Does A Point & Shoot Camera Still Make Sense For You? - Digital Photography School

Does A Point & Shoot Camera Still Make Sense For You?

With the increase in capability of smartphone cameras, the argument for purchasing a point and shoot camera is quickly becoming moot. This year’s Black Friday sales figures tell the tale, with a reported 36% drop in unit sales compared to 2011, even when the price of devices stayed essentially the same (moving from an average of $101 in 2011 to $106 in 2012). The writing may be on the wall.

On the other side of the coin, for ‘experienced’ photographers, are the shortcomings with current generation smartphones:

  • Non-variable aperture
  • Little or no optical zoom
  • Poor noise performance at high ISO (very small sensor size)
  • Less pixels (noting that this is not a sole reason to purchased one camera over another)
  • Supplemental lighting (flash) is often sub-par
  • Dynamic Range suffers

Camera companies are already struggling as competition increases year after year and the market shifts. Phones, after all, are more easily updated via firmware (apps) and have the advantage of almost always being in a pocket when a photo needs to be taken. Plus they are currently light-years ahead on the grounds of ‘share-ability’ and connectedness that a new generation of owners seems to be demanding.

I have been without a point and shoot camera since I acquired my iPhone 4s this last Spring. It can’t do everything I want in a Point and Shoot. I want to shoot in RAW and I want optical zoom. But the hurdle to get me to buy a second device, at around $300 for the model I would want (likely a ‘tough’ camera for my type of travel and use by my daughter), is too high at this point in time.

What can the camera manufacturers do to entice people like me back to Point and Shoot cameras?

1) Keep making the ‘tough’ models. This will likely be my next purchase.

2) Make sharing very easy. I know this is difficult without putting a cell phone in the camera, but maybe that is the way to go. Or tether the camera off existing cell phones via Bluetooth or Wifi.

3) Keep the form factor small. They have this going for them as smartphones seem to be growing with a desire for bigger screens.

4) GPS is quite handy for me, but not for everyone.

5) The flash on Point and Shoots almost always rivals smartphone flashes. This needs to be highlighted and retained and is a reason I would use one in dark settings, instead of a smartphone.

What about you?

Would you buy a point and shoot camera this year or would you prefer to switch to a smartphone?

And what about those of you who own both? Do you use one more than the other?

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Peter West Carey is a world traveling photographer who now is spending a large amount of time going back through 6 years of travel photo and processing them like he should have to start with. He is also helping others learn about photography with the free series 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments which builds off of the 31+ Days To Better Photography series on his blog.

  • peter

    I think there are more point-and-shoot camera owners than DSLR camera owners, but there is little information that can help P&S camera owners take better photos. I have owned two cheap point-and-shoots and one superzoom, bridge camera, which I’m using right now. These cameras take good photos if you know how to use them. I have seen DSLR camera photos that are bad, and I have seen nice pictures from cheap compacts.

Some older comments

  • peter

    May 17, 2013 10:18 am

    I think there are more point-and-shoot camera owners than DSLR camera owners, but there is little information that can help P&S camera owners take better photos. I have owned two cheap point-and-shoots and one superzoom, bridge camera, which I'm using right now. These cameras take good photos if you know how to use them. I have seen DSLR camera photos that are bad, and I have seen nice pictures from cheap compacts.

  • petko

    January 26, 2013 10:16 pm

    Compared with smartphones, point-and-shoot cameras have some optical zoom, perform a bit better at low light, and may offer some limited creative mode.

    Smartphones are more compact and always in your pocket, and with enough sunlight they can make very good photos.

    My choice is a DSLR + a Nokia N8 as a backup (for quick snapshots, esp. when I can't carry a heavy camera around).

  • Marty P

    January 25, 2013 11:28 am

    Places I use a P&S instead of my DSLR:
    In my small 16 ft boat because it fits in a dry box.
    At Parties where it would not be as cumbersome.
    In very cold conditions, anytime its below freezing.

  • Allan Z.

