Do you still want a sub $500 point-and-shoot? Even five years ago most of us could not live without one, photographers and non-photographers alike. You needed it for the times you did not want the size and weight of a full size camera: a formal social event, or when you did not want to risk damaging your `real camera’ while hiking, bike riding or snowboarding. What’s changed? The smartphone revolution. Yes, according to one survey, the iPhone is the most popular camera in the world… Seriously? What happened to our beloved compact point-and-shoots? Most have found ways not to need one, but I’m here to tell you it’s still important to have, especially if you are an avid photographer.
I have always felt the need to have a cheaper, smaller compact point-and-shoot on me, ever since this category existed. Currently I use my older but still excellent Ricoh GR-D iv, but I temporarily replaced it with the Fujifilm XQ2 for this review. After shooting with it for over a month, I can say that I still find reasons why I would continue to buy cameras in this category. However, these types of cameras will soon disappear unless manufacturers decide to build point-and-shoots that can keep up and be integrated with current smartphone technology. So why buy a compact point-and-shoot?
Reason Number 1: because you don’t want to risk damaging your expensive `point-and-shoot’. Yes I mean your beautiful X100 series camera (or another brands’ premium $1000+ compact point-and-shoot) that you won’t take while snowboarding, playing beach volleyball, or bike riding. Yes, it’s no fun damaging your $300-500 camera, but it’s better than destroying your X-T1 or X100T while doing a kick-flip on your skateboard.
Reason Number 2: because a compact point-and-shoot fits in your pocket or small bag. Again, while performing serious sports or any aggressive activity (lumberjack?) can you spare the size and weight of a full size camera? I actually keep my point-and-shoot next to me when I drive (check out the above picture), in my pocket while bike riding, and even very close to the water while at the beach. Again, if I drop it or break it, I’m not happy but it’s worth the risk so I can get a great image anytime. I’d rather break my point-and-shoot than my smartphone, which is far more expensive and has other functions that I cannot live without, even temporarily.
Reason Number 3: because you want a camera you can ignore. What do I mean? The X-T1 and the XF16-55mm f/2.8 is a hard combination to ignore while at a dinner party. Even the X100T is a pretty sexy looking camera and hard to shoot discreetly at times. The XQ2 disappears into the palm of my hand if I want to hide it. When I need to take a picture, it easily reappears. Think concerts, crowded coffee shops, fine dining, etc. The XQ2 is easy to ignore. That’s a good thing. A smartphone is just as easy to ignore but the XQ2 is a far better image-making tool than any current smartphone, and I’m not talking about megapixels.
As a camera reviewer, I always have a reason to carry around a small point-and-shoot. I like the depth of field of the smaller sensor cameras, perfect for quick product shots (check out the above image taken with the XQ2). I also need to take reference images while out in the field, and a small point-and-shoot is perfect for that. I know what a camera with a smaller sensor can do, so as I move up the sensor food-chain I use a point-and-shoot as an IQ reference point. The XQ2 has a large 2/3” sensor (same as the X30), which is an added bonus for Fujifilm shooters. If you want to quickly post an image to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, the XQ2 is far better than using your smartphone’s camera. In fact, if you shoot Fujifilm, the XQ2 is the smallest X series camera and uses the same EXR Processor 2 and a similar designed X-Trans CMOS II sensor. This means that the look of the images coming out of the XQ2 will be close to your X100T or X-T1 camera. Even the menu layout is the same, so it’s easy to find buried features. I actually like the video feature as well, with full HD 1080 at 60fps and OIS (optical image stabilized).
As always, I like to see improvements in every camera I review and the XQ2 (and every other sub $400-500 p&s) needs to change quickly or this category of camera will soon disappear.
Change #1: make it an object of desire (aka make it sexier looking!). Fujifilm had it right with the first small X series camera, the XF1. It looked and felt like a high end camera, but I cannot say the same for the XQ2. The faux-look leather wrap is actually very hard and plasticky, and the looks are a bit generic. Please focus on the design and use higher-end materials. In comparison, the Canon S120 is not only aesthetically pleasing but also has a premium feel to it as well.
Change #2: make the camera WR (Weather Resistant). Take it to the beach or to the mountains and you won’t have to stress out. It does not need to be a submersible but if this category of camera can replace our smartphone cameras in certain situations, make it handle the elements better. Talking to local camera retailers, they mentioned the only growth in the sub $500 point-and-shoot category was waterproof cameras. I am not surprised by this at all.
Change #3: better smartphone integration. Being able to transfer images via Ad hoc wifi (no need to connect to existing wifi network) is great, but this won’t make the camera indispensable. How about allowing third party filters to be uploaded into the camera? Work with established mobile app developers like VSCO and create different filter packages that can either be uploaded into the camera, or have a VSCO app that connects to the camera and helps integrate its features into the images. How about being able to see camera specs or alter custom settings from within a phone app? Smart phones are not going away so find ways to integrate mobile apps into the point-and-shoot camera eco-system.
Overall I had a great time shooting with the XQ2. The image quality is great and the features and functions are plentiful and powerful. I am still a strong believer in the point-and-shoot camera that fits in your pocket that can be abused like a workhorse. Point-and-shoots are meant to wear out after 3-4 years of constant use and should have no resale value. If a point-and-shoot has no scratches, dings or marks, it wasn’t used enough. Once you’re ready to move on to it’s replacement due to better or newer features, hang the old camera on a shelf as a trophy piece, or gift it to a family member or friend. I have never resold any of my point-and-shoot cameras. I use them like tools, like an Olfa knife or tape measure: use it until it falls apart, but take great pictures and create wonderful memories while doing so.
Happy point-and-shoot shooting everyone!