The Benefit of a Point and Shoot Camera

When you first got an SLR camera, you might’ve buried your point and shoot (P&S) camera in a drawer somewhere. But, the point and shoot camera can actually be a very valuable tool in developing your photography skills.

Since they’re so small and lightweight, you can bring them just about anywhere. And, you don’t have to spend a bunch of time setting up your shot.

With an SLR, you might spend up to thirty minutes setting up a tripod, and changing a bunch of settings on your camera. But, the point and shoot is always ready to go–it’s why they’re called “point and shoot” ;)

Developing your vision

The P&S camera is a great tool for developing your photographic vision, because they allow you to quickly try out a lot of different ideas for compositions. They help teach you how the camera sees (what looks good in person doesn’t always translate well to a photograph).

They basically reduce photography to its most basic fundamental: to capture a moment in time as viewed from a particular location.

After shooting with an SLR for awhile, it’s kind of refreshing to shoot with a P&S :)

As a helpful exercise, try bringing just your point and shoot camera (no SLRs allowed!) to one of your favorite nature parks, and walk around for an hour just shooting a bunch of photos, trying out lots of different angles along the way.

Then, carefully review these photos later on your computer (sometimes photos look completely different on a large screen, rather than the small preview you see on a P&S). You don’t have to necessarily post-process any of these photos (or even keep them), the key is to just review them carefully and study how your camera’s position affects the different compositions. It’s a great way to “see how the camera sees.” You’ll begin to notice how much your image can change just by moving your camera a few inches.

This includes cameras on mobile phones too!

The cameras on these modern smartphones are really starting to get pretty good, so don’t be afraid to experiment with those too, if that’s the only camera you have at the time. They usually don’t have any optical zoom, so your composition options are limited, but sometimes these limits help force you to be creative.

You can bring them anywhere

Another benefit of the P&S camera is that you can bring them just about anywhere, since they’re so small and lightweight. You might not always have room to haul around a big SLR with lenses, so a P&S is a great option in those cases.

I’ve been doing a lot of overnight backpacking trips lately, and in order to save some weight on my back, I leave my SLR at home, and just take my Canon G10 point and shoot. After just a few trips with this camera, I’ve really started to enjoy shooting with it. I love how I don’t have to spend loads of time setting up shots. I can just shoot a photo quickly, and then get back to enjoying the moment :)

What did I miss?

Have you found another benefit of using a point and shoot camera, even after you got a nice digital SLR camera? Please share your story with us, by leaving a comment below. Thanks! :)

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.

Comments

  1. I use them for the following reasons:
    Weatherproof P&S can be had at a much lower cost than weatherproof SLRs.
    They are silent.
    They don’t attract attention.
    A few of the high-end compacts have nice viewfinders and great image quality.
    You can always have a camera with you- I’ve made some nice landscapes when I was walking my dog.

    I started reading your blog after I found the article about dragonfly photography and kept reading because it’s a good blog and because it reminds me of my southern California daze (pun intended). Now I live in the other corner of the state. I’m on the coast and within view of Oregon.

  2. I have to disagree with one point in made by Dwight, P&S are only quiet if they have had set them up to be quiet by the owner, all to often I’ve heard “beep-beep” as it focuses followed by an artificial sounding shutter like noise. However P&S do come in handy, all to often I’m set up with a huge prime lens on a DSLR and often wishing I had brought one out with me to try a few landscapes etc. They are great for attaching to the end of a field scope for an important long distant “record shot” of a rarity that a conventional prime lens and DSLR can’t “reach” or as it’s known digiscoping, and now you can attach them to binoculars too

  3. I was used to a Nikon P7100 which had the RAW capability and other things (so does G10, I think).

    It was very practical but my wife sold it to by a D7000.

    They are really nice (the PS cameras) specially because of the lightweight and concealed capabilities provided that one (myself, in this case) does not attempt to get a DSLR functionality out of it. Many times, I got on my nerves trying to use it in manual mode. Forget it! They are PSs specifically made to be have an easy operation, which means AUTOMATIC all the time. With the exception of a few bracketed shots, everything else was in auto mode.

    I will buy another one some day because they really valuable!

