The 10 Best Point and Shoot Cameras Under $500 for 2021 (New Reviews)

As photography technology and supply chains have been evolving at light speed in the last decade, digital camera performance has been steadily increasing. At the same time, the cost of entry into high-quality imaging has been dropping like a rock. Some cameras have filled up certain gaps in the camera market, while others have been revived from a long slumber.

Coming out of 2020, there is a record number of powerful yet ultra-compact point and shoot digital cameras available, which leaves us with a plethora of options. Such an abundance of choices – can, paradoxically, make choosing the right camera a time-consuming and tedious process.

We’ve done the research for you, and in this article, we shall take a close look at some of the sharpest and best point and shoot cameras under $500. We’ll provide you with an in-depth overview so that you can make an informed decision without having to spend hours upon hours looking up the key features, specs, and benefits of each camera.

You’ll find reviews of the ten best P&S and bridge-cameras, learn more about this exciting, reemerging photography niche, and get answers to some of the most burning questions the community has regarding compact digital cameras. We’ll also help you discover whether P&S cameras are for you at all, and we’ll highlight our top picks for every budget.

Best Point and Shoot Cameras Under $500

1. Sony RX100

The Sony RX100 - among our faves within this BEST POINT & SHOOT CAMERAS article
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Highlights of the Sony RX100 Camera

  • Bokeh
  • Tiny size
  • Built to last
  • Large sensor
  • Great power to size ratio

FEATURES

Being the OG of Sony’s long RX100 lineage, this subcompact camera contains several vital features that eventually became fundamental to the series’ massive success. Launched in 2012, this at the time revolutionary piece of kit boasts the now dated Bionz processor and a fixed screen. However, the unit offers superb Zeiss glass, an impressive 1” 20.2 MP sensor, and a rather useful zoom range of 28-100 mm equivalent. With the maximum aperture of f/1.8, it’s capable of producing decent bokeh too.

DESIGN

Built like a Japanese pocket-tank, the RX100 easily withstands rigorous use and has a reassuringly dense and premium feel. In testing, we found that special care should be given upon switching the camera on and off, in order to prevent internal dust build-up. The camera is pitch black, easily pocketable, and highly effective as a travel or street shooter. If you don’t fancy dragging your DSLR around, the RX100 could be a practical and capable choice.

PERFORMANCE

As with any nearly decade-old equipment, speed and performance can’t quite match the newer iterations. Nonetheless, the RX100 feels relatively quick with its 2.8 second startup time and reasonable speeds during operation and writing. Its decent image quality is more than adequate for casual photography and most everyday situations.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Sony dates back to 1946 and is a well-established multinational corporation with its primary focus on consumer and professional electronics. Sony Corporation is headquartered in Tokyo and is the parent company of Sony Group. Until 1958, Sony’s name was Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation.

VERDICT

The Sony RX100 Mark I represents terrific value and is a rather competent point and shoot camera for the off-duty professional and everyday user alike. With a footprint smaller than a phone, it beats any smart-device in terms of optics, flexibility, and low-light performance.

We Like

  • Good in low light
  • Compact yet powerful
  • Well built
  • Creamy bokeh

We Don’t Like

  • Fixed screen
  • Slower than newer versions

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2. Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000

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Highlights of the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Digital Camera

  • Leica optics
  • Face detection AF
  • 16x optical zoom
  • 4K/30p or 1080/60p video

FEATURES

The Lumix FZ1000 effectively bridges the gap between DSLR and point & shoot. This digital camera offers excellent video capabilities, great versatility, and a respectable battery life of up to 440 shots on one charge. Instead of a removable lens system, Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 rocks a massive zoom lens that ranges from 28mm wide-angle all the way up to 400mm telephoto. It’s sort of like having a pocket-telescope with a 1” 20.1 MP sensor and a shutter release.

DESIGN

Thanks to the shape of the Lumix FZ1000 body, it is comfortable to hold and provides ample grip – which is essential for managing the camera safely, considering the fairly large zoom lens. Although the body feels a tad plasticky, the buttons and dials are thoughtfully placed and offer efficient operation. We wouldn’t bring the FZ1000 out in rain and snow though, as the camera doesn’t offer any weather sealing.

