Point-and-Shoot Camera Buying Guide

Posted by on December 10, 2017

Point-and-Shoot Camera Buying Guide

I update this point-and-shoot camera buying guide a couple of times a year and these are my favorite point-and-shoot cameras for winter 2017/18. Below, you’ll find ten pocket cameras I think offer the best features and performance available, right now. These are the ten point-and-shoots I’d spend my own money on. I’ve done my best to make sure there’s something here for everyone, including families, my outdoor athlete friends, professional photographers and travelers. No matter what your budget, how much photography experience you have or what you want to do with your photos, there’s a P&S camera here that will help you make better pictures.

Yes – Point & Shoot Cameras Are Better Than Your Smart Phone

If you’re reading this and asking why you need a point-and-shoot when already have a great camera built into your phone, I understand. It’s a legitimate question. Camera companies have had a tough time selling point-and-shoots for the past few years because everyone already has a (smart phone) camera in their pocket. And smart phone cameras are great. For phones. But trust me on this – almost any point-and-shoot camera is better.

There are lots of different ways to define “point-and-shoot.” For me, if it doesn’t fit in my pocket, it doesn’t qualify. Pocketability is especially important if we’re comparing cameras to smart phones. So every camera in this guide will fit in your pants pocket. Some cameras might be a tight fit – but you can get them in there. I’ve checked them all to make sure. If you can’t cram it into the pocket of your jeans (skinny jeans excluded), you won’t find it in this point-and-shoot camera guide.

Another thing that’s important to me – mandatory, actually – is built-in Wi-Fi. Every camera in this point -and-shoot camera buying guide has Wi-Fi connectivity. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to wirelessly transfer photos and videos to your smart phone and share them from pretty much anywhere. As a professional photographer, being able to post high-quality photos and videos to Facebook and Instagram no matter where I am is very important. Built-in Wi-Fi allows me to do just that.

Point-and-Shoot Camera Recommendations

I’ve divided the cameras in this guide into three categories: pocket superzooms, rugged waterproof point-and-shoots, and premium/professional point-and-shoots. I did my best to make sure there’s something here for everyone. However, if you feel like I left something out, please share your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the guide. If you choose a camera because of this guide, please use the red “Buy It” links to shop. When you use those links, I get a small percentage of the sale. As much as I like helping friends out with camera recommendations, keeping this point-and-shoot camera buying guide up to date takes time and money and I gots to get paid, son.

Pocket Superzoom Camera Recommendations

My personal point-and-shoot camera preference is the pocket superzoom – an all-purpose, pocket-sized camera with a 10x or longer optical zoom lens. I’ve owned and tested a bunch of pocket superzoom cameras over the years and they remain my favorite type of pocket camera. I’m happy to trade a bit of image quality for the added reach and versatility of a 10x, 20x or even 30x zoom lens. Right now my favorite point-and-shoot is the Panasonic Lumix ZS100, which combines premium camera features with a 10x optical zoom lens. With that, let’s move on to my point-and-shoot camera recommendations:

Panasonic Lumix ZS100 Pocket Superzoom CameraPanasonic Lumix ZS100 – $699
I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes when I first read about the Panasonic ZS100. It’s the pocket camera I’ve been dreaming of for years – a decade, even. My last three point-and-shoots have been pocket superzooms with 20-30x optical zooms and tiny 1/2.3-inch sensors. Those long zooms are great but the image quality with the tiny sensor has always been a little bit of a bummer – especially in low light. The ZS100’s big 1-inch sensor changes that. It delivers excellent low light quality – especially with the bright f/2.8 maximum aperture and RAW shooting. The electronic viewfinder is also a big deal. Not only is it better for shooting in bright light, but it helps stabilize the camera in low light, when you’re panning and for video. As an action shooter, I’m also excited about the ZS100’s 50-FPS full-resolution burst mode. The ZS100 also has great video capabilities with 4k video and 1080 full-HD at 60 frames per second. For even better video performance, see the Sony RX100 V near the bottom of this guide.

  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch “High Sensitivity MOS” sensor
  • 10x 25-250mm (equivalent) f/2.8-5.9 Leica optical zoom lens
  • Electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • 4k and 1080 60p AVCHD video with stereo mic
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-12,8000 (expandable to 25,600)
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • RAW mode
  • Max full-resolution burst: 50 frames-per-second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Panasonic Lumix ZS100

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Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS Point-and-Shoot CameraCanon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS – $209
At the other end of the spectrum from the Panasonic ZS100 at the top of this list we have the simple and inexpensive Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS. The ELPH 360 HS has been in this guide since 2016 and some version of the ELPH has been included since I started making this guide. Canon’s digital ELPH cameras are tiny, affordable, easy to use and they have great image quality. The 20-megapixel PowerShot ELPH 360 HS has a 12x 25-300mm image-stabilized optical zoom lens, full HD video and built-in Wi-Fi so you can instantly transfer photos to your Smart Phone and share them with your friends. Putting the Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS in your pocket or purse is one of the best and most affordable ways to improve your Facebook and Instagram photos. Suggested retail for the ELPH 360 HS is $209 but it’s actually selling for well under $200, now (click the photos or links to the see the current price).

