The best camera, they say, is the one you have with you. That’s usually your smartphone, but there’s only so much it can do. Even with software wizardry like the Google Pixel’s Night Sight or two extra lenses on the back, a good compact camera gives you features like optical zoom, better image stabilization, and a bigger sensor for sharper photos, along with a way nicer dials and controls. These cameras, also called point-and-shoot cams, give you the tools to explore photography in ways that portrait mode simply can’t.
Updated March 2020: We’ve tweaked pricing and other information throughout this guide.