The point-and-shoot category encompasses everything from pocketable cameras to hefty superzooms, and thecomfortably bridges the gap between them. It fits a relatively large 1-inch-type sensor into a pocketable form factor and still manages to stick on a 8× zoom lens. Beyond that, it includes a wealth of advanced features that will make it attractive to even the most experienced photographers (and videographers), while being easy enough to use for beginners as well.
But the RX100 VII doesn’t come cheap, and there are a number of other great cameras that may be better suited to specific situations.
At a glance:
Best point-and-shoot camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII
Why should you buy this: Impressive performance and image quality.
Who’s it for: Photo enthusiasts and pros on the go.
Why we picked the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII:
Time and time again, an RX100 camera is found at the top of this list. Sony now gives the stage to the RX100 VII. Like its predecessor, Sony has gone with a 20-megapixel, 1-inch sensor. Also keeping its place is the 8× zoom lens for an equivalent focal length of 24-200mm and aperture range of f/2.8 – f/4.
The features Sony has packed into this tiny point and shoot camera puts it on par with some DSLR and mirrorless systems. Incredibly, the RX100 VII can shoot at 90 frames-per-second (fps) with a new mode they call, Single Burst Shooting. No other camera on this list comes close to that frame rate.
Standard continuous shooting tops out at 20 fps, which is a bit slower than the RX100 VI, but it’s now blackout-free. This means you can track a fast-moving subject perfectly without interruption, all while autofocus continues to work. A particularly advantageous feature for sports and wildlife photographers, where following the subject is essential.
The AF capabilities on this camera are the stuff of dreams. It takes only 0.02 seconds to lock focus on a subject. Sony’s Real-Time Tracking uses artificial intelligence to recognize and track subjects, and Real-time Eye AF can lock on to the eyes of both people and animals.
Then there are Sony’s usual video features. 4K video footage at 30 fps with loads of custom settings to keep even pro video shooters happy. As with stills, Real-time Eye AF is present in video mode. This should certainly be an attractive feature to vloggers who create content while on the move. The camera has a built-in microphone jack, resulting in better sound quality when creating audible visuals.
This camera isn’t cheap, but it brings Sony’s best features from its professional mirrorless cameras to a point-and-shoot you can fit in your pocket.
Best superzoom point-and-shoot: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
Why should you buy this: 24-600mm zoom, fast performance
Who’s it for: Nature and travel photographers.
Why we picked the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV:
Well, look at that, another Sony RX camera — and, no, this one won’t fit in a pocket. The RX10 is the long-zoom compatriot to the RX100, and the Mark IV is the latest model. It is built around a similar 20MP, 1-inch-type “stacked” sensor as the RX100 VII and offers similar performance, including 24fps burst shooting, 4K video, 0.03-second autofocus acquisition. If the RX100 series is the best point-and-shoot camera that can fit in your pocket, the RX10 is the best point-and-shoot camera that can’t — it’s more capable, but less portable.
The RX10 IV is outfitted with a massive, 24-600mm (full-frame equivalent) lens. This camera can shoot everything from open open vistas to wildlife close-ups, and the fast AF speed means it can even handle sports and action. We were impressed with not just the speed, but also the sharp image quality of our burst shots. Yes, this does bring the camera up to DSLR size, but DSLR lens with the same amount of zoom would have to be much, much bigger.
Naturally, the RX10 IV can also shoot great 4K video along with high framerate video at lower resolutions and. Combined with its versatile zoom, it opens up many creative opportunities for the documentary or travel filmmaker.
But this is not exactly an affordable camera, costing more than some entry-level interchangeable lens models. But for the reach it gives you, it is less expensive than a DSLR or or mirrorless camera and the associated lenses you would need to buy. As with the RX100, earlier models of the RX10 are also still available new for less money.
If you need more reach than the RX10 IV offers, Nikon’s Coolpix P1000 is a good alternative with its 24-3,000mm equivalent lens. It is also less expensive than the Sony, but it doesn’t offer equal image quality or performance.
Read our RX10 IV review.
