It’s a bit of an understatement to say that classic compact cameras have taken a major hit from the rise of the smartphone.
However there are still plenty of people who prefer to have a dedicated device for their family snaps, nights out, holidays and more. If that’s you, then this guide will help you find an affordable model to suit your needs.
If you’re already toting a smartphone, you might be wondering why you need a standalone camera. The vast majority of smartphones are still behind when it comes to zooming, while battery life can also take a battering if you’re spending a lot of time taking pictures.
With all of that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best that are still available, all of which are pretty inexpensive so you don’t have to worry too much about busting the budget.
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It stands a good chance that if you’re looking for a camera like this, you won’t be an expert in photography and are just looking for something straightforward that takes care of everything for you.
That means that we’ve only considered cameras that include a great automatic mode. Some of them have more advanced modes if you do find yourself progressing, but they’re mostly designed to be as simple as possible.
As smartphones still haven’t caught up on the zoom front, we’ve looked at a few of those which offer particularly large zoom lenses. There are cameras like the Canon SX740 which offer a whopping 40x zoom, while cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix TZ95 and the Nikon Coolpix A1000 are a little bit shorter (30x and 35x, respectively), but are still flexible and versatile for most situations.
If you want the best possible image quality, look for cameras which have a larger than the average sensor. We’ve included the Fujifilm XF10, which could be considered a premium camera thanks to its large DSLR-sized sensor, but it also has an excellent fully automatic mode so you can just point and shoot.
One of the good things about the rate at which camera technology is advancing is that you can now pick up older models that were once cutting-edge for a bargain price. With that in mind, we’ve included the Sony RX100. Now in the seventh iteration, if you don’t need the latest bells and whistles, it’s a veritable bargain.
If you want something which is just as capable for video recording as for creating stills, then take a look at the Canon G7X Mark III. If the budget can’t can’t stretch to that model, take a look at the Canon G9X Mark II, which still features a one-inch sensor but is a lot simpler - and cheaper.
For those of you that just want something to chuck in a bag and forget about until you need it, small and simple compacts like the Sony WX350, the Canon IXUS 185 and the Sony WX500 are all good options.
Perhaps you’re the adventurous type and want a camera that is tough enough to handle all manner of situations. Cameras like the Fujifilm XP140 are great for capturing rugged holidays, as it is waterproof, dustproof, crushproof and freezeproof. If your budget can stretch a bit further, then take a look at the Olympus Tough TG-6.
Finally, it’s also worth considering bridge cameras. These give you the flexibility of many different focal lengths, without the hassle and complexity of interchangeable lens cameras. A simple option to get you started with is the Panasonic FZ82.
The main target consumer for this camera is those who want a flexible camera for travelling. That’s because of its 40x optical zoom, which makes it great for capturing distant subjects. Canon is still updating this line, so we might see a new version announced in the summer. For now, it’s got a good range of specs that should suit most people. It even includes 4K video recording - maybe the next version will see a touch-sensitive screen, too.
With a 30x optical zoom, the TZ95 might not be the longest on the market, but it’s still very flexible. Panasonic’s long held a lot of credibility in the “travel zoom” market (hence the TZ) name, so you can be sure you’re getting a camera with a fantastic heritage. Great features include 4K Photo, a handy way of freezing the action, which is useful for spur off the moment shots from moving subjects like pets and kids.
Tough cameras are one area of the market that are staying robust in the face of smartphones. With this type of camera, you can treat it rough without worrying about breaking it. The Fujifilm XP140 is a good budget option for days out on the beach, or more extreme adventures underwater, up mountains and so on. It doesn’t take the best pictures in the world, but the fact that it’ll survive all of those conditions makes it better than most.
The smallest, lightest and cheapest in Canon’s respected “G” series line-up of compact cameras, the G9X Mark II is great for those on a budget but still want good image quality. It packs a one-inch sensor and also has some advanced modes for anybody who wants to push their photography a little further. Video is the only potential let-down here, as the G9X Mark II is not equipped with 4K - but if you’re more of a casual video shooter, Full HD should be just fine anyway. Other useful features include a wide aperture lens which is ideal for shooting in low light, a simple and easy-to-use design, which includes a touchscreen, and USB charging for power boosts on the go. The zoom is a little on the short side, though.
A revolutionary camera at the time of its launch, Sony’s fantastic RX100 series is currently in its seventh generation. That means if you’re looking for a bargain, opting for one of the older models can save you some serious cash. We’ve included the original RX100 here, but if your budget can stretch, you could go for newer versions, too. The first iteration of the RX100 is still very capable of producing excellent images thanks to its large one-inch sensor and excellent lens. You have to make some sacrifices in the form of losing Wi-Fi connectivity and 4K video, but if you just want something to slip in your pocket for capturing shots as you see them, it comes highly recommended.
Modern smartphones are great, but you can’t take them really deep underwater, chuck them around the beach or leave them out in the freezing cold and expect them to survive. That’s where cameras like the Olympus Tough TG-6 really shine, giving you a fantastic range fo features inside a body which is nigh-on indestructible. If you’re a beginner, you’ll love the automatic and scene modes the TG-6 provides, but there are some advanced options if you decide to take things a little further. There’s a great macro mode which allows you take really nice close-ups, while the range of video options is also great fun too - particularly the slow-motion offerings.
