Are Compact Cameras Worth It: A Case For & Against

With smartphone cameras constantly improving their picture quality, the debate has been raging on whether it’s even worth investing in a compact camera any more.

Thanks to smartphones, many people who traditionally would have always carried a compact camera in their bag have found it no longer necessary.

Yet compact cameras still serve a purpose - and by no means a small one! - in the modern world.

Compact cameras are built for those who want to get good quality images without having to think too much about getting the shot.  

They’re a fantastic next step up from smartphones for those seeking better quality and greater zoom, but if you want to become a professional, they’re no match for DSLRs.

Today, we look at whether compact cameras still serve a purpose for photographers. And to do that, we’ve listed what we believe are the biggest pros and cons for compact cameras.  

A Case for Compact Cameras

They’re portable

It’s all in the name! On average, compact cameras are easily pocketable and ultra lightweight, making them ideal for travel.

And because they’re so compact, you’re much more likely to carry them around with you everywhere you go. You can slip one of these cameras into your handbag or side satchel on any day or night out.

They’re silent

Unlike bulkier DSLRs, point and shoot cameras typically only have two moving parts; the zoom lens and the tiny shutter. This keeps noise to a minimum - great if you’re in a quiet place or taking candids.

They’re Easy to Use

Most compact cameras come with a variety of preset modes that automatically pick the best white balance, shutter speed, and aperture setting for any scenario.

These built-in scene modes make it easy for you to preset your camera for scenarios such as fireworks, handheld night shots, portraits, landscapes, and more.

With compact cameras, you can spend more time experimenting with your creativity, rather than adjusting all the technical and manual settings.

They’re Affordable

Of course, we’re making many sweeping generalisations here! Just as with any device, there’s a big difference between the entry-level and high-end choices.

But on average, point and shoot cameras tend to be much cheaper than DSLRs or even mirrorless options. You can even go for a high-end point and shoot camera that would cost the same as an entry-level DSLR.

In fact, there’s a camera to match any budget, from the Nikon Coolpix A10 (at $139) right the way through to the advanced Sony Cybershot RX1R II.

They have Better Sensors than Smartphones

Since smartphones have started to improve their camera capabilities, fewer people are investing in a point and shoot camera.

But in many cases, you can’t beat the quality you’ll get with a larger sensor - which many high end cameras have. The Sony RX100 V, for example, has a 1-inch CMOS image sensor that can compete with DSLRs.

Larger sensors give your photos better quality when you’re shooting moving subjects, or in low or tricky light situations.

They Have Larger Zooms

OK, let’s get this straight. Smartphones don’t actually have an optical zoom option. All zooms are done digitally, which compromises vastly on the quality.

With compact cameras, you can have up to 30x optical zoom (cameras with such extended telephoto zooms) are typically called “super zooms”), making their lenses incredibly versatile.

They’re Tough

It’s far more common to find sturdy, waterproof compact cameras than any other camera range (aside from action cameras!).

Compact cameras have fewer moving parts and one single body, making them easier to protect against dust, water, and everyday wear and tear.

A Case Against Compact Cameras

They Have Lower Image Quality

Image quality can vary drastically from one compact camera to another. But by their very nature, compact cameras tend to have smaller sensors.

This means that when it comes to image quality, they can’t compete with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. These more professional cameras are naturally going to capture higher quality images in low light scenarios.

But it’s worth noting that oftentimes, you won’t even be able to tell the variation in quality until you blow an image up. In many cases, you’ll be more than happy with the quality of a compact camera.

And that’s not to mention that in recent years, we’ve seen significant improvements in this technology. Some cameras, such as the Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II, even have the ability to shoot in RAW, so you have plenty of power to edit your images and recover detail in post production.

Small or No Viewfinder

Many avid photographers swear by their viewfinders - and the accurate representation of the scene in their viewfinders is one of the reasons DSLRs remain so beloved.

Yet with compact cameras, you’re often limited to composing your shot on an LCD screen (which isn’t always easy in harsh sunlight).

And for those compact cameras that do have viewfinders, they’re rarely an accurate representation of the subject you’re photographing.

Slower Speed

Many point and shoots can have a considerable shutter lag, start up time or focusing time. This might prove frustrating if you’re trying to capture any kind of fast action.

But again, there are constant improvements in this area, with high end compact cameras delivering speeds comparable to DSLRs.

Less Control Over Your Settings

At the end of the day, this is the big one for professional and aspiring photographers. With compact cameras, you typically have far fewer manual controls than a DSLR.

You’ll have limited options when it comes to focusing or metering. And when they do come with advanced settings, such as aperture or shutter priority, they’re often buried deep in the menu setup.

Of course, this is just what simple compact cameras were built for; eliminating the technical element to make photography a possibility for everyday people.

Whether a compact camera would suit your needs is entirely up to you! If you’re looking for better image quality in a simple-to-use and portable camera, a point and shoot camera is the way to go.

Compact cameras provide an affordable, accessible, and easy-to-use camera for those who want something a little more advanced than a smartphone camera to take everyday snaps of their families, friends, and holidays.

Check out our full range of compact cameras available online at Camera House today!