If camera phones have got people thinking twice about the need for a decent snapshot camera, no one's told the camera manufacturers. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Kodak, Pentax, Casio, Samsung, and Olympus all continue to produce point-and-shoot cameras in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and abilities. The variety is amazing, bordering on downright silly.
This is why the question "What's the best point-and-shoot?" is difficult to answer; while one camera might excel in low-light conditions or photo quality, it'll more than likely come up short in design, usability, performance, price, or in some other area. Sure, I can stack up some cameras with some similar features and prices, but with so many variables it's very difficult to be specific. But, I'll give it a shot.
Below is a list of the best cameras--or at least those worth considering--that fall under a particular type, size, or feature. These are ones that left a strong enough impression on me to make me recommend them again and again to readers, friends, and family. None of them is perfect, but they have pluses that outweigh the minuses. If you're after the best photo quality in a compact camera, Canon's PowerShots are your best bet. However, their shooting performance tends to be behind those from Panasonic and Sony.
While I'm at it, there are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for any point-and-shoot camera. For capturing kids, pets, or any other fast-moving subjects, you really need a digital SLR. A couple here are pretty quick--the Panasonic ZR1 and Sony WX1 come to mind--but if you're regularly shooting things in motion you'll want to step up to at least an entry-level dSLR. I suggest the same for those wanting the best in low-light shooting without a flash (though again, there are a couple here worth buying).
Optical viewfinders are all but gone from new models. Canon still has a few, but the rest of them are nothing but LCD. Lastly, most of these models use proprietary something or other: a memory card, cable, or, most typically, a battery. It's irritating, occasionally frustrating, and adds to the overall cost of a product--definitely worth keeping in mind when you're shopping.… Read more