The best camera, they say, is the one you have with you. That’s usually your smartphone, but there’s only so much it can do. Even with software wizardry like the Google Pixel’s Night Sight or two extra lenses on the back, The Best Dslr Compact Camera gives you features like optical zoom, better image stabilization, and a bigger sensor for sharper photos, along with a way nicer dials and controls. These cameras, also called point-and-shoot cams, give you the tools to explore photography in ways that portrait mode simply can’t.
Be sure to check out our many other buying guides, including our roundups of the Best Action Cameras, Best Mirrorless Cameras, and Best Camera Accessories for Your Smartphone.
Best Dslr Compact Camera
Best Overall Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
This Canon sits right in the sweet spot for price, features, and image quality. It’s relatively affordable, too. The G7 X captures detailed images thanks to a big 1-inch sensor, optical stabilization, and 4.2x zoom. The tilting touchscreen and built-in Wi-Fi increase its utility.I appreciate the wide selection of controls given the compact size. Canon found room for an exposure compensation dial and a front dial around the lens. This petite device also sports a comfy, confidence-inspiring rubber front grip and rear thumb rest that make it satisfying to hold. It’s not the newest on the market but it’s still a remarkably solid camera in 2020.$589 AT AMAZON$600 AT BEST BUY
Best on a Budget Sony Cyber-shot RX100
Need the basics? This tried-and-true Sony model, though several years old, is still a gem—especially since the price keeps dipping every time Sony releases newer versions. The latest is the RX100 VII and it retails for about $1,300. But for around $450, you can scoop up this earlier model. It comes standard with a 3.6x optical zoom lens. It lacks modern amenities like touch input and Wi-Fi, but the money you save can go a long way toward building up a solid travel photography kit complete with tripods, straps, and carrying cases.$448 AT AMAZON$450 AT BEST BUY
Best for Zooming Panasonic Lumix ZS100
If you want to get up close and personal, Panasonic’s compact Lumix ZS100 gives you way more zoom than the competition. Rather than 3 or 4x optical zoom, this camera has a lens that can go up to 10x. The camera’s 1-inch sensor is on par with some of the best compact cameras. Standard 4K video and Wi-Fi, along with a great touchscreen interface, make this camera feature-full and easy-to-use—even if the body isn’t as svelte as some of the others on the list.$398 AT AMAZON$398 AT B&H PHOTO AND VIDEO
Best for Outdoor Adventures Olympus Tough
TG-6Olympus is known for its terrific mirrorless cameras, but it also makes incredible, nigh-indestructible point-and-shoots. Though it has a small sensor, this pocketable juggernaut can dive up to 50 feet underwater, brave sub-zero climates, and survive minor drops and spills without flinching. Built-in GPS means location tags automatically get attached to each pic, and the f/2.0 lens is even great for close-up photos of bugs and flowers. It’s built to endure harsh climates and accompany you anywhere your adventures may take you. You can read more in our review (8/10, WIRED Recommends).$379 AT AMAZON$379 AT B&H PHOTO AND VIDEO
RICOHA Cult ClassicRicoh GR II
Love shooting with the wide-angle lens of your smartphone? The Ricoh GR sports a 28 mm field of view, similar to what your phone’s eye sees. But instead of a puny mobile image chip, you get a massive DSLR APS-C sensor that adds rich detail. There’s a reason it has a cult following online—it’s capable of downright gorgeous photos. On the downside, it’s on the big side but can still fit into most pockets. It’s also not great for video, but built-in Wi-Fi will help you get your shots uploaded to social media in a jiffy.$600 AT AMAZON
For Phone Loyalists Moment Telephoto Lens
No, they’re not point-and-shoot cameras, but Moment lenses can take photos that rival (or exceed) the quality you get out of much bigger cameras. It’s a phone case with a secure metal flange that locks the lens securely in place when you need it, enhancing your smartphone’s built-in camera and lens with added optical muscle. Our favorite is the 58mm telephoto lens. It’s the most versatile in Moment’s range. The company also offers an anamorphic lens, a wide-angle lens, a fisheye lens, and a few others. They’re well worth a look if you can’t quite justify the cost of a dedicated point-and-shoot.$120 AT AMAZON$111 AT MOMENT
How to Buy a Digital Camera
1. Determine what you need
A mistake I see some digital camera buyers making is that they get sucked into buying cameras that are beyond what they really need. Some questions to ask yourself before you go shopping:
- What do you need the camera for?
- What type of photography will you be doing? (portraits, landscapes, macro, sports)
- What conditions will you be largely photographing in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light)
- Will you largely stay in auto mode or do you want to learn the art of photography?
- What experience level do you have with cameras?
- What type of features are you looking for? (long zoom, image stabilization, large LCD display etc)
- How important is size and portability to you?
- What is your budget?
Ask yourself these questions before you go to buy a camera and you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision when you see what’s on offer. You’ll probably find the sales person asks you this question anyway – so to have thought about it before hand will help them help you get the right digital camera.https://da360a56a245c0803c5da779cd8113ff.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
2. Megapixels are NOT everything
One of the features that you’ll see used to sell digital cameras is how many megapixels a digital camera has.