PERFORMANCE

Despite being launched back in 2014, the Lumix FZ1000 handles fairly quickly, and boots up in less than a second. The strong suit of the FZ1000 is its unique Depth from Defocus autofocus system, which is less prone to haunting than the conventional contrast based focusing method. Combined with optical image stabilization, this leads to more keepers – even in poorly lit scenes.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Panasonic is based out of Ōsaka, Japan, and is formerly known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Company. Panasonic Corporation is a major Japanese manufacturer of consumer electronics and electric appliances. In the photography world, Panasonic is most notorious for its LUMIX line, including the GH series which, thanks to superb video capabilities, tends to get highly praised by videographers and filmmakers.

VERDICT

If you’re looking for a powerful travel companion or simply a versatile and capable camera that sits in the sweet spot between DSLR and point and shoot, the FZ1000 could very well be for you. The combination of features, image quality, versatility, comfort, and battery life, all contribute to making the Lumix FZ1000 a rather serious contender. Not to mention, the camera is quite competitively priced, having been around for years.

We Like

  • Good zoom range
  • Ergonomics
  • Inexpensive
  • Low shutter lag

We Don’t Like

  • No weather sealing
  • Plasticky feel

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3. Panasonic Lumix Dmc-Tz70Eb-K

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Highlights of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70EB-K Camera

  • Wickedly fast autofocus
  • Nicely built
  • EVF
  • Battery life (up to 300)
  • Impressive 30x zoom range

FEATURES

The Lumix TZ70 features a Leica-branded 24-720mm equivalent lens that provides up to 30x optical zoom. If the FZ1000 is a telescope, the Tz70 is a full-fledged observatory. There is also a hybrid stabilization system and a minimum ISO of 80, producing good results in low light, especially considering the small 1/2.3″ 12MP sensor.

DESIGN

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-Tz70Eb-K is made of metal and features a rubberized handgrip for safe and comfortable use. It has a built-in 1,665k-dot EVF and a fixed screen without touch. The overall layout is minimal yet functional, keeping things simple and useful. The retractable Leica lens is neatly tucked away while the unit is off.

PERFORMANCE

In terms of performance, TZ70 has lightning-fast autofocus and improved WiFi capability. It also offers HD-video in 50/60p, which is an upgrade relative to the predecessor, TZ60. Exposure, color, and noise can occasionally produce less than perfect results, and the auto mode tends to favor higher ISO values. We noticed the image quality sometimes suffers from fringing. Despite those shortcomings, the Lumix Tz70-Eb-K is a solid pocket camera, worth every buck.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

As of late 2020, Panasonic has rightfully claimed its place amongst the top names in the photography and videography business. Although the manufacturer has only a modest market share of around 5%, many users never go back once they’ve ‘gone Panasonic’. Their camera products tend to represent a good balance of performance, features, and value in every price bracket.

VERDICT

Oftentimes, the final digital camera choice comes down to personal preference based on specific features, performance dealmakers – or breakers, and specific design elements. As for the LUMIX Tz70, we believe it’s one of the sweetest deals in pocket cameras right now. In particular, if you need a long zoom-range and impressive stills and video quality in a tiny, inexpensive package.

We Like

  • Image stabilization
  • Decent zoom range
  • Touchscreen + EVF
  • Good build quality

We Don’t Like

  • Some performance shortcomings
  • EVF could be bigger
  • Some fringing in the image

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4. Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ652-BK

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Highlights of the Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ652-BK Camera

  • Outstanding stabilization
  • 65x zoom
  • Great battery life
  • DSLR-like comfort
  • Fully articulated display

FEATURES

The Astro Zoom AZ652-BK offers a huge zoom range of 65x, combined with fast and sticky autofocus – which can, however, behave inconsistently at moderate zoom levels. The camera also supports RAW and has an EVF with a real diopter. The 1/2.3” sensor delivers +20MP and produces high quality captures even in dim lighting, thanks to the excellent stabilization feature. Moreover, the AZ652-BK bridge camera effectively uses artificial intelligence to help get the best possible exposure in any lighting conditions.

