Why Your Next Camera Could Likely Be a Point and Shoot

They're not dead yet

  • Major camera manufacturers have scaled down production of point-and-shoot cameras, according to a new report.
  • While the market for these compact cameras has shrunk quite dramatically, demand hasn’t vaporized completely.
  • Some professional photographers think compacts are more useful than smartphone cameras and more affordable than mirrorless cameras.
Several point and shoot cameras in a grid layout

delihayat / Getty Images

Smartphone cameras might have made point-and-shoot (P&S) cameras irrelevant for most of us, but camera manufacturers aren't done with them just yet. And for good reason.

Japanese newspaper Nikkei recently asked Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, and Sony about their strategy with respect to P&S cameras. While they all acknowledged that they've dramatically scaled back production and aren't working on new models, they haven't ceased production of these compact cameras.   

"The eulogy for point and shoot cameras has been written too fast," R Karthik, portraits, location, and product photographer, told Lifewire over Skype. "They may no longer be serving the same size of market as before, but they still have better sensors than what is there in most cell phone cameras."

The Last Grasp for Point and Shoot Cameras

Point and shoot camera immersed in water

Sean Gladwell / Getty Images

Quoting industry figures, Nikkei noted the steep fall in the shipment of digital cameras. According to CIPA, the international industry group engaged in developing, manufacturing, and selling digital cameras, the total number of digital still cameras produced in 2010 was over 121 million units. The figure in 2021 has now gone down to just over 8 million units.

When asked about their strategy regarding cheap P&S cameras, Canon, which hasn’t released a new compact camera since 2019, told Nikkei that while it’s now focused on producing high-end models, it will continue to support lower-end models, as long as there is demand.

Similarly, Nikon also said it isn’t working on upgrades to its Coolpix line of compacts but has a couple of high-magnification models in its portfolio that are still in demand. Panasonic and Sony also didn’t deny scaling back production of their portfolio of these less-expensive cameras but categorically denied plans to halt production altogether.

"It's difficult to get something which can shoot underwater for the price."

Professional photographers aren't surprised. They agreed the technological advancements of smartphone cameras, which have relatively outpaced that of P&S cameras, have restricted these single-use devices to a limited niche. 

"We still utilize P&S style cameras for extreme-use scenarios, such as caving, canyoning, and scuba diving, where dust, water, and general damage to the gear are major concerns," Kyle Matthews, wildlife and nature photographer at Kamala and Kyle Photography, told Lifewire over email.

For Karthik, the autofocus system of P&S compels him to make room for them in his kit, especially when shooting fast-moving objects. 

"It's difficult to get something which can shoot underwater for the price [of a P&S]," said Karthik. "And I can't even think of using an expensive camera, or even my smartphone, for something like a kill shot on the road with a car going on top of it."

The New Compact

Person on a bridge taking a photo

Os Tartarouchos / Getty Images

Another takeaway from Nikkei’s report is that while all manufacturers plan to keep making compact cameras, for the time being, virtually all of them have shifted focus to developing high-end mirrorless cameras.

While the report seems to suggest that mirrorless cameras are the new P&S, our experts don’t think so. 

Mathews and Kamala both shot with a P&S till 2019, then upgraded to a bridge camera before moving to professional equipment in 2021. A bridge camera, according to coolblue, exists between a compact P&S and a professional digital SLR camera. 

“Bridge cameras are halfway between P&S and interchangeable lens cameras,” explained Mathews. “They have a single attached lens, which does not retract fully into the body, and larger sensors than most P&Ss, [such as] the Sony RX10, Nikon P1000.” 

Mathews believes, if anything, bridge cameras are the new P&S, as they are still reasonably affordable for hobbyists and generally produce substantially better photos than even the best cell phone cameras.

Mirrorless cameras, both our experts believe, are a large step up in expense and complication, which makes them unsuitable for a lot of people. 

It’s not all scaling back, though. Ricoh, which sells compacts under the Pentax brand, has bucked the trend by releasing two new P&S cameras in 2021, even as it stubbornly refuses to make a mirrorless camera.

Even when he doesn’t use them as the primary camera in a shoot, Karthik believes compacts make for wonderful behind-the-scenes cameras. “A lot of them shoot images in the RAW format, which provides more latitude for editing,” said Karthik. “So there is still a place in the world for these pocket rockets.”

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