It’s vacation time! And you’re wanting to share the amazing scenery with your friends. You could use your smartphone camera and get a fairly decent image to share right away on Instagram.
Nevertheless, you want something a little bit better to really show off what you’ve seen. The best compact cameras for landscape photography will let you do exactly that.
Your scene may be a mountain side, a pristine beach, an orchard of trees, or even a cityscape. All of these are a variation of the basic scene choice, landscape.
How to take incredible landscape photos with a compact camera
Landscape photography is much like other forms of photography. You have to be concerned with exposure, focus, composition, and capturing the moment. Even your choice of file type and post processing is important.
1. Exposure. The exposure triangle describes how ISO, shutter speed, and lens aperture interact to create a proper exposure. In some cases, proper exposure means taking control of the settings. Obviously, this means using a camera that allows this. Light meters tend to average things out in scenes.
If you are wanting to call attention to an aspect of the scene, you may need to adjust exposure to emphasize either highlights or darker areas. So, averaging won’t work. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go full manual mode. Exposure compensation or metering may be valid options.
2. Focus. Many times, when we think of landscape photography, our minds envision a wide, sweeping vista with everything in focus. In other words, deep depth of field. Selective focus can be employed to draw attention to a smaller part of a scene. Being able to override autofocus becomes an important camera feature.
Lens aperture, or f-stop, will change focus depth in addition to being part exposure triangle. A smaller f-stop will increase depth of focus, a larger f-stop decreases it.
3. Composition. Photography books and courses are full of the rules of photography. I like to consider them as guidelines instead of hard and fast rules. Finding the right composition may involve lens choice, or camera position. Oftentimes, using a tripod aids us in proper composition.
Lens choice for shooting landscapes with a compact camera may be angle lens, but it could also mean using a telephoto. Isolating a specific element of the landscape can yield great images, a fresh look at a familiar subject.
4. Capturing the Moment. It may sound funny to consider capturing the moment when discussing landscape photography, but it’s just as important as it is with portraits or action. Conditions change. Clouds move across the sky, waves crash, a bird or a train sweeps into view. This may involve taking pictures at different times of day.
If the scene would better at sunset, for instance, shooting at high noon would not capture the moment as well. Since there are a lot of variables involved, exposure, composition, focus, lens choice, all may need to be adjusted for a great image.
5. Shoot RAW. As long as the camera allows for it, shooting in RAW is often preferred for landscapes. RAW files hold a huge amount of digital information in them that can be brought out in post processing with image editing programs. You can even do a form of HDR photography by manipulating a single RAW file in post processing.
How I found the Best compact cameras for landscape photography
- Size/Weight. One of the reasons smartphone photography is so popular is because the camera is always with you. However, stepping up to next level of image quality needn’t require a lot of extra bulk. The best compact cameras for landscape photography will be easy to carry around.
- Sensor. It’s not only megapixels. It’s also about the size of the sensor. Larger sensors generally provide higher quality images. For compact cameras, full-frame 35mm format isn’t needed, but there are very good reasons to look at APS-C, MFT, and 1” Type.
- Image Quality. Not completely dependent on the sensor, but that is one of the major factors. Lens quality and the camera image processor also play a part.
- If your choice of camera has interchangeable lenses, you will have a lot of options. If the lens is built in, lens speed (aperture), and how wide it gets are important points to consider.
- Durability. If you’re going to carry a camera around a lot of the time, it needs to be able to stand up to less than ginger treatment.
- Battery life. If the camera goes dead, you won’t get any photos, regardless of good everything else is.
Top 5 Best Compact Cameras For Landscape Photography
1. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera 24.3MP Review
An interchangeable lens camera is a good choice for anyone wanting to up their game in any type of photography. What may hold some people back from taking that step is the size of the cameras.
Even in a cropped format camera, which is what any sensor smaller than full-frame 35mm is called, the Single Lens Reflex (SLR) design is going to be bulkier than a point and shoot type camera.
Which is one of the reasons that many photographers are turning towards mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (ILC).