    January 25, 2013 10:46 am

    I own two Canon DSLR cameras and I find it difficult to lug one around on a daily basis wherever I go. That's why I bought a Sony P & S with 18.2 mp and a 20x zoom. I carry it my jacket pocket all the time and it's ready at the tug of a pocket zipper. The user manual is built in and I can send my photos to my home computer via the built-in WIFI. I don't own a smartphone so this was a no-brainer. If and when I do switch to an iPhone or similar tool, I'd still carry the Sony with me.

  • Tony

    January 24, 2013 04:34 am

    I have recently purchased a nice canon 220 which only cost £99 and has 14x zoom, plenty of pixels, sensitive for low light and the menu system is the same as my 7D.
    I use my iPhone 4S for quick snaps for apps such as 'wonderful days', bu the lens on the iPhone is pretty poor and the little 220 is just awesome (even zoomed to 14x to capture a bird on a bush!!

  • Fotografo matrimonio Gabriele Lopez

    January 24, 2013 03:16 am

    Hi everyone...first of all, I'm a fan of less-introusive as possible gear...I like to travel light and I don't want my cameras to rule life with their weight and presence. When it comes to traveling, one camera in the handy bag is what I take with me.

    That's true even in professional use...the Fuji-x series made possible to realize the eos system sale.

    When I am in the streets wandering, a point and shoot, be it film or digital is what I love to bring...I have a ricoh grd and a fuji x10...the only thing that i really need is the chance to frame by a normal viewfinder rather than only from the lcd, it's a thing that makes me shoot differently.

    I think that the room for p&s is on making them a dedicated photographers tool, rather than just for snapshot..good lens, viewfinder, good basic commands for that they become really different from smartphones for snapshots...

    I just can't adapt myself to shooting with a smartphone, it just feels horrible in my hands, you have to be careful where you touch the screen to avoid the opening of some app :)

    The last thing I want to do is seeing email coming when I'm thinking at a photograph, but anyway istant sharing is a thing I don't care at all....


  • Sumit Kathuria

    January 23, 2013 08:50 pm

    After reading this article I am a little bit confused. I was looking forward to buy my first P&S camera but now I am in a dilemma to go ahead.

    I request you to please give me some suggestions on buying my first P&S camera.

    Many Thanks.

  • Todd

    January 21, 2013 01:50 am

    Wife lost my Nikon P7100 which I haven't replaced as I started exploring my Samsung Note camera. At 8 MP it does a pretty good job with nice colors. I have a D600 as my main SLR and it looks like I may not be buying P&S for a while.

  • Paul Meldrum

    January 5, 2013 06:39 pm

    The real question should be "Does an SLR Camera still make sense for you?".

    Lets face it, there is big money in retailers pushing SLRs to photographic novices. When they realise that the kit lens isn't up to the job either optically or in range terms back they go for a new £300-£800 lens, and so it goes on.

    As a lot of people who own SLRs rarely take it out of Auto or P mode, I would suggest that the humble Point & Shoot would deliver just as good images for these novices.

  • Paul E

    January 4, 2013 09:38 am

    I agree. The point and shoot camera still has its place in the world of photography; even for more "advanced" users. For me I want a point and shoot camera that has a high build quality, good optical viewfinder, hot shoe, built in flash, RAW capability, good and easily accessible manual control, and a fast lens (at least f2.0).

    The things that are less important to me are tilt screens, gps, super long zoom, sharing apps.

    Good discussion! :)

  • Nick Anderson

    January 4, 2013 05:10 am

    Always have a P&S in my pocket. It is a few years old and I would replace it with a better P&S as long as it is pocketable. I'm not at all interested in taking photos on my mobile as I want more control. I must admit though I don't use a phone much anyway. I only turn it on if I want to make a call.

    I will buy an enthusiast P&S next time which has RAW.

    My main camera is a EPL-1 . This fits in my bag when going with photography in mind. Other times I have the P&S in my pocket.

