10 best compact cameras
For the times when a handy smartphone just won't cut it, invest in a powerful, pocket-sized machine for impressive photos
Since smartphone cameras have replaced most of the basic point and shoot cameras, manufacturers have rallied to create a new crop of sophisticated compact cameras.
Combining technologies from professional cameras with artificial intelligence in ever smaller and more user-friendly camera bodies, these new compacts give DSLRs a run for their money.
They don’t only easily slip into a pocket, but also make it incredibly easy to shoot professional-looking images with a depth and richness that is beyond smartphone cameras.
So, it's worth considering investing in a compact camera if you want to take your photography to the next level, without the expense or bulk of a system camera.
All of the cameras reviewed here produce images that can be printed at A3 size or larger and allow you to wirelessly transfer images (except for the Nikon Coolpix A10).
All zoom ranges are given in their 35mm equivalent, stating what the focal length would be on an SLR or full-frame camera.
If you're serious about video, choose a camera that shoots 4K or UHD, which has a much higher resolution than HD video.
We have thoroughly tested all models in challenging settings, photographing fast-moving subjects in low light (read “young children, on a gloomy winters’ day”) and only included cameras we felt are significantly better than a good quality smartphone camera. Here's the top of the crop.
Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ200: £539, Wex
This camera has it all: 4K video, an impressive zoom range, good image quality as well as a vast amount of advanced functions, making this an incredibly versatile camera.
You can use this camera in a point and shoot mode, or fully manual and make use of its image-processing filters and sophisticated black and white mode. The camera also has a function to produce auto-stitched panoramas, do multiple exposures and an in-built intervalometer for customised time-lapse sequences.
Another bonus is that you can extract 8MP stills from the 4K video footage. And, what’s more, in the 4K photo mode it can shoot 8MP images at 30fps, which is excellent for high-speed action photography.
This small 340g compact handles well and has a bright and comfortable viewfinder. It also has a high-quality Leica lens with a huge zoom range of 24-360mm (35mm equivalent) and supports RAW files, making the TZ200 a fantastic all-rounder, perfect for anybody who wants to keep their options open.
Sony RX100VI, £849, WOW camera
If it’s speed you’re after, then this incredibly fast, small and powerful camera is for you. It’s 0.03s auto focus (AF) is virtually instant and with 24 frames per second in continuous shooting mode, and you can be sure not to miss a shot. The high frame rate also allows for impressive slow-motion shooting.
With its powerful 24-200mm zoom (35mm equivalent) and compact body, it shoots beautiful 4K videos with impressive image stabilisation, perfect for low light shooting. It also shoots in RAW, allowing you to get the most from your images in post-processing. A good quality flash and swivel screen that can turn to face you (perfect for selfies), all in a tiny 301g body, make this an incredibly versatile camera.
Canon Powershot SX730 HS, £299.99, Canon Store
This impressive lens makes this camera stand out, as it offers a zoom range from 24mm to 960mm (35mm equivalent) as well as a minimum focusing distance of 1cm, great for close-up photography, both perfect for wildlife photography.
It only weighs 300g and has a built-in flash, image stabilisation and swivel screen and an app that allows you to shoot remotely. It’s a reliable camera with good image quality and performance that works equally well as a point and shoot camera or as an advanced camera on manual settings. However, lack of support for RAW files limits your post processing possibilities, and it only shoots HD video (rather than 4K). Nevertheless, this is a solid camera at a reasonable price.
Fujifilm X100F, £913, Pro Camera
This camera has inherited a superb 24.3mp sensor from Fujifilm’s high-spec system cameras, producing images with sublime image quality, even at low light. Film simulation modes allow you to shoot in the style of different analogue films, delivering stunning results.
If you are looking for image quality that's as good as a top-end DSLR and can appreciate simplicity than this is the camera for you. It has the classic focal length of 35mm (35mm equivalent), that was so popular with the old masters of street photography, and which encourages photographers to really think about composition.
The X100F only shoots 1080 HD video and at 469g it’s one of the heavier compacts, but that also means that it feels more substantial and handles well. It has an in-built flash as well as a hot shoe for an external flash, giving you maximum flexibility. This is a stills camera for real photography connoisseurs.
