The digital Point-and-Shoot camera has come a long way since the Apple QuickTake in 1994.

Every year since, these handy cameras get a bit smaller, a bit better, and a bit cheaper. Despite not measuring up to the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex camera) in several categories, they still have their place — and in many cases can be preferable to their bigger cousins.

Pros & cons of Point-and-Shoot Digital cameras

Point & shoot camera pros
  • Size & weight: The modern P&S is totally pocketable. My smartphone (which is a serviceable P&S itself, but that’s another story) is actually longer and taller than some of my compact point & shoot cameras. The worst camera is the one you don’t use, and the worst photo is the one you don’t take. Don’t underestimate the ability to always have a camera on hand.
  • Price: Unless the P&S you’re buying has the word “Leica” on it, in most cases you are going to pay less than even an entry-level DSLR.
  • Noise: Most P&S cams have two moving bits — the zoom lens and the itty bitty shutter inside the camera. Both are virtually silent in most cases. Great for taking candids.
  • Ease of use: Most of them are set up to take good photos right out of the box, no fiddling required. Controls and menus are simple and easy to understand.

Point & shoot camera cons

  • Image quality: That little bitty image sensor the size of your index fingernail isn’t very good at capturing images in low light situations, and generally won’t produce great enlargements either.
  • Flexibility: Can’t quite zoom in enough on that far away subject? Change the lens… oh wait — you can’t. Sure, you can crop it later, but you’ll lose resolution that way.
  • Manual controls: Want to try picking your own aperture and shutter speed? Many P&S cams won’t let you.
  • Speed: Focusing is slower and there’s the notorious “shutter lag” problem (the slight but perceptible and annoying delay between pushing the button and the picture actually being taken). Trying to shoot a basketball game with anything but a high end P&S? Fuhgeddaboutit.
  • Lack of real viewfinders: Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon (get off my lawn, you kids!), but I don’t like composing my shot through an LCD screen. Some people, though, may hate squinting through a tiny viewfinder. It’s just one more data point that depends on your personal preference.

Cameras shown at top of page: Samsung NX Mini 20.5MPOlympus TG-3 Waterproof 16 MP Digital CameraNikon 1 J4 Digital Camera


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