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As mentioned earlier, the market is quite flooded with compact cameras and the whole task of buying the right camera could be quite daunting if you lack awareness. The first thing that you need to be aware of is the availability of the wide array of options which include the basic cameras as well as advanced professional cameras. More pro cameras are primarily targeted towards enthusiasts and professional photographers. Let’s get into detail so that you don’t get confused with what would be best for you.
You would also notice that there is a huge price difference between different cameras. For instance, if we talk about a basic point and shoot compact camera, it costs around 50 bucks. On the other hand, a professional compact camera could cost a thousand bucks. There are quite few factors that need to be kept in mind when it comes to the price of a compact camera.
Just like when purchasing any other product, you need to have a crystal clear idea about your intention of its usage. You would want to know whether you need manual exposure in your compact camera or not. This feature is widely used by professional photographers to capture amazing pictures in different situations and locations. On the other hand, you have the option of going for a compact camera that has mostly auto controls and does not require fiddling with the settings too much. Do you need something that can be mounted on your handlebars or your surfboard? Might want to check out our guide for the best action cameras.
You need to look for different options like M, Av and Tv. But what exactly do these terms mean? The feature of Tv is related to the shutter options. In this regard, you could change the speed of the shutter to achieve varying results. Moving on, AV is about Aperture priority and lets you choose different settings for aperture. Lastly, M is about doing all of this manual and again you get different possibilities with this option.
When it comes to compact cameras you might have noticed a prominent dial that is normally located either on the back or on the top of the gadget. With these dials there are other options as well of different scene modes and other useful auto options. These modes and options can also be brought up on the screen through the menu mechanism, but for a professional photographer these are a kind of necessity you want easy accessibility to it.
The discussion of compact cameras remain incomplete without the discussion of lenses since they play a substantial role in taking pictures. In this regard, you need to consider the option between short zoom lenses and long optimal zoom lenses. The short zoom lenses have the ability to zoom up to 7x or sometimes more and they are more suitable for taking telephoto and basic wide angle pictures. They are perfect for taking general purposes and not so distant pictures.
On the other hand, long optical zoom lenses can shoot pictures up to 20x (or more – we’ve seen up to 65x) zoom and therefore is perfectly suitable for taking pictures of distant objects without affecting the quality and details of the picture. The size of lenses has also an impact on the size of the camera. This in turn means that you need to balance these two aspects, otherwise you will have a hard time carrying a bulky camera with you.
If you are a bit confused about the aperture priority then as a rule of thumb you need to remember that if you have conditions of low light, you might want to use wide aperture, especially if you want to get those shiny blurred background pictures. In this regard, you need to adjust the setting of focal length and check the specified numbers. If you have a camera that has a wide lens, then you will notice two numbers that is f/3.5 which goes up to 5.6. With some cameras you get the maximum aperture as specified while you get one number with cameras having prime lenses. This all gets further complicated by the fact that different cameras have varying sensor sizes. In addition, the image stabilization mechanism also varies from one camera to another. You will notice that high quality compact cameras are usually lower in their aperture figures.
Normally, the output image format with all sorts of compact cameras is JPEG. However, this is not the limitation with high end compact cameras that also come with raw mode. If you are hearing this mode for the first time, think of it as a negative film which serves as a stepping stone for further manipulation and editing of the images. With the raw mode, you can process the image and personalize it to your preference. While this is a great advantage, this can only be fully utilized by professional photographers who have the necessary skills to edit the images. If you don’t have the skills, then this mode might not benefit you at all. In fact you might just end up getting confused and frustrated.
Displaying your Pictures
Another consideration that you might want to take into account while purchasing a compact camera is you will like to display your shots. Some photographers are just looking for enlargements in print form; if you have such requirement of displaying pictures then a basic compact camera will be enough for you. Even with this requirement, some people are looking for high quality in terms of different image details. For such requirements, it is recommended that you buy a compact camera that boosts a large sensor. You might want to go for sensors 1/1.7in, APS-C in size, Micro Four Thirds or 1in size which could deliver high quality images with good details as compared with compact cameras that have smaller sensors.