  • 20.2-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor
  • Canon HS System for low-light performance
  • 12x 25-300mm (equivalent) f/3.6-7.0 optical zoom lens
  • 1920 x 1080 30p full HD video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 80-3200
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto and scene modes
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS

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Panasonic Lumix ZS70 Pocket Superzoom CameraPanasonic Lumix ZS70 – $399
Panasonic invented the pocket superzoom camera category and I’ve been using them on and off for over ten years. Right now, their pocket superzooms the best features, specs and controls. The ZS100, at the top of this list, is my current favorite because of its large 1-inch sensor. But if you want a smaller, more affordable camera with even more zoom, the Panasonic Lumix ZS70 is my top pick. It has a 30x 24-720mm optical zoom lens, it easily fits in most pants pockets and it costs $150 less than the ZS100. It has PASM shooting modes with full manual controls, a pop-up electronic viewfinder, flip-up touchscreen LCD display, RAW capture and 4k video recording. It’s like being able to put a whole camera bag in your pocket – except if you actually had a 720mm lens for your DSLR, you’d need a wagon to carry it.

  • 20.3-megapixel 1/2.3-inch MOS sensor
  • 30x 24-720mm (equivalent) f/3.3-6.4 Leica optical zoom lens
  • Electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • 3-inch flip touchscreen LCD display
  • 4k and 1920 x 1080 60p full HD AVCHD video with stereo mic
  • Sensitivity: ISO 80-3200 (expandable to ISO 6400)
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • RAW mode
  • Max full-resolution burst: 10 frames-per-second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Panasonic Lumix ZS70

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Canon PowerShot SX730 HS 40x Pocket Superzoom Camera Canon PowerShot SX730 HS – $379
I used to think a 20x zoom lens was nuts and then last year Canon introduced a point-and-shoot with a 40x zoom – the longest optical zoom available in a pocket camera. The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is still available (see it, here) and the price has dropped below $300. But Canon has since introduced the PowerShot SX730 HS with the same 40x 24-960mm optical zoom lens and a new selfie-friendly flip-up LCD display. The SX730 HS also lets you use your smart phone as a remote control with live view, opening up all kinds of new ways to take pictures. For photographers who want to do more than just point-and-shoot, the PowerShot SX730 HS has PASM exposure modes for full manual control, a 20-megapixel CMOS sensor with Canon’s excellent HS System for low light shooting, and full HD video at 60 FPS.

  • 20.3-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor
  • 40x 24-960mm (equivalent) f/3.3-6.9 optical zoom lens
  • 1920 x 1080 60p full HD video
  • 3-inch tilting LCD display
  • Sensitivity: ISO 80-3200
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • Burst: 5.9 FPS
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Canon PowerShot SX730 HS

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Rugged Waterproof Point-and-Shoot Camera Recommendations

If you’re reading this guide, it’s likely that you’re an active outdoorsy person like myself who likes to ski, surf, climb, mountain bike or all of the above. For those types of activities, where things get dropped and splashed, a waterproof, shockproof camera is an excellent option. Or maybe you need a small kid-proof camera or a camera durable enough to take out drinking. Regardless of the kind of abuse you dish out, here are a couple of rugged, waterproof point-and-shoot camera options.

Olympus Tough TG-5 Waterproof Camera
Olympus Tough TG-5 – $399

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the water or snow, then a rugged, waterproof point-and-shoot like the Olympus Tough TG-5 is a great camera option. Canon, Nikon and Panasonic also make good waterproof P&S cameras, but I’ve found the Olympus waterproofs have the best image quality and features. The TG-5’s waterproofing and ruggedization are on-par with other cameras but the bright f/2.0 lens makes it better in low light and with fast action. The TG-5 also has aperture priority mode for manual exposure control and more sophisticated photographers will appreciate that it can capture in RAW as well as JPEG. For my friends who ski, mountain bike, kayak or do other outdoor action sports, the TG-5 can shoot still photos as fast as 20 frames per second and record slow motion full HD video at 120 FPS, and 720p at 240 FPS. I would take the TG-5 over a smart phone camera or GoPro, any day – but especially on a powder day.

