Point-and-Shoot Camera Buying Guide

Posted by on November 25, 2016

2016 Point-and-Shoot Camera Buying Guide

Point-and-shoot camera buying guide: Photo-John’s favorite pocket cameras for 2016.


I’ve been updating this point-and-shoot camera buying guide at regular intervals for a couple of years now. This update, for the 2016 Holiday Season, is the toughest one yet because there are so many really good point-and-shoot cameras available right now. But I’ve done my job and narrowed the list down to ten cameras. These are the ten cameras I think offer the best features and performance – the ten point-and-shoots that I’d spend my own money on. I’ve been careful to make sure there’s something here for everyone – families, professional photographers, travelers and my outdoor friends who want a camera that can handle all kinds of weather and abuse. No matter what your budget or how much photography experience you have, there’s a P&S camera here that you’ll be happy to put in your pocket.

Camera companies have had a tough time selling point-and-shoot cameras for the past few years. That’s because everyone already has a camera in their pocket – their phone. And Smart Phone cameras are very good now – for phones. I never use the camera in my phone because it’s just not good enough. Almost any point-and-shoot camera is better.

2016 Point-and-Shoot Camera Recommendations

People have lots of different ideas about what defines a point-and-shoot camera. 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 might be a tight fit – but you can get them in there. I’ve checked them all to make sure. In my opinion, any camera that won’t fit in my pocket isn’t really a point-and-shoot.

Another thing that’s important to me – mandatory, actually – is built-in Wi-Fi. Every camera in this point -and-shoot camera buying guide (except the Nikon Coolpix S33) has it. In my opinion, every camera should have it now – even professional digital SLRs. Built-in Wi-Fi makes it so easy to share top-quality photos and videos. If you don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t understand what it does, the camera broadcasts its own Wi-Fi signal so you can transfer photos and videos wirelessly to your Smart Phone and share them from nearly 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 that.

Ok – let’s get to it! The cameras in this guide are separated into three categories: pocket superzooms, rugged waterproof point-and-shoots, and premium/professional point-and-shoots. I’ve done my best to make sure there’s something here for everyone. However, if you feel like I left something out, please feel free to 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, writing this guide and maintaining this site 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 minimum 10x optical zoom lens. I’ve owned three pocket superzooms over the past few years, and tested and reviewed many more. Personally, I’m happy to trade a bit of image quality for the added reach and versatility of the long zoom lens.

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 opposite end of the spectrum from the premium pocket camera at the top of this list, we have the simple and inexpensive Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS. This camera (in whatever version has been current at the time) has been in my P&S buying guide since I first published it. Canon’s digital ELPH cameras are tiny, affordable, easy to use and they have great image quality. The current model, 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 with your phone is one of the best ways to improve your Facebook and Instagram photos.

  • 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 ZS60 Pocket Superzoom CameraPanasonic Lumix ZS60 – $447
I’ve been lusting after a Panasonic Lumix ZS-Series camera ever since they added RAW capture. For me, the ZS60 is the ultimate pocket superzoom. With a 30x 24-720mm equivalent optical zoom lens, 4k video, full manual controls a pop-up EVF and full manual controls, the ZS60 is an incredible little camera. It’s like being able to put a whole camera bag in your pants pocket – except, if you actually had a 720mm lens for your DSLR, it wouldn’t fit in a camera bag.

  • 18.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch “High Sensitivity MOS” sensor
  • 30x 24-720mm (equivalent) f/3.3-6.4 Leica optical zoom lens
  • Electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • 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: 40 frames-per-second
  • Built-in Wi-Fi

Buy Panasonic Lumix ZS60

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Sony Cybershot HX90V Pocket Superzoom CameraSony Cybershot HX90V – $449
Sony’s top-of-the-line pocket superzoom has an image-stabilized 30x optical zoom lens, PASM manual shooting modes, 10 FPS burst, full HD 60p video and built-in Wi-Fi. I used the HX90V’s predecessor, the HX50V, for over three years and it’s the best, most versatile point-and-shoot camera I ever owned. With the addition of a pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder, tilting LCD display for easy selfies, a new 18-megapixel sensor, programmable control ring, improved image stabilization and better video quality, the HX90V is an excellent choice for an all-purpose or travel pocket camera.

