From simple snappers for beginners to high-end powerhouses, here are the best compact cameras you can buy right now.
Compact cameras and the compact camera market have changed considerably over the last few years. Smartphones, with their ever-improving cameras, have decimated budget models and as a result camera manufacturers have concentrated on putting more advanced features into compact cameras to make them more attractive than ever before.
Compared to compact cameras of old, manufacturers are now tending to design models based around physically larger sensors than used to be the norm. The result of this change is that you’re now going to get significantly better image quality than even the best smartphone. In some cases, the sensors in some high-end compact cameras can rival DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
The wide variety of different compact cameras means there’s a wealth of choice out there to pretty much suit all photographic needs and budgets.
There are small compact cameras that can slip in a pocket yet have huge zoom ranges, and large bridge cameras that look like DSLRs, but have a large, fixed zoom lens and lots of automated easy-to-use options (though don’t expect DSLR-rivalling image quality). That’s not forgetting waterproof options and high-end models that are a great alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless camera should you want something a bit more portable.
If you need a bit more help figuring out what kind of camera you need, then your best place to start is by reading this article: What camera should I buy?
Otherwise, read on to find out our pick of the best compact cameras you can buy right now.
Great value option: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III
It may be old, but it still packs a punch
Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm, f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,229K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Large and capable sensor
Before we take a look at our pick of the compact cameras out there today, we wanted to highlight a great value option. Sony’s latest camera in its RX100 line, the RX100 VI, is one of our favourite compact cameras right now, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a pricey option. The good news is that all of the previous generation models are still available at much more tempting prices. Sitting in the middle of this is the RX100 III and while it might not offer some of the latest features it’s still a great compact at a bargain price. The large 1.0-inch sensor delivers excellent levels of detail, with the broad and fast range of the zoom lens making it a versatile travelling companion. There’s also a built-in pop-up viewfinder and a tilting screen (though its not touch-sensitive). Take into account the sleek, premium finish and it all adds up to a great compact camera at a great price.
Best compact cameras in 2019
1. Fujifilm X100F
The X100F is the perfect compact for the enthusiast photographer
Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.3MP | Lens: 23mm f/2 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Hybrid optical/EVF | Continuous shooting: 8fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Expert
Fixed focal length lens
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 fabulous X100F. Everything about it oozes class. Unlike a lot of compacts here, it has a fixed lens as opposed to a 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 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 that you’ll cherish if you take the plunge.
2. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200
The best travel zoom camera you can buy right now
Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 25-360mm, f/3.3-6.4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Large 1.0-inch sensor
15x zoom range lens
Small electronic viewfinder
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, and it looks set to continue this with the brilliant Lumix ZS200 (called TZ200 outside the US). As we first saw with the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100, Panasonic has been able to keep the camera body about the same size as earlier ZS-series cameras but squeeze a much larger 1-inch sensor into the camera to deliver much better image quality. The zoom lens isn’t quite so extensive as some, but the versatile 15x zoom should be more than enough for most users, while you also get (an admittedly small) electronic viewfinder, 4K video and a great touchscreen interface. If you’re looking for a neat all-in-one compact camera that delivers great images, this is it.
3. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
Expensive, but highly capable and offering a huge focal range
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.2MP | Lens: 24-600mm, f/2.4-4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.44m dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/Expert
High quality zoom lens
Menu system could be better
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, feeling 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.
4. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
A pocket powerhouse of a compact camera
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 28-84mm, f/2-4.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 8.2fps | Movie: 1080p | User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Simple to use
Limited zoom range
No 4K video
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.
5. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
A brilliant compact for the enthusiast photographer
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds, 17MP | Lens: 24-75mm, f/1.7-2.8 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 11fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate
Excellent image quality
Good body-mounted controls
Fixed rear screen
Compact cameras with sensors larger than 1-inch in size are typically limited to fixed-focal-length lenses, which is great for quality but less so for flexibility. But not the Panasonic LX100 II; it manages to marry a 17MP Four Thirds sensor – the same size as those found inside Panasonic’s G-series mirrorless cameras – with a zoom lens equivalent to 24-75mm in 35mm terms, proving that sometimes you can get quality and flexibility at once. The original LX100 was something of a landmark camera for offering something similar, and this latest iteration takes the baton, with a nippy AF system, robust body, clear 4K videos and a useful electronic viewfinder among its highlights.
6. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
Sony’s super-high speed sensor tech is brilliant but pricey
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-200mm, f/2.8-4.5 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
High-speed shooting and 4K
The tech makes it expensive
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 VI goes several steps 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, while this sixth generation model now packs an impressive 24-200mm zoom lens. 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.
7. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
The FZ2000 / FZ2500 combines a bridge camera zoom with a big 1-inch sensor
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-480mm, f/2.8-4.5 | Monitor: 3.0-inch articulating display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate
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. We love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range – if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, the older FZ1000 is still available.
8. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
A unique compact, thanks to an APS-C sensor and zoom lens
Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.2MP | Lens: 24-72mm, f/2.8-5.6 | Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 7fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Intermediate/expert
Big sensor, small body
Refined touchscreen controls
Limited zoom range
Only 1080p video capture
Keen photographers usually go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but they also want something that will slip in a pocket for those days when the big camera needs to stay at home. Usually, that means putting up with a smaller sensor – but not this time. Somehow, Canon has shoehorned a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor into a compact camera body. There’s also a built-in electronic viewfinder and refined touchscreen interface. The zoom range is a bit modest at 24-72mm, but there’s nothing else quite like it.
9. Olympus Tough TG-5
The best waterproof compact you can buy
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 12.2MP | Lens: 25-100mm, f/2-4.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch display, 460,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 20fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner
Average battery life
User interface is confusing
Waterproof down to 15m, the Tough TG-5 is also crushproof to 100kg and drop-proof from 2.1m. It can even be used in temperatures as low as -10°C. If you want a rugged, go-anywhere camera, this is it. Olympus has taken the unusual step of actually dropping the pixel count from 16MP on the TG-4 to 12MP on the TG-5 for a better high ISO performance. Add in raw file support and this makes image quality that bit better than its predecessor, while it can shoot 4K video at 30p or high speed footage at 120p in Full HD. Our pick of the waterproof bunch of compacts. The recently announced TG-6 offers a small scattering of benefits, although the TG-5 is still very much available and a camera we continue to rate if you need something as rugged as it is capable.
10. Sony Cyber-shot WX220
Cheap and cheerful 10x compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 18.2MP | Lens: 25-250mm, f/3.3-5.9 | Monitor: 2.7-inch display, 460,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 1.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
10x zoom lens
Small LCD screen
If you’re wanting 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 – while 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 to keep the dimensions of the camera to a pocket-friendly size. The WX220 may not have lots of bells and whistles, but what it does do, it does well.
None of the above take your fancy? Got some cash to play with? Here are two further options.
Expensive? Yes. Brilliant? Hell yes.
Sensor: Full-frame 47.3MP | Lens: 28mm f/1.7 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 20/10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
Video specs could be better
Far, FAR from cheap
The Q2 is a thing of beauty, and right now it’s arguably the best compact camera around. It’s not for everyone – not least because it costs a small fortune – but if you genuinely want the best compact you’ll be hard pushed to find a finer one than the Q2. Leica hasn’t compromised on the spec sheet, with the 47.3MP sensor producing masses of detail and keeping noise impressive low, while the 3.68 million dot electronic viewfinder is bright and sharp. Also bright and sharp is that 28mm f/1.7 lens, while 4K videos show plenty of detail. It’s not the easiest to handle (although you can get an optional grip) and some may have preferred a tilting screen, but its build quality is near-faultless. If you’re pining for such a camera in your life but can’t quite find the funds, consider the previous Q1 model, which offers a slightly stripped-down feature set by comparison for a hell of a lot less.
Ricoh GR III
Also fairly niche, but great at what it does nonetheless
Sensor: APS-C 24.2MP | Lens: 28mm f/2.8 (35mm-equivalent) | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 4fps | Movies: Full HD | User level: Intermediate
Tiny, rugged body
Great sensor and sharp lens
Video quality is poor
So is battery life
We had mixed feelings when we came to review the GR III, but it still deserves a mention here. Why’s that? Because, despite a few quirks, Ricoh managed to get a lot right, and it delivers something no other compact quite manages right now, namely the combination of an image-stabilized 24MP APS-C sensor inside a body that you can squeeze into your pocket. Other advantages include a high-performing lens, fast operation, a revamped menu system and understated styling to help keep you discreet when you’re out shooting. The fixed 28mm-equivalent lens won’t be to everyone’s taste, and the battery life is also disappointing, but for those who need to travel light and take great images, this is a very capable alternative to an interchangeable-lens camera.