Digital compacts have never been better as the camera industry braces for change

By Hafeez Sim - on 06 Nov 2014, 4:18pm

Now's a pretty interesting period for digital compact cameras. As sales of point-and-shoots continue to slip, I was sure the compact was going the way of the dodo (okay, that might be too extreme) or at least get relegated to the niche market. Most people are opting to shoot with their smartphones instead of buying an entry or mid-level compact camera. As a result, camera manufacturers have streamlined their product offerings, with many eliminating their least expensive product lines.

Even then, the demand and expectation for improved imaging quality hasn't subsided. Surprisingly, we're actually seeing more variety and better quality among the top-end of the market as camera manufacturers have chosen to focus their efforts on putting out enthusiast-level cameras. While smartphones are always by our side, sometimes you just want something better, especially when it's a special occasion or when you're on holiday.

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 raised the bar for digital compacts when it was released, and it's now into its third iteration.

Being a simple and laid-back guy, many a time I find changing lenses a chore (sorry mirrorless cameras), and lugging around a heavy DSLR camera means I'm not able to be as mobile or carefree as I could be on my holiday. For most of my shooting needs, I would definitely prefer a compact camera form factor. And unlike the digital compact cameras of the past, the new premium compact cameras will definitely put your smartphone cameras to shame. After all, if you were to buy a compact camera, you would definitely expect it to take far better pictures than your smartphone, some with manual controls thrown in.

The good news is that we’re seeing a lot of effort put in by major camera vendors to serve up a top tier compact camera this year and even if you think your phone would suffice for most needs, the new kids on the block might just tempt you into parting with your money.

The Sony RX100 pretty much set the bar when it was released two years ago, and the rest of the industry has been playing catch-up. While the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 has been dominating the scene (and it's already in its third iteration), Canon has put out its own 1-inch model in the form of the PowerShot G7 X. It's easy to use and makes shooting fuss-free - it would make a great gift for someone who wants more out of their compact camera but isn't comfortable shooting mostly in manual. Best of all, it won't break the bank.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X has a user-friendly interface so it is suitable for those who don't really want to fiddle with too many settings.

There's also the Casio EX-100. With its tilt display and the ability to shoot at F2.8 throughout its 10.7x optical zoom range, it makes for a good travel camera with its long reach. Not to forget, the F2.8 capable lens also lets you shoot at slower shutter speeds when you don't have sufficient ambient light.

10.7x optical zoom on the Casio EX-100 gives you more reach than the other enthusiast models.

But if it's image quality you're after, the Panasonic Lumix LX100 has that covered with its Micro Four Thirds sensor. And Panasonic has thrown in a dedicated shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial too if you're a fan of manual controls. This camera will probably be a handy backup to your main interchangeable lens camera. Don't forget, the Lumix LX100 can even shoot videos at 4K resolution!

The revenue and market share figures may not look too good for the camera industry, but ironically we're seeing more innovation and quality as manufacturers strive to outdo one another. Here's hoping that the bold changes and new products of today bring better fortune for the industry moving forward.

Meanwhile, now more than ever, it's a great time to be shopping for a digital camera with the new breed of premium compacts.

You get a Micro Four Thirds sensor, and the ability to tweak aperture and shutter speed without having to access a menu with the Panasonic Lumix LX100. Now that's professional power at your fingertips.

Hafeez Sim

Hafeez Sim / Former Tech Writer

A gadget-geek, he also spends too much time in the gym. He does however, manage to sneak in reading books on his Kindle and reading comics on his Nexus 7. Also spends an obscene amount of time on Team Fortress 2.

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