The best digital camera for you isn’t necessarily an expensive hunk of metal and an accompanying backpack of lenses — it might be something as simple as a point-and-shoot. The term describes an all-in-one pocket camera with a fixed lens that’s easy to use, but it could also include larger “superzoom” cameras or advanced models that rival DSLRs in image quality.
Just a few short years ago, we thought the point-and-shoot’s days were over, thanks to the increasing capabilities of smartphone cameras. Companies were cutting models or pulling out of the sector entirely. Sony, which manufacturers a significant percentage of camera sensors, saw overall sales of point-and-shoot cameras continue to decline — year over year — based on its research.
Despite the gloomy forecast, there is a bright spot. While sales are down at the very-low-end, there’s an uptick in premium point-and-shoot models that offer advanced features and high-end specs. Many of these cameras offer larger sensors, rugged build quality, and other specialty components not found on today’s smartphones. This growth could be attributed to step-up users who are upgrading from smartphones and want something that makes a noticeable difference in an effort to improve their photography, without having to opt for an interchangeable lens camera that might require a greater level of expertise.
But asking “what’s the best point-and-shoot camera?” is easier than answering it, as there are numerous types of camera that classify as point-and-shoot, each appealing to a different user and use case. Here are a few of our favorite models, ranging from under $500 all the way to nearly $2,000, which should provide a good jumping off point in your search for the best point-and-shoot camera for you.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V
Why should you buy this: Impressive performance and image quality.
Who’s it for: Photo enthusiasts and pros on the go.
How much will it cost: $1000
Why we picked the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V:
It’s really no surprise that a RX100 camera tops this list. The fifth generation of Sony’s revolutionary point-and-shoot improves on an already excellent recipe without trying to change what worked. It uses a newly developed 20-megapixel, 1-inch-type “stacked” sensor and 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens that is similar to its predecessor, but performance has been turned up a notch — three notches, in fact.
Tired of always missing the perfect moment with your smartphone? The RX100 V has the fastest autofocus speed in its class at 0.05 seconds. The camera employs 315 autofocus points across 65-percent of the frame in a hybrid phase- and contrast-detection system. That means fast and accurate focusing in a variety of settings and lighting conditions.
Shooting speed is also beyond impressive, with a burst rate of 24 frames per second (fps) at full resolution, an increase of 8 fps over the RX100 IV. This is faster than even Sony’s flagship A9 mirrorless camera, which shoots at 20 fps (although that’s like comparing an apple with an orange).
Being a Sony, the RX100 V also includes a full complement of video features. It can shoot 4K video at 30 fps, 1080p at up to 120 fps, and super-slow-motion at 240, 480, and even 960 fps. It also features Sony’s S-Log3 gamma curve for capturing maximum dynamic range, a feature normally reserved for much higher-end cameras.
But perhaps best of all is that none of the RX100 V’s advanced features are thrown in your face. They are there if you go looking for them, but if you want to sit back and enjoy an easy-to-use pocket camera, then you can simply do that without hassle.
The nearly $1,000 price is certainly not for everyone, but fortunately you can still buy older RX100 models brand new. In fact, the original RX100 is still around for just $448, and while it can’t match the performance of newer models, it still shoots stunning images thanks to a very similar (albeit older) sensor.
The 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.
How much will it cost: $1,700
Why we picked the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV:
Well look at that, another Sony RX camera. The RX10 is the long-zoom compatriot to the RX100, and the Mark IV is the latest model. It is built around the same 20MP, 1-inch-type “stacked” sensor as the RX100 V and offers similar performance, including 24fps burst shooting, 4K video, and even faster autofocus performance at 0.03 seconds. If the RX100 V is the best point-and-shoot camera that can fit in your pocket, the RX10 IV is the best point-and-shoot camera that can’t — it’s more capable, but less portable.
The main difference between the cameras is that the RX10 IV is outfitted with a massive, 24-600mm (full-frame equivalent) lens. This camera can shoot everything from open vistas to close-ups of wildlife, and that fast AF speed means it can even handle sports and action (we were quite impressed with not just the speed, but also the sharp image quality of our burst shots). Yes, this does make the camera considerably larger than the RX100 — you won’t be fitting it in a pocket — but it is relatively compact compared to a DSLR or mirrorless camera and the several lenses you would need to cover the same range.
Naturally, it can also shoot great 4K video along with high framerate video at lower resolution and, yes, it also gets S-Log3. This would be a great B-camera, maybe even a main camera, for the documentary or travel filmmaker.
At $1,700, this is certainly not a cheap camera. That price puts it in line with some very decent interchangeable lens models, but of course buying lenses would increase the cost of such cameras. Fortunately, as with the RX100, earlier models of the RX10 are still available new. The Mark III uses the same sensor and lens and costs just $1,400, although it doesn’t have the burst rate or AF speed of the Mark IV.
The best large sensor point-and-shoot
Why should you buy this: Retro aesthetic, great image quality
Who’s it for: Street photographers and enthusiasts who want the image quality of a DSLR in a compact camera.