Compact cameras that have large sensors normally operate well in situations of low light as compared to those that have smaller sensors, and they especially come in handy when you want to produce images with shallow field depth. Keeping all this in mind, it is also worth noting that because of this capability these compact cameras are a little expensive as well. If you are looking for cheaper alternatives capable of producing such results, then you could consider compact cameras equipped with back lit sensors as they also produce relatively better results than their counterparts.
Viewfinder and Screen
If you are going to use your camera outdoors and in relatively bright atmospheres, then you might require a compact camera equipped with a viewfinder. This viewfinder is normally of electronic nature and the objective of having one in a compact camera is that allows better visualization of a scene, especially when you are operating the camera in bright and shiny conditions. If you shoot only in outdoors and in bright and sunny conditions, then you might want to also have a lens hood with your compact camera that will protect the lens from the harsh sunlight. If you don’t have one then the sunlight can affect your frame and also the quality of your shots.
Also worth noticing is that the rear display of compact cameras also differs from one model to another. Most cameras are equipped with a fixed rear display; that means you don’t have the flexibility of moving or shifting the display screen. But for super flexibility and ease, you would want a display that can be tilted. This feature especially comes in handy when you are taking photographs at rather awkward angles and positions. Similarly, selfies are very popular these days and everybody wants a selfie. To attain the perfect selfie, you need a display screen that can be positioned towards the front. These features can help you in taking great group shots. In addition, you could also look for the add-on of touch screen which is also a great feature available only in high end compact cameras. These also afford ease of usage to the photographers.
Another aspect that you need to account for while considering the display is the resolution specifications. The clarity in the screen basically gives you the idea about the details of the image captured. Not surprisingly, you will notice a lot of variation in the screen display resolution specifications. As a general rule of thumb, it would be better to go for higher dots. If you are looking for a decent resolution of the display screen then it needs to have at least 460k dots.
The best thing about today’s compact cameras is that they are furnished with a wide variety of add-ons that could make the life of a photographer very easy and fun filled. These extra features basically give you a chance to channel and apply your inner creativity. You get to experiment and process images different ways. You could use different instruments like a fish-eye mode to have amazing results.
It might not come as a surprise for photographers, but compact cameras of this era also come with wi-fi mechanism. This wi-fi integration basically makes the whole process of sharing and syncing photos easy and convenient. Similarly, some of them also offer NFC to further ease sharing of images and videos. Hot shoes is another add-on which could be effectively used if you choose to do so by purchasing a flashgun to enhance illumination. If you are looking for time lapse videos with your compact cameras this add-on will come in handy.
As far as video capabilities of different compact cameras are concerned, you will notice that they are pretty much the same across different models in the same price range. For instance, almost all the models normally offer the capability of filming at least 720p quality videos while 1080p is also not something which is uncommon. You also get variations in the frame rates in different models. The key thing to note is your own personal requirement. If you are not too much of a video enthusiast and don’t engage in making videos very frequently, then you would want a compact camera with simple video functionality. However, if you make videos frequently and are looking for something top-notch, then the feature that you need to look out for is a microphone that enables high quality audio recording. Most of the compact cameras don’t come with a high quality audio recording feature, so you need to take that into account when narrowing down your choices.
If you are buying a camera only for holiday and travel purposes, then it would be a real shame if your compact camera does not have any panoramic feature. Another feature that is getting very common in the compact cameras is the implementation of a GPS as this complements your other photographic features. Similarly, if you are traveling and is expected to engage in different adventurous water sports, then you will want a waterproof camera or something that is equipped with some sort of waterproofing mechanism. Any additional protection that you might have is going to be beneficial and it will ensure protection of your investment.
Now that we have discussed in detail the considerations that should be taken into account while buying a compact camera let’s discuss and review some of the compact cameras so that you as photographers are better able to choose from different options. So, let’s get to reviewing!
1. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV Review
Many people argue that smart phones have taken the lead in taking photographs, which in simple words mean that the compact cameras are heading towards obsolescence. However, when it comes to pocket cameras, this Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV is unmatchable. It has a one inch sensor and a reasonable lens to go with that. It could easily be regarded as one of the best pocket-able cameras in a decent price range.
As far as the price is concerned, it is a bit on the expensive side compared to the other action cams on this guide. Given that it consists of the latest technology, the price is quite justified. So let’s look at some of the salient features of this camera. The first thing you will instantly notice with this camera is its new sensor. In terms of its specifications, it is quite similar to that of RX100 III but its construction is quite different in RX100 IV and it boosts CMOS technology. In terms of the rest of the construction of the camera, the circuitry is designed in such a manner that it does not become a hindrance to pixel layer. In simple words, although the resolution of this camera is quite similar to that of RX100 III, but it produces cleaner shots because of a clear signal.
The second important feature that you would note is that it comes with electronic viewfinder which is also known as simply EVF. The design of RX100 IV is again similar to that of RX 100 IV in the sense that it is also pop up. This means that it is required to be manually handled by fingers, which is of course annoying for some photographers, but on the upside there is an improvement in the resolution. Boosting a 2.35m display as compared to 1.44m previously the resolution is much improved and sophisticated. However, it does not have any hot shoe and an eye cup for protection. The third improvement in this model is in its processing power. This processing power comes into play when you are burst shooting and you need pictures without even the slightest delay. This compact camera has 16fps which is quite a bit of an improvement as compared with its predecessor. Another downside of this compact camera is the lack of touch screen controls. Since this model also has small buttons the users feel a special need for touch screen controls. However, overall this is a very high end product with a better picture quality, high resolution and faster processing. These are all must have features.
The build of this compact camera is quite similar to that of its predecessor, although there are some new markings and aesthetic elements. The overall weight of the product does not exceed 290g and can easily be pocketed since the lens neatly contracts. It is worth noting that Sony is still sticking to compact designs in contrast to what the competitors are offering. But with smaller build and design, there are some downsides as well of this product. With smaller size, the buttons also get small which sort of becomes a hindrance in operating the camera. Similarly, there are battery limitations as well.
Talking about the EVF, no doubt this one is much better and improved, but it also carries some of the same shortcomings of its predecessor. For instance, getting it out requires a bit of fiddling which is kind of annoying. What users would want is that it automatically pops up, but then pressed to be back into its place. The same drawback that was there in the previous model of the camera becoming switched off once you stow away the lens is also being carried forward to this model as well which is a bit frustrating since users made a fuss over this. The manufacturer, however, still hasn’t been able to fix this small problem. Similarly, users want to control such options from the menus because it is not feasible to use finder in all circumstances.
When we talk about lenses, a 24-70mm is normally preferred by the professionals and they use a fast aperture so that they are able to capture a variety of different atmospheres and situations. The good news is that the RX100 IV exactly offers these features; you get f/1.8-2.8 aperture that allows you to be equipped for different situations and take professional shots.
It is worth noting that this lens is not something that is new in this model. In fact, it is very much the exact lens as we found in the RX100 III. We all know how many positive reviews and praises this lens got. With the same specs, it slightly improved in terms of the ease of operation. Despite it being sharp, it does not have that ultra-zoom feature that we love in some of the other products by Sony’s competitors.
There is a control ring for the lens in the front that allows you to control and rotate the lens. However, one missing feature with this lens control ring is that there is no click and you have to make your guess in terms of the aperture values. Basically, the absence of click makes it all less decisive and you will have to focus a lot visually. But despite this drawback, the control ring is quite smooth in its rotation which gets let down by the software not up to speed with motion control. Principally, it should be a lot quicker and snappier.
Apart from the zoom toggle, the control ring of the lens could also be put into use by availing different focal lengths normally displayed clearly on the screen. You could also avail the step zoom mechanism to quickly adjust the specified focal length. Another feature that has been retained by Mark IV from its predecessor is that of ND filter. One could use a Neutral Density filter when faced with bright and shiny scenarios where you would like to utilize wide open aperture.