Best advanced point-and-shoot camera: Ricoh GR III
Why should you buy this: Retro aesthetic, great image quality
Who’s it for: Street and travel photographers who want the image quality of a DSLR in a compact body.
Why we picked the Ricoh GR III:
The GR series has a small but loyal fanbase, and the latest version of this camera brings it to the mainstream with features like a touchscreen, fast phase-detection autofocus, and 5-axis image stabilization. The GR III boasts a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor — the largest of any camera on this list as as big as many mirrorless cameras and DSLRs — and a fixed, 28mm equivalent lens, a favorite focal length of street photographers. That means excellent image quality in a pocketable form factor, at the expense of zoom.
This puts the GR III is a relatively small niche compared to something like the RX100 VII, but it also means the shooting experience is very similar to what you’d get with your phone. The 28mm focal length is commonly found on phone cameras, while the touchscreen offers similar operation. But the GR III’s larger sensor means better image quality — especially in low light. We were also very impressed with the quality of lens, which is incredibly sharp even at the widest, f/2.8 aperture setting. This camera really does rival DSLRs and mirrorless cameras for image quality despite being a fraction of the size.
Price wise, the GR III rests comfortably in the middle of this list. It may seem high for a camera that lacks the versatility of a zoom lens, but if you’re after an easy-to-use camera that you can take almost anywhere and shoots very high-quality images, it is hard to beat. If you enjoy the simple shooting experience that a phone offers but want better results in a wider variety of settings, the Ricoh GR III is worth a look.
Read our Ricoh GR III review.
Best cheap point-and-shoot camera: Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II
Why should you buy this: 1-inch sensor, Wi-Fi + NFC, nice price
Who’s it for: Casual photographers
Why we picked the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II:
If you want the image quality of a Sony RX100 without the price, the Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II is a great choice. It doesn’t match the RX100’s burst rate, focus speed, zoom power, or video quality, but it does capture great-looking still images at an unbeatable price thanks to its 20MP, 1-inch-type sensor (yes, probably made by Sony).
The lens offers a 28-84mm zoom range (full-frame equivalent) and f/2-4.9 maximum aperture, giving it less reach than the RX100 VII, but with an extra stop of light gathering capability at the wide end. That should mean even better low light performance — although if you start to zoom in, that advantage fades away. For outdoor work, it’s a good all-around focal length range that covers most normal shooting scenarios while maintaining a slim profile. From landscapes to portraits, the G9 X Mark II can get the job done.
It also features a 3-inch touchscreen for easy navigation, continuous shooting speed is a respectable 8 fps, and it can shoot Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 fps — but not 4K. It’s not a RX100 VII competitor, then, but it covers the basics for beginners and casual photographers.
These specs are largely identical to the original G9 X, but the Mark II adds Bluetooth for easier connectivity to your phone. A newer Digic 7 processor also bumps burst rate and autofocus performance slightly.
Best point-and-shoot camera for travel: Olympus Stylus Tough TG-6
Why should you buy this: Water, dust, and shock-proof; built-in GPS.
Who’s it for: Outdoor adventurers and travelers of all types
Why we picked the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-6:
All of the above cameras may be great, but none of them will work underwater. When you need a camera that can handle being dropped down a small cliff into a stream and live to tell about it, the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-6 is for you.
With adventurers in mind, the TG-5 is waterproof to a depth of 50 feet, drop-proof from a height of 7 feet, and features a built-in GPS with geotagging and location logging abilities that can create a map of your adventure viewable in the Olympus Image Track app.
While its sensor is smaller than the 1-inch units in most of the other cameras on this list, it’s still not too shabby in the image quality department. The resolution has actually dropped from the TG-4 to 12MP, but this improves low-light performance, which pairs nicely with the 25-100mm (full-frame equivalent) f/2.0-4.9 lens. It also offers RAW files for maximum quality; a 20fps burst mode; and 4K video. Plus, it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve, like an excellent macro mode and an effortless Live Composite mode that makes light-painting a breeze.
The TG-6 hasn’t changed much over the older Tough TG-5, but that was easily our favorite rugged point-and-shoot camera, and the TG-6 maintains that position.