When I first got into digital photography, a few years back, the megapixel rating of cameras was actually quite important as most cameras were at the lower end of today’s modern day range and even a 1 megapixel increase was significant.
These days, with most new cameras coming out with at least 5 megapixels, it isn’t so crucial. In fact at the upper end of the range it can actually be a disadvantage to have images that are so large that they take up enormous amounts of space on memory cards and computers.
One of the main questions to ask when it comes to megapixels is ‘Will you be printing shots’? If so – how large will you be going with them? If you’re only printing images at a normal size then anything over 4 or so megapixels will be fine. If you’re going to start blowing your images up you might want to pay the extra money for something at the upper end of what’s on offer today.
3. Keep in mind the ‘extras’
Keep in mind as you look at cameras that the price quoted may not be the final outlay that you need to make as there are a variety of other extras that you might want (or need) to fork out for including:
- Camera Case
- Memory Cards
- Spare Batteries/Recharger
- Lenses (if you are getting a DSLR)
- Filters (and other lens attachments)
- External Flashes
Some retailers will bundle such extras with cameras or will at least give a discount when buying more than one item at once. Keep in mind though that what they offer in bundles might not meet you needs. For example it’s common to get a 16 or 32 megabyte memory card with cameras – however these days you’ll probably want something at least of 500 megabytes (if not a gigabyte or two).
4. Do you already own any potentially compatible gear?
Talking of extra gear – one way to save yourself some cash is if you have accessories from previous digital cameras that are compatible with your new one.
For example memory cards, batteries, lenses (remember that many film camera lenses are actually compatible with digital SLRs from the same manufacturers), flashes, filters etc.
5. DSLR or Point and Shoot?
While digital SLRs are getting more affordable they are not for everyone. Keep in mind that they are usually bigger, heavier, harder to keep clean (if you’re changing lenses) and can be more complicated to operate than point and shoot. Of course there are some upsides also.
If you’re trying to make a decision between a point and shoot and DSLR you might want to read my previous posts titled Should you buy a DSLR or a Point and Shoot Digital Camera? and it’s companion piece How to Choose a DSLR.
6. Optical Zooms are King
Not all ‘zooms’ are created equal.
When you’re looking at different models of digital cameras you’ll often hear their zooms talked about in two ways. Firstly there’s the ‘optical zoom’ and then there’s the ‘digital zoom’.
I would highly recommend that you only take into consideration the ‘optical zoom’ when making a decision about which camera to buy. Digital zooms simply enlarge the pixels in your shot which does make your subject look bigger, but it also makes it look more pixelated and your picture ‘noisier’ (like when you go up close to your TV).
If you’re looking for a zoom lens make sure it’s an optical zoom (most modern cameras have them of at least 3x in length – ie they’ll make your subject three times as big – with an increasing array of ‘super zooms’ coming onto the market at up to 12x Optical Zoom).
7. Read reviews
Before buying a digital camera take the time to do a little research. Don’t JUST rely upon the advice of the helpful sales person (who may or may not know anything about cameras and who may or may not have sales incentives for the camera they are recommending).
Read some reviews in digital camera magazines or online to help you narrow down the field. There are some great websites around that give expert and user reviews on virtually every camera on the market – use this wonderful and free resource.
A little self promotion here – one such site is my Digital Photography Blog which is a site that collates the reviews of many sites from around the web. To use it best enter the camera’s model name that you’re looking for a review on in the search feature in the top right side bar. It’ll give you a link to a central page that has information on the camera as well as links to any reviews published online on that camera from around the web.
8. Hands On Experience
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of cameras head into your local digital camera shop and ask to see and play with them. There’s nothing like having the camera in your hands to work out whether it suits your needs.
When I shop for a camera I generally use the web to find reviews, then I head into a street in my city with 4 camera shops side by side and I go from shop to shop asking for recommendations and seeing the cameras live in the flash. In doing this I generally find the same camera or two are recommended in most shops and I get to see them demonstrated by different people (this gives a more well rounded demo). I also get to play with it and get a feel for which one I could see myself using.https://da360a56a245c0803c5da779cd8113ff.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
After you’ve selected the right digital camera for you it’s time to find the best price.
Once again, I generally start online (on a site like our store) and do some searches to find the most competitive prices on the models I’m interested in. With these in hand I’m in a good position to be able to negotiate in person with local stores and/or with online stores. I generally find that retail stores will negotiate on price and will often throw in freebies. Online stores are more difficult – most bigger ones don’t give you the ability to negotiate but smaller ones often will if you email them.
Don’t forget to ask for free or discounted bonuses including camera cases, memory cards, extra batteries, filters, free prints, cases etc. I even know of a couple of stores that offer camera lessons that you can ask to be included. Some stores will also consider giving you a trade in on older gear.
I generally do negotiating from home on the phone and only go into a store to pick up the camera after a price is agreed upon.