Most people think of a point-and-shoot compact as a simple, inexpensive camera aimed at the mass market of casual shooters. But from a marketing perspective, the term “point and shoot” includes any camera with fixed or automatic settings that doesn’t have interchangeable lenses. This is a broad category ranging from budget-priced zoom lens compacts to premium point-and-shoot cameras for enthusiasts and exotic pro-caliber models with awesome specs and price tags to match.
High-performance digital cameras without interchangeable lenses like the ones featured here began evolving about 10 years ago to employ larger sensors as well as a full complement of high-end features. The results of this rapid evolution are exemplified by the terrific cameras covered in this article. All of them deliver impressive imaging performance and flexibility, plus the indefinable distinction and panache that many serious shooters demand.
Moreover, larger sensors with larger pixels deliver a number of significant image quality advantages. These include better performance and less noise at high ISOs; enhanced dynamic range; a wider color gamut; better color differentiation within a given hue; and also increased color saturation, especially at high ISOs. And, since larger sensors require lenses with proportionally longer focal lengths, these cameras enable users to create striking pictorial effects and make portrait subjects “pop” by using limited depth of field and bokeh creatively.
Finally, cameras in this elite class typically have a suite of advanced features, including: RAW capture; auto HDR; noise reduction; 4K and Full HD 1080p video capture at high framing rates; state-of-the-art image stabilization and AF systems; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; high burst rates; and outstanding responsiveness as well as minimal shutter lag times.
Premium Point-and-Shoot Cameras at a Glance
Sigma dp3 Quattro
Within its distinctively wide but still compact form factor, the innovative Sigma dp3 Quattro incorporates significant technical advances—all designed to provide enhanced image quality, responsiveness as well as speed. The upgrades include a new, higher-resolution 29MP Foveon Quattro APS-C-size (23.5×15.7mm) CMOS image sensor. The sensor uses the company’s signature three-layer design that captures full color information at each pixel point. In addition, it teams with a new True III image-processing engine.
The camera also features a 3-inch, 920K-dot TFT LCD. Notable is a high-performance 50mm f/2.8 lens; the moderate telephoto (75mm equivalent) lens is ideal for portraiture, street shooting and also travel photography. Plus, it incorporates a special low dispersion (SLD) glass element and a glass mold aspherical lens to minimize optical aberrations.
Moreover, the dp3’s ISO range covers ISO 100–6400 in 1/3 steps; the camera also provides RAW image capture at a maximum resolution of 5,242×3,616 pixels. Other features include: contrast-detection autofocus; a manual focus ring; and PSAM exposure modes. Note: the full Sigma Quattro line includes four fixed lens models and two interchangeable-lens models. $899.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI
This stylish, higher-tech flagship of the Sony RX100 line has an ingenious new pop-up 2.36M-dot OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder (EVF). It is complemented by a 3-inch, 921K-dot, 180º tilting touch-screen LCD. The compact is powered by Sony’s most advanced Bionz X processor and front-end LSI, as well as a 1-inch, 20.1MP Exmor RS CMOS sensor. It also boasts a new wider-range Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24–200mm* f/2.8–4.5 zoom lens to facilitate easy bokeh effects.
Moreover, features include a fast hybrid AF system with 315 points and eye AF, as well as Optical SteadyShot image stabilization with a 4-stop-equivalent faster shutter speed. The pocketable camera records 4K UHD 30-frames-per-sec video in the XAVC S format with full pixel readout; it also creates 4K video clips. Other video features include: internal HLG and S-Log 3 Gamma; slow motion video recording at 960 fps; and a clean HDMI out port. The RX100 IV also shoots full-resolution bursts at up to 24 fps; provides native ISO settings up to 12,800, which extend to 25,600; and features built-in Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity with NFC and one-touch sharing. It is clearly aimed at serious enthusiasts who will appreciate its manual control ring, built-in ND filter and dynamic range optimizer (DRO). $1,199.99.
Nikon Coolpix P1000
Nikon’s Coolpix P1000 premium compact is simply the longest-range all-in-one digital zoom camera ever! Its 24–3000mm f/2.8–8 Nikkor lens delivers a staggering 125x optical zoom. It literally can capture details of the lunar surface and has a moon mode to emphasize the point. In addition, users can extend its zoom range to 250x in dynamic fine digital zoom mode. All this is backed up with Nikon’s Dual Direct Optical Vibration Reduction technology that provides a 5-stop anti-shake-effect advantage.
Moreover, the P1000 incorporates a 16MP backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor that’s coupled to an advanced Expeed image processor. They enable 4K UHD video at 30 or 25 fps as well as sensitivity settings to ISO 6400. Also featured are a 3.2-inch, 921K-dot vari-angle LCD monitor and a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF. The P1000 also incorporates Nikon’s SnapBridge connectivity with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Other niceties include a built-in pop-up flash; auto, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes; and a range of subject modes. In addition, there is an ergonomic control ring plus a Snapback zoom button that’s handy when the photographer loses track of the subject. $999.95.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
This versatile, high-performance Micro Four Thirds-format (MFT) compact from Panasonic features a fast, sharp Leica DC Vario-Summilux 24–75mm f/1.7–2.8 zoom lens. The lens pairs with a 1-inch, 20.1MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor. It can capture amazing 4K QFHD video at 30/24 fps as well as 8MP stills from video clips in 4K photo mode!