How much will it cost: $1,200
Why we picked the Fujifilm X100F:
When it comes to style, nobody does it better than Leica. But when it comes to style you can actually afford, all eyes are on Fujifilm. The X100F is the fourth-generation of the X100, a fixed-lens camera built around an APS-C sensor that employs a rangefinder-style hybrid viewfinder that can be toggled between optical and electronic modes with the flip of a switch.
With each new iteration of the camera, Fujifilm has applied a light touch when it comes to making changes, careful not to fix what isn’t broken. The lens in the X100F, for example, is the same 35mm (full-frame equivalent) f/2.0 prime that graced the original, and the camera looks largely identical. The inside is a different story, however, and, fortunately, Fujifilm has fixed the things that were broken.
The X100-series has always lagged behind Fujifilm’s interchangeable lens models in terms of performance, but the X100F finally catches up. It inherits the same 24MP X-Trans III sensor from the X-T2 and X-Pro2 along with the 325-point hybrid autofocus system. AF speed is as fast as 0.08 seconds, solving perhaps the number one issue with previous X100 models.
There are some modest enhancements to the exterior of the camera, as well. A new AF joystick offers one-touch control over the focus point, there is now a dedicated ISO dial nestled beneath the shutter speed dial, and the front of the camera gains an additional control dial. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder also runs at 60 fps (in electronic mode) for smoother, more lifelike performance.
Being stuck with a single focal length lens isn’t for everyone — for some people, a zoom lens is the best part about stepping up from a smartphone — but it allows the camera to remain relatively compact despite the large APS-C sensor (which is considerably larger than the 1-inch sensors used in many point-and-shoots and many times larger than the sensor in your phone’s camera). It also encourages a more thoughtful approach to photography, making it a great choice for enthusiasts and professionals alike.
The best point-and-shoot under $500
Canon PowerShot G9X
Why should you buy this: 1-inch sensor, Wi-Fi + NFC, great price
Who’s it for: Casual photographers
How much will it cost: $380
Why we picked the Canon PowerShot G9X:
If you want the image quality of a Sony RX100 without the price, the Canon PowerShot G9X is a great choice. It doesn’t match the RX100’s burst rate, focus speed, or video quality, but it does capture great-looking still images at an unbeatable price of $400 thanks to a $130 instant rebate at the time of writing.
The lens offers a 28-84mm (full-frame equivalent) f/2-4.9 zoom lens, giving it more reach than the RX100 V but at the cost of a smaller maximum aperture and a bit less range on the wide end. It’s a good all-around focal length range that covers most normal shooting scenarios while maintaining a slim profile.
Canon also has the G9X Mark II available, which gains Bluetooth and uses a newer processor to bump burst rate and autofocus performance slightly, but it’s essentially the same camera, otherwise. If you’re shopping on a budget, the original model is the way to go, although both are certainly decent.
The best waterproof point-and-shoot
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5
Why should you buy this: Water, dust, and shock-proof; built-in GPS.
Who’s it for: Outdoor adventurers of all types
How much will it cost: $400
Why we picked the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5:
All of the above cameras may be great, but none of them will work underwater — well, at least not without some sort of bespoke waterproof case. 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-5 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. 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.
Sure, most smartphones have some degree of weatherproofing these days, and with a decent case they can even survive a good tumble, but why risk damaging your phone when cameras like the TG-5 are around?
How We Test
To find the best models, in addition to image quality, we factor in criteria such as speed, low-light strength, video performance, durability, form-factor/compactness, and any unique features that help them one-up the competition.
Our selections are based on our long- and short-term testing; experience with earlier models; familiarity with the companies’ technologies; consultation with industry experts, fellow journalists, and users; online forums; lab results (such as DxO); and other third-party reviews.
We look across the board to find consensus on what we think are the best-performing cameras
We look across the board — not just our own experiences — to find consensus on what we think are the best-performing cameras you can currently buy. We also look at list pricing to determine if a product is worth the cost, product availability, and future proofing qualities. We may even recommend cameras that aren’t new, provided the features are still best-in-class.
The camera market evolves constantly, with manufacturers often introducing better models with new features. So, you can expect our picks to change, as well. But don’t worry: The models you see here will be with you for some time, and if we anticipate there could be better models in the horizon, we will state that upfront to help you decide whether you should buy now or wait.
Bonus helpful advice sections
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. This type of camera had been the most popular during the previous decade, but the smartphone has essentially usurp 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 with image stabilization, adjustable modes and settings, unique features, and more powerful performance in burst shooting and autofocusing, to name a few.
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.
For more on the difference between a DSLR, mirrorless, or point-and-shoot camera, check our guide here. We also have tips on how to buy a camera, and if you’re buying your first DSLR camera, read up on how to select some lenses.
To learn more about the difference between the various sensors used by point-and-shoot cameras, check our explainer here.
Update: Our selections have changed as part of a weekly update, to reflect different prices, updated specs due to firmware, and stronger options that are now available.