  • 18.2-megapixel 1/2.3-inch “Exmor R” CMOS sensor
  • 30x 24-720mm (equivalent) f/3.5-6.4 Zeiss optical zoom
  • Pop-up OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • 1920 x 1080 60p full HD AVCHD / XAVC S video with stereo mic
  • Sensitivity: ISO 80-3200, expandable to 12,800
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with PASM manual and scene modes
  • Burst: 10 frames-per-second at full resolution
  • 3-inch tilting LCD display
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in GPS
  • Multi Interface Shoe for electronic viewfinder, stereo mic or flash

Buy Sony Cybershot HX90V

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Canon PowerShot SX720 HS 40x Pocket Superzoom CameraCanon PowerShot SX720 HS – $379
With the longest optical zoom available in a pocket camera, the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is currently the king of the pocket superzooms. The 40x 24-960mm optical zoom lens makes the SX720 more of a pocket telescope than a point-and-shoot camera. Besides that monster of a lens, the SX720 also 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
  • 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 SX720 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-4 Rugged Waterproof Point-and-Shoot Camera
Olympus Tough TG-4 – $379

Panasonic, Nikon, Canon and Olympus all make great waterproof point-and-shoots right now. I’ve used various versions of them all and I always go back to the Olympus Tough cameras. For the past couple of years, the Olympus Tough TG-4 has been the reigning champion of rugged outdoor point-and-shoot cameras. It has ruggedization and waterproofing comparable to the competition but the TG-4’s RAW capture and bright f/2.0 lens set it apart from the rest. For photographers who want more than just standard P&S control, it has Aperture Priority manual exposure as well as scene modes.

  • 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 4x 25-100mm (equivalent) f/2.0-4.9 optical zoom lens
  • 1920 x 1080 full HD video
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-6400
  • RAW shooting
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto with Aperture Priority and scene modes
  • Burst: 5 FPS at full resolution
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in GPS
  • Waterproof: 15m (50 ft.)
  • Shockproof: 2.1m (7 ft.)
  • Crushproof: 100kgf (220 lbf.)
  • Freezeproof: -10°C (14°F)

Buy Olympus Tough TG-4

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Nikon Coolpix S33 Rugged Waterproof Point-and-Shoot CameraNikon Coolpix S33 – $149
The simplest and most affordable camera in this guide, the Nikon Coolpix S33 is perfect for families who want an inexpensive, kid-proof camera. It’s waterproof to 33 feet, freezeproof and can handle drops up to five feet so 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 all night long without worrying about it breaking. The one feature the Coolpix S33 doesn’t have is built-in Wi-Fi. But for just $150 (or less if it’s on sale), you can probably live without the Wi-Fi. If you can’t live without it (I can’t), the Olympus TG-4 (above) has it all.

  • 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 with stereo mic
  • Sensitivity: ISO 125-1600
  • Shooting modes: Programmed auto
  • Burst: 4.7 FPS at full resolution

Buy Nikon Coolpix S33

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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 photos to really stand out on Instagram and Facebook.

Sony RX100 V Premium Point-and-Shoot CameraSony Cybershot RX100 V – $999
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. Of course it captures 4k video – that goes without saying. What blew my mind about the RX100 V is it can record high-speed full-HD video at up to 960 FPS. That’s ridiculous and allows for crazy slow-mo video output. 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 $1000 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- $699
Priced hundreds of dollars less with a comparable sensor and longer 4.2x f/1.8-2.8 optical zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is a great alternative to the Sony RX100 V. With a new, more powerful Digic 7 processor gives the G7 X Mk II has better image quality, faster burst speed and improved auto focus tracking than the original G7 X. Canon’s HS System applies Digic 7 image processing to data from the G7 X Mk II’s large 1-inch sensor for images with low noise and great detail in all kinds of light. Serious photographers will appreciate 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.

  • 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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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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