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For the most part, DSLR cameras can take some seriously impressive photos and video, but they can also be a burden to carry around. A high-end camera can be bulky and heavy, and if you have various lenses and flashes, the weight can quickly add up. Phone cameras, on the other hand, occupy a space at the opposite end of the spectrum, as they’re slim and easy to carry everywhere, but can’t offer the same quality more expensive cameras can. Enter portable digital cameras. They’re packed with features to make photos look professional, and can slide into a pocket or bag without a problem. Here are a few things to consider when looking for the right one.
What Are the Best Portable Digital Cameras?
Screen: At this point, it’s pretty much standard that a camera will have a built-in screen. But different models mean varying capabilities of what it can do. A touchscreen is helpful for things like picking settings and locking down a focal point, while a screen that flips out and around is great for selfies and letting your subject see how they look.
Zoom: Unlike a DSLR, these won’t have detachable lenses that you can swap out. For portability’s sake, that’s a good thing. But having everything built into one unit might mean sacrificing the features you need. A camera with optical zoom magnifies the image you’re seeing through the viewfinder, while keeping the quality intact. A digital zoom, on the other hand, can get you a tighter shot from a farther distance, but it may be slightly blurry and pixelated.
Connectivity: Whether you’re a professional or like taking photos as a hobby, you’ll eventually need to upload images to your computer or storage device. Wired connectivity still may be the fastest way, and most cameras still have HDMI and/or USB ports, but going wireless is an option, too. WiFi can help save you some time, especially if you’re posting pictures onto social media multiple times a day.
File Format: It’s all too easy to overlook this one, because it’s not a fun, hands-on feature you’ll adjust during a shoot like zoom or aperture. A camera that can save and import your photos in RAW format lets you make additional changes later through your favorite image editing application, allowing you to get the final result exactly how you imagined. A RAW file is significantly larger than a JPEG, but all the data and details of your photo, including precise colors and shadows, should be perfectly preserved for you to alter at a later time.
1. Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera
This extremely tough TG-6 can take serious wear and tear, both from the elements and from accidents. The camera is IPX8 waterproof up to 50 feet, shockproof from drops up to seven feet, and can withstand pressure of up to 220 pounds. Weather is no problem either, as this functions just fine in rain, snow, fog and temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
The three-inch LCD screen is easy to use, while the mode dials makes it clear which setting you’re currently on. Image quality is outstanding with the 12MP CMOS sensor, and the image stabilization is a huge help when conditions are shaky. A 25-100mm equivalent zoom lens features a max aperture of F2, and is quick to learn even for beginners. Shots still look crisp in auto-mode, but experienced and professional photographers have the option of shooting in RAW format as well.
It also shoots video in up to 4K HD at 120fps, and as a bonus, the camera includes things like a GPS, thermometer, compass and accelerometer that’s included in the photo’s data.
2. Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III Digital 4K Camera
This G7X Mark III features a large 20.1-inch sensor, along with a 4.2 optical zoom lens with image stabilization.
The Touch-Panel LCD screen flips up and is easily viewable no matter which side of the camera you’re on, and videos shoot in 4K at 30 frames per second with no crop, or in full HD. Connecting to a smart device is done through either WiFi or Bluetooth for automatically sending photos to your phone, and viewing movies (only shot vertically) on bigger screens.
It’s ideal for turning into a webcam for live-streaming directly from the camera itself, and sharing videos via vlogging and social media. External mics are supported for picking up clear, clean sound, and it contains both USB and HDMI ports.
3. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
The 17MP Lumix comes loaded with a 24-75mm, F1.7-2.8 lens, an LCD touchscreen, along with a built-in electronic viewfinder.
Fans of the original DC-100 will be happy to know that this camera uses a Leica DC lens, along with pretty much the same interface with dials for adjusting shutter speed and exposure, and a ring for adjusting aperture without needing to take your eye off the perfect shot. Small details still come through clearly, thanks to macro shooting at three centimeters for wide-angle and 30 for telephoto.
This can shoot 4K video in UHD, and Panasonic’s awesome Optical Image Stabilizer keeps blur to a bare minimum.
4. Sony ZV-1
The ZV-1 is well-balanced, in terms of both capabilities and where it works best. Vloggers doing reviews and tutorials from a home studio will appreciate the instant hybrid auto-focus and clear voice recording (a windscreen is included), and travelers will like its small size and low weight at 10.4 ounces.
This keeps your main subjects bright and in the forefront automatically even in low-light places, whether an object or a person. Facial recognition sensors work to keep skin tones intact, and track people just by locking in on their eyes. The LCD screen flips and tilts outwards, so filming while viewing yourself from even odd angles is possible.
A background de-focus switch is a nice touch, providing a quick option for removing distractions behind you. Bonus: It works great as a webcam too, easily linking up to a computer or transferring files to a phone.