DESIGN

The Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ652-BK is a powerful bridge camera, shaped to look and feel like a small DSLR. It provides solid grip and excellent comfort, whilst the fully articulating 920k screen can handle any viewing angle you might require. The lens is made of metal and feels durable and substantial, maintaining a good balance with the camera’s body.

PERFORMANCE

Users generally report excellent performance using the AZ652-BK, but autofocus can be a bit jumpy when zooming in. With the back-illuminated sensor and effective stabilization, you are sure to get clear and noise-free images in most lighting conditions.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Eastman Kodak is recognized by many for their camera film – which has seen a great resurgence from 2015 to late 2020. Kodak is currently attempting to get a $765 Million U.S. loan, in order to fund a pharmaceutical ingredients branch of the company. Aside from consumer cameras and film, Kodak’s business segments include 3D printing technology, enterprise inkjet systems, software, and more.

VERDICT

The AZ652-BK from Kodak’s PIXPRO line-up is a strong candidate for those who enjoy taking high-quality photos with a camera that is comfortable and capable, yet not overly heavy and bulky. The AZ652-BK constitutes an excellent first digital camera, as well as a competent back-up, travel – or even main camera for the budding vlogger.
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We Like

  • Comfortable to hold
  • Good image stabilization
  • Articulating screen
  • Decent battery life

We Don’t Like

  • Unreliable focus on small objects
  • Trouble tracking subjects
  • ISO settings
  • Some software issues

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5. Panasonic LUMIX ZS80

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Highlights of the Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 Camera

  • 30x superzoom
  • Near-instant AF
  • Sexy and functional design
  • Good speed and battery life
  • Tilting touchscreen

FEATURES

The ZS80 has rather similar specs to that of the TZ70. The biggest difference is the newer sensor which provides 68% larger pixel density, resulting in better detail. The LUMIX ZS80 delivers that same ultra-fast autofocus, and also has a Leica-branded retractable lens with 24-720mm equivalent superzoom. Most importantly, the rear display is a touchscreen and can be tilted for selfies or vlogging – but not for overhead shooting.

DESIGN

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS80 comes in all black or silver/black. The all-metal body feels dense and sturdy in the hand. The backside appears uncluttered and easy to use, and the overall aesthetic is stylish and functional. The silver/black version has a whiff of retro about it, while the black option is classy and stealthy.

PERFORMANCE

The ZS80 compact camera powers up in 1.4 seconds, and offers snappy operation with low pre-focussed shutter lag. The autofocus is impressively quick, in particular when considering that the ZS80 is using a contrast-based focusing method. All in all, the LUMIX ZS80 camera is an excellent performer in its class, although it won’t outperform your trusty DSLR.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Panasonic Corporation designs and manufactures consumer and prosumer electronics, including a wide range of digital cameras, spanning from ultracompact to pro-grade mirrorless. Some of your favorite modern indie movies, Youtube videos, and the best video ads you’ve seen, have likely been shot either partly – or entirely on Panasonic cameras. Their products are not only favored by professional videographers, but by a number of stills shooters as well.

VERDICT

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS80 offers great speed and imaging quality for the buck. With reliable, swift autofocus and a savage zoom range, it’s capable of capturing anything from your kid’s soccer match to your vlog entry. Macro shots, travel, and everyday photography are all comfortably within the capabilities of the LUMIX ZS80, too.
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We Like

  • Excellent autofocus
  • Speedy and powerful
  • Color options
  • Battery life

We Don’t Like

  • Too many AF modes
  • Screen doesn’t tilt down
  • Small EVF
  • Underwhelming low light performance

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6. Panasonic LUMIX LX10/LX15

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Highlights of the Panasonic LUMIX LX10 Camera

  • f/1.4-2.8 aperture
  • 1″ sensor
  • Tiny yet powerful
  • Excellent video quality

FEATURES

The Panasonic Lumix LX10 camera, better known as LX15 outside the US, offers an impressive maximum aperture of f/1.4, provided by the Leica-branded glass. Accompanied by the 1” sensor, this pocket-rocket delivers pleasant results in low light. It absolutely has to be included in our roundup of best cameras under 500 US dollars. The LX10 shoots 4k video at up to 30p, or full-HD footage at 60. There is also a tilting screen that, in concert with the reliable AF system, makes selfies and vlogging a breeze. However, this digital camera has no EVF and can feel somewhat awkward to control.

