The best point-and-shoot cameras for 2019

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

Sony RX100 VI review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

With control and capabilities that rival cameras twice its size, the best point-and-shoot camera is the Sony RX100 VI. The point-and-shoot category encompasses everything from pocketable cameras to larger superzooms, and the RX100 VI comfortably bridges the gap and includes a wealth of advanced features that will make even the most experienced photographers happy.

Over the years, we have reviewed 150 compact cameras, and the RX100 VI easily rises to the top — but it doesn’t get there on the cheap. Below you’ll find all of our favorite point-and-shoot cameras that meet a variety of budgets and needs.

At a glance:

Best point-and-shoot camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI

Sony RX100 VI review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Impressive performance and image quality.

Who’s it for: Photo enthusiasts and pros on the go.

Why we picked the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI:

Time and time again, a Sony RX100 camera is found at the top of this list. The sixth generation of Sony’s revolutionary point-and-shoot improves on an already excellent recipe by adding an 8x zoom lens for an equivalent focal length of 24-200mm. To achieve that reach, the maximum aperture has been reduced to f/2.8 at the wide end and f/4 at the telephoto, but that’s still impressive considering how small this camera is.

An updated version of the “stacked” 20-megapixel, 1-inch-type sensor returns, offering blazing fast performance up to 24 frames per second in continuous mode, faster than even Sony’s flagship A9 mirrorless camera. Autofocus is even faster than the RX100 V, acquiring focus in just 0.03 seconds in ideal conditions.

Being a Sony, the RX100 VI 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 Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) for capturing the maximum dynamic range and playing back HDR content on compatible televisions, a feature normally reserved for much higher-end cameras.

But perhaps best of all is that none of the RX100 VI’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 do that without hassle.

The high price is certainly not for everyone, but the RX100 VI is a camera that you can grow into over time. You can also still buy older RX100 models brand new for much less money, and while they can’t match the performance of the mark VI, they still shoot stunning images thanks to very similar sensors.

Read our full review of the Sony RX100 VI

Best superzoom point-and-shoot: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

best digital cameras Sony RX 10 IV

Why should you buy this: 24-600mm zoom, fast performance

Who’s it for: Nature and travel photographers.

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 a similar 20MP, 1-inch-type “stacked” sensor as the RX100 VI and offers similar performance, including 24fps burst shooting, 4K video, 0.03-second autofocus acquisition. If the RX100 series is the best point-and-shoot camera that can fit in your pocket, the RX10 is the best point-and-shoot camera that can’t — it’s more capable, but less portable.

The RX10 IV is outfitted with a massive, 24-600mm (full-frame equivalent) lens. This camera can shoot everything from open open vistas to wildlife close-ups, and the fast AF speed means it can even handle sports and action. We were impressed with not just the speed, but also the sharp image quality of our burst shots. Yes, this does bring the camera up to DSLR size, but DSLR lens with the same amount of zoom would have to be much, much bigger.

Naturally, the RX10 IV can also shoot great 4K video along with high framerate video at lower resolutions and. Combined with its versatile zoom, it opens up many creative opportunities for the documentary or travel filmmaker.

But this is not exactly an affordable camera, costing more than some entry-level interchangeable lens models. But for the reach it gives you, it is less expensive than a DSLR or or mirrorless camera and the associated lenses you would need to buy. As with the RX100, earlier models of the RX10 are also still available new for less money.

If you need more reach than the RX10 IV offers, Nikon’s Coolpix P1000 is a good alternative with its 24-3,000mm equivalent lens. It is also less expensive than the Sony, but it doesn’t offer equal image quality or performance.

Read our RX10 IV review.

Best advanced point-and-shoot camera: Ricoh GR III

Ricoh GR III
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Retro aesthetic, great image quality

Who’s it for: Street and travel photographers who want the image quality of a DSLR in a compact body.

Why we picked the Ricoh GR III: 

The GR series has a small but loyal fanbase, and the latest version of this camera brings it to the mainstream with features like a touchscreen, fast phase-detection autofocus, and 5-axis image stabilization. The GR III boasts a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor — the largest of any camera on this list as as big as many mirrorless cameras and DSLRs — and a fixed, 28mm equivalent lens, a favorite focal length of street photographers. That means excellent image quality in a pocketable form factor, at the expense of zoom.

This puts the GR III is a relatively small niche compared to something like the RX100 VI, but it also means the shooting experience is very similar to what you’d get with your phone. The 28mm focal length is commonly found on phone cameras, while the touchscreen offers similar operation. But the GR III’s larger sensor means better image quality — especially in low light. We were also very impressed with the quality of lens, which is incredibly sharp even at the widest, f/2.8 aperture setting. This camera really does rival DSLRs and mirrorless cameras for image quality despite being a fraction of the size.

Price wise, the GR III rests comfortably in the middle of this list. It may seem high for a camera that lacks the versatility of a zoom lens, but if you’re after an easy-to-use camera that you can take almost anywhere and shoots very high-quality images, it is hard to beat. If you enjoy the simple shooting experience that a phone offers but want better results in a wider variety of settings, the Ricoh GR III is worth a look.

Read our Ricoh GR III review.

