The best compact cameras are no longer inexpensive and low-quality — they can now compete in terms of image quality with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, while also being easier to pick up and operate. The best compact cameras can be a terrific investment, whether you’re an enthusiast seeking a do-it-all camera or a seasoned photographer looking for a good second camera to carry in your pocket.
So, what exactly is a compact camera? It has nothing to do with size; while compact cameras are typically smaller than DSLRs and professional mirrorless cameras, they are not required to be. A compact camera is defined as one that has a fixed lens that cannot be altered. This could be a prime lens with a fixed focal length or a zoom lens having a range of focal lengths.
While a zoom lens is more versatile for shooting, a prime lens provides much higher image quality and the ability to use wider maximum apertures. Prime-lens compacts also have larger sensors, which is better for quality but raises the price. We’ve divided our guide into zoom and prime compacts; you may skip to the section of your choice by clicking the headings on the left.
When selecting a compact camera, consider size, design, and handling, as well as image quality. If you enjoy dial-based controls or a classic aesthetic, you might want to check into a camera that is designed in this manner. This trend was largely initiated by Fujifilm’s X100 series, which is now in its sixth iteration. Indeed, the X100V is one of the best cameras on our list, and it is still a favorite among photographers.
The quality of prime-lens small cameras can be really good; for example, the Leica Q2 Monochrom reaches our list and is an exceptionally stunning camera (with a price to match). If you’re searching for something at the top of the compact camera market, check out our guide to the finest full-frame compact cameras, where we rank the best of the best.
Other cameras may have a streamlined user interface designed to make image capture as quick and simple as feasible. This is especially true for zoom compacts, such as Panasonic’s Lumix LX100 II. The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is a rare example of an APS-C small camera with a zoom lens. It’s not dissimilar to a pocket-sized DSLR.
10 Best Compact Cameras
1. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
- 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
- DIGIC 7 Image Processor
- 3x Zoom Lens, 24-72mm (35mm Equivalent)
- 2.36m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
- 3.0″ Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD
- Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF, Image Stabilizer
- ISO 25600, 9 fps Continuous Shooting
- Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC, Bluetooth
- Dust- and Water-Resistant Construction
The PowerShot G1 X Mark III, which raises the imaging standard for Canon’s series of powerful compact cameras yet again, is distinguished by its bigger sensor and extensive all-around imaging capabilities. The G1 X Mark III is a first for a PowerShot, with a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 7 processor to achieve noteworthy image clarity, a wide sensitivity range of ISO 100-25600, an excellent continuous shooting rate of up to 9 fps, and Full HD 1080p/60 video recording. The sensor’s design also allows for Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which provides fast and accurate phase-detection autofocus for both stills and video applications. A versatile 3x zoom lens with a 24-72mm equivalent focal length range to accommodate working in a variety of scenarios balances the upgraded sensor design. An Optical Image Stabilizer is also included to reduce the appearance of camera shake and provide better imagery when shooting handheld.
Aside from the improved sensor and processor capabilities, the G1 X Mark III has a revised physical design that includes a built-in 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder and a 3.0″ vari-angle touchscreen for easier, more intuitive control. A pop-up flash and a hot shoe are both accessible, as are dedicated knobs around the camera body for easy adjustment of shooting settings and modes. Furthermore, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity allows for wireless pairing with a mobile device for distant live-view shooting and image sharing.
2. Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II
- 20.2MP 1″ Stacked CMOS Sensor
- DIGIC 8 Image Processor
- 5x Optical Zoom f/1.8-2.8 Lens
- 24-120mm (35mm Equivalent)
- 2.36m-Dot Pop-Up Electronic Viewfinder
- 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
- UHD 4K30p and Full HD 120p Video
- 20-fps Shooting, 30-fps Raw Burst Mode
- Built-In Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Manual Control Dials, Star Shooting Mode
The Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II is an innovative compact camera with a big sensor, rapid processor, and a flexible zoom lens that packs enough image capabilities within a svelte-yet-versatile body. The stacked design of the 20.1MP 1″ CMOS sensor, along with the DIGIC 8 image engine, enables fast AF performance, full-resolution shooting at up to 20 fps, and UHD 4K30p video recording. A 5x zoom lens with a 24-120mm equivalent focal length range for wide-angle to short-telephoto fields of vision complements the sensor and processor. An f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture range, as well as an Optical Image Stabilizer that compensates for the impacts of camera shake, is ideal for working in low-light circumstances. The G5 X Mark II’s design is completed by a pop-up 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder, a 180° tilting touchscreen LCD, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for wirelessly connecting to a mobile device.
3. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
- 17MP Four Thirds MOS Sensor
- Leica DC Vario-Summilux f/1.7-2.8 Lens
- 24-75mm (35mm Equivalent)
- 2760k-dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 3″ 1240k-dot TFT LCD Touchscreen
- 4K Video Recording
- Built-In Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Connectivity
- Extended ISO 100-25600
- Lens & Body-Mounted Exposure Controls
- Includes Hot Shoe Flash
With great image quality and a compact design, Panasonic’s Lumix DC-LX100 II Digital Camera improves on its predecessor while retaining many of its most cherished features. The huge 17MP 4/3 sensor is at the forefront “image sensor that produces detailed still photographs, as well as spectacular 4K video at 24 or 30 frames per second The built-in Leica DC Vario-Summilux lens, features a zoom range of 24-75mm (35mm equivalent) with a brilliant f/1.7-2.8 aperture range, making it suitable for a wide range of low-light situations. Full manual exposure control through on-camera dials offers additional creative freedom by allowing you to keep your gaze fixed on the 2760k-dot electronic viewfinder rather than flicking through menus. The three “LCD touchscreen may also be utilized to change settings and focus.