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We decided to put together this selection of the best point and shoot cameras in an attempt to take the attention away from today’s fancy smartphones. Here in 2021, a smartphone is always within arm’s reach to snap a moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job.
The humble point and shoot camera isn’t dead yet! Far from it, in fact. The latest compact cameras may not be as slender as some smartphones, but with their enhanced image sensors, optical zoom, image stabilization, inbuilt flash, longer battery life, and many other useful features, they still offer a much better photography experience than your average smartphone. There’s some overlap in the definition between ‘compact cameras‘ and ‘point and shoot cameras, but the main differentiator is size, with compact cameras being smaller.
Whilst having a pocketable camera can be an advantage, it can also limit the functionality of the camera. A larger point and shoot camera can include various features such as extended optical zooms, larger inbuilt flashes, or simply a more ergonomic camera grip.
The factors taken into consideration when choosing the products in this review were:
Value for money – you’ll need to invest a little to get better results than your average smartphone, but the cameras below represent excellent bang for your buck. In general, the more you spend, the better the camera.
Ease of use – for those used to using a smartphone for image capture, the best point and shoot cameras need to be as simple to use, but still offer expanded functionality.
Functionality – the cameras need to have useful functions that are not offered by smartphones, or be able to perform functions better than smartphones.
Fun factor – slightly subjective we have to admit, but all the cameras reviewed here are inherently fun to use – if they’re not, we may as well stick to our trusty smartphones!
Canon Powershot SX530 HS
The Canon PowerShot SX530 HS, a high-zoom bridge camera from Canon, is their latest in a range of point and shoot digital cameras. An update of the Canon SX420 model, it takes the hugely popular 42x optical zoom up to a 50x optical zoom lens and couples it with a 100x digital ZoomPlus. This impressive zoom lens (equivalent to a 24-1200mm zoom on a 35mm camera) is perfect for long lens photography shots during travel, but that’s not the only trick up the sleeve of the Canon PowerShot SX530 HS.
The Canon HS system uses a 16MP High Sensitivity CMOS image sensor and DIGIC 4+ image processor, which allows for optimal image clarity, even in low-light conditions. That said, however, we did find images of photos taken in low light to be rather grainy at higher ISOs, but this is to be expected with a point and shoot camera with a small sensor such as this.
Whether up close or shot from a distance, you can take advantage of the latest advancements in Intelligent IS Optical Image Stabilization technology, which analyzes the camera’s movement and optimizes itself to help you get blur-free photos and shake-free videos. The Intelligent IS feature makes the Canon PowerShot SX530 HS one of the best point and shoot cameras for low light photography, since you’ll be able to use a slower shutter speed, keeping the ISO down for less grainy photos.
The Canon PowerShot SX530 HS offers a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 second. This means you’ll be able to ‘freeze the action’, by taking pictures of fast moving subjects without blur.
If you’re a newbie at photography, the Canon PowerShot SX530 HS has inbuilt features that will help you with the quality of your photographs and videos. Canon’s Creative Shot Mode is a nice touch, artistically enhancing your still images and videos with various filters. Filters aren’t for everyone, but as a beginner experimenting with photography, they can be fun.
The Canon PowerShot SX530 HS records full HD 1080p videos at 30 fps via a dedicated movie button. For instant live view monitoring and image playback, a sharp, 3″ 461k-dot LCD screen is incorporated into the ergonomic design of the camera.
Ricoh GR II
If you are looking to redefine your point and shoot photography experience, you should definitely check out the Ricoh GR II. Packing a fixed wide-angle lens and large sensor into a small, palm, and pocket-sized body, this is an ideal camera for everyday shooting. It’s also a favorite for street photography.
The Ricoh GR II upgrades several features of the original GR, this time offering built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, improved white balance and noise performance, effects modes, and the capability to wirelessly control external flash units.
The Ricoh GR II could quite possibly be the world’s smallest digital camera with a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. Featuring a compact 18.3mm f/2.8 GR fixed lens, (the equivalent of a fast 28mm wide-angle lens), you can expect incredible professional-grade imagery, even in low light.
The ‘high speed autofocus mode’ provides instant focus speed for quick snapshots, although burst performance isn’t as fast as some smaller-sensor cameras (see the Sony RX100 for example). It’s definitely fast enough for street shooting though, which is what so many photographers use the Ricoh for even in 2021.
Aesthetically, the GR II is well built with a tough magnesium alloy body and a sort of ‘rough’ texture that gives a high quality feel. There is a large rubber hand grip that runs from the front of the camera to the rear for your thumb, and strap loopholes for attaching a camera strap in portrait or landscape orientation. The back of the camera features a 3inch fixed screen with a high resolution of 1230k dots (RGBW), and whilst isn’t a tilt-screen, it does offer decent viewing angles.
Whether you’re looking for a second point and shoot camera, a trusted daily shot companion, or are simply excited at the possibility of high quality images from an unassuming compact camera, the Ricoh GR II can hold its own even in 2021.