DESIGN

When making such a tiny yet powerful pocket camera, design concessions are bound to be made. The LX10/LX15 is all metal, premium-feeling, and all black in color. It has a very similar shape and size to the other pocketable models in the vastly successful line-up. That said, the shallow aperture ring and less than stellar ergonomics can make the camera somewhat fiddly to use, which could be a deal-breaker for some users.

PERFORMANCE

Size is not everything. The size to performance ratio is more like it though, and the LX10 delivers beyond expectations in this area. Thanks to the 5-axis stabilization combined with the f/1.4 aperture and 1” sensor, this pocket camera produces excellent results in low light. It’s more than quick enough for the casual shooter and catches focus without hesitation. The battery life is limited to just around 260 shots though which is not great if you have a busy day planned.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Panasonic is a household name – literally and figuratively speaking. Aside from photography and videography equipment, the company’s business areas include appliances, automotive & industrial, and eco-solutions amongst others. As of late 2020, Panasonic is sitting on a 4.7% market share in the camera business – a place it’s sharing with Fuji, another Japanese corporation that also produces cameras and lenses, plus other solution areas.

VERDICT

Digital cameras are, in a sense, like romantic partners – no one is quite perfect, but each one could happen to be just the right combination of crazy for you. If EVF, long battery life, and superb ergonomics are not even on your checklist, we reckon the Panasonic LUMIX LX10 is worth checking out. In particular, if you value a compact, stylish, and powerful pocket digital camera that performs well – both night and day.

We Like

  • Great video quality
  • Good low light performance
  • Compact yet powerful
  • Build quality

We Don’t Like

  • Lack of EVF
  • Battery life
  • Can be fiddly to operate

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7. Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ901-BK

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Highlights of the Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ901-BK Camera

  • HD video
  • Insane 90x zoom
  • 22mm wide-angle lens
  • Articulated screen

FEATURES

The Pixpro Astro Zoom AZ901-BK from Kodak is yet another popular bridge camera that fits in between pocket and DSLR. Most notably, the AZ901 has a ridiculous optical zoom lens range of 90x, while also providing an ultra-wide view angle of 22mm equivalent on the opposite end. There is also full raw support, a 3” vari-angle tilt screen, and optical stabilization that is quite effective according to most users. It’s worth noting that the Astro Zoom AZ901-BK offers full HD video and has a built-in EVF.

DESIGN

While the aesthetics could come down to personal taste, the Kodak Pixpro Astro Zoom AZ901-BK somewhat resembles a small DSLR body and is finished in matte black plastic. The camera weighs a respectable 777 grams, largely due to the monstrous telephoto zoom lens. The button layout is intuitive and practical, and most hands should be able to hold it and access all vital functions with ease. There is a rubberized grip surface, but only on the right-hand side – which can feel slippery when holding the camera with both hands. We’d rather support it either under the lens or with a palm facing the bottom of the unit.

PERFORMANCE

The AZ901-BK is fairly quick on its feet, although some users report sluggish autofocus. If you intend to be shooting the AZ901 in low light, you might want to reconsider your options, due to poor noise performance. Users report mixed feedback regarding the colors produced by the camera. Much of this can be fixed in post, although this is time-consuming to do at scale. As for nailing your focus consistently at 90x zoom, a good quality tripod can help quite a bit.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Kodak is an American film and camera manufacturer, headquartered in New York. The company pioneered the photography industry and has a vast history stretching over 120 years. Due to failing to recognize the emergence of digital photography, Kodak failed to adjust its business model and has consequently lost nearly all of its market share to the competitors. As of late 2020, the company is staying afloat largely thanks to a number of patents it’s holding.