Best cheap point-and-shoot camera: Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II

best cheap cameras canon powershot g9 x body

Why should you buy this: 1-inch sensor, Wi-Fi + NFC, nice price

Who’s it for: Casual photographers

Why we picked the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II:

If you want the image quality of a Sony RX100 without the price, the Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II is a great choice. It doesn’t match the RX100’s burst rate, focus speed, zoom power, or video quality, but it does capture great-looking still images at an unbeatable price thanks to its 20MP, 1-inch-type sensor (yes, probably made by Sony).

The lens offers a 28-84mm zoom range (full-frame equivalent) and f/2-4.9 maximum aperture, giving it less reach than the RX100 VI, but with an extra stop of light gathering capability at the wide end. That should mean even better low light performance — although if you start to zoom in, that advantage fades away. For outdoor work, it’s a good all-around focal length range that covers most normal shooting scenarios while maintaining a slim profile. From landscapes to portraits, the G9 X Mark II can get the job done.

It also features a 3-inch touchscreen for easy navigation, continuous shooting speed is a respectable 8 fps, and it can shoot Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 fps — but not 4K. It’s not RX100 VI competitor, then, but it covers the basics for beginners and casual photographers.

These specs are largely identical to the original G9 X, but the Mark II adds Bluetooth for easier connectivity to your phone.  A newer Digic 7 processor also bumps burst rate and autofocus performance slightly.

Best point-and-shoot camera for travel: Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5

Olympus Tough TG-5 Review
Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Water, dust, and shock-proof; built-in GPS.

Who’s it for: Outdoor adventurers and travelers of all types

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. The 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.

Olympus has since announced the TG-6, but the newest version includes few upgrades — most notably, the lens coatings designed to reduce flare. If the two cameras are priced similarly, go with the TG-6, but if the TG-5 is significantly cheaper, there’s not too much of a feature gap between the two.

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?

Read our full Olympus Stylus Tough TG-5 review.

Best point-and-shoot film camera: Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

best point and shoot cameras instax mini 90 neo classic thumb

Why you should buy this: Fun instant film from a stylish, versatile camera

Who’s it for: Film fans that don’t want to stress about actually developing film

Why we picked the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90:

Instant film makes for a fun, creative, and often liberating approach to photography. You don’t get the quality or performance of a digital camera, but because of that, you’re free to focus on the experience itself. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 has the ideal blend of style, features, size, and price, considering most Instax Mini cameras will have the same image quality as they all use the same film inside.

The Instax Mini 90 offers a classic look in a body that’s not too bulky to tote around. The camera brings in a few features that aren’t as common for instant cameras, including manual settings, a macro mode, and different shooting modes. Modern additions include a rechargeable battery and a small screen for displaying the battery life and shooting settings. It’s a great camera for parties and makeshift photo booths, or as a fun learning tool for kids.

The camera uses Instax Mini film, which isn’t too expensive, but does mean every shot you take has a cost associated with it (keep this in mind before you hand the camera to your kids). There are several great instant cameras on the market, but the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 offers the best blend of features, size, and price. (The Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 offers fun nostalgic images with the original Polaroid dimensions and frames, but is larger and the film is pricier. If budget isn’t an issue, the Lecia Sofort is excellent option, which also uses Instax Mini film.)

Research and buying tips

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. Some may have zoom lenses, others fixed focal length lenses, but the commonality they share is that the lens is not removable, unlike a DSLR or mirrorless camera. This type of camera had been the most popular during the previous decade, but the smartphone has essentially usurped 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, and mechanical apertures and shutters give these cameras an image quality edge.

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

Why buy a point-and-shoot camera?

With a camera inside every smartphone, why buy a point-and-shoot camera anymore? Cheap point-and-shoots have fallen by the wayside over the last decade as phone cameras have gotten so much better, but as budget compact cameras disappear, manufacturers have moved up into higher-end models.

Dedicated cameras typically offer two big advantages over a smartphone: A zoom lens and/or a larger sensor. Even as phones are coming out now that offer three or more lenses, point-and-shoots can pack in a 30x zoom and remain compact — or a 125x zoom with a larger body.

Advanced point-and-shoots also have larger sensors than a phone camera, which means better image quality, more control over depth of field (letting you blur the background while keeping the subject sharp), and cleaner images in low light settings. Many pack in a one-inch sensor, while some even manage to squeeze a DSLR-sized sensor into a pocketable form factor, like the Ricoh GR III. While some compacts, like the Olympus Tough TG-5, still sport a smaller sensor, these cameras often offer additional features your phone can’t match, such as waterproofing and macro modes.

How do I choose a point-and-shoot camera?

The first step to choosing a point-and-shoot camera is to identify the type of pictures you want to take and why you want one in the first place. If you want a point-and-shoot for more zoom, look at a compact or bridge-style superzoom camera. If you want a point-and-shoot for better image quality, ignore everything with a sensor smaller than the 1-inch-type. If you want a point-and-shoot camera because you’re headed out on a snorkeling/beach/skiing adventure, you’ll want to look at a rugged and waterproof model.

Next, determine what features are on your must-have list. How important is it to have a viewfinder? Do you want manual exposure modes and RAW shooting? Are you photographing action where a 10-fps burst rate would come in handy, or are you focused more on still subjects or landscapes?

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a sub-category and a handful of must-have features, use price to further refine the options. Yes, the expensive Sony RX cameras are great, but don’t think you have to spend that much in order to get a good point-and-shoot camera. You’ll want to avoid the cheapest models (unless you are looking at instant film cameras), but you can still find a solid camera at a modest price.


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