Smartphone cameras have advanced to amazing clarity and professional or advanced DSLR cameras can take phenomenal choices but simple and advanced are not your only camera options. What was once the standard in consumer photography, point-and-shoot cameras are still a popular commodity and over the past ten years have advanced quite a bit, although many of their advancements were overshadowed but the latest cell phone release of the month.
Why would you ever (revert back to buying a plain old) point and shoot camera? A few reasons. First of all their affordable, many more so than smartphones. Second they’re incredibly easy to use, although some do have more advanced features. Next they simply take better photos than smartphones. Finally, they’re typically more durable than delicate smartphones and high-end DSLR cameras.
There’s also something to be said about having a standalone camera on your side. Unlike a smartphone it acts as a reminder to take pictures, making them perfect for special occasions, road-trips, and getaways. They also take you back to a more innocent time of taking a picture and dealing with how ‘perfectly’ it came out later. Those photographed likely won’t be as pushy to see the image right away and ask you to retake it from 10-some additional points of view. Others also won’t spend minutes (let’s hope that’s all) directly after editing the photos and posting them to a network of social media sites meaning you can capture memories and move on with your day.
Main Categories of Point and Shoot Cameras
- Basic Point-and-Shoots – These are simple, few-to-no-frill cameras, with optical zoom ranges up to 23x. All are lightweight and thin, making them super-portable and some have interactive touchscreens. They vary in range to just under $100 to around $450.
- Superzoom Point-and-Shoots – As the name would suggest, these cameras have longer optical zooms of at least 24x to 83x, making them good for professional sporting events and concerts. They’ve downsized (in a good way) in recent years so they’re more portable than they used to be and most have perfected grips and other features that make it easy to get stable shots even at far distances. Pretty similarly to basic point-and-shoots they’ll typically range in price from a little over $100 to around $450
- Waterproof Point-and-Shoots: – If you want to shoot underwater, you’ll need a waterproof point-and-shoot. How ‘waterproof’ each model is will vary greatly as some can basically only be submerged, while others can withstand water pressures up to 50 feet. These models have inner and outer chassis construction which make them more durable and also better equipped to handle cold weather. They again start at around $100 but usually only go up to $350 or so.
- Advanced Point-and-Shoots – As a step under DSLR cameras, advanced point-and-shoots have non detachable lenses but most have manual controls and more advanced features. On these models you’ll find features such as an external flash that can produce RAW files and high-quality electronic viewfinders to help you shoot in bright light. The most expensive of all point-and-shoot models they’ll range in price from around $350 to upwards of $1,500, the latter of which is typically more expensive than beginner DSLR models.
Like price points, features will vary on any point-and-shoot and are often based on camera type as well as manufacturer. Beyond megapixel, which are an over-hyper feature that really doesn’t matter that much, you’ll want to pick a camera with features you can actually see yourself using. Some of the most common features are as follows:
- Sensor Size – This is what is so often confused with megapixels in terms of the quality of photos a camera can produce. There isn’t a uniform standard sensor measurement but just think the larger the sensor, the better the performance
- Zoom – Longer (usually optical) zooms will give you better pictures from afar. Don’t underestimate point-and-shoot zooms as soom can give you images that are out of this world – as in literally of the moon. There is a trade-off though, smaller superzooms are lighter and more compact, which makes them great for traveling while longer superzooms, which are larger, make the camera heavier camera to carry.
- LCD Screen – Nearly all point-and-shoots have LCD screens and generally the most expensive the camera, the better the screen. A higher quality LCD screen offer better color and provide better visibility in bright light. Also the larger the screen, (3 inch would be large here) the better, as it will give you a more accurate preview of your shot.
- Image Stabilization (IS) – Also called anti-shake is what helps eliminate those throw-away pics. Because point-and-shoot camera will often choose a slower shutter speed to get a better exposure, an images can have a blurred effect even when the camera is held with a sturdy grip. These cameras often use one of two IS methods to correct this: Optical IS adjusts the lens to compensate for movement, and sensor movement adjusts the position of the sensor to compensate for any shake while digital image stabilization attempts to correct the blurring after the image is shot.
- Camera Modes – Since point-and-shoots give you less manual controls than DSLR cameras they have built in camera modes that automatically help you get the most of any scene. One common mode (which is sometimes a separate feature) is facial recognition, which helps ensure faces come out clearly.
- Connectivity – Many modern point-and-shoot cameras now come with built-in connectivity options so you can share photos to social media sites (just like you can through a smartphone), and connect to other devices, such as your smartphone. Wi-Fi is the most common type of connectivity but you’ll also find some models with NFC (near field communication) or Bluetooth.