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Updated Nov 18, 2022 12:54 PM

In 1888, George Eastman, founder of the Kodak Company, introduced a 3-by-4-by-6 1/2-inch box camera to the public. Preloaded with enough film for 100 pictures—the film that would need to be mailed to the company’s headquarters in Rochester, NY for development and printing—it became the first point and shoot camera. Since this inception, and even since the early 2000′s, point-and-shoot cameras have become more and more technologically advanced and capable. Point and shoots have larger sensors than smartphones that are able to take in more data and handle varying conditions and are able to effortlessly provide high-quality photos, no matter a person’s photography experience.

Unlike their DSLR counterparts, point and shoot cameras have focus-free and autofocus lenses with zoom or fixed focal length options. This means lenses can’t be switched out and they rely on auto modes to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and light sensitivity. These self-adjusting settings and their portability and accessibility make point-and-shoots some of the best cameras for beginners.

Classic manufacturers like Canon, Sony, Nikon, and Olympus sell film cameras and digital cameras that are lightweight, durable, and affordable. To help navigate all your options, we put together a list of the best compact cameras and important qualities to keep in mind.

Methodology: How we picked the best point and shoot cameras

The writers and editors at Popular Photography have decades of combined experience writing about and reviewing cameras. These picks come from a mixture of personal experience, spec comparisons, user reviews, and editorial reviews. We emphasized models that perform in a variety of different situations while keeping their sizes small. While some of these models climb up over $500, we tried to keep the price relatively low because these aren’t the most advanced models.

Best point and shoot cameras: Reviews & Recommendations

Best for beginners: Canon PowerShot SX420

Why it made the cut: This 20-megapixel camera has lots of zoom, but keeps the shooting process very simple. It’s solid for beginners or people who just want a basic experience.

Specs: 

  • Megapixels: 20
  • Zoom: 42x
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces

Pros:

  • 3-inch rotating screen
  • Light considering its build
  • Super-long zoom
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Image stabilization

Cons:

  • Hand-holding gets tough at long focal lengths

Canon crammed a ton of features into this camera, but kept the shooting experience very simple. The design keeps buttons and dials sparse, so people can concentrate on the subject they’re photographing. It relies mostly on automatic shooting modes, but you can exercise come creative control with exposure compensation and other creative shooting modes. The 42x zoom lens offers a huge focal range. The angle of view is equal to what a full-frame camera would see through a 25-1,0008mm zoom lens. That’s a lot of reach. Hand-holding any camera at 1,008mm is going to be tricky, but the built-in image stabilization promises sharp images under a wide array of shooting situations. It shoots 720p video and has built-in Wifi as well as NFC for easily connecting to a smartphone.

This is not the most advanced camera around, but it offers a simplified shooting experience that some beginners will appreciate.

Best for travel: Canon PowerShot Digital Camera G7 X Mark II

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Why it made the cut: A large, 1-inch sensor and a versatile lens make this camera comfortable in just about any situation.

Specs: 

  • Megapixels: 20.1
  • Zoom: 4.2x
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros:

  • Large sensor
  • Versatile lens
  • Manual control options
  • Solid flash

Cons:

  • A little pricey

The one-inch sensor is larger than what you’ll find in a typical compact camera. This translates into better low-light shooting, even when you’re not using the built-in flash. The sensor has built-in autofocus pixels that help track objects for sharp shots even when your subject is moving. The 4.2x optical zoom lets shooters capture more distant objects without sacrificing image quality, and the 3-inch tilting LCD screen allows for shots from creative angles. Raw photo capture provides extra flexibility for travel photographers who want to perfect images with photo editing software once they’re back from their trip.

Best waterproof: Olympus Tough TG-6

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Why it made the cut: It’s waterproof down to 50 feet without the need for an extra case. It’s also resistant against dust and weight crushing it.

Specs: 

  • Megapixels: 12
  • Zoom: 4x
  • Weight: 9 ounces

Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • Extremely tough
  • Versatile lens
  • Underwater shooting modes
  • Compatible with tons of accessories

Cons:

  • Small sensor

This point-and-shoot camera can go pretty much anywhere. It’s waterproof down to 50 feet. It’s totally dust-proof, so it won’t suffer if you take it to the beach. Plus, it’s crush-proof up to 220 pounds, so you can sit on it by accident and still go shooting later in the day. Most compacts can’t stand up to that kind of abuse. But, toughness isn’t worth much if the camera isn’t very good. This compact offers a relatively small sensor, but it has a versatile 4X zoom lens that will cover most common scenarios out on your adventures. If you fall in love with the camera, Olympus offers a ton of different accessories like action camera mounts and underwater lights to go with it.

Best for content creators: Sony ZV-1

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Why it made the cut: The relatively large 1-inch sensor and versatile lens offer solid photographic features for any situation.

Specs: 

  • Megapixels: 20.1
  • Zoom: 2.7x
  • Weight: 10.4 ounces

Pros:

  • Excellent lens
  • Large sensor
  • Very compact for its specs
  • Above average autofocus features

Cons:

  • Can feel a little cramped with big hands.