Let’s talk about performance. The performance is as equally good, or even better, than its predecessor that is RX 100 III. However, keeping in mind the introduction that we presented we would have been much better off if there were more tweaks because otherwise it’s pretty much the same.
There are obviously some things that we want to be fixed and updated. For instance, the auto-focus speed is not as quick as it should be as compared to its counterparts. Sometimes the auto-focus does slip ups as well in the sense that the object you are trying to focus does not seem to deliver proper results. Given the technology that we know Sony can deliver in a compact camera, this product seems to be on the higher spectrum of the price.
If you are shooting up close, you get pretty impressive results. You will notice a bit of a problem with the wide angle setting though. If you are going to manual focus, smooth rotation of the lens ring works pretty smoothly. This gets complemented by the 8.6x magnification and focus peaking and overall you get a clear focus object on the display screen of the compact camera.
So, let’s summarize what we know about RX100 IV. One thing you might have noticed that we have gone to and fro in terms of its review is that the magnitude of the price bump may not be justified. This is especially true once you analyze the differences and also look at what the competition is offering. We should also keep in mind that Canon is launching much cheaper compact cameras with advanced functionality of touch control; PowerShot G9 X is just a case in point. In this scenario, if Sony gets complacent then it might end up losing substantial market share because at the end of the day Sony can’t depend on past successes.
The small performance issues set aside, this camera does deliver high quality images both in low light as well as shiny conditions. The high quality of the images has been made possible by employing Exmor RX. Basically, as users what you are really paying for is the brand new sensor. We also need to keep in mind that the advancements in technology has also reached a saturation point and that’s why it’s not so much Sony to blame.
So, if we compare this compact camera with its predecessor there is only a slight difference. But what is impressive about Sony and this camera is the ability to get such high quality images with this small piece of equipment. And there is not just one feature that makes it possible; in fact, the balance of different features deliver such clarity. Even then, when it comes to Auto ISO we encounter the same problem of previous models. The shutter speed just isn’t fast enough to ensure shooting of high speed moving objects.
When it comes to deliver results over all, this camera is reliable. You can even ditch your DSLR and other alternatives and be happy with its results. But is it the perfect camera and does it deserve to be this much priced? That’s a question mark. We believe that it is worth the extra bucks to go for this model if you have a choice between RX 100 IV and RX 100 III. With the extra EVF capability, burst and better processing, further clarity in images and 4K video capability, this is an amazing gadget.
To sum up our review, it is quite hard to find any complaints with this camera. Surely, we have competitors offering very sleek products at a much lower price, but when it comes to features and size Sony delivers and this camera is easily a high-end device.
2. Canon PowerShot G9 X Review
When it comes to really premium compact cameras, this one definitely can be considered in the list. Worth noticing is the fact the announcement of this product coincided with that of G5 X and it has the same CMOS sensor that was there in G7 X as well. With 20 million pixels it cannot be considered as a replacement when compared with G7 X, but it is more of a continuance of Powershot S120 as it has similar shape and size. The 1/1.7 inch in size sensor of the S120 was much smaller as compared with this product. Some of the other salient aspects of this product include NFC and wi-fi capability, HD video recording, a touch screen which is 3 inch in size, optical zoom of 3x and processor Digic 6. The aperture at the widest point is f/2.0. This product comes in two colors: black and silver.
If you are looking for pocketable cameras, then this is definitely a worth option as it easily fits into the pockets of a jacket or any jeans. But if the pockets are smaller than usual, then you might want to be careful with choosing this product.
As mentioned earlier, it is available both in silver and black. The silver one is also tanned making giving it the look of a stylish gadget with a retro touch to it. The same goes for black one as it also comes with a different texture of black. You will notice that the difference in the textures of the build aid in lifting and holding the camera properly. That’s definitely a plus with regards to handling and looks of this camera.
