What camera should I buy? Use our step-by-step guide

Cheap point and shoot cameras might look like an easy upgrade from a smartphone, but they have limitations of their own.

So assuming your smartphone doesn't offer the versatility you need, and that you're into decent quality stills rather than immersive action video, then a regular digital camera is the way to go.

Point and shoot compact cameras are cheap, and they come with zoom lenses and more control over exposure, white balance, focus and other settings than you'll get with a smartphone.

The zoom lens is the killer feature. Smartphones offer 'digital' zooms, but that's not the same at all, because these simply crop in on a smaller area of the picture, so you're losing resolution. Typically, a cheap point-and-shoot compact will have a 5x zoom which goes wider than a smartphone lens – handy for cramped interiors and tall buildings – and much longer, so that you can fill the frame with people and subjects when they're further away.

But the picture quality isn't necessarily better. Cheap cameras have cheap lenses, which can produce mushy definition at the edges of the frame or at full zoom, and the sensors are not much larger. Sensor size is a key factor in picture quality, as we'll see later on. Point-and-shoot cameras typically have 1/2.3 inch sensors, which are about half the size of your little fingernail, and scarcely larger than those in a decent smartphone. Forget about megapixels – the sensor size is what limits the image quality.

Pros: Versatility of a zoom lens; much more control over exposure, color and focus; easier to hold.

Cons: Quality often no better than a smartphone, sometimes worse.

Our pick... Sony Cyber-shot WX220

Sony W800

If you're wanting a compact camera that can do a better job than your smartphone the Cyber-shot WX220 ticks a lot of boxes, especially when you consider the extra flexibility offered by the 10x optical zoom, running from 25-250mm. Images are bright and punchy, with decent detail – ideal for sharing online or printing at typical sizes – while it's nice to see Wi-Fi connectivity included as well. The 2.7-inch screen is a little on the small side, but that does help to keep the dimensions of the camera to a pocket-friendly size. The WX220 may not have lots of bells and whistles, but what it does do, it does well.

Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot WX220 review