Keep your face bright and clear with the auto exposure of this Sony camera. It also centers your face and quickly adjusts background blur with the push of a Background Defocus button. Get great sound in one take with a forward-directional on-board mic and detachable windscreen. There’s also a handy flip screen so you can preview the frame and capture the perfect shots and angles, making it one of the best point and shoot cameras for vlogging.

Best budget: AbergBest 21 Mega Pixels

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Why it made the cut: It’s cheap enough that you don’t have to worry too much if you accidentally drop it off of a cliff or into a shark’s mouth.

Specs: 

  • Megapixels: 21
  • Zoom: N/A
  • Weight: 12 ounces

Pros:

  • Light
  • Simple to use
  • Very cheap
  • Like, it’s seriously cheap

Cons:

  • Very underwhelming image quality

This digital camera has a variety of useful features and modes including anti-shake, face detect, smile capture, continue shot, self-timer, 8x digital zoom, and night shooting. The LCD display shows you vivid video and a rechargeable lithium battery can support the camera for hours. In addition to a sleek black, it comes in six funky colors—blue, green, purple, orange, red, and pink. This camera won’t come close to the quality you’d expect from a more expensive camera or a phone, but it’s very cheap. If you want to hand it to a kid or take it to an irresponsible location, then you won’t have to worry about wrecking it.

Features to consider when shopping for the best point and shoot cameras

Point and shoot cameras are small and compact cameras that create sharp, vibrant images. This makes them the best camera for beginners, and a good option for travelers and even some professional uses. Here are some features to consider when choosing the right one for you.

Are you a true beginner?

A point-and-shoot camera is designed to make the process of photography as simple as possible. However, there are still various settings and functions photography beginners must familiarize themselves with. The most universally used buttons on a point and shoot camera control and adjust the shutter, zoom, mode dial, flash, video, playback, and exposure. Most compact cameras automatically adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for you. Some have a dedicated ISO button that will either let you set the number directly, or set it to something like “High ISO.” Whatever controls do not fit on the exterior can be easily found in the camera’s menu.

For those beginners wanting a simple way to capture moments with family and friends at home or traveling, there are digital cameras with both advanced functions that produce crisp, rich images and an intuitive design to help you capture images with flexibility and ease.

Will you travel with your camera?

One of the main purposes of a compact camera is that the camera is, well, compact. With typical dimensions of roughly 2.5 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches, point and shoots are specifically designed to easily fit into pockets, purses, fanny packs, and other small compartments. And unlike hefty DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras weigh way less than a single pound. You’ll never feel burdened by a heavy, bulky device. Not only does their portability make them ideal travel cameras, but their high-speed shooting and large storage capacity mean that you can take a litany of unending high-definition snapshots. If you’re worried about safety, the discreet size of compact cameras makes them less of a target for theft.

Do you need a tough camera for an active lifestyle?

If you live for the outdoors—hiking steep mountain trails or backpacking through desert Canyons—you need a point-and-shoot camera that can handle adventure. Rugged and waterproof cameras are built to endure and capture the extreme environments you love exploring. For us less risky folk, these tough cameras can survive your average accidental drops, spills, and kicks. Taking electronics to the beach is usually a big no-no, as even a single grain of sand can cause damage. Yet rugged models can resist sand, allowing you to take all the sunset shots you want.

How old is the photographer?

There’s no age requirement to be a photographer. That being said, you probably don’t want a child using your personal (and pricey) camera. Similar to rugged cameras, there are compact cameras specifically made with the unpredictability and clumsiness of kids in mind. Let the youngins take creative control and capture and preserve their own wonderful moments and memories in HD with cameras designed for their little artsy, visionary selves.

FAQs

Q: How much are the best point-and-shoot cameras?

We prefer to call them compact cameras, but they can range anywhere from a measly $100 up over $1,000 if you want a compact with advanced features, a decent sensor, and an excellent lens. If you’re planning to create real work with it, expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars. If you just want something to mess around with, go cheap.

Q: Do professional photographers use point-and-shoot cameras?

Professional photographers do in fact use point-and-shoot cameras, mainly for the same reasons amateur or beginner photographers do. The built-in lens on point and shoots are sharp and wide, making for quality and immersive photos. Being able to operate more advanced compact cameras in full manual mode and adjust aperture and shutter speed is an obvious draw for photographers who want control of their images. Point and shoot digital cameras are lightweight and pocketable, so there’s no need to lug around extra equipment.

Q: Are point and shoot cameras better than iPhone?

iPhones and other smartphone cameras may offer impressive features, but there are still many benefits to a point-and-shoot camera. Point and shoot cameras can have better image quality, a true optical zoom, more ability to manipulate settings, and are less expensive than new-generation iPhones. Higher-quality RAW photos are also definitely a major pro, allowing for more data to be pulled from an image.

A final word on shopping for the best point and shoot cameras

No matter the setting, creative vision, skill level, or age of a photographer, there are high-quality options that meet every need. The ultimate advantage of a point and shoot is its size and portability, making it the perfect camera for travel and adventure, as well as documenting day-to-day life. Buy the best point and shoot cameras for you today!