Compact Digital Cameras Are Still a Good Investment

Compact digital cameras have received a bad rap in recent years by the tech world. Declared “dead” by some pundits, the compact digital camera may be anything but. In fact, I’ve seen more of these little cameras in the wild this year than I had in two years prior. So are they still a good investment? They could be. It all depends on what your needs are.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. You can take amazing photos with a smartphone. I’ve seen some jaw-dropping shots taken from iPhones and Android devices alike, but I wouldn’t exactly declare them superior or even a replacement to a stand-alone point-and-shoot compact.

We’ve become so accustomed to the extremely high-quality shots made possible by a DSLR that it’s easy to see a stark contrast in the quality of yesteryear’s point-and-shoot. I’m guilty of writing these little cameras off as well. It wasn’t until I got my hands on a few models from 2012 that I suddenly realized that point-and-shoots are very quickly beginning to catch up to their more expensive full-frame cousins.

There are some point-and-shoots on the market today that are priced similarly to DSLRs, and several that actually pass the entry-level DSLR price point. This isn’t something you would have expected five years ago, but with the advancement of those tiny phone sensors comes an equally as significant quality boost to the slightly bigger point-and-shoot camera. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V is one example of a compact with a lot to offer in terms of photo quality and portability.

For just under $300, you get a camera that fits in your pocket and takes 18 megapixel images through a 20x megazoom f3.2-5.8, 25-500 mm lens. That’s a pretty good bargain, especially when you bring its stunning video capability into the picture.

What Makes It Better Than My Smartphone, Really?

Let’s go down the short list of things you can do with a point-and-shoot that you can’t do with your smartphone.

Optical Zoom
Just try finding a smartphone with an optical (not digital) zoom that beats that of even one of the cheaper point-and-shoot cameras out there. Optical zoom is the only way to zoom in on something and snap a picture without experiencing a loss of quality. Some smartphone cameras crop and call it an optical zoom, but it really isn’t the same thing.

Hardware Image Stabilization
Digital image stabilization is fine, but it won’t get you very far. The iPhone does a great job of stabilizing video and stills, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to a point-and-shoot with integrated sensor-shift stabilization. To take it a step further, this effect can also be added to the lens hardware, as well.

Performance
Taking a photo of moving objects is difficult on a smartphone. No matter how bright your scene or how fast the phone’s shutter might be, it’s hard to beat the speed and performance of a larger sensor and a bigger lens. Compact cameras might have trouble competing with their larger DSLR cousins, but they certainly have a thing or two to teach smartphones.

No matter what your shooting skill level or preferences are, there are compact cameras out there to meet your needs. Some offer advanced controls that professionals love while others tend to cater to folks that just want to point… and, well… shoot.

Image: Amazon

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Jesse Aranda

    The main reason I believe they’re “dead” (at least in consumers) is because while they may have better performance, unless the user is dedicated they will leave the camera behind. I’ve seen it happen countless times, “I didn’t think anything worth bringing my camera would happen” however, they will still keep their phone on hand and take pictures using their phone. I will admit for special occasions it is really nice to use a real camera and I would trust a camera to a stranger to take a picture rather than my (life containing) smartphone.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

      Plenty of people still take cameras with them on trips and events. Just as they only take photos during special events and trips. Not everyone photographs every aspect of their day like us fringe users. It’s becoming more common, but for many cameras are still considered a special occasion type of device. Dead? Hardly. It’s dead when they can’t give them away. The camera market is still doing just fine.

      • Jesse Aranda

        Good point, the term dead wasn’t the best choice. Also I forget about the non-tech warriors that only are not interested in photographing nearly every aspect of their lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/macutmore Mike Cutmore

    Cameras, Cameras, Cameras. Its all photographers seem to think as their ‘pride & Joy’. But No. It’s NOT about a Camera at all. It’s about a photograph. Years ago I invested in a flagship 35mm SLR, it was my pride & Joy. Still have that Camera. It’s in the Cupboard. Of little use to Man or Beast, But hey, I have some pictures that I took with it. That’s all that matters. Not nearly enough I hasten to add. I should have took a lot more over the years. My point is, it’s not about a Camera at all. It’s about the Picture. The Picture you get or end up with is the pride & Joy. That is the real physical thing. Whether you get that image or not. So much easier to achieve that goal with something close to hand, rather than lug a brick around in your pocket for the rest of your life.

    • Jignacio

      I agree with all my hearth Started in photography 40 years ago with a Kodak Instamatic, endig with a Nikon F4! The conclussion of this experience is summariced in yogur words.

  • http://twitter.com/udubnate Nate Bruneau

    The Lumia 920 gives me a hard argument to further invest into point & shoot separate cameras. I have a Canon 50D for my amateur photography but the phone camera takes amazing shots in light/low light scenarios

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    I carry a compact digital camera with me as well as my smart phone.

    I have a DSLR, a 35mm SLR, a 35mm compact, as well as the aforementioned digital compact. And 90% of the time I have one with me, and usually it is the compact digital.

    For me choosing a digital compact is about:

    * Speed of use, a smartphone takes decent photos. But it is slow and cumbersome as a camera, I have to admit that my wife’s iPhone is better as a camera than my Android phone, but even then speed wise it cannot beat my digital compact. I can pull out, turn on, and shoot my digital camera in a couple of seconds, any phone is slower than that.

    * Size, I love the image quality of my DSLR and 35mm cameras. But they are big and heavy, my digital compact is truly minuscule.

    * Ergonomics, a phone has terrible camera ergonomics and I cannot use my tiny little magnetic Gorilla Pod with it.

    * Cheap as chips, in many ways using my vintage 35mm compact camera is much more fun to shoot than my digital compact. And the image sharpness I get with it often beats even my DSLR, but shooting film is expensive. Digital shooting is free!

    * Zoom lens well there are just some shots I cannot do with my phone and its wide angle lens.

    All in all I don’t consider the digital compact anywhere near dead, they are still the obvious choice to carry for most occasions. There will always be a market for truly small cameras with great ergonomics and fantastic speed.

  • olamoree

    My Pana Lumix is ALWAYS in my pocket, ready for stills or video. I have tried them all and the Pana Lumix for me is the way to go. Have even “lost” a couple of them but now change SD and Battery often, “just in case” and so far, no discouraging issues whatsoever.