Looking for the best compact camera of the year so far? Look no further.
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 six of the best compact cameras you can currently buy.
Best compact camera: Sony RX100V
The ultimate offering in portability and overall image quality has to be the Sony RX100V. 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 fifth 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 24-70mm (equivalent) lens which offers an f/1.8-f/2.8 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 screen – still no touchscreen though. You do 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 RX100V 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 III and RX100 IV are still fantastic options, especially if you don’t need to shoot action.
Best compact camera: Panasonic 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 LX15
Aimed squarely at the Sony RX100 audience, the Panasonic LX15 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 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 compact camera: Panasonic 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.
Best compact camera: Canon SX730
While the SX730 doesn’t have quite the same level of features as its main rival, the Panasonic TZ90, it does feature the longest zoom in this sector. At 40x, you get an equivalent of 24-960mm. It’s hard to imagine a scenario when you’ll need to go longer than that, so it would be well suited to those whose main concern is getting closer to the subject – safari photographers for example.
You also get a full range of manual and semi-automatic options, but disappointingly for an enthusiast level camera, there’s no raw format shooting. While the screen tilts to face forward, there’s no electronic viewfinder, and oddly, you also can’t change the AF point.
Video recording is capped at Full HD, but, one plus point is that the SX730 is a touch slimmer than the Panasonic TZ90. It’s also a touch cheaper, too.