Compacts have advantages over larger, more expensive cameras; they are smaller, lighter and more likely to be with you when you need them. Also known as point and shoot cameras, basic compacts are often the starting place for beginners.
Basic compacts cost up to £150 and are ideal for recording holidays, family events etc. The camera is quick and easy to use. But your mobile phone camera will work equally well at no additional cost, and you can email your photos instantly. So a specialist compact is probably a better buy. For £150 – £250 you will have higher quality photos and artistic control.
The typical specialist compact will have autofocus and a optical zoom lens to capture a scene from a distance. Be wary of digital zooms, they produce inferior images. An optical zoom of up to 15x is a good choice. Ideally your zoom lens will have image stabilisation to help you get sharp images. Consider having a viewfinder in addition to the LCD screen. Many compacts have a built in flash, you will want to be able to control when it flashes.
Having control of your aperture will let you photograph a sharp subject, (e.g. wildlife), against a soft background, or you can select a sharp focus throughout, as in landscapes. A low ISO setting of 100 will give you good quality images and allow you to photograph in low light. A shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second will let you shoot in the brightest light.
You may have shooting mode options by scene type, landscape, portrait etc. These are useful initially and for taking quick photos. Ideally you want your battery to last for a whole day. More advanced compacts offer a movie mode to take videos. The quality of these clips may be poor in less expensive compacts. For best results study your camera's manual.
|Small, lightweight, fairly robust, always handy.||Fewer manual controls than a DSLR; menu based choices.||Choose a model to take better photos than a phone.|
|Includes many features of more expensive cameras||The lens is permanently fixed with some compacts.||Many available, compare the specs carefully.|
|An inexpensive introduction to photography.||It will be superseded by newer models fairly soon.||A sensible camera to develop an interest in photography.|
For more information there are some great videos available on YouTube:
"If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you're not out there, you'll only hear about it" – Jay Maisel