Camera technology these days has progressed enormously, especially in the compact market. And although today’s smartphones are capturing most beginning photographers, improvements in imaging have given compacts a new rise in popularity. And today’s compacts have the best selection of features to date, all in an attempt to lure customers from smartphones. So much so that spending the money on a compact camera is again wholly worthwhile.
Sure, you may question whether a dedicated camera is necessary. And while basic point and shoots have mostly disappeared, today’s compacts sport many advantages. And they’re the perfect companion for your next creative endeavor. Compact cameras combine convenience and portability. And they’re the ideal option for travelers and on-the-go creators looking for a hassle-free replacement to a bulky DSLR. They’re also the ideal option for beginners wanting an upgrade in image quality without most cameras’ annoyances.
Table of Contents
Today’s compacts bring superior functionality, touchscreens, excellent focusing, and 4K video as mostly standard. And they’ve now surpassed even the advanced DSLRs of years prior—all the while being small enough to slide into a cargo pocket. As such, it makes sense to see them return in a powerful comeback.
But, ultimately, not every compact camera is created equally. Some will offer more advanced features to sway seasoned photographers, others the necessities. With that, in today’s post, we’ve compiled a detailed guide outlining the factors you may want to consider when comparing models. And we’ll also cover the best compact cameras on the present market.
Olympus Tough TG-6
Released in 2019, Olympus’ TG-6 is their high-end waterproof compact camera and the best option of that category. It features a 12MP 1/2.3-inch sensor, a 25-100mm equivalent lens, 4K 30 FPS, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 FPS. It also has a 3-inch LCD, Live Composite, Focus Stacking, HDR, Focus Bracketing, time-lapse, panorama, a 2x teleconverter, and wireless connectivity.
The TG-6 shines if you’re looking for a rugged and waterproof camera. Unlike rivals, it offers the fastest aperture lens at F/2, yielding significantly better low-light performance. Its lens also has unrivaled macro abilities, focusing only 1 cm away and doing so throughout the entire zoom range. And that lets you capture photos of small subjects like insects or wildlife at a safe distance with ease. Yet, the TG-6 also offers the fastest burst performance around, easily shooting at 20 FPS with unlimited JPEG images. So difficulty capturing fast action sequences is now a thing of the past. Plus, it comes bundled with extra safety features like a compass, manometer, GPS, and a temperature sensor.
Overall, Olympus’ Tough TG-6 is an outstanding choice for those wanting a compact camera ready to withstand the abuse of most adventures, say scuba diving or rock climbing. And it’s among the toughest cameras around and one that’s nearly indestructible too. Yet, it also brings functionality that even many high-end mirrorless cameras lack, such as 20 FPS bursts or a simple feature like focus bracketing. So if you’re looking for something waterproof, durable, and capable, this is undoubtedly one to consider.
Panasonic LX100 II
Released in 2018, Panasonic’s LX100 Mark II is their latest premium compact camera. It features a 17MP Micro-Four-Thirds sensor, a 27-75mm equivalent lens, 4K UHD 30 FPS, and 1080p FHD video up to 60 FPS. It also has a 3-inch touchscreen, optical stabilization, 4K photo, Sequence Composition, Focus Stacking, Post Focus, time-lapse, stop motion, and wireless connectivity.
The LX100 Mark II obtain’s Panasonic’s high-end 49-area AF system with DFD technology, making it amongst the most accurate stills cameras around. But, what sets this model apart is that they squeezed in a large Micro-Four-Thirds sensor into this form factor. Most rivals offer a 1-inch sensor, but here you get a sensor that is 1.6x larger. And that change delivers superior image quality, less noise, better detail, and more dynamic range. And it’s also far more suited to large format printing. Panasonic even includes their infamous L. Monochrome picture profile, which combines beautifully with the cameras built-in Grain Effect to capture, arguably, the best Black & White images around.