  • 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 4x 25-100mm (equivalent) f/2.0-4.9 optical zoom lens
  • Video: 4k, 1080 60p, 1080 120p, 720 240p
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-12,800
  • RAW shooting
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with Aperture Priority and scene modes
  • Max Burst: 20 FPS at full resolution
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Waterproof: 15m (50 ft.)
  • Shockproof: 2.1m (7 ft.)
  • Crushproof: 100kgf (220 lbf.)
  • Freezeproof: -10°C (14°F)

Buy Olympus Tough TG-5

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Nikon Coolpix W100 Waterproof Camera
Nikon Coolpix W100 – $159

An updated version of my previous affordable waterproof camera recommendation, the Nikon Coolpix W100 is perfect for families who want an inexpensive, kid-proof camera. The main change is Nikon added Wi-Fi so you can transfer photos to your phone and share them on the spot. The Coolpix W100 is waterproof to 33 feet, freezeproof and can handle drops up to just under six feet. It’s perfect for the beach, hot tub and snow. It’s also a great party camera – you can drop it on the floor and spill beer on it without worrying about it dying. And it’s really hard to argue with a price tag of just $150 (it’s selling for under list on Amazon, right now – click the photo or red links to see actual price).

  • 13.2-megapixel 1/3.1-inch CMOS sensor
  • 3x 30-90mm (equivalent) f/3.3-5.9 optical zoom lens
  • 1920 x 1080 full HD video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 125-1600
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto
  • Burst: 11 FPS for 4.7 frames
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Waterproof: 10m (33 ft.)
  • Shockproof: 1.8m (5.9 ft.)
  • Freezeproof: -10°C (14°F)

Buy Nikon Coolpix W100

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Premium Point-and-Shoot Camera Recommendations

Don’t want to compromise on image quality or exposure control? No worries – the cameras below prioritize quality and control above all else. They all have large sensors for better image quality than standard point-and-shoots or smart phones, and fast-aperture lenses for sharp photos and great low-light performance. They all have built-in Wi-Fi too – so you can share pro-quality images on your social media accounts – perfect for professional photographers and marketers who want their Instagram and Facebook photos and videos to really stand out.

Sony RX100 V Premium Point-and-Shoot CameraSony Cybershot RX100 V – $950
The Sony RX100 has been the pocket camera of choice for professional photographers since it was introduced in the summer of 2012. With Sony’s 1-inch CMOS sensor, 2.9x f/1.8-2.8 Carl Zeiss lens, PASM manual modes and RAW shooting, it was a true game changer, delivering near-DSLR control and image quality in a camera that easily fits in a pocket. Sony has continuously improved and refined the RX100 since the original version and while there are some compelling alternatives, other camera companies have yet to beat them at their own game. The latest version, the Sony RX100 V adds improved auto focus, subject tracking and high-speed burst, plus outstanding video performance. What blew my mind about the RX100 V is it can record high-speed full-HD video at up to 960 FPS for crazy slow-mo video. Combine the improved AF performance with 4k recording, the pop-up EVF and the camera’s high-speed video settings and you’ve got a pocket-sized, pro-level video rig. At $1000, it costs more than many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. And it’s worth it.

If the RX100 V’s $950 price tag is too steep for you, Sony still sells versions I through IV. Decide what features are important to you, pick a price point and see if they have something that fits your budget.

  • 1-inch 20.1-megapixel “Exmor RS” BSI CMOS sensor
  • 2.9x 24-70mm (equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 Carl Zeiss optical zoom lens
  • 4k video 1920 x 1080 60p full HD AVCHD video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 125-12,800
  • Pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • RAW shooting
  • 3-inch tilting LCD display
  • Burst: 24 FPS with AF tracking
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Sony RX100 V

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Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Premium Point-and-Shoot CameraCanon PowerShot G7 X Mark II- $650
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is a great, relatively affordable alternative to the Sony RX100 V. It has most of the same features but is priced hundreds of dollars less with comparable image quality and a longer 4.2x f/1.8-2.8 optical zoom lens. Lots of photographers prefer the Canon because of the extra zoom range and Canon’s easy-to-use, intuitive menus. Serious photographers will appreciate G7 X II’s the PASM manual exposure modes, programmable Control ring and RAW shooting. The G7 X Mk II also has full HD video and built-in time lapse controls. And for Instagram and FB addicts, the 3-inch touchscreen LCD display flips up for easy selfies. If you don’t need the Sony’s impressive video performance, the Canon G7 X II is a better choice for many photographers. If it’s still out of your price range, take a look at the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II. The G9 X II trades a bit of zoom and the tilting LCD display for a more reasonable $450 price tag.

