In the modern day where the manufacturers just bombard the packaging
with specs and numbers, choosing a camera can be quite an overwhelming
experience. There are so many things to take into account - the
megapixel count, the zoom range, the ISO, the shooting modes, video
quality, and most importantly, the price.
The camera is an important
tool, not only to preserve memories, but also create an artistic
expression on those looking. Therefore, it is imperative to make the
right decision while choosing the camera and look beyond just the
megapixels on the sensor (Read our earlier story: Debunking the
). Things like ergonomics, zoom factor, focusing methods
make a lot of difference in what the final image will look like.
that out of the way we can move on to helping you choose the best
camera. In this article we'll restrict ourselves to compact cameras or
point-and-shoots as they are commonly called and we'll look at DSLRs in a
later piece. We realize it's unfair to compare a Rs. 5,000 camera to a
Rs. 25,000 camera, and since most people have a fixed budget in mind in
any case, we decided to further break down the point-and-shoots into
Entry-Level (sub Rs. 10,000)
level point-and-shoot category is based on a price limit of Rs. 10,000
and it's amazing how many options are out there for this range, making
it the hardest category for which to make recommendations. Entry-level
cameras are also selected on the basis that those looking to buy a
camera from this bracket would be people who just want a good zoom range
and impeccable image quality from their device. One thing to keep in
mind is that when we examine cameras in a particular price bracket, each
of them would offer pretty much the same set of features, some infused
with their company's unique selling point.
We recommend Canon Powershot SX 150IS because:
1) Largest zoom range.
2) Fastest shutter speed (1/2500 of a second to stop action).
3) Most manual control compared to other cameras in the class.
much deliberation, the SX150IS wins our recommendation for this as it
sports a 14 megapixel sensor along with having the highest zoom range of
28-360mm (or a decent 12x). To deal with the troubles of having such a
long zoom range (like camera or hand shake that can cause the image to
be blurry), Canon has infused the innards of the SX150 IS with a lens
based image stabilization system that counters minor camera and hand
One of the greatest things about this camera, in our
opinion, is that the flash requires to be manually popped up, which
means that when you want to shoot without flash, you won't have to worry
about it becoming sentient and going off on its own. This is especially
helpful when shooting performances or objects where the use of flash is
prohibited. Apart from that, the camera comes with a slew of shooting
modes, such as sports, scene, portrait and macro, all of which work very
well and stay true to what they're supposed to do. The images that come
out of the camera are vibrant with a good level of clarity and
The only downside to the SX150 IS is that it is
extremely power hungry and runs on a pair of AA batteries. However, if
you are environmentally conscious, you'd be using rechargeable batteries
anyway, doing away with this one downfall. The Canon beats out its
closest competitor, the Nikon S6200 because of the longer zoom range,
the ability to focus a lot closer for macro shots (1cm on the Canon vs. 3
cm on the Nikon) and Canon's compatibility with EyeFi wireless cards
that allow you to transfer photos from your camera to your iPhone, iPad
or Android device wirelessly. This is especially handy if you're
travelling and find that you have taken enough shots to fill up your
While both cameras shoot 720p videos, the Canon has a
bigger screen for better viewing. It also comes in a choice of charcoal
black or ruby red colors, with silver accents that give it a rather
distinct look. For a sub Rs. 10,000 budget, this would be the camera
offering most bang for the buck.
Mid-Level (Rs. 10,000-20,000)
point-and-shoots step up the game a bit with higher pixel density and a
longer zoom range, but most importantly, they add more manual control
over the photographic process. Mid-range point-and-shoot cameras are
ideal for those looking to experiment with photography because they are a
'financially responsible' way of getting in touch with the inner
photographer. If the inner photographer doesn't exist, you still end up
with a workhorse of a camera that meets any and every daily photographic
need you might have. We cap the mid-level point-and-shoot range at sub
We recommend Sony Cyber-shot HX9V because:
1) Backside illuminated sensor for better low light photos.
2) Highest megapixel count in the class without compromising on images thanks to the
backside illuminated sensor.
3) Shoots full HD video.
mid-level category offers a wide range of cameras that share similar
features across the board, but the Sony Cyber-shot HX9V stands out
thanks to its backside illuminated sensor. These new sensors allow for
better transmission and recording of light data by the sensor, reducing
noise, especially for those sensors that sport a higher megapixel count.
The HX9V is deceitfully thin, making it almost impossible to
believe that it actually houses a 16x zoom lens (24mm - 384mm) that is
optically stabilized to give jitter-free shots at higher focal lengths.
Along with a superb 9-point focusing system, the HX9V also allows you to
manually focus for those tricky macro shots of dewdrops you've always
wanted to capture. It's also capable of shooting a ridiculous 10 frames
per second, a feature normally reserved for high end DSLRs along with
shooting full HD movies.
The Sony beats out the Nikon L120, the
closest competitor despite the Nikon flashing a longer zoom range than
the Sony (21x as against Sony's 16x). Along with not housing a backside
illuminated sensor like the Sony, the L120 also runs on four AA
batteries that it drains really fast, as compared to the Sony which runs
on a Lithium Ion battery pack which delivers long lasting performance.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC HX9V is loaded with power features in a compact
form factor that makes it the best bang for the buck in the sub Rs.
High-End (Above Rs. 20,000)
point-and-shoot category just stops shy of the 'DSLR' status. These
cameras offer all the features of a DSLR, save for the ability to change
lenses and have a smaller sensor than a DSLR. This class of camera
generally appeals those who need near-DSLR performance without the bulk
and hassle of carrying a SLR with multiple lenses and flashes. The
high-end point-and-shoots also serve as a good tool for those looking to
get their feet wet, but just cannot afford the financial commitment
that comes with a DSLR system.
We recommend Nikon Coolpix P7100 because:
1) Ability to capture RAW files.
2) Compatible with DSLR speedlights (see below).
3) Ergonomics to compliment the extensive dials and knocks for manual control.
is absolutely no way to pick a clear winner here. Every single camera
in this category will offer the amateur photographer enough features to
keep them occupied and motivated for as long as they use the camera,
without compromising on the image quality. The Nikon Coolpix P7100 opens
the aperture all the way to f/2.8, making it ideal for low light
photography. The Nikon, along with offering the ability to shoot RAW,
also offers a decent 7x optical zoom with image stabilization.
P7100 also features a built in hot-shoe, for those interested in
attaching an external Speedlight to this beast. The ability to mount an
additional flash on this pro-grade point-and-shoot does lead to the zoom
range being limited, but allows the camera to function in lighting
conditions where a point-and-shoot would otherwise fail (such as in
barely-lit rooms). This, along with the ability to capture image data in
RAW, makes this camera a favorite for photographers who want something
professional on the go, without the bulk of carrying an entire DSLR
One of the best features of the Nikon P7100 is that it
has a slew of manual control dials carefully placed across the camera,
giving it a rather 'film era' feel. Our favorite happens to be the
exposure compensation dial that can be turned with the flick of a
finger, eliminating the need to scroll through menus or pushing
combinations of buttons. The front of the camera features another
command dial that can be programed to access many useful control
While the Canon G12 is also a popular favorite amongst
people looking for pro features in a point-and-shoot, it loses out to
the P7100 on account of having a far lesser zoom (5x), a screen with a
lesser resolution and most importantly, the lack of focus tracking which
the Nikon offers. All in all, the P7100 is the most value for money in