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Best Overall: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II at Amazon
"Canon's G9 X Mark II has respectable features across the board, making it a great all-around camera."
Best Budget: Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 at Amazon
"A budget option for those who want a pocketable camera with a few advantages over a cellphone."
Best Splurge: Sony DSC RX100 VII at Amazon
"Enthusiasts that love the feel of professional-grade Sonys have a solid pocket option in this camera."
Best for Wildlife: Nikon Coolpix P1000 at Amazon
"Get closeups of wildlife with a built-in lens that's perfect for photographing far-off subjects."
Best for Video: Panasonic Lumix LX-10 at Amazon
"This low-profile pocket camera has a great Leica lens and 4K video capabilities."
Best for Beginners: Fujifilm X100V at Amazon
"Has manual and automatic operation options, making this a great choice for beginners who want to experiment."
Best Waterproof: Olympus Tough TG-6 at Amazon
"Built for water-resistance up to 50 feet and has preset shooting modes for underwater photos."
Best for Zooming: Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV at Amazon
"Features an impressive 24-600 ultra-zoom lens so you can capture speedy animals close-up without blur."
Best for Large Format: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III at Amazon
"This camera has a large APS-C sensor that will take photos you can enlarge for your walls."
Best for Vlogging: Sony ZV-1 Camera at Amazon
"Comes with a face-priority autofocus that keeps you centered and in-focus for your vlog."
The rapid advance in quality in smartphone cameras has decimated the market for cheap point-and-shoot cameras. Why carry a bulky standalone camera that doesn’t shoot as good pictures as your phone? Luckily for consumers, this has driven innovation in higher-end point-and-shoots that bring features and image quality from more expensive, more professional DSLR cameras into pocket-sized cameras that are worth toting in addition to your smartphone.
Cort Muller is a professional adventure and action sports photographer who loves the convenience of a quality point-and-shoot camera when traveling light. “The more that you take photos and see the world through a camera's viewfinder, the more developed your talent for seeing compositions in the world around you becomes. I love that I can take pictures more often without the burden of my heavier, larger camera gear.”
Muller says point-and-shoot buyers should prioritize image and construction quality. After all, if you’re going to bother using a camera instead of your phone, it should produce significantly better images. Because the lens is part of the camera, look for quality glass with a low F-stop number and compare the sensor sizes of cameras. Megapixels aren’t the end-all, be-all of image quality. Build quality also matters because of how most people use these compact cameras. “I'm likely to carry it around in my pocket as opposed to a proper camera bag so it needs to be able to take a beating,” says Muller.
Read on for more information about the best point-and-shoot cameras.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
Canon is known for its quality cameras and lenses, and both of those come through in this mid-range offering. The PowerShot G9 X Mark II has respectable features across the board, making it a great all-around camera. Its lens has a 28-84 millimeter range and goes as low as f2.0 for solid low-light performance.
The video specs are equally solid. Shoot 1080p 60 frames per second with image stabilization to smooth out handheld shooting. Wi-fi connectivity makes remote shooting possible and lets you upload images through an app on your phone while you're on the road. There's also a touch screen that you can use for focusing and taking pictures so it's a great option for entry-level photographers. Professionals will likely want to spend more for better specs, but for those looking to upgrade from their smartphone images, the G9 X Mark II does the trick.
Best Budget: Canon PowerShot ELPH 190
The look of Canon’s ELPH 190 harkens back to the glory days of cheap, ubiquitous pocket digital cameras, and so does the price. While the specs and images won’t stack up to more expensive cameras, it still exceeds a smartphone camera in several important ways, including the sensor size and the ability to optically zoom up to 10x.
At less than an inch thick and only 5 ounces, the ELPH 190 is also very pocketable and the eco mode maximizes battery life between charges. It captures 720p HD video which isn’t impressive, but to have a dedicated camera with a few advantages over a cellphone, they don’t come much more affordable than this.
Best Splurge: Sony DSC RX100 VII
Sony has converted lots of professional photographers to their cameras over the past decade and enthusiasts that love the look and feel of the professional-grade Sonys have a solid pocket option in the DSC RX100 VII. This modest upgrade to the RX100 line adds a built-in intervalometer for time-lapse photography and a longer focal length out to 200 millimeters to expand on the reach of previous models.
This is the pocket camera adventure photographer Muller uses, and he says that’s in large part because he’s familiar with the menus and layout from his more advanced Sony cameras. “Menus and operations can take some getting used to, so stick with what you know. Missing the shot because you’re fumbling with the menu on an unfamiliar camera kind of negates the reason for carrying a point and shoot.”
Like other upgraded Sony cameras, the RX100 VII also has robust video capabilities with 4K 30p video and an insane 960 frames per second slow-motion mode in Full HD. The lens gives up a little in maximum aperture rising from f1.8 to f2.8 in exchange for the focal range, but the robust image stabilization should make up for the loss.
