Dave wants a point-and-shoot camera, but should he just buy a top-end smartphone instead?
Im looking for a compact travel camera. I presently have a Canon S100 and realise it is old and out of date. In its price range to maybe double its value ($1,000 Canadian or 570), what would you recommend for a simple but good point-and-shoot that also takes top-quality video?
On the other hand, a US camera reviewer suggests buying the best quality smartphone possible, not a camera Dave in Canada
The Canon S100 was announced in November 2011, and it was one of the best digital compacts of its day. Enthusiasts liked its ability to shoot RAW images, its full manual controls and its 5x zoom lens. It also offered HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, in-camera GPS, auto-focus tracking with face detection, and could shoot 1080p videos. It wasnt bad value at 429/$429.95 (US dollars). Amusingly enough, I recommended the Canon S95 in Ask Jack, before your S100 replaced it.
At the time, cameras were developing in several different directions. These included the rise of enthusiast cameras with bigger sensors, and a boom in the new category of travel zooms, which I looked at in 2011 and 2017. Travel zooms have small sensors but their lenses have much larger zoom ratios, typically from 10x to 30x.
With a travel zoom, you can capture the wide expanse of the Old Town Square in Prague then zoom in for a close-up of the astronomical clock. Or you can capture a panorama of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo then zoom in on the dome of the distant cathedral. Good luck doing that with a smartphone.
Your S100 should still be perfectly serviceable despite its age. However, its a 12 megapixel camera with a too-small 1/1.7in CMOS sensor that has fallen behind todays standards. And while it has a very respectable 5x zoom lens, every travel camera can now go longer.
Unfortunately, not many small compacts can provide both high quality and big zooms, and theyre usually not cheap. However, there are a couple within your budget.
Digital cameras use sensors to capture light, so the bigger the sensor, the more light it captures. This leads directly to better image quality and less noise, particularly in low-light conditions. The problem is that a bigger sensor needs a bigger lens, which makes it harder to provide a bigger zoom range. (Zooms for full-frame DSLRs can be enormous.)
Typical smartphones have had 1/2.3in sensors that measured 6.3 x 4.7mm while compacts like your S100 usually have slightly bigger 1/1.7in sensors measuring 7.6 x 5.7mm. Quality compacts such as the Sony RX100 brought us 1in or 13.2 x 8.8mm sensors, and a few have even gone beyond that to 4/3in or 17.3 x 13mm sensors, marketed as Micro Four Thirds. Either way, a one-inch sensor is now an affordable target. See: Compare digital camera sensor sizes.
Dont forget that lens quality is also very important, just as it was with film cameras. In fact, DxOMark which tests smartphones, cameras and lenses introduced a metric it calls the Perceptual MegaPixel to show how much the lens quality reduces the effective sensor quality. You can lose up to half the resolution youve paid for because the lens isnt good enough.