Looking for the best compact camera? Look no further, as this guide is for you.
With the best will in the world, it’s not always practical to have a large camera with you. That’s where a compact camera comes in extra handy, something that you can slip into your pocket ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
The compact camera market is diverse, but it has undeniably changed a huge amount in the past few years. It’s no longer a case of simple point and shoots, as for the most part, your smartphone fulfils that job. Now, a compact camera has to offer something extra – that could be a larger sensor, a longer zoom, or something else entirely.
Here we’ll take a look at some of the best compact cameras you can currently buy.
Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII
The ultimate offering in portability and overall image quality has to be the Sony RX100 VII. Sony’s RX100 range is what introduced the one-inch sensor to the market, and the camera which others tend to follow. We’re now in the 7th generation from the original camera, and the tech which is packed into this miniature marvel is quite something.
Not only do you have a one-inch sensor, you get a 24-200mm (equivalent) lens which offers an f/2.8-f/4.5 maximum aperture. High-speed shooting is available – pretty incredible for a pocket camera – you can shoot at 24fps. The autofocus system is also pretty impressive, so you could conceivably use this camera to shoot sports and action.
Other exciting features include 4K video, inbuilt wi-fi and a tilting touchscreen. You also get a cleverly hidden electronic viewfinder which pops out from the corner of the camera.
So, what’s the drawback? Well – it’s the price. You need to pay top whack to get all of these features in such a small package, and the RX100 VII currently retails for around £1000. That’s a heck of a lot of money to spend on a compact camera, but you do get something seriously impressive for your cash. If you don’t have those kind of readies available, take a look at some of the older RX100 models. The RX100 V are still fantastic options, although the lens doesn’t have as much optical zoom.
Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix TZ100
In most cases, compacts which feature a large (one-inch) sensor, have a restricted zoom. However, Panasonic’s TZ100 manages to bridge the gap between premium compacts and superzooms, with its 10x optical zoom offering.
While 10x doesn’t get near the heady heights of the 30 or 40x zooms elsewhere in this list, the 25-250mm equivalent should be more than enough for most situations. Alongside this, there’s a rich feature list which includes 4K video shooting, 10fps shooting, built-in WiFi and an electronic viewfinder. The screen is fixed, which is a shame when composing from awkward angles – but it perhaps helps to keep the overall size of the camera down.
Overall, this is a very likeable camera and it’s probably the best compromise of all the cameras here – you get a bit of everything for your cash, and the price isn’t outrageously high either. Image quality is very good, and while it’s not going to match your DSLR, the fact that you can fit it into your pocket makes it particularly appealing as a travel camera.
Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix LX15
Aimed squarely at the Sony RX100 audience, the Panasonic LX15/LX10 is a small camera with a one-inch sensor and a 24-72mm equivalent focal length range. It goes one small step better than the RX100 V, offering a maximum aperture of f/1.4 at its widest angle, dropping to a still very usable f/2.8 at the far end.
Unlike the TZ100, the screen on the LX15 is hinged, meaning you can tilt it to face forward – which is useful for selfies, but also other awkwardly angled shots.
This being Panasonic, 4K video and 4K photo modes are included with the LX15 – both of which are appealing to a wide range of people. One big downside here though, especially for enthusiasts, is the lack of a viewfinder.
Another very likeable compact camera from Panasonic, which produces great images at a fraction of the price of the Sony RX100 V. Depending on what you need from a camera, this could be the better choice if you don’t want to spend too much.
Best compact camera: Canon G7X Mark II
Canon’s long established G range of premium compact cameras has a diverse line-up with something to suit most different users. The Canon Powershot G7X Mark II has a one-inch sensor and a 24-100mm equivalent zoom lens. That slight extra reach of the zoom lens when compared with the Sony RX100 V and Panasonic LX15 arguably makes it a tad more appealing, especially considering that the maximum aperture of f/1.8 still only drops to f/2.8 at this point.
The screen is tilting and touch-sensitive, but sadly there’s no inbuilt viewfinder here – something which would be extremely welcomed by enthusiast photographers. Furthermore, for those interested in capturing video, you’re limited to just Full HD with the Canon – that’s unlikely to be too much of an issue for the average shooter, but it helps to show the age of the camera.
Image quality is great, with attractive colours and a good low-light performance. If you already own a Canon DSLR, you’re likely to find sticking with the same brand very appealing.
Best travel zoom: Panasonic Lumix TZ90
Panasonic’s latest travel zoom compact builds on the successes of all that came before it.