  4. Good topic Steve, I have a Nikon D90, and my biggest lens is a 55-200. Depending on the circumstance, it gets switched with a 24-85mm lens. Sometimes that’s a pain. I am seriously looking at the Nikon P510 just because it has 1000mm optical zoom, and could jsut carry that guy EVERYWHERE. I know the image might not be the quality of the D90, but it sounds like it could be very convenient to have. Should I feel guilty owning 2 Nikons? not any more after reading your article! Every camera has it’s purpose..right?

  5. Don’t feel guilty, Linda!

    Myself, I also have a D90 (superb camera!) and my wife a D7000. I am planning to buy a PS good enough and, probably, a D300S. Let’s see!

    If you make the most out of it, no shame at all!

  6. Amy Bingenheimer says:

    Thanks! Your Dad referred me to your article.

  7. I have been shooting with a Canon G12 for a couple years and have found it very useful for travel photography. Here are my thoughts on the advantages of working with a compact camera:
    • For street photography, a compact camera is much less conspicuous. I am just another tourist snapping away and nobody seems to pay attention.
    • I am able to move around quickly without the backpack of extra lens, flash and other accessories.
    • Using the flipout screen, I am able to shoot from low and high angles. I know some DSLR’s have flip out screens, but the light weight of the compact is easier to hold at odd angles.
    • Having a camera always with me means I shoot more and miss less and always enjoy the experience.
    I have to admit that I find myself leaving the 5DII in the car and working with the G12 in more and more situations.

  8. @Dwight – great points about the silence and weatherproofness of P&S cameras. And, welcome to PN!

    @Douglas – Great point about using a P&S with a digiscope. I’ve seen some great bird images created that way.

    @Celso – Yeah, sometimes the manual modes on P&S cameras aren’t very user friendly. One of the things I love about the G10 is that it has a physical dial for adjusting the exposure. That’s usually the only thing I ever change on that camera.

    @Linda – you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty about owning two cameras ;) like you said: “every camera has it’s purpose” :)

    @James – great points! I wish my G10 had one of those flipout screens.. it would’ve definitely come in handy sometimes.

  9. I just added an Oly OMD-EM5 and 3 M4/3 lenses to my arsenal after carrying 40lbs of Nikon gear around Europe last year. What a refreshing change! It’s so light and unobtrusive. I can either use the back LCD screen or the viewfinder to frame my shots. The availability of fine lenses from Oly, Panny and others will eventually tug money out of my wallet, though!

  10. My Canon S100 P and S has GPS. I take quick shot of things I want to return to with my DSLR’s when I have more time. Tells where it is. But… The S100 captures such great images sometimes I don’t have to go back.

  11. When I was buying my point and shoot camera I decided to go for the canon D10. Since its waterproof I have a great time using it when I go snorkeling, in heavy rain or when capturing rough seas.

    All in all I think it was a good investment and thought I would share .

  12. Frans Gunterus says:

    Although English is my second language, surely, I understand what Dwight means: PS camera can be silent when it is set to silent mode. Thanks to Douglas McFarlane for educating me that PS camera can be attached to a digiscope.

    My sharing about PS. I used to have a high end 35 mm SLR during cellophane film era. When it comes to digital, for more than 10 years I preferred PS camera starting from Canon G3, Powershot S2IS, G11 then now G1X. Until today (especially for business travel as a safety consultant), I spend most of my time with Canon G1X. I feel awkward to carry sophisticated photography gadgets when visiting clients. So, my DSLR, lenses and accessories just stay at home in a dry box waiting for next family holidays. That’s why I decided to own medium range DSLR like Canon 60D.

    To me, picture beauties so much depend on its composition, position, moment and ‘artistic feel’ of the photographer. High end gadgets? It is good if you have money and are ready to spend. In my humble opinions, these are more for professionals like Steve Berardi. Good luck Steve. I like your articles. It is concise – not fluffy.

  13. I have two P&S cameras in addition to my DSLR. One is my waterproof P&S that predates my DSLR and it is still very handy for any time water or snow is involved. I also have a newer wide angle P&S that I use for backpacking and a lot of hiking.
    If I am out hiking by myself I will take the DSLR and the tripod, but if I am hiking with other people I generally carry the P&S so that I don’t slow them down too much. While I don’t often get stunning pictures with it, it does give me a good chance to get some snapshots and also scout out locations that would be good to return to with more time, a better camera, and better lighting.

