Types of Digital Cameras
Priced at around $250 or
less, these digital cameras are good for beginners -- or anyone who wants a
pocket-friendly, user-friendly point-and-shoot that won't break the bank. Some
of these cameras are truly tiny -- a little bigger than a business card, less
than an inch thick and, well, cheap. Although no camera in this category can
compete with advanced cameras for professional-quality performance, you can get
decent-quality photos if you pick the right one. Will the photos look better
than your smartphone's? Probably not -- but even a cheap digital camera will
have a dramatically longer zoom (and battery life) than any smartphone camera.
Swimming, boating, skiing,
climbing -- you won't want to risk dunking or crushing your smartphone, so
that's where rugged cameras come in. Waterproof, drop-proof and freeze-proof,
these tough cameras will let you capture memories worry-free. The best rugged
camera we found sells for $450.
Here's another feat
smartphone cameras simply can't match. The longest superzoom cameras can zoom
up to 83x -- you'll be able to literally shoot the moon (and study the craters
in detail). Great for vacations and sporting events, superzoom cameras let you
shoot everything from wide angles to extreme close-ups. The best superzoom we
found costs just under $700.
These workhorses deliver
better-quality photos than cheaper digital cameras. More significantly, they
can handle challenging situations -- dim light, super close-up macros and fast
action -- that stymie cheaper cameras. They'll also give you more control over
settings, so you can get creative with your shots. Expect to pay $600 and up
for the best advanced digital cameras.
Also known as hybrid,
bridge or mirrorless cameras, these have swappable lenses like bulky digital
single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, but in a scaled-down package. Expect to pay
$1,000 and up. At the top end of the range, performance -- and price -- can
match that of a quality DSLR. If you are interested in a true DSLR camera,
those are covered in their own report.
Best digital cameras
The (Est. $250) packs an impressive 25x zoom lens into a pretty tiny body. About the
size of a deck of cards and an inch thick, it won't fit into a skinny jeans
pocket -- but it'll easily tuck away just about anywhere else. Experts and
users say that among "basic" digital models, this Canon camera is a
How long is 25x zoom? Long
enough to zoom in on your favorite soccer player (even if you're at the other
end of the field) or your kid's school play (even if you're sitting at the back
of the auditorium). That's "a ton of reach in what is still a very compact
package," says Ben Keough at TheWirecutter.com, where the SX620 HS earns
the title of best cheap zoom camera. Owners love being able to carry such a
long zoom around in their pockets, making the SX620 HS a customer favorite at
Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com.
But this camera is more
than just a pretty zoom: The 20.2-megapixel SX620 HS beats its rivals in low
light, shooting better indoor and night photos in Keough's tests. Camera shake
is quelled nicely, thanks to built-in image stabilization. Battery life is
remarkable: Canon says it'll shoot 295 shots (or 405 in Eco Mode, which dims
the screen quickly when the camera isn't in use) or more than an hour of 1080p
full HD video on a single charge. The battery charger and a wrist strap are
Keough finds the SX620 HS
comfy to hold, with a rubberized grip around the front and a tiny thumb rest on
the back -- niceties that you won't find on cheaper cameras. "It's not a huge
difference, but it is more noticeable than you might think when it comes to
long-term comfort -- especially if you have larger hands," Keough writes. A
3-inch screen (standard for this class) devours most of the real estate on the
back of the camera, and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication) make
it easy to transfer photos to your phone, tablet or computer.
Cheap digital cameras
If the Canon PowerShot
SX620 HS is a little too pricey for your pocketbook, the (Est. $150) is an excellent budget alternative. It doesn't match what's
available on the SX620 HS, but the 10x zoom lens will still get you closer to
the action than any smartphone.
"If you want a small,
affordable camera, this is the one to get," says Jim Fisher at PCMag.com,
where it's the Editors' Choice cheap digital camera.
Inexpensive though it is,
the 20-megapixel Elph 190 IS packs an image-stabilized lens (for sharp,
shake-free shots) and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC (for easy photo sharing). Video
looks clear and steady, Fisher says, although it tops out at 720p.
The tiny Elph is "the
definition of a pocket camera," Fisher says: Just slightly bigger than a
business card and less than an inch thick, the 4.9-ounce Elph slides easily
into a jacket or pants pocket. A 2.7-inch LCD screen covers most of the camera's
The Elph comes with a
wrist strap and battery charger. Canon says the battery will last for 190 shots
on a single charge (245 shots in screen-dimming Eco Mode) or 50 minutes of
Owners praise the Elph 190
IS, awarding it 4 out of 5 stars at both Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com. The
biggest drawback? Low-light photos aren't its strong suit. Dim indoor scenes
look smudgy in Fisher's tests, especially when the lens is fully zoomed. "So,
yes, the Canon has a big advantage in zooming compared with a smartphone, but
it's only useful in bright situations," Fisher concludes.
