If you’re shopping for a new point-and-shoot camera this Holiday season, we’ve got your back. We did the research for you and chose a variety of cameras priced between $150 and $750. Since this is a point-and-shoot guide, we picked mostly pocket-sized cameras priced below the $500 mark. Whether you want a camera you can take in the ocean for surf photos, a long zoom travel camera, or a pocket-sized DSLR replacement, there’s a camera in this guide that fits the bill. They all have full HD video and most of them even have built-in Wi-Fi (check out our digital camera Wi-Fi demo video to see it in action)so you can wirelessly transfer photos and videos to your Smart Phone and share them on Facebook and Instagram immediately.
Canon PowerShot ELPH 330 HS
Quite simply, one of the best point-and-shoot camera deals around right now; Canon’s tiny PowerShot ELPH 330 HS has a great 12-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and Canon’s HS system for better low-light image quality. It packs a 10x optical zoom lens into an easily pocketable body and it has built-in Wi-Fi so you can share all your photos and videos right to Facebook after you install Canon’s free app on your Smart Phone.
Olympus Stylus TG-2 iHS
The pocket-sized Olympus TG-2 is waterproof to 50 feet, can handle drops of nearly 7 feet, and it’s freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes it a great camera for active outdoor adventurers who want a camera for snowboarding, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, surfing or climbing. There are plenty of other rugged point-and-shoot cameras (read our Outdoor & Waterproof Camera Guide) but with a 4x f/2.0 zoom lens and Olympus’s iHS system for great image quality, the TG-2 is the best. It even has built-in GPS with an electronic compass and altimeter / depth-gauge.
Sony Cybershot QX10 & QX100
Sony’s new QX “lens-style” cameras are among the most interesting this year. Since Smart Phones are the most popular cameras on the planet, Sony created a self-contained unit with a lens and sensor that mounts and connects wirelessly to your phone, effectively turning it into a real camera with a real zoom lens. Sony has two versions of the QX camera – one with a long zoom, and a high-end model with a fast-aperture lens and a larger sensor. The more serious QX100 is basically the same as Sony’s RX100 premium compact camera [link], with the same excellent 1-inch 20-megapixel CMOS sensor and 3.6x 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss zoom lens. The less expensive QX10 has a 10x 25-250mm f/3.3-5.9 zoom and an 18-megapixel standard-sized 1/2.3-inch point-and-shoot sensor.
Panasonic Lumix LF1
Eye-level viewfinders in point-and-shoot cameras have gone the way of the dodo bird – or have they? Panasonic decided to bring the viewfinder back with their Lumix LF1 premium pocket camera. The LF1 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF), something no other high-end pocket camera has. It also has a longer lens than other premium pocket cameras – a 7.1x 28-200mm f/2.0-5.9 Leica optical zoom. Besides the EVF and the long Leica zoom lens, the Panasonic LF1 has a large 12-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, PASM manual shooting modes, full HD 60p video and built-in Wi-Fi so you can easily share photos and video with your Smart Phone.
The 12-megapixel Fujifilm X20 is a great little camera. It’s big for most pockets but it more than makes up for that with a solid metal body, manual controls, an eye-level viewfinder and excellent image quality. The handsome retro design doesn’t hurt, either. The X20 features Fujifilm’s unique 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor for truly outstanding image quality. The sensor has embedded phase detect pixels for improved auto focus performance – especially with moving subjects and video. The excellent 4x 28-112mm (equiv.) f/2.0-2.8 Fujinon zoom lens even has a manual zoom ring.
Nikon Coolpix S800c
Nikon took a different approach to the Wi-Fi camera with their Coolpix S800c pocket superzoom. It packs a 10x 25-250mm (equivalent) optical zoom lens into a totally pocketable camera body. That’s cool enough. But what really makes the S800c special is its Android operating system. That’s right – the Nikon Coolpix S800c has a full Android OS just like a Smart Phone. So you can install all your favorite social networking and photo editing apps right on the camera. You can even use the camera to browse the Web or play games, if you want. From the back, the S800c looks pretty much just like a Smart Phone. It has a 3.5-inch touchscreen display to compose photos, select apps, and edit photos. And because it has built-in Wi-Fi you can share photos and videos right from the camera with your social networking apps, as long as you’re on a Wi-Fi network with Internet access. If you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection, you can wirelessly transfer photos from the camera to your Smart Phone and upload them via your mobile network.
Sony Cybershot HX50V
The Sony Cybershot HX50V is a well-endowed camera. With a pocket-sized body and a 30x 24-720mm (equivalent) optical zoom lens, it has more zoom than any other pocket superzoom on the market (read our Pocket Superzoom Camera Guide). It also has PASM manual exposure modes, full HD Video at 60 FPS and it can shoot still photo bursts as fast as 10 FPS. Built-in Wi-Fi lets you transfer photos to your Smart Phone so you can share them anywhere you have a mobile signal. Sony even included the same Multi Interface Shoe they use on their NEX mirrorless cameras so you can add an electronic viewfinder, stereo microphone or hot shoe flash.
Olympus Stylus 1
The Olympus Stylus 1 is a miniature version of Olympus’s flagship mirrorless camera, the OM-D – but with a built-in 10.7x 28-300mm (equivalent) f/2.8 zoom lens. The camera design and controls are very similar to the OM-D, with PASM manual shooting modes, RAW shooting, tilting touchscreen display, and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The 12-megapixel sensor is a 1/1.7-inch backlit CMOS unit for much better image quality than most point-and-shoot cameras. The Olympus Stylus 1 also has built-in Wi-Fi so you can wirelessly transfer photos from the camera to your Smart Phone and then post them straight to Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
If you’re heading out to Yellowstone National Park or traveling to Africa for a photo safari and you need an affordable camera so you can safely zoom in on the wildlife, the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS is a great option. The 30x 24-720mm (equivalent) optical zoom lens will let you zoom right up on that grizzly without becoming lunch. It has Canon’s easy-to-use Smart Auto mode as well as PASM manual shooting modes for more experienced photographers. And it has built-in Wi-Fi so you can share your photos and full HD videos right from your Smart Phone – just as long as you have a mobile connection.
Sony Cybershot RX100 II
We saved the best for last. The Sony RX100 II has no competition. It’s the mack daddy of pocket cameras. It will cost you a pretty penny, but it’s as close as you can come to actually carrying a DSLR in your pants pocket. The big 1-inch 20-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and 3.6x 28-100mm (equivalent) f/1.8-4.9 Carl Zeiss zoom lens place it head and shoulders above all other pocket cameras. Besides fantastic image quality, the RX100 II has full HD 60p video with a built-in stereo mic, RAW shooting, and it can shoot bursts as fast as 10 frames per second. It has a 3-inch tilting LCD display for shooting difficult angles; and the Multi Interface Shoe means you can add an electronic viewfinder (EVF), external microphone or hot shoe flash. Sony also gave the RX100 II built-in Wi-Fi so you never have to wait to share your photos and videos.