  • John

    January 3, 2013 09:01 am

    I have a mid range point and shoot with me almost all the time. For wildlife and nature photography I dont always have time to set up my DSLR. It does abut 70% of what I can do with my DSLR. It doesnt zoom as well as a 500mm lens, doesnt have the low light capabilities but for the most part it does what I need when I need it FAST

  • ccting

    December 27, 2012 05:50 pm

    I have a point and shoot camera, and it is not consistent. It may not able to on, and you need to keep trying. Only able to shoot 1-2 photos before it shuts down automatically. I wander how Pros could use it in events..??

  • Sheeba

    December 26, 2012 12:09 pm

    Love my Canon P&S .. have an A630 - SX20 IS & the newest one --- -- SX40 HS. Each has plus & cons, but didn't wish to haul a heavy DSLR. Both SX suit my needs for concert shots to wildlife... the zoom on the SX40 is off the charts.

  • ArturoMM

    December 26, 2012 04:19 am

    I have my sister coming from USA and all I had to do to get my desired P&S (Canon S100) was to send her an e-mail and give her the money later.

    But I resisted because I just get my new Samsung Galaxy S2 with a better camera than my previous phone.

  • stuart chard

    December 22, 2012 06:01 am

    I want a camera thats cheap has a full frame sensor, low noise,interchangable lenses,shoots RAW and fits in my pocket. Sadly they dont yet exist so I have to cover my requirements with a DSLR and a Canon compact. I woudnt choose a phone over the Canon because I always have it with me wherever I go. Compared with the other things I carry around with me the Canons nothing extra to worry about.

  • Victor Reynolds

    December 22, 2012 04:55 am

    I use my Droid for most of my P&S work (my Kodak Easyshare is MIA); and I leave my DSLR for more critical work. However, I'm still in the market for a decent P&S with wide angle and that won't break the bank. Like Mark, if I can find his ideal P&S, I too will put my money down on it.

  • Big Bob

    December 21, 2012 03:07 pm

    While I agree the market for P&S cameras is definitely shrinking, I'm not sure it will disappear completely. There will always be people too cheap to pay for the costs associated with having a smart phone and will opt to purchase both a cheap phone and a cheap camera. I currently run a cheap Tracfone for less than $100 / year and I took some of the money I saved on phone service and used it to buy a Canon G12.

    I also have to admit that I'm not big on all the social networking sites, so taking pictures is something I really do for me and my family, not the rest of the world. Maybe I'm just getting too old... Get off my lawn! ;-)

  • Sam Padmanaban

    December 21, 2012 01:00 pm

    I prefer a point and shoot camera over the phone camera any day. Today's P&S cameras like the Canon SX260HS is a great camera with a lot of options and manual settings. I take this on all my trips instead of the DSLR as its small and compact and carries a punch.

    The phone camera does not have the options and low light features I need. By profession I am an airline pilot and travel extensively, photography is my hobby and second profession.

  • Mark

    December 21, 2012 12:02 pm

    I've been saying it for a while, but I don't really honestly expect it anytime soon:

    If they would make a digital compact with the following features, I'd pay top dollar/pound/euro/denarius/etc.

    -PASM controls
    -Fast, wide-to-short-tele glass (24-105 efl, f/2 constant or faster)

    Bonus points if it has slick retro styling & solid build quality like the new Fuji compacts, built-in HDR, excellent macro mode, and a hybrid viewfinder. Even more bonus points (though possibly making it too "me"-specific) if it has a mechanical zoom, and a rangefinder-manual-focus option.

    Put all of that into a body with a reasonably specced sensor, and I'd give serious consideration to dropping $1K on it.

  • Carole

    December 21, 2012 11:37 am

    I have a Nikon P7100 that I use when I don't want to lug around my DSLR because of the weight. Does it take as good photos? No, but if I'm doing a lot of walking, the DSLR is just too heavy. I have a Nikon D300 and with the lenses and all, it takes a toll on my shoulders. So the P7100 is good if I'm just going somewhere that I want to take snapshots (like a party with friends, etc.).