Rugged/waterproof digital cameras
The (Est. $450) can deep-dive 50 feet underwater, survive a 7-foot drop and 220 foot-pounds of
pressure, and cheerfully photograph your freezing-cold ski vacation or
ice-fishing extravaganza (14 degrees Fahrenheit is its limit).
And underneath that tough
exterior lies a truly terrific camera, experts say. "It's the best rugged camera
you can buy," PCMag.com's Fisher sums up, naming it his Editors' Choice.
The TG-5 replaces critics'
longtime favorite rugged camera, the Olympus TG-4. This latest version adds
advanced features -- including 4K video, rapid-fire 20 frames-per-second RAW
image capture, and a 12-megapixel sensor that delivers remarkable low-light
Dave Pardue tests the TG-5 underwater, at dusk, indoors, playing football and
in super-close-up macro mode, and comes away thoroughly impressed. "From
my first impressions in the field, I can say that this is a bona fide enthusiast
camera for the tough world," Pardue says.
Despite its rugged body
and sophisticated features, the TG-5 is no bigger than an ordinary
point-and-shoot -- smaller than an index card and a bit over 1 inch thick, with
a 3-inch LCD screen. The camera features a 4x zoom, but it can accept the (Est. $130),
which extends the built-in lens' focal length from 100 mm to 170 mm, and the
zoom to 7x. An (Est. $140) is also available.
GPS and Wi-Fi are built
in, and the TG-5 comes with a charger, micro USB cable and hand strap. Expect
to get about 340 shots (or 50 minutes of video) on a single battery charge.
Superzoom digital cameras
A jaw-dropping 83x zoom
lens makes the (Est. $695) the undisputed champion of the superzoom
world. Experts caution that image quality isn't the greatest, but owners aren't
complaining: The 16-megapixel P900 boasts hundreds of glowing reviews at
Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com, and online photography forums are full of
frame-filling P900 close-ups shot from a mile (or more) away. "Being able
to zero in on a bird that you can barely see ... with what is essentially a
point-and-shoot camera is just plain cool," CNET's Joshua Goldman says.
Pocket-sized, it's not:
The P900 is as bulky as a DSLR camera with an ordinary kit lens. However, you'd
need a DSLR lens the size of a 4-year-old child to match the P900's zoom -- so,
in that sense, the P900 is amazingly compact.
Shaky shots are a big
drawback with long zooms, but Nikon's excellent image stabilization system
keeps things nice and steady, experts say -- even when shooting full 1080p HD
video. Low-light shots pose more of a problem. ISO 1,600 shots are
"usable, if soft," Goldman says, but "the P900 is not a camera
you'd want for indoor shooting." There's no RAW mode, either (unlike other
cameras this expensive).
Thoughtful extras include
a flip-out, swiveling 3-inch LCD screen, eye-level electronic viewfinder and
built-in GPS. Wi-Fi and NFC make it easy to share photos. The P900 comes with a
neck strap, lens cap, micro USB cable and charger. Expect to get 360 shots per
charge, or about 1 hour 20 minutes of video.
Advanced digital cameras
Advanced digital cameras
are a step above compact point-and-shoot models -- a bit heavier and bulkier,
but with plenty of additional features and options for more sophisticated
photography. They're also notably more expensive, appealing to the enthusiast
rather than the casual user who just wants a basic camera for everyday use.
The excellent 24-megapixel (Est. $1,300) has captured the hearts of owners and critics alike. It's
"everything a premium compact camera should be," PCMag.com's Fisher
says, "capturing SLR-quality images in a form factor that slides into your
jacket pocket ... simply a joy to use." It's his Editors' Choice -- and a
top pick at Amateur Photographer, DPReview.com, and TechRadar.com as well. It's
well liked by users posting at Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com, too.
Petite indeed, the X100F
is the size of an index card and about 2 inches thick, with old-fashioned
rangefinder styling that critics find simply beautiful. The fixed 35mm-equivalent lens doesn't zoom, but you can buy a (Est. $330) or tighter (Est. $325) separately.
