Is there still room for compact pocket cameras in the age of high-end smartphones with whopping numbers of megapixels available? Cameraphones may have gone a long way in mobile imaging, but enthusiast photographers are still clamoring for devices that can offer better image quality in an extremely portable package. With bright lens for lowlight shooting, sharp optical zooms, RAW file shooting, manual controls, mechanical image stabilization and image quality up to par with DSLRs, these feature-packed and pocket-sized shooters are definitely more than a step-up from fancy mobile snappers and highly capable to address the needs of growing eclectic photographers.
Canon Powershot S120
Photo from Canon's Official Website
The Canon Powershot S120 has been released three years ago (2016) but it still keeps-up with the competition with its solid balance of design and features. The Canon Powershot S120 has a 1/1.7”12MP High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor coupled with a bright f/1.8 optical lens for low-light shooting. The lens has a 5x Optical Zoom range which is the standard wide to tele 24–120mm, good for general shooting conditions. The Digic 6 Image Processor engine enables the sensor to shoot 1080p/60p Full HD Video, high speed Autofocus with a 12.1fps continuous shooting and offers various shooting modes to guide users in different situations. One notable feature is the Star Shooting modes. Astrophotography used to be a realm for DSLR shooters, but with the Canon Powershot S120, users can also shoot stars, star trails, and even star time lapse.
Be Guided: All these features are packed in a very slim body. Canon made use of its clear 3-inch LCD touch screen for changing most settings and even focus points to complement its Shooting Mode dials and front Control Ring for swiftly changing settings. As an already ageing device though High ISO is one of the waterloo of the camera compared to newer releases. Image quality is excellent from ISO 80–800 and loss of details and color starts at ISO 1600 above. The in-camera JPG is already very good making little use of RAW shooting. Wi-Fi is also available for instant sharing to smartphones and computers, and also for direct printing. With the price lowered from the time of its release, the Canon Powershot S120 remains a good option for a true well-rounded pocket-sized performer.
Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 III
Photo from Sony's Official Website
Talking about bigger sensors, the Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 III boast of a 1” sensor, which is about double the size of the largest cameraphone sensor currently available. Not only was Sony able to pack a large 20MP 1” BSI (backside-illuminated) sensor in a sturdy aluminum chassis body of Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 III, it also gave the camera a zoom lens with a bright f/1.8 aperture on the wide 24mm and f/2.8 on the modest 70mm end, a built-in pop-out Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), a 180-degrees selfie-ready3” multi-angle screen, and a front Control Ring and still not sacrificing the camera’s pocket-sized build.
At the heart of the Sony Cybershot RX100 III is the BIONZ X engine which delivers excellent image quality up to ISO 3200 which is quite impressive. The RX100 III can also record videos at 1080p/60p Full HD and even a high speed video 720p at 120fps utilizing an SDXC card. For still photos, the camera also has a built-in 3-stops ND filter that can be used in bright conditions. For connectivity, there’s Wi-Fi and also NFC (Near Field Communication).
Be Guided: On paper, the Sony Cybershot RX100 III may have seemed to have ticked the right boxes on what an ideal enthusiast compact camera should be, but there’s also a learning curve on handling the camera. It also comes with a hefty price tag, though with a little price drop with the arrival of the RX100 IV. Definitely, this last year’s model would still appeal for photographers or serious enthusiasts who are delving more into the craft.
Photo from Fujifilm's Official Website
Portability and speed is what the tiny Fujifilm XQ2 brings on the table. It’s a handsome-looking camera that’s user-friendly and that boasts to have the “World’s Fastest Autofocus” at 0.06 seconds. This Fuji has a 2/3-inch 12MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor that can also record 1080p/60p Full HD videos and shoot high resolution photos with up to ISO 3200 (expandable up to 12800). In tandem with the EXR Processor II, Fujifilm was able to bring its Film Simulations, a set of creative presets bringing out Fujifilm’s patented film colors like Velvia, Provia, Astia, and the Classic Chrome without the need for post-processing. The camera also has a relatively bright f/1.8–4.9 lens with a range of 25–100mm.
Be Guided: On hand the Fujifilm XQ2 is easy to operate. It doesn’t have touchscreen capabilities, but its E-Fn button function brings up the most used settings while the Control Ring in front quickly rotates through the available options. Wi-Fi connectivity is also available for image transfers to smartphone and quick print to the portable Fujifilm Instax Printers.
The Fujifilm XQ2 image quality is not class-leading, but is way above average for compact camera standards. Images at high ISO are acceptable at ISO 1600 and there’s slight softness on the edges of the images on the wide-end. The EXR Processor II sensor also helps squeeze out more details on the photos. But considering the smart design, ease-of-use, speed, film simulations, Wi-Fi, and competitive price tag, the XQ2 is definitely a good value.
Nikon Coolpix P340
Photo from Nikon USA's Official Website
Nikon brought out the Nikon Coolpix P340 showcasing its low-light prowess and fast-action capture capabilities in a small package. For a 1/1.7” 12MP BSI CMOS sensor, the Coolpix P340 has an expandable ISO up to 12800, but has acceptable noise levels of only up to ISO 1600. It also helps that the camera is equipped with a fast f/1.8 lens on the wide end and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction for use on dim or indoor lighting. It is stabilization handy as well with the full extent of the 5x optical zoom at 120mm. The Coolpix P340 is also a snappy camera; once it quickly gets its focus, there’s no shutter delay even on its quick 10fps continuous mode. The camera can also shoot videos at 1080p/60p Full HD video with an additional option for high-speed mode at 120fps but with no sound.
Be Guided: The Nikon Coolpix P340 doesn’t have touch-screen capabilities, but it has plenty of hardware controls: a mode dial and zoom control on top, control ring at the front, and direct buttons and navigation pad on the rear. There are manual options for the Nikon so advance users can opt for aperture, shutter, or manual modes in addition to the scene modes. There’s a 60-second shutter speed available, which night photographers would gladly welcome. Wi-Fi is also built-in for instant sharing. The Nikon Coolpix P340 is a highly responsive pocketable camera with a price that’s really competitive among its line, making it an attractive choice as well.
Which to Take Home?
Choosing the right pocket camera largely depends on how it will be used. For serious shooters dabbling in the art of photography, the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III is the clear standout having the largest image sensor, a pop-up electronic viewfinder and more connectivity options like NFC aside from Wi-Fi. The high price tag with the RX100 III will separate serious enthusiasts willing to spend for the utmost image quality from the casual shooters. The Fujifilm XQ2 strikes a good balance between price and features while the Canon Powershot S120 is a good-value for all-around pocket shooters.