Sony APS-C format mirrorless ILCs have a very compact form. The camera itself isn’t much larger than one of the better point and shoot cameras. With the standard 16-50mm power zoom kit lens mounted, it maintains a very compact size. The handgrip provides a secure hold for proper picture taking technique.
Since mirrorless cameras must use electrical power for everything, including the viewfinder, battery life is slightly less than comparable DSLRs. Sony’s batteries hold a long lasting charge, so running out of power should be a rare issue. Extra batteries are convenient to carry.
Full manual control of focus and exposure is available. With few moving parts, and general Sony quality construction, this camera is rugged and durable. As an entry level camera, it also has an attractive price, even with extra kit lenses added to the package.
2. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II Compact Digital Camera Review
A fast lens and a large-ish sensor makes this camera one of the best compact cameras for landscape photography, or indeed any photography.
Limiting the zoom range to 3X keeps the entire package of camera and built in lens very compact. With the lens fully retracted, you can fit this camera into a pant or jacket pocket, but it’s too big for most shirt pockets.
Maximum aperture of this lens is f/2.0, which is pretty fast for a compact camera. The lens covers a range from wide angle to very short telephoto. At the wide end, it covers about the same amount of the scene as a kit lens on a DSLR or ILC.
Lots of adjustments can be made to exposure, including full manual control. Focus is automatic only, but the focusing on this camera is fast and very accurate, as is true with all Canon cameras.
Rugged and reliable, this camera costs more than the typical point and shoot, but less than most entry level ILC or DSLR camera kits. For the combination of outstanding quality plus very compact size, this is one of the best compact cameras for landscape photography.
3. Sony RX100 II 20.2 MP Premium Compact Digital Camera Review
A 1” type sensor of 20.2MP already puts this camera near the top of the list, the superb lens may put it over the top for some photographers.
The lens in question is the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 3.6X f/1.8 zoom lens. Carl Zeiss has made lenses for numerous cameras through the decades.
Contax/Yashica RTS 35mm had a line of Carl Zeiss T* lenses specifically made for them, as do the medium format Hasselblad cameras, both film and digital. Needless to say, it is one fine lens for such a compact camera.
Camera features include available full manual exposure control, RAW files, and video recording. A built-in flash can be supplanted by an external flash mounted on the multi interface smart accessory shoe. An eye level viewfinder can also be mounted.
4. PANASONIC LUMIX LX100 4K Point and Shoot Camera Review
Sensor size is what sets this camera apart from the pack of high end point and shoot cameras. Larger than a 1” type sensor, it has a 4/3rd” sensor of 12.8MP resolution.
It doesn’t quite use up the full size of the sensor to be equal to a 4/3rds or MFT sensor camera, but it is significantly bigger than a 1” type, which is already giant compared to smartphones and basic P&S cameras.
A very fast Leica 3.1X f/1.7 zoom lens and RAW image file recording allow you to capture very high quality photographs. Leica cameras and Leitz lenses are held in very high regard by the photographic community due to extremely high standards in design and construction.
The camera is bigger than comparable P&S cameras, though still more compact than interchangeable lens cameras. It has no built-in flash, requiring a clip on flash, but it does have a electronic eyelevel viewfinder, which most P&S cameras lack.
5. Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Camera Review
Sony Alpha A6300 camera is a fantastic full system photographic tool. With what looks on paper as a slightly less MP sensor than the A6000 reviewed above, it actually has a newer, higher quality sensor. So, even though it sounds like it should marginally less than the older sensor, it is actually superior.
Other features of this camera are also upgraded. The eye level viewfinder is amazing, autofocus speed and accuracy is among the best in consumer digital photography, and a better menu system makes it all more accessible for advanced photographers while still being completely accessible for beginners.
Cost of this camera is significantly higher, but the A6300 is a fabulous photographic machine. It is fully capable of capturing amazing images and video that could stand next to professional level camera results.
Besides being a wonderful tool for any type of photography and also videography, it is easily one of the best compact cameras for landscape photography.