VERDICT

If you’ll be mainly shooting in abundant light and need an utterly mind-melting zoom range on a small budget, you might want to take a look at the Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ901-BK. Although by no means perfect, the AZ901 is an interesting bridge camera with good flexibility and ease of use. In our opinion, this digital camera is totally worthy of dabbling in wildlife or pet photography, aside from travel and everyday shooting.
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We Like

  • Savage 90x zoom
  • Fully articulated screen
  • Full RAW support
  • EVF

We Don’t Like

  • Colors can be quirky
  • Noise performance
  • AF can be unreliable

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8. Sony DSC-HX80

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Highlights of the Sony DSC-HX80 Camera

  • Tilting screen
  • Pop-out EVF
  • 30x zoom
  • Pocketable
  • Good battery life
  • Connectivity options

FEATURES

The HX80 offers 30x optical zoom, 5-axis stabilization and a tilting screen. The 1/2.3″ sensor has a resolution of 18.2MP while there is no hot-shoe. The camera doesn’t have RAW support either. Despite these flaws, the Sony DSC-HX80 is a powerful pocket camera with a crisp 921k display and crisp Zeiss optics. Additionally, it does offer WiFi connectivity and NFC, along with impressive battery life and excellent autofocus.

DESIGN

The HX80 offers a look and feel quite similar to the RX100 series. The camera looks subdued and stealthy and feels sturdy while being extremely compact. It’s rather Japanese in terms of design philosophy and contains loads of functionality – hidden out of sight but accessible when needed. The visual expression is overall clean and neat.

PERFORMANCE

Thanks to the newer Bionz X imaging processor, the HX80 subcompact camera offers high speed and 10 frame bursts. The autofocus is quick and reliable, nice auto white balance and the low-light abilities are helped significantly by the specially optimized sensor and 5-axis image stabilization.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Sony is one of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers, including cameras for aficionados and ‘professionados’ alike. Offering a wide array of products ranging from pocket-sized cameras to full-frame bodies with dual card slots, Sony makes cameras of all shapes, sizes and in all price categories. The company’s Alpha line-up is particularly favored by videographers and filmmakers.

VERDICT

Although we are frankly not the biggest fans of Sony’s menu system and ergonomics, there is no doubt that the HX80 is a seriously capable camera. And after all, a skilled artist can produce great work even using a potato. With the tiny footprint combined with impressive optics and surprisingly good low-light performance, the Sony DSC HX80 camera is a viable option for street shooters, travelers, and just those who want a small, dedicated photography-taking device with excellent performance and flexibility.

We Like

  • EVF
  • Very compact
  • Battery life
  • Tilting Screen

We Don’t Like

  • No hot shoe
  • No mic jack
  • No raw support

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9. Sony Cybershot DSC-T2

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Highlights of the Sony Cybershot DSC-T2 Camera

  • Extremely portable
  • Fresh color options
  • Easy and fun to use
  • Holds 40,000 JPEGs
  • Easy to share straight from camera

FEATURES

The DSC-T2 might not be the most featureful camera on our list, but it does have a few special tricks up its sleeve. Sony’s ‘smile shutter’ will help capture the most joyful moments, while the tiny camera can hold up to 40,000 JPEG photos. If that’s not enough for a lifetime, it should certainly be sufficient for any vacation or event. Moreover, the T2 from Sony can share photos and footage straight to your favorite platforms, or effortlessly organize them directly within the convenient sharefolder system.

DESIGN

The T2 comes in a variety of vibrant color options and is utterly teeny-weeny. Weighing in at just over 150 grams including battery, it easily slides into any pocket. While you’d not be taken seriously bringing the DSC-T2 for a professional shoot, you can express your style or avoid detection altogether, when traveling or roaming the streets. Being stuck with one focal length is acceptable, thanks to the versatile 35mm equivalent lens.

