What's the point and click camera du jour?
July 11, 2022 11:32 AM   Subscribe

My family is traveling for a couple of weeks this summer and I'd like to take some pictures, of course. But I don't want to use my Iphone 7, its not good enough. What's the best simple, compact camera to use for such a trip?

What I want is to get basically nice, sharp pictures that are better than an Iphone 7, without doing a lot more than pulling the camera out of my pocket / bag and snapping a shot. So compact size matters. I'll take mostly tourist-y pictures, nothing special, people standing in front of famous buildings and scenic shots. Still, I'd pay a little more for the shots to be in focus, and of enough detail that I could print the photos, or use them in a photobook. I'm not a photographer and won't be spending time messing with lenses and settings (very much).

With a quick search, I see there are a number of Canon "powershot" type small cameras for between $100 - 150. Do those work? Or, is there a reason to buy a camera that's more expensive than that, that you know of?
posted by RajahKing to Technology (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's time to upgrade your phone.

Any pocket camera you buy for $150 will produce worse pictures than your iPhone 7 and it will be more of a hassle to carry, use and process the images, perhaps to the extent that you won't bother. If you can't afford a more expensive camera or a new phone then don't waste your money on a camera that is worse than the one in the phone you already have.

If your iPhone 7 pictures aren't good enough, then you can get a pocket camera in the $500 range, e.g. the the Panasonic Lumix LX10 (which I own and recommend) or a Sony RX100.

But you shouldn't do this. You should upgrade your six year old iPhone! Any iPhone 11 Pro, 12, 12 Pro or better will all take pictures that are better than those that come out of your iPhone 7 the pictures you (who are not interested in lenses or settings) will produce with a pocket camera at pretty much any price. And it will do this without the physical and software hassle of a dedicated camera. A renewed iPhone 12 is $500 on Amazon.

The other reason you should upgrade the phone now is that Apple is about to drop support for iPhone 7. The new version of iOS later this year will not support your phone, which means no new features for you. More significantly, it may mean no security updates for you, i.e. you'll be trusting your digital life to a device with known security vulnerabilities. You need to upgrade this year even if you don't need a better camera. Kill two birds with one stone.

posted by caek at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2022 [27 favorites]

Best answer: The Sony RX-100s are much better and, while capable of much greater complexity, also have straightforward automatic modes that allow them to be used like your basic point and shoot. If you can afford it, picking up a used model might be worth it. But we're talking about a few hundred dollars more for a used and several hundred more for a new.

(caek also makes a good argument above)
posted by praemunire at 11:52 AM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: tl;dr: In your case, I’d spend the money upgrading your phone.

To learn more though, you want DPReviews buyer’s guides! They’ll walk you through all the trade offs, what you get for additional cash, etc. There are many good reasons to spend more than $150, but they may not apply to you; mainly, at that price range, you’re not getting much better hardware, and the onboard software is dumber so does much less to “correct” for mediocre hardware than your phone does.

I got a Panasonic LUMIX for the better-than-phone-but-still-portable use case and was very happy with it for years before upgrading to a Canon M6 Mk2.
posted by supercres at 11:53 AM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agreed that it's unlikely that a $150 camera will be better than the iPhone 7 camera, with the exception that the camera would have an optical zoom.

Something with at least a 1" sensor (like Canon's G7) might give you slightly better low-light performance, but it would be a few hundred dollars more, be less pocketable and you can get similar performance with a modern phone.
posted by AndrewInDC at 11:54 AM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

On non-preview, caek nails it. My point-and-shoot was an LX10 too. I only got it because I was traveling overseas where I wouldn’t have cell service. Still relatively painful to get the photos off of it and process them, a pain that lives on whenever I use my mirrorless (that I otherwise love)
posted by supercres at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you want to point and shoot, the main advantage of a standalone camera vs. upgrading your phone would be the optical zoom. The iPhone 12 Pro and 13 Pro have 2x optical zoom with their telephoto lenses, but anything beyond that is digital "zoom" that effectively reduces the image resolution. If you don't zoom very often, or very much, an upgrade to your phone would be more cost effective.

Depending on where you're traveling, another advantage of an inexpensive standalone camera is that it's a less attractive target for thieves. I once had a guy approach me from behind and snatch my phone out of my hand while I was taking a picture, though I (rather foolishly) grabbed it and wrested it back from him. I don't think there's much of a resale market for cheap digital cameras these days.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:09 PM on July 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

To further sign onto caek's point: I went from an iPhone 7 to a 12 Pro in 2020, and the photos are night-and-day better. Even my wife's iPhone 8 (which she just switched out for the new iPhone SE) took much better photos than the 7, and the SE takes better photos still, even though it shares camera hardware with the 8 (better software owing to the beefier processor).

Any modern iPhone will absolutely stomp your iPhone 7's photos while simultaneously futureproofing you. Pocket cameras at under $150 do not take particularly great photos, in comparison, in particular if you don't want to fiddle with them.

Personally I would buy a Pro model if you do a lot of photography, even snapshot-type. I find the (only 2x) zoom lens useful when I can't zoom with my feet, and likewise the ultrawide is super-fun for shooting people against landscapes or touristy-type things.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:10 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think it's worth noting you can solve both your photography issue and your Doomed iPhone 7 issue by buying a 2nd-hand iPhone on Swappa. You can get an iPhone 11 or 12 for $300.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another advantage of a camera over an iPhone is using a big ol' SD card, if your phone's storage is limited.

I asked a similar question a couple of weeks ago, and just paid about $500 for a Panasonic Lumix ZS-100. It has a 1" sensor a good (10x) optical zoom, and it has taken good test pictures so far.

I also want a dedicated camera. I can't get a new phone now, but I can get a camera (it's a work phone), but my budget was higher. A agree to read the DPReview buying guides, linked above, for good advice.

An alternative idea: can you rent or borrow a better camera for the weeks you need it?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:33 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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