  14. I have a Canon G9 that I picked up several years ago that I use as my P&S camera. I love the camera for all the reasons already mentioned, but there is one big reason I keep this camera with me that hasn’t been mentioned and that is it’s video capability. I don’t own a DSLR that can shoot video so that is one area where a P&S comes in very handy. If I find some wildlife I would love to shoot, but there isn’t enough light to get the still photos I want, I will often times pull out the G9 and shoot some video of it. Granted it’s not going to be anything special, but it’s a way for me to capture and share something that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

    Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about. It was way too dark to photograph this black bear, so shot some video instead:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yQFI_uCOEU

    Here is a raccoon early in the morning before sunrise:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8omXCOBdVFY

  15. I am pretty new at photography and I shoot with a Nikon D7000. What I notice is that I shoot most of the time with the programmed scenes. Does it mean I will never be able to get “great” pictures and will always be “amateur” as long as I don’t set my shots manually with a high end camera?

    If one travels, it is kind of hard to imagine shooting with a p&s and then going back to take the picture again with the full body camera. does it mean that if one enjoys traveling with a lighter camera, one will never enjoy ‘great’ pictures?

  16. I use a Fuji S1800. I really like it because it is rugged. However, people always ask me,
    “Wow, these are great photos, what kind of camera do you have?” As though the great
    photos were primarily from the camera. So it is certainly possible to get great photos
    from a PS. I have dropped this camera numerous times, banged it. and gotten it soaked
    (It is not waterproof). To take a big expensive camera out in the wilds where I go would
    be taking a big buck chance. Not so with my Fuji. It has a lot of features outside of Auto
    mode. Also, very importand, I can switch from the back screen to an eye viewfinder.

  17. Irene:

    I am going to try giving my opinion on your questions as I also had these very same concerns some time ago.

    My wife and I have a D7000 and a D90 and a set of lenses. Great cameras! We love taking pictures with them but there are times where we just wanted to have a smaller and discrete camera yet a powerful one as to have RAW and other capabilities. Recently, we had a Nikon Coolpix P7100 which filled in these characteristics but we wanted a bit more. It is now sold and we wait for an opportunity to buy something better.

    When we travel or go to relaxed places, we take our best gear. When we go to “compromised” places, we take (took) the PS one.

    Sometimes, we regret not having one or the other there, but that’s the price for flexibility. That’s why we are going to buy a PS that has similar image qualities to a DSRL but less complex and bulky. Bottom line, your better judgement will tell what to do and, remember, great pictures don’t come from great cameras but from great photographers! Just like great food comes from great cooks and not from great pots…

    Finally, everybody says that shooting RAW and MANUAL is the key for professional photos… There are lots of articles that say and prove that for various reasons. I agree with most of them and, myself, I only do RAW and MANUAL after a long training process (still not done yet though). But, again, is not the camera…

    Thanks.

    Bressan

  18. Thanks Bressan for taking the time. Interesting comment.
    For one thing: RAW is best always but manual is not unless you are shooting with a lot of time to enable you to fiddle with your settings to get them right. I would guess that unless you are trying for a special affect such as over or under exposing, the Program setting will select the same setting as one would manually most of the time. I don’t argue there are occasions when shooting in Manual, e.g., to slow the speed of water in a stream of waterfall to make it look misty or milky is apropos, but you will probably need a tripod and cable release. But to shoot street scenes, people on the go or fleeting light, I still think that a good P&S or Program is the way to go…at least for the type of photographer I am.
    Thanks again
    Irene

  19. Irene:

    Interestingly, I have never used the P mode. My wife uses mostly A mode, usually set at f8.0 (there is a saying: “Eight is great!”) or f11.0. Depending the light, she sets the ISO accordingly and off she goes for a good amount of time.

    Myself, I am already so accustomed to M that it almost becomes natural to me. But, with the P7100, I almost always shot in AUTO mode.

    Bressan

  20. I have a Nikon D90 and various lenses but very much want a P&S camera. Would you please recommend some for me? I am interested in one with good macro capabilities and a good zoom. Thank you.

  21. Hi Sherry, I also have a D90, with several lenses, including a Tamron 90mm macro, but seriously looking at the Nikon P510.
    It’s got a 42x optical zoom with a massive focal range of 24-1000mm zoom control. That’s the interest I have in it, just so I can carry it with me all the time, and not have to lug a bunch of lenses around.
    The D90 is amazing, and it will still be my first choice camera for specialty shooting.
    Good luck on your hunt..Linda

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