  • joanmg

    December 20, 2012 09:27 am

    I looked at some of the upper end p&s cameras and the prices were so high (Canon S95, Sony rx100, that I started throwing my old Nikon D5000 in my bag with a lightweight zoom (18-200) and haven't looked back.

  • Rob

    December 19, 2012 10:18 am

    My P&S is my Fuji X100. I bought it so that I wouldnt have to carry my 5Dmk2s around and the glass with it(all primes).

    The X100 is a remarkable little camera.

  • Morgan Nelson

    December 18, 2012 04:50 pm

    Point and Shoot cameras in the sub $200 range are dead. Smartphones are replacing them en-masse. in the $200+ range, there is still a market - especially when you add DSLR'ish features like RAW and high ISO. Of course, this will be short lived as mirrorless DSLR's become more mature and less expensive.

    I have replaced my Canon PowerShot S95 with a Canon EOS M and have no regrets. It is a great grab and go kit when I don't want to lug my 5D Mark III. Of course it was about $700 more than the S95 (with the additional lens and EF adapter), so price is still a consideration.

  • Kerensky97

    December 18, 2012 06:51 am

    I take my Canon S100 on small outings where a larger camera is too much, and any social gathering that is more than "Hey, wanna see a movie?" Phone camera's flaws are glaring at those evening social gatherings when the light is low, and all pictures become blurry, grainy, and unremarkable by comparison.

    I'll jump at an upgrade that provides easy tethering to a smartphone (which is always on me even when I have the S100). Android+iOS software, updated regularly, and 1 button uploads to major social networks.
    Major bonus points if the software also has a post shot RAW->JPEG processing incase I was in RAW only mode. Just make the phone do the processing as it would have before sending the photo over.

  • pigtown*design

    December 18, 2012 03:31 am

    I write a design blog and so i keep my p+s with me all of the time. i can take shots in low light, i can get close in shots or wide angle shots of interiors, etc. without being hugely obvious. it's always with me, as is my phone, but for taking lots of blog pix, i use the p+s over an slr or my phone.

  • Jay

    December 18, 2012 03:22 am

    I carry a Canon S100 either alone (hikes) or as a DSLR backup (travel). I doubt if my iPhone can match the amazing quality (RAW) or video.

  • Mike Petrik

    December 18, 2012 02:18 am

    I have both a p&s, and a DSLR. For "real" photography I prefer the DSLR, I use the p&s mostly on my motorcycle since it packs tightly. I also use my iPhone for most daily pictures along with lenes I bought at the Apple store.

  • Tom Kuitert

    December 18, 2012 01:35 am

    I bought a smartphone last year, and the picture quality is quite good (Sony Experia).
    But its not good enough to throw my P&S (Canon G11) away...
    Its just always in my pocket; and thats a good thing, always a camera with me.

  • Tyler F

    December 18, 2012 12:04 am

    I just picked up a Canon A2400is during the Amazon Black Friday sales for £50. I wasn't in the market for a point and shoot, however at that price, I couldn't resist. It isn't a brilliant camera, however, unlike my DSLR it is now always with me, I have a smart phone however, the camera at the moment is nowhere near the same quality. Also, I wouldn't happily give out my phone to others to take photos, however my P&S I don't mind someone using to take a photo.

  • Peatie the Photo Pro

    December 17, 2012 04:58 pm

    The best advice there is? Carry your cam with you always, regardless of the type. Then you won't miss a photo op you shouldn't.

  • Peatie the Photo Pro

    December 17, 2012 04:55 pm

    I prefer a point and shoot in spite of its bulkiness because I get the depth of field and macro capabilities I need. I use my phone cams (I have two phones with a cam and neither gives me what I need but they work for simple images) only when I must. I'm looking for a mid-level dSLR to replace my aging PAS (Point and Shoot) because I'm almost at it's image odometer limit.

    I use a Nikon Cool Pix L110 and have already put over 70,000 images on its clock. That's an average of 22,500 images per year. This includes the odd video or two, which phone cams still can't manage well. When I want to share, I must necessarily 'shrink' an image to fit a site's size parameters (5 mb or less/image). Since I'm sharing it to begin with, I do some post processing as well so it's as sharp and beautiful as possible.

