chance you’re interested in buying a high-quality point and shoot camera. So, here are some of our favorites. We’ll explain why we like them, along with why they might be a good fit for you.

The Best Overall: Sony RX100 VII

It’s hard to beat the Sony RX100 VII. It’s so incredibly small and thin, yet it has an 8x optical zoom lens, a 20.1 MP stacked CMOS sensor, a retractable OLED viewfinder, amazing photo processing software, and a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter for wireless file transfers. The RX100 VII even makes for a great video camera, as it has a built-in mic jack, object tracking software, and it films in 4K.

Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera with 1.0-type stacked CMOS sensor (DSCRX100M7)

The Sony RX100 VII is the king of compact cameras. Its hardware and photo processing software are unbeatable, especially at this size.

Point and Shoot

Thrilling and thought-provoking, Point and Shoot captures one man’s fascinating — if troublingly narcissistic — «crash course in manhood.»

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