  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch CMOS sensor
  • 4.2x 24-100mm (equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 optical zoom lens
  • 1920 x 1080 60p full HD video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 125-12,800
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • RAW shooting
  • 3-inch tilting touchscreen display
  • Burst: 8 FPS at full resolution
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

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Panasonic Lumix LX100 Premium Point-and-Shoot CameraPanasonic Lumix LX100 – $649
Although it’s a tight fit for pants pockets, the Panasonic Lumix LX100’s large Four Thirds sensor and 3x optical zoom lens puts it in a class all by itself. The LX100 is essentially a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless system camera with a built-in 24-75mm (equivalent) f/1.7-2.8 Leica zoom lens. The image quality from the huge (for a pocket camera) 12-megapixel Four Thirds sensor will blow every other camera in this guide out of the water. It also has an electronic viewfinder (EVF), manual shooting modes, 4k video recording and it can shoot still photo bursts as fast as 40 FPS. For photographers who want a pocket camera with uncompromised image quality and top-shelf optics, the Panasonic Lumix LX100 is as close as you can get to stuffing a DSLR in your pocket.

  • 12.8-megapixel Four Thirds High Sensitivity MOS sensor
  • 3.1x 24-75mm (equivalent) f/1.7-2.8 Leica DC optical zoom lens
  • Full HD 60p and 4k video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 125-25,600
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • RAW shooting
  • Electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • Max Burst: 40 FPS
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC

Buy Panasonic Lumix LX100

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Fujifilm X70 Premium Pocket CameraFujifilm X70 – $699
If image quality is number one for you, then put the Fujifilm X70 at the top of your point-and-shoot camera list. The X70 is almost exactly the same size as the Panasonic Lumix LX100 (above) but it has one of Fujifilm’s outstanding X-Trans CMOS sensors – the same type they use in their interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras. In my opinion, it’s the best APS-C sensor you can get. It’s much larger than the Four Thirds sensor in the Panasonic LX100 and a world of difference in terms of image quality – especially when it comes to detail and subtle color blends. Combine that fantastic X-Trans sensor with an 18.5mm f/2.8 wide-angle prime lens (28mm equivalent) and you’ve got one of the finest pocket cameras ever made. If you’re willing to live without an optical zoom lens and you want the ultimate street and travel pocket camera, the Fujifilm X70 is the obvious choice.

  • 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor
  • 18.5mm f/2.8 Fujinon wide-angle (28mm equivalent) prime lens
  • Digital teleconverter: 28mm,35mm,50mm (35mm format equivalents)
  • Full HD 60p video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 200-6400 (expandable to ISO 100 and ISO 51,200)
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual modes
  • RAW shooting
  • 3-inch tilting LCD display
  • Max Burst: 8 FPS
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC

Buy Fujifilm X70

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If you didn’t find what the camera recommendation or information you need in this point-and-shoot camera buying guide, I’ve also written a Mirrorless Camera Buying Guide and there are more camera articles on my Camera Gear category page. If there’s something else you’re looking for or different kind of camera buying guide you’d like me to consider writing, please leave a comment below and tell me what you’re looking for.

19 Responses to Point-and-Shoot Camera Buying Guide

  1. Betspix December 5, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    aha! this is where i am supposed to send my friends for your outstanding advice and reviews!

    signed
    your mother

    Reply
    • Photo-John December 5, 2014 at 11:33 PM

      Yes, Mom. This is the place 😉

      Reply
  2. Matthew Ostrander May 8, 2015 at 2:08 PM

    Based greatly on the information in this buying guide, I opted to go with the Sony Cybershot HX50V for my newest point-and-shoot. Only 2 days into owning it and I’m already blown away by what it can do. The WiFi photo transfer, and more importantly WiFi control, feature is phenomenal. I don’t know why I waited so long to upgrade my camera. Big thanks to Photo-John…thanks for the information.

    Reply
    • Photo-John May 8, 2015 at 2:29 PM

      I’m pleased you found the guide useful, Matthew! Although there are newer cameras (including an update of the HX50V), I’m still happily using my HX50V. It’s a very nice camera 🙂

      Reply
  3. jason bredbury June 1, 2015 at 11:16 PM

    looking for a first rig for Vida – turning 6 next month. looks like we’ll use the Coolpix S32 as a starting point. thanks for the comprehensive range of recommendations!