  • Nathan

    December 17, 2012 02:14 pm

    I too have wondered about the relevance of the simple Point & Shoot camera in the current era.

    Not only have smartphone cameras improved considerably (my phone has more megapixels than my first digital P&S camera did), but Interchangeable Lens Cameras like the Olympus PEN, Sony NEX and Canon EOS M are dropping in price to become as affordable as the higher end P&S cameras, while providing better quality images and greater flexibility thanks to the exchangeable lenses and flashes/accessories.

    I am equally happy to take my PEN with the 17mm (35mm equivalent) lens to a party, as I am taking it and a selection of Micro Four Thirds lenses and old OM series lenses for a proper day out shooting! While ILCs will never replace the DSLR for most people, they could push the DSLR upmarket a bit while displacing the P&S in the mid range consumer market.

    For P&S cameras, particularly the lower end ones, to survive at all, they will need to adapt to a world where a device either has to do one function exceptionally well (like the tough cameras, or really high end models like the G15), or needs to be able to be a genuine jack-of-all-trades like a smartphone can.

  • Patrick

    December 17, 2012 01:17 pm

    I will not consider a P&S. I have used my wife's on occasion. I do not like it. P&S cameras today have either no viewfinder or an EVF. I do not like either. Give me an optical pentaprism any day. Sometimes I will take pictures with the cellphone for geocaching or waymarking purposes, but never anything important.

  • Adam

    December 17, 2012 01:09 pm

    I think the only use that I have for a compact digicam is one that is water proof to take underwater shots and movies of my reef aquarium

  • Riley Castine

    December 17, 2012 01:00 pm

    I have a Droid Razr Maxx and it's camera is okay. My DSLR is an older Olympus E 300 and it's got some weight to it. An 'advanced' point and shoot, like the Nikon P7100 I picked up has become my camera of choice. It's light and small enough to fit in the leg pocket of my cargo pants.

    Yes, cameras on phones are getting better all the time and with more advanced software, it's closing the gap, but the argument that can be made is this. "Jack of all trades is a master of none". Smartphones do a lot and adding a camera into the mix is a logical course, but with all multitasking devices, they will always have the limits imposed by the need to balance all those features.

    A dedicated device to a singular function will always perform better that a multitasking device. Point and shoot cameras will get smaller and lighter and with luck, cheaper.

    I do honestly believe that the days of the full blown DSLR are numbered with these new point and shoots. I don't think it's a question of whether the point and shoot is going to be around in the years to come, I think it's really a question of how quickly professional level DSLR cameras will evolve into what we now call point and shoot cameras.

  • Scott

    December 17, 2012 12:09 pm

    My P&S is a Nikon AW100 because my Nexus 4 can't go underwater. I agree with your assessment. At least for those that take photos with purpose, point and shoots are becoming less needed unless they do something special like underwater / in the rain shooting, bigger flash than phone but still go in a pocket. When I need a quality image I still reach for the DLSR. The rest of the time it is about the camera I have with me and since those are times I didn't anticipate needing a camera, it is usually the phone.

  • JacksonG

    December 17, 2012 10:41 am

    I carry my Lumix LX-5 on my belt just about everywhere I go, my phone is on the other side of my belt. I've never thought of grabbing my phone instead of my Lumix, for a photo.

  • Roland

    December 17, 2012 09:47 am

    As a professional photographer and lover of photos I do find myself torn. I mean as much as the features of a dedicated camera can provide, often the best type of camera is the one you have with you.

    Especially with incredible improvements as of late of camera phone technology, it's getting harder to justify the cost of a point and shoot camera.

    I can see a decline in the point and shoot camera as it focuses on the retail space but for those intermediate to experienced photographers, advanced SLRs will always remain on top.