Canon Powershot ELPH 180
If you are looking for a simple, compact and cheap point and shoot camera to capture memorable moments with family and friends, the Canon Powershot ELPH 180 is still a viable choice. Slim, stylish, and lightweight, this is one of the smallest point and shoot cameras tested, able to slip easily into a jeans pocket.
The ELPH 180 features a 20MP 1/2.3″ CCD image sensor coupled with a DIGIC 4+ image processor that produces vibrant JPEG images ready for sharing or printing. ISO 1600 means you’ll be able to shoot in low light without a flash, but don’t expect anything extraordinary here. As for continuous stills shooting, you can get 2.2 fps. For video, HD 720p recording at 25 fps.
To complement the imaging capabilities and bring more shots within your reach, the 8x Optical Zoom lens offers a 28-224mm equivalent focal length range, with good wide-angle to telephoto perspective. Shooting at 224mm allows you to get very close to the subject, and if you’re physically close enough to it too, you can also introduce some depth and perspective into your images.
Digital IS minimizes the effects of camera shake, giving you minimum blur and sharper images for your handheld shooting. Smart Auto mode intelligently selects the most suitable camera settings for what you’re photographing, recognizing shooting situations so you don’t have to fumble around to find the perfect picture mode yourself.
The automatic detection features of the Canon Powershot ELPH 180 also include Face detection AF, which intelligently detects faces in the frame and automatically locks focus on them – ideal for taking pictures of fast moving children! Then there’s Contrast Detection autofocus which gives enhanced contrast in your images.
The Canon Powershot ELPH 180 has a sleek design that is complemented by a fixed 2.7″ 230k-dot LCD rear monitor to make things more comfortable for you while in image and video playback, live view monitoring, and while navigating the simple Canon menu.
Obviously, at this price-point, this camera is not intended for the seasoned photographer. That said, if you are looking for one of the best point and shoot cameras under $200, then the Canon Powershot ELPH 180 is an option that definitely won’t break the bank.
Canon Powershot SX420 IS
The Canon Powershot SX420 IS is a point and shoot camera that blends an impressive long-reaching zoom with sharp imaging performance. As a pocketable bridge style camera, it’s easy to take with you every day and provides for comfortable ergonomic handling. The Canon offers high-resolution stills shooting with great image clarity and low light sensitivity up to ISO 1600, which makes it ideal for working in various environments.
The Canon Powershot SX420 IS can capture sharp images even at an equivalent zoom range of 1008mm. This is due to its high quality, expansive 42x optical zoom lens (as opposed to digital zoom). At the wide end, you can enjoy a 24mm equivalent field of view.
The Canon Powershot SX420 IS features a rear 3″ 230k-dot LCD that, though not a touch screen, allows you to compose imagery, review your photos and movies, and navigate the menu easily with the ergonomic button layout.
One disappointment was the below-average battery life – you can expect only around 195 shots per charge. This can be extended to around 260 shots with the camera’s Eco Mode, which intelligently reduces the camera’s battery consumption.
Video shooting is 720p at 25 fps, as well as VGA 640 x 480 at 30 fps. If you record a lot of videos while walking, Dynamic IS will help to reduce camera shake while recording your videos at wide-angle focal lengths.
When recording at the telephoto end of the powerful zoom range, Powered IS compensates for any small hand movements. The Macro (Hybrid) IS, in addition to minimizing the appearance of shake, also compensates for shift-type shake that occurs when working with close-up subject matter.
Shooting Modes are pretty standard for entry-level cameras, but still, it’s nice to be able to fast-forward to your necessary settings when shooting in certain conditions with the Canon Powershot SX420 IS. There’s Low Light, Portrait, and Fireworks modes, and then of course Smart Auto mode which intelligently selects the proper camera settings based on recognized shooting situations.
Overall, the Canon Powershot SX420 IS is more suitable for beginners rather than seasoned photographers. That said, the camera boasts plenty of features that make it an impressive, easy and fun to use camera, and has been extremely popular over the years – read the reviews – there are many happy owners who call it one of the best point and shoot cameras for its price.
In conclusion, the point and shoot camera category is a strange one. Many still fail to understand its relevance, especially with smartphones being able to capture images so well in 2021. Despite sales being on the decline, we believe that point and shoot cameras are still a great option for those wishing to capture higher quality images than their smartphones, in more challenging environments.
Optical zooms on point and shoot cameras allow you to shoot distant objects with ease without the need to buy huge, expensive telephoto lenses; advanced sensors allow you to shoot in lower light (with no flash) than a smartphone ever could; enhanced processors mean you can catch fast moving subjects by shooting several frames a second… and on top of all this, the actual photography experience is so much better using a dedicated camera than holding a phone.
If nothing else, hopefully this review of the best point and shoot cameras of the year has opened your eyes to another great image capturing format available to photographers today.
February 20, 2021
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