Best point-and-shoot film camera: Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic
Why you should buy this: Fun instant film from a stylish, versatile camera
Who’s it for: Kids, teens, and anyone who wants to turn their fridge into a real-world Instagram feed.
Why we picked the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90:
Instant film makes for a fun, creative, and often liberating approach to photography. You don’t get the quality or performance of a digital camera, but because of that, you’re free to focus on the experience itself. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 has the ideal blend of style, features, size, and price, considering most Instax Mini cameras will have the same image quality as they all use the same film inside.
The Instax Mini 90 offers a classic look in a body that’s not too bulky to tote around. The camera brings in a few features that aren’t as common for instant cameras, including manual settings, a macro mode, and different shooting modes. Modern additions include a rechargeable battery and a small screen for displaying the battery life and shooting settings. It’s a great camera for parties and makeshift photo booths, or as a fun learning tool for kids.
The camera uses Instax Mini film, which isn’t too expensive, but does mean every shot you take has a cost associated with it (keep this in mind before you hand the camera to your kids). There are several great instant cameras on the market, but the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 offers the best blend of features, size, and price. (The Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 offers fun nostalgic images with the original Polaroid dimensions and frames, but is larger and the film is pricier. If budget isn’t an issue, the Lecia Sofort is excellent option, which also uses Instax Mini film.)
Research and buying tips
What is a point-and-shoot camera?
As the name suggests, a point-and-shoot is a camera designed to be easy to use — just point the camera and press the shutter button. They can be simple compact devices that are fully automatic, or larger, more advanced options with myriad shooting modes and settings. Some may have zoom lenses, others fixed focal length lenses, but the commonality they share is that the lens is not removable, unlike a DSLR or mirrorless camera. This type of camera had been the most popular during the previous decade, but the smartphone has essentially usurped the traditional point-and-shoot’s dominance.
But many standalone point-and-shoots, particularly the advanced models we mention here, offer things a smartphone can’t, and oftentimes that’s because of pure physics: Larger sensors, optical zoom lenses, and mechanical apertures and shutters give these cameras an image quality edge.
Some, like the RX10 series from Sony, can even stand in as filmmaking cameras. While today’s smartphones are ideal for everyday shooting and capable of capturing nice images and videos, advanced point-and-shoots go the extra mile for users who want a bit of control over their camera
Why buy a point-and-shoot camera?
With a camera inside every smartphone, why buy a point-and-shoot camera anymore? Cheap point-and-shoots have fallen by the wayside over the last decade as phone cameras have gotten so much better, but as budget compact cameras disappear, manufacturers have moved up into higher-end models.
Dedicated cameras typically offer two big advantages over a smartphone: A zoom lens and/or a larger sensor. Even as phones are coming out now that offer three or more lenses, point-and-shoots can pack in a 30x zoom and remain compact — or a 125x zoom with a larger body.
Advanced point-and-shoots also have larger sensors than a phone camera, which means better image quality, more control over depth of field (letting you blur the background while keeping the subject sharp), and cleaner images in low light settings. Many pack in a one-inch sensor, while some even manage to squeeze a DSLR-sized sensor into a pocketable form factor, like the Ricoh GR III. While some compacts, like the Olympus Tough TG-6, still sport a smaller sensor, these cameras often offer additional features your phone can’t match, such as waterproofing and macro modes.
How do I choose a point-and-shoot camera?
Next, make sure you have a clear list in mind of the features you must have. If you absolutely must have a viewfinder, for example, that should be one of the first things you use to narrow down your search. The same goes for things like manual exposure modes and RAW shooting, FPS rates, and your camera’s ability to capture stills and landscapes.
Making a physical shortlist of these essential features is the best way to narrow down your available options. Of course, the price should be on your radar as well.
The Sony RX camera we discussed above, for example, came with everything that a photographer could ever need, but you don’t necessarily need all of those bells and whistles to take a good picture. You don’t need to confine yourself to the cheapest camera models, but if you do your research, you should be able to find a mid-range camera to accomplish what you need easily.