Compact digital cameras have received a bad rap in recent years by the tech world. Declared “dead” by some pundits, the compact digital camera may be anything but. In fact, I’ve seen more of these little cameras in the wild this year than I had in two years prior. So are they still a good investment? They could be. It all depends on what your needs are.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. You can take amazing photos with a smartphone. I’ve seen some jaw-dropping shots taken from iPhones and Android devices alike, but I wouldn’t exactly declare them superior or even a replacement to a stand-alone point-and-shoot compact.

We’ve become so accustomed to the extremely high-quality shots made possible by a DSLR that it’s easy to see a stark contrast in the quality of yesteryear’s point-and-shoot. I’m guilty of writing these little cameras off as well. It wasn’t until I got my hands on a few models from 2012 that I suddenly realized that point-and-shoots are very quickly beginning to catch up to their more expensive full-frame cousins.

There are some point-and-shoots on the market today that are priced similarly to DSLRs, and several that actually pass the entry-level DSLR price point. This isn’t something you would have expected five years ago, but with the advancement of those tiny phone sensors comes an equally as significant quality boost to the slightly bigger point-and-shoot camera. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V is one example of a compact with a lot to offer in terms of photo quality and portability.

For just under $300, you get a camera that fits in your pocket and takes 18 megapixel images through a 20x megazoom f3.2-5.8, 25-500 mm lens. That’s a pretty good bargain, especially when you bring its stunning video capability into the picture.

What Makes It Better Than My Smartphone, Really?

Let’s go down the short list of things you can do with a point-and-shoot that you can’t do with your smartphone.

Optical Zoom
Just try finding a smartphone with an optical (not digital) zoom that beats that of even one of the cheaper point-and-shoot cameras out there. Optical zoom is the only way to zoom in on something and snap a picture without experiencing a loss of quality. Some smartphone cameras crop and call it an optical zoom, but it really isn’t the same thing.

Hardware Image Stabilization
Digital image stabilization is fine, but it won’t get you very far. The iPhone does a great job of stabilizing video and stills, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to a point-and-shoot with integrated sensor-shift stabilization. To take it a step further, this effect can also be added to the lens hardware, as well.

Taking a photo of moving objects is difficult on a smartphone. No matter how bright your scene or how fast the phone’s shutter might be, it’s hard to beat the speed and performance of a larger sensor and a bigger lens. Compact cameras might have trouble competing with their larger DSLR cousins, but they certainly have a thing or two to teach smartphones.

No matter what your shooting skill level or preferences are, there are compact cameras out there to meet your needs. Some offer advanced controls that professionals love while others tend to cater to folks that just want to point… and, well… shoot.

Image: Amazon