It features a 30x optical zoom, but in return for that large zoom range, you need to accept a smaller sensor than its one-inch comrade, the TZ100.
Probably the most well-featured superzoom compact on the market, as well as the huge zoom, you get an inbuilt viewfinder (albeit small), 4K video shooting, a touch-sensitive screen, manual controls, raw format shooting and a body which just about fits in your pocket.
A great choice for those looking for something to take on their travels, in low light it suffers by comparison to its larger sensor rivals. If you’re mainly going to be using it on your sunny holidays, you shouldn’t worry too much about that.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ90 was updated by the TZ95 with a slightly larger EVF and the addition of Bluetooth, but the TZ90 remains excellent value for money.
Best Vlogging camera: Sony Z-V1
The Sony ZV-1 has been specifically designed to be an excellent compact camera for vlogging and video recording, and thanks to a 1inch sensor, a high quality lens, and some video friendly features, it delivers the goods.
It features 4K video recording and specific video features to make vlogging even easier, with a “Product Showcase” mode, as well as a Background Defocus switch. You’ll find a multi-direction microphone on top, which is provided with a “deadcat” designed to reduce wind noise, and a screen that can be turned around for vlogging and selfies.
If you want to use an external microphone you can, as there’s a microphone socket on the side, as well as HDMI output.
Best Retro compact camera: Fujifilm X100V
The Fujifilm X100V isn’t just a good looking camera, it also takes some excellent photos thank to a 26MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor, and an updated lens design improves macro performance. The lens on the front is a 23mm f/2.0 prime lens, giving a 35mm equivalent (in 35mm terms).
You’ll also find Fujifilm’s latest Film Simulation modes, with a number of black and white film options, including ACROS, as well as the option to add a film-like grain effect to images, great for those gritty black and white street photographs.
There’s a hybrid optical / electronic viewfinder that can give you the best of both worlds, and give you the true rangefinder camera experience. The touchscreen on the back tilts which can help with awkward angles, or when you want to “shoot from the hip”.
If you’re interested in recording video, then you’ll find the camera has 4K video recording at 30fps, although the lack of image stabilisation may be a deal-breaker for some.
Best pocket camera: Ricoh GR III
The Ricoh GR III, like the X100V, has an APS-C CMOS Sensor, which is impressive considering the compact size of the camera. It features an 18.3mm f/2.8 lens, equivalent to 28mm (in 35mm terms), and the camera has a clever “Snap” focus system so you can quickly get shots without any delay from focusing, making it another great street camera.
The Ricoh GR III is the digital version of the cult classic Ricoh GR film camera, and is designed to be a pocketable camera that you can take anywhere. There’s built-in sensor-shift shake reduction, that moves the 24MP sensor on 3-axis to counter any shake.
There’s a 3inch touch-screen on the back, and you’ll find dual command dials making it easier to change settings quickly.
Best Waterproof camera: Olympus Tough TG-6
Olympus has been making tough, waterproof, compact cameras for a very long time now, and it’s culminated in the Olympus Tough TG-6, the 6th version of the premium waterproof camera.
Over the years it’s been refined, with improvements made to image quality, video recording, and strength. You’ll even find there’s a range of accessories available for this camera that can improve close up flash performance or add extra protection to the camera.
The camera uses a 12MP sensor along with an f/2.0 lens which gives it an edge over entry-level waterproof cameras, and will help with the low-light conditions you find underwater. Thanks to the folded optics used in the construction of the lens, the camera has an impressive level of macro performance letting you get detailed close-up shots.
4K video recording is included. Fans of macro photography will be impressed by the built-in focus stacking, and there are some manual controls available for when you’re shooting.
Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
The Panasonic Lumix LX100 II offers a multi-aspect ratio sensor, based on a Four Thirds sensor, and combined with a bright f/1.7-2.8 zoom lens with optical image stabilisation, you get a camera that can perform well in low-light shooting situations.
There’s a 3inch touchscreen, but unfortunately this doesn’t tilt. You’ll also find a high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 2.76m dots.
The metal bodied camera benefits from a number of external controls and switches, and this makes it a great tactile camera to use, letting you set different settings even when the camera is switched off.
As you would expect with a premium camera, you can record 4K video, and the camera has built-in Wi-Fi so you can transfer images to your smartphone, as well as control it remotely.
We hope that’s been of some help to you. Do you think we’ve left out any other top options? Please feel free to suggest them or ask any questions. Have a look at more buying guides here.