While the smartphone eats In the world of entry-level cameras, camera manufacturers have made some phenomenal strides in what an advanced compact camera can do.
Sure, for everyday photography, a smartphone comes in handy because it’s a camera that you always carry with you. But image quality can be an issue in low light, and to be honest, keeping a flat rectangle without physical controls often results in an unsatisfying photography experience. With a dedicated camera, I find it easier to get into the area and focus (pun intended!) on creating expressive artwork and capturing decisive moments. No social media notifications or text strings in the way—just you, your camera, and your audience. Nothing else matters.
The first problem that these devices easily solve is image quality. While phones can enhance the perceived image quality with software tricks, they usually don’t violate the laws of physics—small phones with tiny cameras inside that can’t absorb much light . If you can get more light in, you can take cleaner pictures, and the only way to do that is to make every camera element larger.
Sensors ranging in size from 1 inch up to the full 35 mm (1.38 inch) can fit inside these devices for snapshots. For comparison, the best camera in iPhone 14 Pro (which has the largest primary camera sensor ever for an iPhone) has a sensor that’s about 60% smaller than the least capable camera on the list below. From 12 megapixels to 47 megapixels, all of the cameras on this list have more than enough resolution to print photos and have room to crop and adjust your composition after the fact. We’re at a point where megapixels on the sensor are no longer the primary indicator of image quality—remember most images will be viewed on a tiny 6-inch screen, not a billboard giant.
Then there’s the optics. While smartphone cameras are built with multiple lenses that make them usable in all professions, a dedicated camera will have a single lens of much higher quality, usually demonstrate unique strengths. Furthermore, while some of the best compact cameras have zoom lenses for flexibility, many people opt for a fixed lens design that can result in sharper photos and capture more light. Better lenses can also give photos more realism—if you like the blurred background added by your phone’s software in “portrait” mode, many of these cameras can do the same trick. without making your images look weird or unnatural.
Finally, there’s the design. Cameras, whether digital or analog, can be much more enjoyable to use. All of the models I’ve reviewed for this piece have physical controls that are easier to use than the virtual camera controls on the phone’s touchscreen (yes, even in-app buttons). advanced photography). These cameras also often include a viewfinder that you can keep an eye on when it’s too bright to frame the photo on the bare LCD screen correctly. The feel and controllability provided by the physical camera gives you the opportunity to hone your skills and experiment in ways smartphones can’t. And a real camera makes you look cool, too, which may explain the recent interest — on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, among others — for vintage-style digital models dictionary.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle you can face when using a standalone compact camera is when it comes to sharing photos on social media. Nearly all modern cameras have some kind of Wi-Fi built-in, but the quality of companion mobile apps can vary widely and image transfers can be slow. But even this may be more of a feature than a bug. In the spirit of slowing down and “seeing” what you are photographing, a slower transfer of images gives you a chance to relax and be selective. After all, you may not be a press photographer sending the big game photos to an editor on time. So relax and enjoy the process!
Update June 2023: We’ve added Fujifilm X100V, Leica Q3, and Ricoh GR III and IIIx. We also fixed links and pricing throughout.