Leica Q, £3700, Leica store
With this camera, Leica is doing what it is doing best, which is combining the classic elements of its heritage with modern technology. The camera’s full-frame sensor produces images with fantastic detail as well as pleasing bokeh (the out of focus area), as you would expect from this revered camera manufacturer.
It’s perfect to do street photography in the style of the old masters, but it also allows you to transmit images, use the camera’s fast autofocus with face detect and make use of the stabilised lens, delivering exceptional results, even in low light.
Its 28mm is a bit wider than the Fujifilm’s X100F’s lens and allows you to get a bit more in the image. However, it only shoots HD video (rather than 4K), and weighing 640g, it’s one of the bulkier compact cameras. It doesn’t have a built-in flash, but a hot shoe, so it gives you the possibility of attaching a more sophisticated and powerful flash.
Canon Ixus 185, £85, Amazon
This slim, stylish and very user-friendly compact is perfect for beginners and children. Weighing only 126g, it easily fits into handbags and glove compartments, and its 28-224mm (35mm equivalent) zoom means that you can get a lot closer to the action than with a smartphone.
The 20mp images are of reasonable quality, and even though the camera works best in auto mode, it has some advanced features. So, if you’re after a straight-forward point and shoot camera, this camera is very good value.
Canon Powershot G1 Mark III, 1089.99, Canon Store
This camera not only delivers superb image quality, due to its large and high-quality sensor, but (unlike the Fujifilm X100F and the Leica Q), has also a 24-72mm zoom (35mm equivalent) in a very compact and weather-sealed body, weighing only 399g.
It has a well-thought-out design with a swivel screen that can turn 180 degrees to face you and very responsive autofocus. This fast and responsive camera offers many custom options and excellent image stabilisation and supports RAW files, making it a real alternative to a DSLR.
However, you can only shoot HD video and has a hot shoe, rather than a built-in flash, which gives you the flexibility of using a flash of your choice.
Nikon Coolpix A10, £69, Amazon
The Nikon Coolpix A10 is another affordable as well as an easy-to-use camera. The 26-130mm zoom lens (35mm equivalent) is big enough to make a real difference and the A10 also includes elements of Nikon’s smart portrait system – it can, for example, soften skin and be set to only shoot if it detects a smiling face or alert you if somebody is blinking.
Weighing only 160g, it won’t weigh you down, but it doesn’t offer wireless image transfer.
Lumix LX100II, £849, John Lewis & Partners
This camera is a great all-rounder. Its fast Leica lens is great for low-light photography and produces ultra sharp images with a beautiful depth. Weighing just under 400g, the LX100II can shoot 11 frames per second as well as 4K video and has a zoom range of 24-75mm (35mm equivalent).
You can also change the aspect rations with the flick of a switch – from 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1, encouraging users to get creative, as do the different monochrome photo styles. Supporting RAW files and with a 3cm minimum focusing distance, the LX100II is also great for close-ups, making this another fun camera to experiment.
Nikon Coolpix W300, £319 Currys
This rugged camera is the perfect companion for outdoor adventures. It’s waterproof down to an astonishing 30m, withstands the cold down to -10C and can be dropped from up to 2.4m.
It also has GPS, points of interest and mapping functions as well as an altimeter, depth gauge an atmospheric and water pressure gauge and can even serve as a torch.
The Coolpix W300 shoots 4K video, and the 24-120mm zoom (35mm equivalent) allows you to get close to the action. It feels solid, despite only weighing 231g, which also means it won’t weigh you down on a hike.
The Verdict: Compact cameras
The Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ200 is an incredibly versatile camera. It not only produces excellent image quality but also packs a raft of features into a compact body, making this a real alternative to a system camera.
You can’t be the Canon Ixus 185 for good value in a compact body and has an impressive zoom range. It’s perfect for beginners and children or to slip into your travel bag.
If you’re into the outdoors, the Nikon Coolpix W300 is the perfect companion. It sports GPS as well as altitude and pressure gauges and its light, yet water, shock, freeze and dustproof body copes with anything you through at it.
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