    Reply
    • Photo-John June 1, 2015 at 11:23 PM

      Vida is turning 6? Impossible! 🙂

      Reply
    • jason bredbury June 1, 2015 at 11:35 PM

      ok. so i actually did a little research now (as i should have before that first comment) – anything you think important about the difference between the Coolpix S32 and the current S33 models?

      Reply
      • Photo-John June 4, 2015 at 9:07 AM

        I don’t think there are any really important differences between the S32 and the S33, Jason. There are a couple of new features but I don’t believe they will make any practical difference in the way she uses the camera or the quality of the photos. I recommend you save the $30 and buy the S32.

        Reply
  4. Ken Sundwall June 10, 2015 at 8:32 PM

    Still waiting on your review of the Nikon Coolpix P900… 🙂

    Reply
    • Photo-John June 12, 2015 at 9:12 AM

      Probably not gonna happen, Ken. Now that I have my own site, I’m focusing more on the cameras that really interest me and those big bridge camera superzooms aren’t my thing at all. If a superzoom fits in my pocket, then I’m interested. Or if it’s got pro-level performance like the Sony RX10, then I’m interested. But a huge superzoom with a little point-and-shoot sensor just doesn’t get me going. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Michael June 11, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    Hi John,
    How about Fuji Film? I just got an X30 as a gift. Not sure if it’s what I need. I want to shoot Rock & Roll shows where they have a “removable” lens restriction.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Photo-John June 12, 2015 at 9:18 AM

      Good question, Michael! The X30 was actually in this guide before I updated it for the summer. I dropped it in favor of smaller and/or more powerful cameras. However, there’s a reason I included the X30 last time. It has a great lens, a fantastic sensor and excellent controls. I just happen to prefer cameras that fit in my pocket. I use the Sony HX50V pocket superzoom (it’s been replaced with the HX90V, in this guide) for shooting concerts because I don’t have to get close. And that’s the one downside of the X30 – you won’t be able to make tight shots at concerts with it unless you get right down front. It’s also a little more conspicuous than a pocket-sized camera. Your X30 does have a better lens and sensor than my pocket superzoom, though. I’m not sure if that answers your question or not. It does lay out the pros and cons of your camera for concerts, though. The X30 is definitely a great camera. It’s just not what I’d choose for taking concert photos. Let me know if you need more detail or have other questions 🙂

      Reply
  6. David B. August 25, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    John: I am considering the elph 170 or Coolpix S33 because they are way cheaper than the 350. I would like wi-fi in the 350, but don’t want to pay an extra $60 for it. I take my camera fishing, so waterproof would be nice. My Canon elph 1200IS is dying (perhaps from being dropped in the Provo River for 5 mins; its recovery was miraculous but not permanent) and I am going on a trip for which I do not want to drag an SLR.
    1. Recommendations?
    2. If I buy the 170 and link to Amazon thru your website, do you still get credit?
    The website is very useful. Thanks.

    Reply
  7. Astra Aspasia September 18, 2016 at 5:19 AM

    well written
    but you miss something i guess
    please write about what is the best camera for vlogging ?

    Reply
    • Photo-John September 18, 2016 at 2:42 PM

      Thanks for the comment. This guide isn’t intended to cover every kind of use or user, though. It was written for photograhers and it’s clearly a list of my favorite cameras. Since I’m not a vlogger, and have no interest in vlogging, I don’t have an opinion. Maybe you can make a camera recommendation?

      Reply
  8. Astra Aspasia October 3, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    one of friend highly interest in vlogging
    she ask me so many question in a day
    so what is your opinion about vlogging
    is it bad ?

    Reply
    • Photo-John October 8, 2016 at 5:07 PM

      I approved this obvious spam post just so I could say, yes – vlogging is bad. I have zero interest in watching peoples’ silly, rambling web cam rants.

      Reply
  9. Brent Cadagan February 6, 2017 at 1:58 PM

    John,

    Per your review I’m going to go for the Olympus Tough TG-4 for shooting while skiing unless you suggest something newer that has come out, hopefully with a bit more zoom.

    Thanks for the great reviews.

    Brent

    Reply
    • Photo-John February 6, 2017 at 6:45 PM

      Brent-
      Since CES took place after I updated my guide, I took a quick look around to make sure I still think the Olympus TG-4 is still the best. And I do. However, Nikon’s Coolpix AW130 does have a 5x zoom (compared to the TG-4’s 4x zoom). It’s 120mm (equivalent) on the long end – 20% longer than the Olympus. You’ll have to decide whether that’s worth giving up RAW shooting and the TG-4’s faster aperture. Please let us know what you end up buying and how you like it.

      Reply

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