Discussing some of the other features of the Canon Powershot G9 X, there is a fairly easy to use power button. In addition, the camera also has a button for playback. We also see the shutter release, zoom switch and dial mode. By using the mode dial you get a chance to have 10 exposure choices which Av and Tv options as well as manual. Similarly you could also opt Auto Hybrid, creative shot and various other options. Often photographers find themselves shooting a similar scene which requires same options; for that you get a special mode which is termed as “C”. This basically allows the photographer to save customized settings.
The zoom as mentioned earlier is 3x, which by every means is quite modest and not outclass. Even with this basic zoom capability, the lens rotates quite freely and smoothly as it should. If you are opting for digital zoom, there is a slight pause before going into digital zoom mode. This is actually not a letdown and translates into an advantage since it makes you aware when the mode switches.
The Canon PowerShot G9 X also comes with a flash that is inbuilt and located on the top. There is a small switch which is used to raise this flash. Once you have used the flash, it can easily be pressed back into its place manually. Overall, you will notice that the touch screen of 3 inches has taken up most of the space. Worth noting is that there are the four buttons located next to the display screen. With this camera you get a button solely for video recording. There is also a menu button that will allow you to access the different options and modes. There is a button for info which lets you to play with the display elements of this compact camera. A Q set button is also provided which has a touchscreen option as well. If you touch screen the option or press the button on the camera, you can make several changes to the options that are used commonly. These are including focusing options, white balance, image quality options, etc. If you are looking for directional keys, then you need to be aware of the fact that there aren’t any and you will have to utilize the touch screen. You need to assess your own preferences and inclinations and ask yourself whether you are comfortable with touch screen on the camera or not. If you are not comfortable with using touch screens, then using the Power cannon Shot G9 X could be quite a bit of a problem.
Discussing about some of the other settings, the users of this compact camera can change aperture, ISO and exposure settings through touch screen options. The icons or buttons are located on the bottom of the screen and with the swiping motion you can change these settings easily. Obviously, the rotating dial can also be used to vary these settings. It is important to note that navigation of this camera takes a bit of time getting used to it due to the absence of physical buttons. However, once you are used to touch screen, the lack of physical buttons become unnoticeable and might even be convenient.
Talking about other settings and functionalities, you can focus on a specific object through touch screen by simply tapping the area of desired focus. This is similar to how you focus while taking a picture with a smart phone. With all the touch screen functionality, as users we would definitely love to have some customization capability on the Quick menu so that we are able to quickly pick and use the options that we frequently use. Similarly it would be useful get rid of those options that we don’t use at all.
With the menu button, you are able to access a wide range of options. These options can be navigated through touchscreen. Using the touch screen for different modes and options become a little frustrating because you have to double press. But as mentioned earlier, once you settle in with this camera all such factors become secondary and not even a problem you would remember having.
When it comes to the control wheel of the lens, different functions can be performed with it. When you are using aperture settings, this control wheel will automatically control the aperture only. This control can further be played with touchscreen in terms of changing compensation options. Of course, there is a manual mode available as well to control all these options for those who would prefer that instead.
One of the most distinct and amazing feature of Canon Powershot G9 X is that of the Hybrid Auto. It basically helps in combining all the images taken into a video clip. The video made up from this feature is displayed in the form of a slide show of still images. While this feature might not sound interesting and appealing for most situations, it surely comes in very handy, especially if you are covering a wedding or other such occasions. It lets you display images in a very unique fashion. However, the lack of control is a bit taxing and we would want greater control with this mode or feature.
Creative shot is another interesting feature that allows you to apply creativity in your images. This mode lets you apply different crops and filters to the images. Again, there is a bit of lack of control in terms of different filters that can be used for your pictures, but overall the results are quite pleasing.
There is a dedicated button for switching on the wi-fi of this compact camera. The name of the connection is displayed on the display screen. Once it is connected you can download images from the camera. Moving on, you are highly recommended to buy Class 10 SD card as it would enhance the picture taking experience. Since the sensors are the same as that of GX7, you can expect high performance without much hassle. Currently, the functionality of opening raw files using Adobe software of Camera Raw is unavailable, but you can still make do by downloading Digital Photo Professional without any cost from the official Canon website.