Viewing and reviewing images is accomplished via a swiveling 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor and a high-res 2.76M-dot OLED live-view eye-level finder. The LX100 also shoots continuous bursts at up to 11 fps, provides ISOs up to 25,600 and offers built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC.
Moreover, it provides full manual controls and Panasonic’s Light Speed AF with DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology to enhance AF speed and precision. Other features include: slow-motion animation; highlight/shadow gamma curve control for video; a focus-peaking display with a control ring; a digital level gauge; and a hot shoe for attaching accessories. The LX100 comes in a choice of silver or black. $799.99.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
The G1 X Mark III is the most-recent, most-advanced offering in Canon’s long-running, enthusiast/pro-aimed G series. The robust, ruggedly handsome point and shoot has an upgraded 24.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor that works with an advanced Digic 7 image processor. They achieve 9-fps continuous shooting and provide sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600. The compact also offers Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 60 fps.
The Mark III’s 24–72mm f/2.8–5.6 lens incorporates a dual-sensing image stabilizer that provides a 4-stop anti-shake advantage during handheld shooting. In addition to a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, vari-angle, touch-screen LCD monitor, there is a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF with touch-and-drag AF point selection.
In addition, Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology with phase detection delivers enhanced focusing speed and accuracy. Other notable features include: Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC and Bluetooth; dust- and moisture-resistant construction; a full range of manual as well as automatic shooting modes; and a host of built-in creative effects. $1,299.
Ricoh GR III
A higher-res successor to the popular Ricoh GR II street camera, this ingeniously slim, high-end magnesium alloy bodied compact offers a new 24MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to an upgraded GR Engine 6 processor. As a result, the camera delivers high resolution along with impressively fast response times. As with the previous model, the low-pass filter was eliminated to enhance resolution and detail. However, the camera has a AA filter simulator for reducing false colors and moiré.
Furthermore, its fast 28mm f/2.8 lens facilitates low-light shooting and the creative use of shallow depth of field. In addition, it complements its newly extended ISO 100–102,400 sensitivity range. A 3-inch, 1.08M-dot LCD provides crisp, detailed viewing and playback, and the camera also supports RAW and JPEG formats.
Other key features include: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps; macro mode; a hybrid AF system; custom image effects, including retro and cross-processing; a full range of auto modes, such as face detection; and a 3-axis, 4-stop shake-effect-reduction system—the first on a GR-series camera. The GR III also has built-in Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi connectivity; offers 35mm and 50mm crop modes; and provides a USB Type-C port and an SD card slot. $899.95.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II
The successor to the world’s first full-frame (24x36mm format) noninterchangeable-lens compact, Sony’s beautifully made P&S uses a 42.4MP BSI CMOS sensor with a variable optical low-pass filter. Moreover, it achieves optimum resolution and artifact suppression. The variable LPF allows users to choose “off” to prioritize image resolution; “hi” to reduce moiré and color artifacts; or “standard” to balance those priorities. The RX1R II also features a fast, sharp, wide-angle 35mm f/2 Zeiss Sonnar T* lens with three aspheric elements to minimize chromatic aberrations and a 9-bladed diaphragm for artistic bokeh.
Additional key features include a 3-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD monitor and a retractable 2.36M-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF. Moreover, a Bionz X processor delivers 14-bit RAW image data, a maximum full-res burst rate of 5 fps and sensitivity settings to ISO 102,400.
In addition, the camera records Full HD 1080p video capture at up to 60 fps in the XAVC S format. A fast, precise hybrid AF system provides 399 phase-detection points, and a 120-zone autoexposure system offers a multi-zone metering option. It also has built-in Wi-Fi/NFC and SteadyShot image stabilization. $3,299.99.
This retro-looking compact is reminiscent of a rangefinder camera. The X100F features a built-In ISO dial incorporated into the shutter speed dial. It also employs Fujifilm’s 24.3MP, APS-C-format, X-Trans CMOS III sensor. Moreover, the sensor uses a randomized pixel pattern to reduce moiré patterns and aliasing without a low-pass filter. And, it works with Fujifilm’s advanced X-Processor Pro and a fast, sharp, Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens with a built-in 4-stop ND filter.
Combining style with high tech, it offers an innovative optical and electronic hybrid viewfinder that lets users choose between OVF and EVF viewing, as well as a unique parallax-compensating electronic rangefinder. In addition, a 91-point hybrid AF system with 49 phase-detection points delivers impressive AF speed and precision.
Other features include: a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot LCD; a rear focus lever; RAW capture with in-camera conversion and processing; sensitivity settings to ISO 51,200; Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 60 fps; a full-res 8-fps burst rate; film simulation and creative filters; Wi-Fi; a hot shoe; and a die-cast aluminum body with a die-cast magnesium alloy top. The X100F is offered in silver or black. $1,299.
* All lens focal lengths are in 35mm equivalents.