Compact cameras and the market they live in have changed a lot over the last few years. Smartphones have decimated the entry-level range of point-and-shoots and as a result, manufacturers have concentrated on putting in more advanced features into compact cameras to make them more attractive.
In addition to the move towards larger sensors to boost image quality that can rival DSLRs in some cases, some compact cameras sport lenses, long zoom ranges or wide maximum apertures. Wi-Fi connectivity is also now de rigueur on most compacts, so you can transfer shots quickly to a phone for sharing on Facebook etc.
Many photographers used to be very snooty when it came to compact digital cameras, but they now make a great alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless system cameras. And those who are new to photography and are thinking moving up from a smartphone have some pretty sophisticated choices at their disposal as well.
There are small cameras that can slip into a pocket yet have huge zoom ranges, and large bridge cameras that look like DSLRs, but have a fixed lens and lots of automated easy-to-use options.
These cameras prove that you don’t have to buy one that needs interchangeable lenses to get great shots.
If you need a bit more help figuring out what kind of camera you need, then read this article: What camera should I buy?
Or if you already know what kind of camera you want, then check out our more specific compact camera guides:
It may be one of the more expensive options here and it’s not a compact for everyone, but if you’re after a high-quality camera, you’re not going to be disappointed with the X100F. Everything about it oozes class.
Unlike a lot of compacts here, it has a fixed lens as opposed to zoom, but this 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens is paired with a DSLR-sized 24.3MP APS-C sensor that delivers cracking results. There’s also the tactile external controls and clever hybrid viewfinder – you have the option of electronic and optical views that make it a joy to shoot with. You’ll need some photo knowledge to get the best from it, but the X100F is an exquisite camera.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X100F
Panasonic invented the travel-zoom camera genre – compact cameras that you can fit in a pocket but that have long zoom lenses built-in. Despite strong competition, the ZS range (known as TZ outside the US) has continued to dominate sales.
In a response to attract new buyers, Panasonic’s response has been to keep the camera body about the same size as earlier TZ-series cameras but to squeeze a much larger 1-inch sensor into the Lumix ZS100 (TZ100 outside the US). This enables the pixels to be about 2.4x bigger than they are in models like the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70, helping the ZS100 produce much higher quality images. The zoom lens isn’t quite so extensive, but you get an electronic viewfinder that makes it easier to compose images in bright sunny conditions.
If you’re looking for a powerful all-in-one bridge camera, then the RX10 IV from Sony is the best there is. You’ll pay a premium for that performance, but when you look at what else is out there for the same price, the RX10 IV is virtually in a league of its own.
Featuring a huge 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, the RX10 IV builds on the RX10 III with an overhauled AF system that now does justice to the rest of the camera, while the 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor is capable of achieving excellent levels of detail.
Handling is very polished, it feels like a DSLR in the hand and complemented by a large and bright electronic viewfinder. That’s not forgetting the ability to capture video in 4K and shoot at up to 24fps. Impressive stuff.
Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review
Panasonic’s muscled its way into the growing premium 1-inch compact sector with the brilliant Lumix LX10 (known as the LX10 outside the US), and is the perfect balance of performance, features and price.
First, the bad news – there’s no built-in EVF and the smooth finish doesn’t offer the best handgrip, but the 24-72mm lens is one of the fastest around with a maximum aperture of f/1.4.
Add to that some polished handling with dual control rings and a touchscreen, snappy AF and 4K video capture, and you have one of the best compact cameras around.
Sony’s original RX100 was a landmark camera that fused a 1-inch sensor in a compact, metal body with the controls and image quality demanded by enthusiasts. The RX100 V goes a step further, though, with a ‘stacked’ sensor design for high-speed data capture. This means it can shoot 4K video, amazing 40x slow motion and still images at 24fps in continuous burst mode. That’s not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder that its rivals lack. It’s a pricey option and does have its quirks, but if you’re looking for a versatile, pocket-sized compact with a quality zoom lens, you won’t be disappointed.
Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V review
While there’s now a decent selection of premium 1.0-inch sensor compact cameras to choose from, the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II sets itself apart thanks to its dinky proportions and streamlined controls. The highly pocketable dimensions do mean there are sacrifices to be made, with the PowerShot G9 X Mark II featuring a relatively short focal length zoom lens.
However, if you’re looking for a neat compact camera that can produce vastly superior images to your smartphone, and has decent connectivity options and simple-to-use controls – the PowerShot G9 X Mark II is an excellent choice.
Read the full review: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
Sony’s original RX100 was a landmark camera that fused a 1-inch sensor in a compact, metal body with the controls and image quality demanded by enthusiasts. The RX100 V goes a step further, though, with a ‘stacked’ sensor design for high-speed data capture. This means it can shoot 4K video, amazing 40x slow motion and still images at 24fps in continuous burst mode. That’s not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder that its rivals lack.
It’s a pricey option and does have its quirks, but if you’re looking for a versatile, pocket-sized compact with a quality zoom lens, you won’t be disappointed.
Read the full review: Sony RX100 V
This trend towards bigger sensors shows up in the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US). Bridge cameras are very popular because they offer a colossal zoom range at a modest cost. To design a big zoom, though, the makers have to use a tiny sensor – and here Panasonic took the wise choice to sacrifice zoom range for better quality. The Panasonic FZ2000 uses a 1-inch sensor, and while the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that’s still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use.
Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
If you’re looking for a compact camera that can do a better job than your smartphone – the 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, and 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 in keeping the dimensions of the camera to a pocket-friendly size. The WX220 may not have lots of bells and whistles, but what it does, it does well.
Read the full review: Sony WX220
The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III can be termed as the compact sized DSLR camera. The reason behind this is the APS-C CMOS sensor which Canon has used inside a small body. The image sensor along with the DIGIC 7 processing unit delivers good quality of images. The camera also comes with Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity which allows faster transferring of files to other smart devices.
Read the full review: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
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