Point-and-shoot cameras are nearing obsolescence largely due to cell phones. This is a term historically used to describe a small camera with a fixed lens, smaller sensor (1/8″ CCD), utilizing a separate-from-the-lens viewfinder or LCD screen on the back. These sorts of cameras don’t get much attention in a world where everyone has similar-quality cameras in their smartphone (with a 1/2″ sensor) already, so something interesting has happened. Manufacturers have begun creating very small cameras with very high image quality and pro-level features. Something like a Sony RX100 is truly pocketable, but incorporates a fast (large aperture) lens, a large-for-the-camera-size 1″ sensor, and a slew of professional functions. This camera (as of 2018) is up to version VI meaning the original can be had for a few hundred dollars. The Panasonic LX100, while a bit larger, is a joy to use and capable of very high image quality with its larger micro-four-thirds sensor. This new breed of high-end mirrorless cameras in a small form factor is very exciting for enthusiast and professional photographers alike.
Point and shoot and cell phone photography is nothing to hate on, but do be aware of the advantages and limitations. The major and obvious advantage is that you always have your cell phone with you and you’re more likely to actually take pictures if you have a camera on hand. You’ll also learn more quickly by doing and that means starting with a cell phone can often be more beneficial than starting with a larger camera.
The limitations are largely related to sensor size and you should have an idea what that means by now. The small sensors in cell phones make “shallow depth of field” or blurring the background more difficult. They also still struggle in low light compared to their photo-dedicated counterparts. If you’ve ever tried taking a photo of a child moving quickly indoors or outside in low light you’ll understand this well. Cell phones also have historically had only one rear-facing lens. It’s much more common nowadays to see multiple lenses on a cell phone however, so this limitation is increasingly less limiting. The lack of physical buttons and dials is quite annoying for things like adjusting aperture or triggering the shutter, but the touch screen can actually make things like selecting your focus area easier. Later on in the course we’ll look at some photo tips for cellphone photographers. For now, apps that are more than capable of high quality cellphone photography include the native iOS iPhone app and Adobe Lightroom’s camera app which comes with some excellent features if you’re already doing Adobe’s cloud thing. Camera+2, VSCO and Open Camera are some other options worth exploring.