Performances are on the up in compacts and bridges, with more powerful zoom lenses and new sensors boosting sensitivity in low light. However, there's still plenty of room for improvement on things like battery life, screen quality, design, handling, etc.

Updated: September 23, 2014 9:20 AM
By Renaud Labracherie / Céline Nebor / Arthur Azoulay / Bruno Labarbere

As smartphone cameras continue to improve, stand-alone compacts are starting to fight back with new functions like Wi-Fi and GPS—a trend we’re likely to see grow over the next few months. Indeed, some models have already gone as far as to adopt the Android OS! Smartphones are still a fair way ahead when it comes to screen quality (sharper high-def displays, touchscreen technology) but, here too, things are changing in the compact camera market.
 
Compacts and bridges are above all seeking to stand out with the kind of fundamental photography specs you won’t find in a phone (not yet, anyway!). For starters, zoom lenses are getting more and more powerful, reaching around 20x in pocket-sized compacts and up to 50x in bridges. Sensor resolution is also on the up—most of the market is generally at 14 to 18 Megapixels, with some cameras now sporting 20 Megapixels. However, this surplus of pixels is actually more useful for cropping shots than for improving general image quality. Manufacturers are slowly turning their backs on CCD technology in favour of backlit (BSI) CMOS sensors, which give much better performances in low light. COMS sensors are faster too, bringing burst modes of up to 10 fps (frames per second) and 1080p HD video at 60 fps. Plus, creative filters for fun effects (miniature, fish-eye, vivid, etc.) and sweep panorama functions are now a common feature of many compact cameras.

One thing we’re keen to see improve is responsiveness, with cameras that start-up and save photos more quickly. It’d also be nice to see camera-makers work on battery life, as some models still don’t hold out for long enough.
 
As for bridges, apart from their increasingly impressive zoom lenses, we should start to see electronic viewfinders getting revamped in higher-end models. With displays offering over a million dots, EVFs worthy of the name should finally be coming to the bridge market.
 
But as the camera market evolves, some features and functions are being phased out. For example, you’ll be hard pushed to find a compact with an optical viewfinder these days. Plus, 3D functions seem to be gradually disappearing.

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