The smallest digital cameras

I’m asked for advice on what digital camera to buy quite often. I’m no photographer, but here’s my philosophy:

I’d rather have lots of decent photos taken with a small camera I take everywhere than few or no great photos taken with a camera so big that’s always left at home.

Marcos and his trusty Optio S, beer

With this in mind, my advice is to get the smallest digital camera you can find that provides adequate quality. If you must get a big, high quality, professional SLR camera, go ahead; but complement it with a really small camera (this is exactly what Jaramillo did).

Adequate is a very subjective word, and comparing digital cameras is not easy. To me, adequate would mean a real flash (not the toy flashes that come in cellphones) and at least 3x optical zoom. The number of Megapixels I’d rather not nail down, as that changes very quickly. Ignore the digital zoom spec. But be careful, numbers by themselves often don’t mean much: some older 3 MP cameras can take better photos than some newer 10 MP cameras because they have better quality lenses and sensors. For a detailed comparison of the quality of photos taken by different digital cameras, Google is your friend. Do keep in mind that the small lenses on small cameras impact quality quite a bit.

Personally, I’ve only owned two digital cameras. They were the smallest decent cameras available when I bought them and I took thousands of photos with them, because I did not mind bringing them everywhere.

The first one: the now discontinued Pentax Optio S. This camera was famous because you could fit it inside an Altoids tin, which is exactly what I used to carry it around. I didn’t come up with the idea, but people though I was clever. Many of my friends later bought the same or a newer model. Great little camera.

Pentax Optio S
Pentax Optio S

The second one, the Casio Exilim S600. This one is slightly longer and taller than the Optio S but considerably thinner, so it’s more comfortable in your pocket. It can also record VGA video, which is cool.

Casio Exilim S600
Casio Exilim S600

Even years after these came out, there aren’t many cameras of similar size. Their quality was pretty decent and so was the battery life. Even so, I’m always on the lookout for smaller things. Most of the photos on The MKX® Photo Central were taken using one of these two cameras, so feel free to see for yourself.

Pentax Optio S VS Casio Exilim S600 side by side

Pentax Optio S VS Casio Exilim S600 (side by side)

If you want to find a good comparison of different digital cameras by size, you won’t have much luck (as I learned when I was looking for a new digital camera) – until now. I fired up Google Docs and started making a table. Check it out, and if you think I should add a model or correct something, let me know through the comments!

Smallest digital cameras by size comparison

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