Best for Wildlife: Nikon Coolpix P1000
One of the biggest advantages of a standalone camera is the ability to optically zoom in on a subject without the image degrading horribly as it does on most smartphones, which can only digitally “zoom”. The Nikon Coolpix P1000 takes this to the extreme, with a built-in lens that reaches out up to 3,000 millimeters, or 125x magnification. It also comes with a vibration reduction system to protect against shakiness that is common with closeups.
Camera setups used by professional wildlife photographers that can magnify this much cost well into 5-digit prices, so to be able to photograph birds, the moon, and other far-off subjects for less than $1,000 is remarkable. This camera is bigger than most point-and-shoots as a result, but given what it can do, it’ll be worth hauling around when you get gorgeous wildlife shots.
Best for Video: Panasonic Lumix LX-10
Panasonic’s DSLR cameras have become known for their robust video capabilities and the pocket-sized LX-10 inherits many of those features as well as strong photo capabilities. Even though the camera is tiny, Panasonic’s POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization) helps make sure you still get usable shots when going handheld. You also get 4K 30 frames per second video plus a 120 frames per second slow-motion mode at FullHD.
Both photos and videos benefit from Panasonic’s partnership with famed lens-maker Leica who provides a 24-72 millimeter lens that opens up all the way to f1.4 for sharp images and better low-light performance. There’s also a 3-inch LCD screen that tilts 180 degrees if you need to turn the camera on yourself and still be able to frame your shot. And remarkably, this all fits into a pocket camera that’s only about 1.5 inches thick.
Best for Beginners: Fujifilm X100V
The X100V from Fujifilm looks like a camera from decades long past, but luckily you can put pure photographic joy in your pocket with this camera—without having to revert to shooting on film and hanging out in darkrooms. The X100V not only looks the part of a vintage camera, but it sports a fixed-length 23 millimeter (slightly wide-angle) lens which forces the photographer to move around to change composition, rather than zooming in and out wildly from one spot.
The camera also features a manual operation complete with physical dials for many controls and an automatic operation if you don’t want to use them, making this a great option for beginner photographers who want to experiment. And when it comes to specs and features, this isn’t just a throwback. You can shoot 4K video and there’s a fold-out LCD touchscreen to make framing awkward shots a breeze.
Best Waterproof: Olympus Tough TG-6
Muller says that “often the best camera to use is the one you have on you,” and if you’re on the trip of a lifetime and your camera fails, you might miss out. Because point-and-shoots often end up thrown in pockets and bags, they need to be durable. Olympus has recognized this and made it central to their “Tough” line of cameras for years. The TG-6 is their latest offering and it’s built for water-resistance up to 50 feet down and drops from up to 7 feet.
But all this wouldn’t matter if it couldn’t take decent pictures and videos. The f2.0 lens captures close-up macro images all the way out to 8x telephoto range. 4K video is no slouch, either, and you get several preset shooting modes including some especially for underwater, where colors can look strange when using any old camera.
Best for Zooming: Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV
This larger, DSLR-style camera isn’t small and it isn’t cheap, but it sports professional-grade specs such as “the world’s fastest autofocus” and rapid-fire 24 frames per second shooting that makes it well-prepared for sports and other fast-moving subjects. Sony’s partnership with respected glass company Zeiss yields an impressive 24-600 ultra-zoom lens that goes as low as f2.4 so you can capture speedy animals and athletes close-up without blur.
There’s also 4K video for when photos just can’t capture the motion of a subject adequately. In both photo and video modes, there’s image stabilization which is essential for getting usable imagery at the far end of the telephoto range.
Best for Large Format: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
One of the biggest differences between a standalone point-and-shoot and a smartphone camera is the size of the sensor, and bigger sensors mean higher-resolution images. Not a huge deal if you’re just posting to social media, but if you want photos that you can enlarge for your walls with crisp details, you want a larger sensor. Many point-and-shoots feature 1-inch sensors, but the G1 X Mark III from Canon features an APS-C sensor, the same sensor that’s used in their “prosumer” DSLR cameras.
Despite having a DSLR look to it, the G1 X is still compact, at only 2 inches wide, and weighs less than a pound. It might not slip into your pocket as easily as a smartphone, but it’ll capture images your phone can only dream of.
Best for Vlogging: Sony ZV-1 Camera
It’s likely that Sony’s ZV-1 is the first camera specifically designed for vloggers, so if you’re one of the many folks creating video content to upload to social media, the ZV-1 is built for you. Not surprisingly, it features a flip-out LCD screen so you can keep an eye on your shot when filming yourself. That’s almost standard these days, but where the ZV-1 really stands out is the face-priority autofocus that keeps you front and center and in-focus. There’s also a shallow depth of field mode that blurs the background for that vlog look with no distracting background.
It features professional-level audio options including a built-in directional mic with an included optional windscreen for shooting outdoors. There’s also a 3.5-millimeter input jack and accessory shoe for add-on mics if desired. And despite all the focus on personal video, the camera is no slouch as a photo camera with 20 megapixels and a solid sensor paired with Zeiss glass that opens up to f1.8.