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You are standing in a long line at the coffee shop while browsing through Instagram. You see a gorgeous photo that your friend just posted. What a candid photo! The color is rich, the tone is balanced, and the background blur is not fake. Not all of us enjoy the cameras on the phone, yet not all of us are professional photographers. Between the mediocre phone camera and the complicated DSLR, point and shoot cameras are a happy medium.
We all want to look like a pro, busy adjusting the settings on a DSLR camera full of buttons. Only after investing in a few entry-level DSLR cameras, you realize that 99% of the time you are only using the “auto” setup. Yes, it is disappointing to see a perfect moment get messed up by your smartphone’s camera, you don’t have to beat yourself up by signing up for a photography class crash course.
A point and shoot (P&S) camera, also called a compact camera, is primarily designed for simple use. They have the most needed and used features to take decent images and videos. For example, autofocus, optical zoom, exposure setting, white balance setting, etc. However, they are not overly complicated that it turns you away. Another great benefit is that they are small and portable. Unless you are going on a trip just for photo shooting, most of us don’t like to carry a heavy piece of equipment around. A point and shoot camera doesn’t require too much setup. You take it out, aim at the object, and click a button. Done! Simple and quick.
This guide is for entry-level users who are looking for a point and shoot camera that takes high-quality photos but does not cost a fortune. When we did the evaluation, we kept in mind the importance of simplicity. Our goal is to select budget cameras that you can enjoy using for a long time. We first walk you through the criteria and factors to consider while evaluating a point and shoot camera. Followed by our recommendations for the best ones available in the market today.
What to Consider When Buying Point and Shoot Camera
Almost all compact cameras have zoomable lenses rather than fixed. In laymen’s terms, the zoom range decides on how much the camera can magnify the object in the image without your moving closer. The optical zoom capability is shown as “number x”, or example, 5x, 6x, 8x. A higher number represents a longer zoom. If you like to take photos of objects that are not easy to reach, let’s say a bird on the treetop, then you want to choose a longer optical zoom. Even though the zoom is a useful feature, it is not a good idea to overuse it. Over zooming will sacrifice image quality. It is very important that always compare the optical zoom, not the digital zoom. The digital zoom is how large the picture can be enlarged once it’s taken.
Optical Sensor Size
One of the most important parts of any kind of camera is the sensor. It is the critical piece that converts the detected object in real life into a digital image. The size of the sensor affects how much light the sensor can utilize to create the image. The bigger the size, the more details the camera is able to capture. Most smartphones today with decent lenses use sensors between 1/2.3 inches and 1/3 inches. The ultra-wide camera on iPhone 11 Pro has a sensor that measures 1/3.6 inches.
As the name suggests, image stabilization is a feature to stabilize the image if the camera user is in motion. In other words, if you are moving or your hands are shaking while taking the picture or video, this feature will help capture sharper images and reduce the noise in the images. This is helpful if you plan to use the camera outdoors. For example, taking a picture while you are riding a horse, or shooting a video during a wild animal safari ride.
Video Capture Resolution
Nowadays we hear buzzwords like “4k” or “8k” a lot, especially since companies like LG are launching 8K TVs. What is the video resolution for a camera? The video capture resolution determines the video file size and how clear the video can be. You may come across different ways of representing video resolutions. Though it can appear a little confusing, there are only limited options for video resolution available in the market today. For example, iPhone 11 Pro is capable of recording 720p HD, 1080p HD, and 4K videos. When comparing different cameras, use the table below as a reference.
|Resolution||Other Name||Pixel Size||Approximate Aspect Ratio|
|Standard Definition (SD)||480p||640 x 480||4:3|
|High Definition (HD)||720p||1280 x 720||16:9|
|Full HD||1080p||1920 x 1080||16:9|
|2K||–||2048 x 1080||1.9:1|
Maximum Continuous Shooting Speed
The continuous shooting speed is represented by Frame Per Second (FPS). For example, 25fps means the camera captures 25 frames in each second. The higher the fps, the clearer the video will be. FPS value shouldn’t be looked at alone. When you evaluate the continuous shooting speed, also consider the video resolution. iPhone 11 Pro records 4k videos at 24 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps. It records 720p HD videos at 30 fps.
Of course, there are many other factors such as storage size, display size, viewfinder type, etc. They don’t have much impact on the quality of the images the camera is capable of capturing. Don’t be distracted by some fancy marketing terms such as “Picture Effect” or “Shooting Mode”. Focus on the most important and critical specifications will save you from paying extra bucks for fancy and useless features.
At WIC, we evaluated 15 different point and shoot cameras. Our main focus was on image quality and user-friendliness. Considering all the factors laid out above, we have listed the three best ones to recommend.
Best performance even in low light
SUMMARY: Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 is hands-down the most worth-it budget point and shoot camera. You will be impressed with how vibrant and color-rich the photos turn out to be. The greatest surprise to us is its capability to capture great photos in low light. Besides, it offers great portability and convenience thanks to its sleek design.
Optical Zoom: 8X | Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ | Image Stabilization: Yes | Video Resolution: 720p HD | Maximum Continuous Shooting Speed: 30FPS
What we like:
👍 Easy to use. Simple to operate even for people who are not tech savvy
👍 Lightweight and compact. It fits in the pocket nicely. Therefore, you always have it handy at any precious moment
👍 Amazing picture quality. It takes vibrant photos even in at night
👍 Awesome battery life
👍 Comes with lots of accessories
What we don’t like:
☹ 8x zoom might not be enough for most people. There are times you do wish that the zoom can be longer
☹ No port to connect the camera with the PC to transfer photos. Must use a card reader
Best optical performance with great zoom
SUMMARY: Canon PowerShot SX420 has an amazing 42x optical zoom. The image stabilization feature is very powerful, even when we tested it by taking photos while jogging. The wide-angle focal length is a big plus. If you are looking for a point and shoot camera with richer features, this is your choice.
Optical Zoom: 42X | Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ | Image Stabilization: Yes | Video Resolution: 720p HD | Maximum Continuous Shooting Speed: 0.6FPS
What we like:
👍 Great zoom length of 42X. One of the best in DSLR-like cameras
👍 Great image stabilization
👍 It has manual focus mode in case you want to play around with the focus
👍 Built-in wifi for easy sharing photos
What we don’t like:
☹ 0.6FPS. If you are planning to shoot decent videos, stay away from this camera
☹ Battery life is disappointing. It only lasts about 200 shots
Great for parties and portraits
SUMMARY: First launched in 2014, Sony PowerShot DSCW830 has been one of the most well-received point and shoot cameras. Given its decent features and inexpensive price, it offers great value for the money.
Optical Zoom: 42X | Sensor Size: 1/2.3″ | Image Stabilization: Yes | Video Resolution: 720p HD | Maximum Continuous Shooting Speed: 30FPS
What we like:
👍 Has a sweep Panorama mode great for capturing wide landscape
👍 Used smile shutter technology. The camera will recognize faces, and automatically takes the image when it detects a smily face.
👍 Can get great shots of moving objects
What we don’t like:
☹ Exposure takes a little long
☹ Image quality is so so in low-lighting conditions