Canon’s small but powerful G series cameras have always proved popular for those who want a pocket-friendly camera that can still deliver the goods. Although equipped with a range of advanced modes, for those who want to keep it simple, there’s dedicated auto and scene modes which take all the stress away from you. If you’re into vlogging, this is a great option too - especially since you can livestream direct to sites such as YouTube from the camera. With a 4.2x optical zoom, USB charging, and a tilt-up touchscreen, the G7X Mark III is a good option for travel and days out too.
One of the big criticisms of point-and-shoot cameras is that their small sensors result in lower-quality images. However, if you’re willing to accept some trade-offs, a camera like the XF10 could change all that. You only get one focal length (28mm equivalent), so there’s no zooming to enjoy here, but you get a sensor that’s the same size as those found in many DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. A big tick in the box for image quality. You can use it in fully automatic and just soak up all that lovely high image quality, but if you’re a bit more experienced there’s also a full range of manual controls. The only major let down is that 4K is limited to just 15p, so it’s probably not going to be top camera of choice for video fans.
Boasting a super-long 35x optical zoom, the A1000 is ideal for those who are already fans of Nikon (perhaps you are already toting a DSLR or mirrorless camera). It’s also well-suited to those who just want to point and shoot and not worry too much, with a plethora of automatic and filter modes for all your holiday shots. With its small sensor image quality isn’t the best you’ll ever come across, but it’ll certainly get you closer to the action than your smartphone will.
If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful point and shoot camera that comes in at under £90, then the IXUS 185 is a good option. It features an 8x optical zoom lens which should give you enough flexibility for most situations, while it’s easy-to-use operation means it’s good to go right out of the box. You shouldn’t expect the finest image quality in the world from this model, but it’s a great option for sticking in your bag and not worrying about it in situations where you might be concerned about more expensive models. At under 130g, you might not even notice it’s in there, too. On the downside, there’s no connectivity here so you’ll have to wait until you get home to share your images.
This older model remains a best-seller because it offers a lot of value for money. At under £150, it doesn’t represent too much of a dent in your finances, but gets you 20x closer to your subjects. Well-suited to travel and day trips, it’s got a range of fun features such as a panoramic mode, 14 scene modes and a range of digital filters to spruce up your shots. Most smartphones might outshine cameras like the WX350 at the wide-angle end of the lens, but even the most advanced smartphones can’t offer such an extensive zoom, making it a great value flexible option.
If you’re looking for a simple camera but don’t want to skimp on zoom capability, then the SX730 makes a lot of sense. Offering a 40x optical zoom, it’ll get you nice and close to distant subjects, while a host of automatic and scene modes will do all the hard work for you. It’s got Bluetooth connectivity to maintain an ‘always on’ connection with your phone for quick and easy social media sharing, while the tilting screen is ideally placed for selfies and family portraits.
You can pick up the TZ70 for under £220, making it a great last-minute travel buy for your next trip or holiday. It gives you a 30x optical zoom and comes with a range of automatic and scene modes that makes taking pictures super easy. It’s also got Panasonic’s innovative “4K Photo” modes which allow you to extract action shots from short video clips in-camera. It’s got a small – but useful – viewfinder which comes in handy when shooting in bright sunlight and you can share your shots via the inbuilt Wi-Fi.
Although you might find the Lumix LX15 on some “premium” compact camera lists, it makes it here because although it offers some advanced functions, it’s also got a number of easy-to-use automatic, scene and creative modes that anyone can get involved with. It’s a nice option for those looking for something pocket friendly without skimping too much on image quality, thanks to its larger than average one-inch sensor. The zoom is a little more limited, but it’s still flexible enough for most ordinary situations – while the tilting screen is great for selfies and the like. It’s also got 4K Video and 4K Photo which make it great for any budding videographer looking to get something small and light.
If zoom is your thing, but a lot of real estate isn’t, then Sony’s WX500 is a fantastic option. It somehow manages to cram in a 30x optical zoom into something that’ll squeeze into even the skinniest of skinny jeans. Furthermore, it’s also got a very generous battery life and a range of shooting modes which make it ideal for first-time buyers looking for a small and sweet travel camera. If you’ve got particularly large hands you may find the cramped size a problem, but otherwise, it’s a feat of engineering not to be ignored.
If you’re looking for something to take on your holidays without the fuss of learning how to use a myriad of different complicated settings, then the Lumix FZ82 is a good option. While it has manual controls available, it’s also got plenty of automatic, semi-automatic, scene and creative modes for those who just want to point and shoot. However, it’s also got a seriously long lens, coming in at a whopping 60x for plenty of flexibility when it comes to shooting those distant subjects. On top of that, there’s also 4K Video and 4K Photo, plus a small viewfinder for using when bright light puts the rear screen out of action.
This budget tough cameras is a great option for beach holidays and general family usage. With its simple controls and hard to crack construction, it’s the perfect model for slinging in your bag before a day at the pool, or for snorkeling and the like. It’s unlikely to set the world alight when it comes to image quality, but it’s there for situations that your smartphone (or other point and shoot cameras) just can’t cope with – such as deep underwater. You might also want to give it to young children to allow them to capture some memories without worrying about breakages, too.