The best compact cameras

Do you have the best compact digital camera? If you don't want a large camera, choose a top performer from our shortlist

The best compact camera

by Kirk Schwarz |
Updated on

Tired of relying on your smartphone for photos? Want something with a wider range of features without reducing portability? Sounds like you’re in the market for the best compact camera. Alongside innovative tech, you’ll also get all-in-one lenses, boasting huge optical zooms that cover a wide range of focal lengths, from wide-angle up to super-telephoto - ideal for capturing landscapes, portraits and even wildlife. Compact cameras now have the power to rank among the best cameras around.

Related: The best cheap DSLR cameras with super high resolutions

Though the image sensor is often either the same size or slightly larger than camera phones, many compact digital cameras boast electronic viewfinders, tilting touchscreens and RAW file capture, allowing you more flexibility when editing your photos. You’ll be able to shoot in automatic modes, or even full manual in most cases, letting you take charge of your settings and get underway to creative photography techniques.

These best compact cameras come in a range of shapes and sizes, and some can even go underwater, making them great for travelling and adventures.

What is a compact camera?

A compact camera, also known as a point-and-shoot camera (P&S), is a camera specifically designed for easy use. Suitable for all experience levels, these devices usually have autofocus and automatic system to ease those technicalities (exposure, focus etc).

Best compact cameras

Conforming to the typical idea of a compact camera, the TZ95 is actually a rather advanced pocket shooter. You'll get a 20.3MP 1/2.3 inch sensor - similar to those found in smartphones - and a bag of features. There's a 49-point autofocus system, array of simple controls and a mammoth 30x optical zoom lens with a 24-720mm focal length. You have 4K Photo modes, which allow you to export a single frame at 8MP from a 30seconds of 4K video or even refocus your shot after taking it. It also does 4K video, can shoot in RAW and has a flip-up screen - great for selfies and vlogging.

Pros

  • Tilting 3inch touch-screen

Cons

  • Easy to cover flash accidentally

A brilliant entry level for adventure shooters, this colourful compact is waterproof to 25m, and drop proof to 1.8m. You'll find a simple control scheme, 5x optical zoom and powerful 16.4MP sensor with a continuous shooting mode for fast moving subjects. You can only shoot in JPEGs, but the in-built Wi-Fi is great for sharing your shots, and the advanced SR Auto mode automatically optimises the camera based on your scene.

Pros

  • Value for money

Cons

  • 4K only at 15p

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The TG-6 is designed to be crushproof up-to 100kg, boasts a 2.1m drop resistance and 15 metres of waterproofing. You can capture JPEG and RAW files, and take advantage of the Microscope mode to capture detailed close-up images. The zoom lens gives a 4x optical zoom, and brilliant in-built Field Sensor System includes a digital compass, GPS for recording your location and even a temperature tracker.

Pros

  • Lower resolution 12mp sensor (less noise)

Cons

  • Panoramic mode could be improved

This powerful compact allows you to directly stream to YouTube… with a Wi-Fi signal. Beyond that, you get a hefty 1 inch sensor with 20.1MP resolution, 4K and HD video, with slo-mo 120fps at 1080p. The lens comes with a wide f/1.8-2.8 aperture and 4.2x zoom giving you a 24-100mm focal length. There's a 31-point autofocus system, and you can shoot in JPEG or RAW. The screen flips up 180 degrees, making it ideal for blogging and selfie lovers, and image stabilisation and in-built flash make it easy to create smooth videos and work in low-light.

Pros

  • 1-inch sensor

Cons

  • 4K video not available in all modes

The first 24.2MP APS-C sized sensor on our list, this camera boasts the same level of image quality as entry-level DSLRs, without the extra heft. You'll find a fixed focal length 28mm lens with a wide f/2.8 aperture, and 3in fixed touchscreen, which is how you'll control your settings, and compose your shots in the absence of a viewfinder. It weighs only 280g, making it highly pocketable, and comes with a range of Film Simulations, which mimics some of Fujifilm's best film types for sumptuous colour in the JPEGs. You can shoot in manual modes, as well as capture RAW files, and take advantage of the 91-point AF system with eye and face detection for perfect portraits.

Pros

  • Three control dials for exposure parameters

Cons

  • Slow autofocus

You'll find a 1 inch sensor with a 20MP resolution, a 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens and rapid 20fps continuous shooting with autofocus - perfect for rapidly moving subjects. The AF features 357 points of hybrid phase detection, with Real-Time tracking and Eye AF ripped straight from the flagship full-frame Sony A9. There's a hidden pop-up viewfinder, or the large touchscreen which tilts upwards to 180 degrees to become a front-facing selfie screen. You can capture 4K footage at 30fps, and 1080p Full HD at 120fps for creamy slow motion footage. You can al-so capture RAW files for further editing.

Pros

  • Sharp 8x zoom lens

Cons

  • Limited touch functions

The X100F is a premium compact with a 24.3MP X-Trans III APS-C sensor, and top-flight image quality. There's a high-performance fixed 23mm f/2 lens, 325 hybrid phase detection AF system and innovative hybrid viewfinder, that can be used as either a live view electronic type, or traditional optical rangefinder. A selection of advanced filters or Film Simulations offer creative colours and effects for your photos.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality in Raw and JPEG

Cons

  • AF speed could be improved

What is the benefit of a compact camera?

There are many benefits of compact cameras. Not only are they small and compact as suggest in its name, but they are also super easy to use, quiet, and very straightforward to use with their automatic functions. They too have fixed lenses with built-in flashes. The quality of these features determines the cost and affordability of the best compact cameras.

Are compact cameras as good as DSLR?

Compacts can be as good as DSLRs depending on the purpose of your camera. If you want a straightforward point-and-shoot device that allows you to concentrate on your subject and framing without having to worry about minor technicalities, a compact camera is the way to go. Despite its size, in most cases, a compact will come out with the same picture quality as one taken on a DSLR.

What type of photography can a compact camera be used for?

Compact cameras can be used for almost every type of photography. This could include taking landscapes, portraits, and even underwater photos in most cases. However, compact cameras are not ideal for photography types such as astrophotography and night photography which require bigger sensor sizes and features for low light settings.

Kirk Schwarz is one of our resident tech experts. A tech-addicted photographer with more than a decade's experience, Kirk's used to putting new gear through extreme field-testing.

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