Smartphone cameras are getting better with every generation of new phone, but they still aren’t necessarily the best solution for every shot. For instance, while you can get a waterproof case to bring your handset on a dive, most people aren’t comfortable with taking their entire digital life into the deep. Likewise on shots that require ample zoom — of course you can pinch at the touchscreen to get in closer, but that sacrifices image quality.
Luckily there’s an old fashioned solution for these modern problems: cameras. Dedicated to making the best of light and color, these single-tasking devices may have been around forever, but they’re still getting better every year. These five standalone shooters will capture this summer’s memories in much richer detail than anything that you can also play Trivia Crack on.
Point-and-shoot cameras like this little big shot won’t weigh you down while on a hike or a sightseeing trek. With better lenses and image sensors than your smartphone, you’ll collect sharper looking memories. With a one-inch, 20.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, the $699 Powershot G7 X already has enough tech to blow your smartphone away in a shootout. But with Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, the 9.8 ounce camera has the same connectivity as your iPhone, though it weighs 5 ounces more.
With that extra heft you also get a 4.2-time zoom lens that, when multiplied by the 4-time digital zoom, actually provides nearly 17 times the magnification. But you’re probably wondering about the most important facet of photography today: selfies. Thankfully the G7 X’s 3-inch touchscreen display flips around perfectly so you can document yourself, your friends, and all your hot summer fun. Buy here
Too often, rather than capturing the moment, cameras just get in the way. Resembling a periscope, HTC’s $149 Re Camera eschews full-color display screens for a simple record button, making it a true point-and-shoot. Packing a 16 megapixel sensor and a wide-angle, 146-degree lens, Re shoots 30-frame-per-second 1080p video and photos that it stores on microSD cards with up to 128 gigabytes of storage.
Able to operate one meter under water for 30 minutes, it can take 1,000 photos on a single charge. Hopefully your thumb can keep up, because to take pictures, all you need to do is tap the button (or press it down to shoot a video). Re also has a line of mounting accessories so photographers can attach it to everything from a handlebar to a backpack. And when it’s time to relive your memories, the Bluetooth-equipped camera can connect to your Android or iOS phone, sending images to an accompanying app. Buy here
If you’re as much about the tool as you are the artwork, Leica’s latest compact is going to make you feel like a painter playing with Vincent van Gogh’s brushes — and for $4,250, it ought to. A full-frame, fixed lens digital camera, the Leica Q was designed with speed in mind, with a fastest-in-class Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens and 24 megapixel CMOS sensor. An integrated 3.68 megapixel viewfinder pops up as soon as you bring the camera to your eye, snapping in the autofocus and shooting up to 10 full-resolution frames per second, with JPEGs instantly ready for reviewing.
With full manual controls, seasoned shutterbugs can make the most of their shots and even get some assistance from “focus peaking” and “live view zoom” features. And with modern networking chops through Wi-Fi, the images can be streamed over to the Leica app for viewing, saving and sharing. Buy here
Into each summer, some rain must fall. And on those days, you’ll want to have the weatherproof Olympus OM-D E-M1 in your camera bag. A lightning-fast mirrorless camera with a 1/8000 shutter speed, the $1,099 micro four third fits into an interchangeable system that currently has more than 70 different lenses. And with a magnesium alloy body, the E-M1 is able to brave the dirt, water, and freezing temperatures to snap up hard-to-capture images.
While this all makes it sound like a physical specimen, the pro-level shooter is only 1.1 pounds. And it’s packing a range of creative options on its internal software, including a dozen filters and a multi-exposure mode. That means you can spend more time on your photos and less on your computer — which is a much better way to enjoy a summer day. Buy here
The next big thing in imagery is 4K resolution, and the best way to add it to your arsenal minus a couple of Gs might be the Samsung NX500. A lower-cost, interchangeable lens, mirrorless camera with an easy-to-handle form-factor, the $599 (current price) rig features a comfortable, ergonomic grip and an easy-to-access control dial, giving it a throwback manual feel that will keep you from having to dive into the touchscreen all the time. Another similar perk is its “mobile” button that instantly activates the NX500’s Bluetooth, NCF, and Wi-Fi connectivity features.
And while these physical benefits are great, the imaging smarts inside are excellent too, like the camera’s 28 megapixel image sensor, the highest resolution APS/C size sensor on the market. The NX500’s DRIMe Vs photo processor drives software like Auto Shot, a predictive algorithm that locks on to moving targets to anticipate the perfect picture. These chops also lend themselves to the camera’s 4K video mode, which shoots in 24 frames per second. That’s not as fast as the 60 frame per second 1080p mode, but it’s plenty good for capturing an endless summer. Buy here