To wrap-up our review of Canon Powershot G9 X, it is a high quality pocketable compact camera which delivers value for money. There are obviously some drawbacks in terms of physical buttons and few other aspects, but overall this product delivers. It is definitely worth the money and considered a good buy.
3. Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Review
If you know little about compact cameras, then you will be quite aware of the fact that SX range of Canon has always been quite popular and especially with the holiday travelers. We will explore some of the reasons behind this compact camera’s success.
Firstly, you get an impressive optical zoom of 40x in a very compact design, making this camera ideal for people who are into traveling and vacationing. Sometimes people want a compact camera even for normal day to day usage and this one really is sleek and slim.
Another great aspect about this camera is that it allows a lot of manual controls which is something that all enthusiasts look for in a compact camera. This manual control could have been perfected if it allowed auto-focus and taking pictures in raw format. This is something that you can easily achieve with TZ80 Panasonic.
Just like the other compact cameras mentioned, this one also has a built-in wi-fi mechanism which can be used for transferring photos as well as for taking group shots by remotely controlling it. Although this camera cannot be tilted, this bit is covered up by the wi-fi capability since you can easily take photos at an awkward angle using your smart phone.
Although we see the touch screen functionality in most of the Canon compact cameras, we don’t see this capability of a touch screen being presented with the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS. However the lack of this touch screen feature does allow a lower price of this product as compared to those that are slightly better.
Let’s be honest because these are all secondary features; the primary feature that a camera buyer is interested in is the quality of image. In this regard, it is worth noticing that JPEGs of this camera are quite reasonable. Clarity and bright colors are quite visible and you get pretty good results shooting up to ISO 1600. The clarity of image tends to go down at ISO 3200 if you are sharing pictures online.
Featuring an optical zoom of 40x, it is quite compact in its size. In addition to 40x zoom the users can also avail 80x digital zoom. And if you want to push the boundaries then you could also go for 120x digital zoom. The CMOS sensor, having 20 million pixels and complemented with Canon’s DIGIC (Digital Imaging Integrated Circuit) processor, is a big plus in this compact camera. Apart from that, you can record 1080p HD; this is one of those features that is available in other products we have already discussed with these reviews. Similarly, you can also enjoy the full benefits of wi-fi functionality. You can also download and share pictures using NFC with this camera. The LCD display screen has 922 k dot resolution for a high quality experience. If we compare this model with its predecessor, this one certainly can be used as a replacement. The previous one had an optical zoom of 30x which was at par with what competitors like Panasonic was offering.
As stated earlier, when you look at the design of this product, it is incredible in the sense that it features 40x optical zoom in such a small size and shape. It would be hard to believe that it can be fitted into the pocket of your jeans or jacket. It really does and falls under the umbrella of pocket-able cameras. This compact camera boosts a metallic look which adds some value to the whole photographing experience. The corners of this camera are rounded which also furthers the aesthetics of this dish.
The compact camera is designed in such a manner that it fits easily in your grip without the anxiety of it being dropped. This is one of the biggest concerns while using such an expensive compact camera, but this one counters it beautifully through its design. In fact, it’s not just an accident that you find your thumb resting easily on the back of the camera beside the dial mode; all of it is planned and calculated by design.
Moving to the physical buttons on the camera, they are quite straightforward actually and their usage is quite similar to that of any other compact Canon camera. The shutter release button can be found on the top and the same goes for the power button. Surprisingly, there is also a button which assists in the high optical zoom of this camera. Photographers often find themselves in a bit of a pickle while photographing long distant objects as they tend to get out of the frame; but with this zoom assist button it’s not going to be a problem.
Like its predecessor, this compact camera by Canon offers both automatic and manual control in terms of Av, Tv, M and P modes. Similarly, you also have other modes like Hybrid Auto, Creative shot and several others.
To conclude our discussion on the compact cameras, this is a must buy item for all those people who love photographs and want to enrich their social media platforms with superb pictures. If you want something a bit more powerful in terms of photo quality and zoom size, you may want to have a look at our favorite bridge cameras.