PERFORMANCE

The Sony DSC-T2 is by no means a professional camera. Heck, it doesn’t even shoot raw. However, it does take, store, and share photos – many photos, in a fun and accessible way. In the end, isn’t that what photography is all about? That said, the camera is super quick and easy to use, and does offer shutter speeds of up to 1/1000 of a second.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Sony has been tirelessly challenging the ‘big boys’ in the camera world throughout the 2010s and is quickly getting recognized as a worthy contender for both consumer and prosumer photographers. In particular, Sony’s specs and features tend to blow anything else out of the water. The AF speed and reliability, accompanied by strong video capabilities, have contributed to making Sony cameras the weapons of choice for many pros. As of late 2020, Sony has in fact outpaced Nikon, currently sitting at a respectable 20% market share.

VERDICT

The Sony Cybershot DSC-T2 is certainly not for everyone – but no camera is. We find that the T2 pocket camera is an incredibly fun and accessible option for the casual all-around photographer, including the traveling kind. The funky color schemes let it fit any personality or gender whatsoever, and the social sharing features make it so that you can skip the editing and transfer it to other devices altogether. Simply click and share away.

We Like

  • Extremely portable
  • Colorful and tiny
  • Stores 40.000 shots
  • Sharing w/o smartphone

We Don’t Like

  • Not great in low light
  • Fixed focal length
  • Lack of raw support
  • Relatively pricey for the performance you get

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10. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

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Highlights of the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Camera

  • Ease of use
  • Elegant design
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Great image quality relative to size
  • Flexible
  • Solid all-arounder

FEATURES

The G9 X Mark II has the familiar and easy to navigate menu system that makes it the ideal backup or travel camera for any Canon shooter. With a 28-84mm equivalent zoom lens, you get good flexibility, too. The 1″ sensor combined with a maximum aperture of f/2-4.9, provides good performance in low light. However, the PowerShot G9 X Mark II has a fixed screen and no EVF, which could be a turnoff for some.

DESIGN

Elegant metal body with rubberized grip surfaces and multiple color options. The camera is on the light end, weighing in at just above 200 grams – which makes the G9 Mark II a perfect candidate for everyday, travel, and candid street photography. The camera easily fits into a pocket and is stylish enough to show off on a city walk or at a family party.

PERFORMANCE

Thanks to the newer DIGIC 7 processor, the G9 X Mark II delivers more than adequate speed during startup and use. While the camera doesn’t have the longest optical zoom range nor the widest aperture, it’s a solid performer in terms of both speed and imaging quality.

MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Canon requires no further introduction, as the company is widely known for being one of the top camera brands in the world. Canon produces cameras of all sizes and in all price ranges, as well as optics, printers and scanners, medical equipment, and semiconductor manufacturing equipment. If you’ve come across a professional photographer in the last decade, there is a good chance that he or she was wielding a Canon camera or two.

VERDICT

In our view, the PowerShot G9 X Mark II from Canon, represents a neat camera package for your pocket. Although the lack of a tilting screen and EVF leave something to be desired, this member of the PowerShot series is one of the absolute best options on the market for the travel photographer and casual everyday shooter. Great ease of use combined with excellent image quality, makes the G9 X Mark II an obvious choice for the budding photographer or as the professionals’ pocket camera.

We Like

  • Elegant design
  • Strong low light performance
  • Compact size
  • Fast & easy to use

We Don’t Like

  • Lack of 4k
  • Fixed screen
  • No viewfinder

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FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions | Point and Shoot Digital Cameras

What’s the purpose of a point and shoot camera?

Photography is all about capturing the moment and having fun. The purpose of a point-and-shoot camera is to provide an easy and accessible way to do just that. In short, you don’t need a degree in quantum physics, nor a whole bag of lenses and accessories. A compact camera is meant to just pick up and shoot, without necessarily having to dive deep into functions and highly technical menu options.

Point and shoot cameras come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and levels of performance. Some P&S cameras have a fixed focal length, reducing the overall weight and bulk. Others are fitted with a zoom lens that provides flexibility at the expense of size and weight.

