Point and shoot cameras are compact cameras with auto-focus and a flash built in, typically with automatic settings for various exposure options. These cameras are designed to be lightweight and simple to use, literally allowing the user to pick up the camera, point it at their desired subject, and press a button to shoot the picture. Point and shoot cameras may come in digital or film versions, though digital are now quite common.
In general, point and shoot cameras do not have interchangeable lenses or a removable flash. For those options, it is usually necessary to move up to a single-lens reflex camera, or SLR. Digital versions are referred to as DSLRs. SLR cameras are the opposite of point and shoot cameras, and allow the user to manually change the exposure settings, as well as the lens and accessories. An SLR is usually considerably more expensive than a point and shoot camera.
Just because a point and shoot camera is simple to use does not mean it won't take great pictures. Many of these small digital cameras have a great deal of features, including a high number of megapixels, red-eye reduction, face and smile detection, an image-stabilized zoom lens, large LCD screens, and the ability to record sound and video. Some feature touch-screen LCDs as well, and even the ability to connect to the Internet and upload photos to various social networking and photo sharing Web sites. These cameras are designed to be small, and to fit easily into a pocket or purse.
Point and shoot cameras typically offer a number of shooting modes, and the camera will usually choose the best one automatically without any input from the user. A number of these cameras also offer users the ability to adjust some settings manually, however, which can be good for those who are interested in learning more about photography. In general, less expensive cameras will offer fewer features, and little, if any, expandability. Cheaper cameras may be a good choice for kids, however, or those who are little experience or interest in the technical side of photography.
Point and shoot cameras also come in versions for the traveler or outdoor enthusiast. Waterproof cameras are popular for travelers, and they are frequently freeze-proof and drop-proof as well. Many cameras also come with manufacturer's warranties, though it is important to be clear on what exactly is covered by the warranty. Purchasing a small carrying case for a point and shoot camera is generally a good idea.