  • Iowill

    December 17, 2012 09:35 am

    I'll use my DSLR and best glass when carrying & shooting an obvious set of kit isn't a problem and my goal is to reliably get the shot(s) I want to get, miss fewer of the ones I don't want to miss, and tailor my rig to the conditions at hand. I'll use a Leica M series or the Fujifilm XPro1 for shooting at a fixed prime and more stealth, especially street work. I always carry a Canon S95 as a back up, or when I just want to make sure there is a camera in reach that can: a) shoot in manual mode, b) shoot RAW. My iPhone is capable for what it is and has been aptly described in this piece. The best camera is the one you have in your hand, of course. I'm glad to have a couple of smaller, compact options that still give me a great deal of flexibility in composing and in post.

  • Felipe Arruda

    December 17, 2012 08:41 am

    I like the high-end compact like the S100, X10, G15 cuz they're way better than cameraphones and not bulky as a DSLR.

    Same goes for underwater. Bud a waterproof cover are always in handy.

    Bud Nikon 1 seriea and alike... No way. At least a real DSLR.

    Ultrazoom portables are ok!

    Low end, just with minimal costs for those who cant even afford a reasonable smartphone.

  • Jai Catalano

    December 17, 2012 08:28 am

    While in Colombia I bent a pin in my camera making it useless. I had my point and shoot though. Yes it's worth it.

  • Tod

    December 17, 2012 07:47 am

    I keep a point and shoot in my slr bag. I only ever user the phone for silly stuff to post to Facebook etc. my point and shoot is a tough model which takes good pics. I find the iPhone a fiddle for taking anything decent.

  • Justin

    December 17, 2012 07:26 am

    I have a smartphone which i tend to use for non important photos or when its going straight to facebook. However i have just got a nex 6 which connects via wifi to, amongst other things facebook. so can take proper photos now including in raw, then upload too. while the nex 6 is bigger than my smartphone, as it wont fit in my jeans pocket the line between devices is blurring. seems great to me.

  • John G

    December 17, 2012 07:07 am

    I just bought a Canon SX160 IS
    My smartphone has an 8mp camera and takes HD video but I'm not really a big camera phone fan
    I had a Kodak 6490 that I took everywhere for many years but seeing I bought it in 03 and wore it out it was time to replace it so I could stop taking my DSLR's everywhere.. Still have plans to get the Canon SX50 HS but not sure that camera still qualifies as a point an shoot.

  • Paul

    December 17, 2012 06:31 am

    I read a quote a while back that's always stuck with me: "The best camera is the one you have with you." I use a smartphone for some shots, either because it's convenient or because the shot has a certain 'feeling' I want to capture that way, but I also keep a point/shoot in my camera bag with my Nikon DSLR for certain shots that fall between the two. I'm not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, just a hobbyist/amateur photographer who know what works for him.

  • christophe

    December 17, 2012 05:29 am

    I still like to use my point and shoot at parties where I don't dare to take my DSLR to. And for one reason, my cellphone doesn't nearly have the low light capabilities that my p&s has.

  • Mridula

    December 17, 2012 05:01 am

    I am using my cell phone more and more as my second camera as those are largely record keeping shots anyway! And as you said sharing is easy. But my husband uses only a point and shoot where as I am the one with the SLR in the family. So quite a lot of cameras around in my house!

  • Roger j porter

    December 17, 2012 05:00 am

    My point and shoot is my iPhone 4, and my wife's 'point and shoot' is a Sony Nex c3 with the 16 lens. It still fits in her purse, and the quality blows away all of our older family cams. At first the 16 lens seemed limiting, but cropping in to the photos to 'zoom' in the computer still yields exceptional quality.

  • Scottc

    December 17, 2012 04:54 am

    I still have a P&S, and use it often even though I have an iphone. I find the photo quality better than the iphone and use it when the DSLR is incovienient to carry.

  • Denene Brox Photography

    December 17, 2012 04:42 am

    I'm seriously thinking about purchasing a P&S for some upcoming trips. I don't really like the idea of lugging my DSLR around while touring a big city and phone cameras just don't deliver the image quality that I'd want. So yes, I'm in the market for a good P&S -- one that offers creative modes. I've been doing some research lately on the different options out there.

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