Oftentimes as photographers, we tend to get what is known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome, otherwise referred to as GAS. Once we first start collecting, there is no real limit to the number of bodies, lenses, adaptors, tripods, lights, filters, and all other kinds of accessories and gadgets to help us along on our photographic journey. While all of those items certainly have their place and can contribute to better quality images, more keepers, and even open up new avenues, the P&S takes the complexity out of the equation.

There is a certain minimalistic elegance to just wandering around with one single camera in your hand, not having to worry about glass, chargers, or which filter to use. The compact camera is typically either in your proximity – or glued to your hand, ready to snap away. Indeed, the camera can become an extension of you, rather than being a liability and a burden to worry about.

In the end, the most important element in photography is behind the viewfinder (if there is one!). An added benefit to a pocketable digital camera is that it raises less suspicion and allows the photographer to seamlessly blend in with the environment – providing unique photographic opportunities.

What is the difference between DSLR cameras and point and shoot cameras?

Granted, in certain scenarios a DSLR or even a chunky medium format camera is necessary for the job. For instance, if you need to print a photo for a meter-tall ad or for a fine art exhibition. For the vast majority of picture-takers though, the photos are either going straight to a digital album or to social media. This is where the differences between DSLR, mirrorless cameras, and P&S come in.

Key differences between the typical DSLR and compact camera

  • Size and weight
  • Battery life
  • Viewfinder
  • Ergonomics & comfort
  • Sensor size & resolution
  • Interchangeable lens system

When it comes to camera design, prioritization is everything. There is no ‘right’ best point and shoot camera under 500 USD, as it all depends on what and whom it’s for. Our recommendations above are based on balance for a typical user.

There are a few main traits that are all present to some extent in all cameras. They are:

Powerful, small, comfortable, inexpensive, redundant, flexible, and durable. It is impossible to simultaneously achieve all of these design goals at the maximum level in every single category. Thus, we are left with a choice.

There are subcategories, too. For example video bitrate and framerate, resolution, ports, screen angles, and many other variables. As you can see, clarifying what you will use the camera for, and consequently knowing your requirements, is essential – at least in broad terms. Perhaps microscopic size and weight are paramount for you. Or maybe you need a combination of long battery life, comfort, and low price.

You can have anything and everything you want – but not at the same time.

In between the DSLR and the point and shoot, is the so-called bridge camera. This middle-way solution fills the niche between the two and often represents the optimal mix of performance, size, and cost.

Are point and shoot cameras still worth buying?

In our view, anyone who is passionate about taking photos and shooting videos, should at the very minimum own a point & shoot camera – always charged and ready to fire away. This is a deep question though, that no one except you can really answer. We can, however, shed some light on what you might want to consider when trying to get a ‘clear picture’.

Firstly, here are a few key advantages that the best point & shoot cameras bring to the table:

Dedicated photographic device – zero opportunity for getting distracted in the world of the Internet, social media, and emails.

Generally produces technically better image quality than most smartphones, and can even outperform a DSLR or some mirrorless cameras in certain aspects.

Highly portable and inconspicuous, while often packing a serious punch under the hood.

A point and shoot camera is significantly less expensive than a brand new flagship DSLR. The lower cost of entry makes the compact camera less prohibitive to new photographers while enabling them to develop the craft before potentially upgrading.

Helpful questions to ask before deciding which camera to get:

  • What is your budget?
  • How often do you take photos?
  • How much does image quality mean to you?
  • What are the non-negotiables for you in terms of choosing a camera?
  • How and where are your photos meant to be consumed?
  • Do you often cringe when finding noise and artifacts in your mobile photos?
  • Do you have a larger camera and how often do you decide to not bring it with you?

In conclusion

Point and shoot cameras fill a certain niche spot for those who value the art and craft of photography in a distraction-free way, without dragging around up to a kilo of extra weight. As a traveler, it can be a real advantage to save your phone’s power – while upgrading the image quality and even sharing directly to your social media profiles.

While even the best point and shoot cameras are not perfect for every possible use case, we love them and believe they are here to stay, no matter what direction smartphones and photography may take in the future. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll probably love our roundup of the best point and shoot film cameras which you should check out next.