Experts love the intuitive
dials and robust manual controls. The built-in flash does an admirable job, and
a hot shoe lets you add an external flash if you like. You can shoot RAW images,
but reviewers agree that the camera's pre-processed JPEGs look outstanding
without any tweaking, even at ISO 3200. You can frame your shot using the hybrid
eyepiece viewfinder or 3-inch LCD. Video is full 1080p HD, but the lack of
image stabilization means footage can look shaky without a tripod.
Built-in Wi-Fi makes it
easy to share images. The X100F comes with a shoulder strap, lens cap, USB
cable and charger. Expect to get 390 shots on a single charge using the optical
viewfinder (270 with the electronic viewfinder) or one hour of video.
If you prefer a zoomable
lens, the 25x-zoom, 20.1-megapixel (Est. $1,300) is the critics' choice. Bulkier than the Fujifilm, it's as
big as a compact DSLR -- certainly not pocketable. But photo quality is nearly
as superb, and the Sony does a better job with video: It records up to 4K
resolution, and built-in image stabilization keeps things steady at all but the
If you are looking for an
advanced digital camera on a "budget," for less than half the price,
the 20-megapixel (Est. $600) is a
fine alternative to the models above. TheWirecutter.com names it "Best
Point-and-Shoot Camera" under $1,000, and it wins awards at DPReview.com
and TechRadar.com, too. Small enough to slip into a jeans pocket, it packs a 3x
short-zoom lens and 4K video capability. It satisfies serious photographers
with excellent image quality and advanced features (including RAW image
capture), although it lacks the sophisticated JPEG processing, eyepiece
viewfinder, hot shoe and some of the manual controls you'll get on pricier
Interchangeable-lens cameras that fit in the palm of
Compact cameras with
interchangeable lenses -- often called hybrid, bridge or mirrorless cameras --
occupy the middle ground between the digital cameras covered above and true DSLR cameras, which are covered in their own report. Unlike point-and-shoots and
advanced digital cameras, which have permanently mounted lenses, you can swap
lenses on a mirrorless camera for added versatility, but without all the bulk
of a digital SLR camera.
The (Est. $1,900 with 18-55mm lens) scoops up just about every award in this
category. "We're frankly pretty amazed," say editors at
Imaging-Resource.com. They're not the only ones: The X-T2 earns PCMag.com's
Editors' Choice award, DPReview.com's Gold Award, a perfect 5 stars at
TechRadar.com, and TheWirecutter.com names it "the best mirrorless camera
you can buy."
The X-T2 makes no
compromises, experts say. Its body is compact (a little bigger than an index
card, and 2 inches thick) and beautifully retro. It's made from tough magnesium
alloy, and meticulously weather-sealed -- not only managing to survive when
Imaging-Resource.com's Pardue charges onto a South Carolina beach during
Hurricane Hermine, but shrugging off blowing sand and pounding rain to capture striking
storm shots, plus the glorious rainbow and sunset afterward. "A
professional powerhouse," Pardue concludes, thoroughly impressed.
images, 4K video, deft handling, a handy swiveling 3-inch LCD plus electronic
viewfinder -- critics have a hard time detecting any flaws in the X-T2. Available
lenses are "awesome," Pardue says, and autofocus is speedy and
sophisticated. It does lack a built-in flash, but Fuji includes a clip-on flash
in the box (along with a covers for the hot shoe and lens mount, shoulder strap
and charger). Expect to get 340 shots or 40 minutes of 4K video per charge.
Of course, the X-T2
carries a pretty stiff price tag. For nearly half the cost, the (Est. $1,000 with 16-50mm lens) keeps a lot of the T2's "guts."
You'll get the same 24-megapixel sensor and 4K video, with a similar autofocus
system, electronic viewfinder and tilting LCD -- even adding a touch screen,
which the T2 lacks.
have been made compared with the X-T2," says Phil Hall at TechRadar.com.
"There's no weather-sealing, the magnification on the EVF isn't as good
and there's only a single card slot, while the buffer won't let you shoot for
as long." If those aren't deal-breakers for you, experts and owners
heartily recommend the X-T20.
Expert & User Review Sources
found outstanding digital camera tests at ImagingResource.com, Amateur Photographer, DPReview.com, TheWirecutter.com, CNET, TechRadar.com, PCMag.com and TomsGuide.com. ConsumerReports.org compares
dozens of digital cameras in different categories such as compact
point-and-shoot cameras, advanced digital cameras, and mirrorless cameras,
rating each model for image quality, ease of use, LCD quality, video quality,
viewfinder, and other performance indicators, in addition to noting key
features such as megapixels and battery life. We turned to Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com for feedback from owners on performance in