Overall, Panasonic’s LX100 Mark II is quite a powerful all-rounder. Its predecessor, the original LX100, was already excellent. But, the updates here are welcomed and refresh this popular lineup, making it an even better option for quality-conscious travelers who desire outstanding image quality without lugging around a bulky DSLR.
Ricoh GR IIIx
Released in 2021, Ricoh’s GR IIIx refines their 12th generation GR with a highly user-requested feature. It features a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, a new 40mm equivalent lens, and shoots 1080p 60 FPS video. It also has a 3-inch touchscreen, a built-in ND filter, 2 GB of built-in storage, multiple exposures, time-lapse, interval composite, HDR, and wireless connectivity.
With this update, Ricoh’s transferred over its predecessor’s outstanding hybrid AF system and a larger 24MP sensor with notably improved resolution, dynamic range, and ISO performance. And they’ve also kept the 3-axis in-body stabilizer, letting you shoot handheld up to a 1/2 second to blur motion or improve low light performance. Yet, the GR IIIx becomes the first model in the lineup to debut a new mid-telephoto lens, in this case, a 40mm f/2.8 lens. And with 7 elements in 5 groups, the optical construction delivers the ultra-sharp details the series is acclaimed for, along with a useful macro mode. And you can use it with the new GT-2 teleconverter, extending the focal length to 75mm, making it ideal for portraits. Or you can use the built-in crop mode, also converting the lens to 50 or 71mm lens.
Overall, the GR IIIx refines the lineup with a highly requested lens update that greatly improves the camera’s versatility. And it has now become among the top compact cameras in its class as a result.
Released in 2020, the Sony ZV-1 was their first vlog-centric camera aimed directly at content creators. It features a 20.1MP 1-inch sensor, 4K UHD 30 FPS, and 1080p FHD video up to 120 FPS. It also has a 3-inch articulating touchscreen, time-lapse, a tally lamp, ND filters, optical stabilization, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
The ZV-1 obtains Sony’s high-end 425-point Hybrid AF system with Real-Time AF, the same setup as the a6100 and a6600. And this configuration gives it class-leading focusing speeds amongst this class, which now stands at 0.03 seconds. Yet, the ZV-1 also brings a forward-facing tally lamp and a unique three-capsule microphone, both ideally suited for vlogging. And it’s also ready to capture unlimited 4K video with Sony’s S-log profile. Or still images with the same image quality as the higher-end RX100 VII, without its high-end price.
Overall, Sony’s ZV-1 is the ideal option if you’re a content creator looking to vlog. And, being designed specifically for this target audience, it makes sense. It set a new standard amongst compact cameras and is among the leaders of the class, given its excellent autofocus, high-quality lens, and sensor. And it’s a one-stop solution to create high-quality content.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
Canon’s G1 X III is the current flagship of the premium G series lineup. The G1 X III features a 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, a 24-72mm lens, and 1080p 60 FPS video. It also includes a 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, an EVF, optical stabilization, panorama, HDR, time-lapse, built-in neutral density, focus bracketing, built-in flash, and wireless connectivity.
This release marks Canon’s first compact camera to feature an APS-C sized sensor and Dual Pixel AF technology, features typically coveted to DSLRs. This larger sensor allows the camera to produce nuanced images with better detail, low light performance, and dynamic range. It also helps the camera make print-worthy photos, despite its otherwise compact size. The G1 X III is also one of the few in this segment that offers extensive weather sealing. And its robust construction helps keep dust, sand, or water at bay to ensure reliable performance, no matter the environment.
Overall, Canon’s G1 X III is compact, sure. But it delivers a DSLR’s performance and image quality to match. And its big sensor has a big impact, yet surprisingly small size.
Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200
With the ZS200, Panasonic challenges Sony’s popular RX100 series. The ZS200 features a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor with a 24-360mm lens and 4K 30 and 1080p 120 FPS video. It also includes a 3-inch touchscreen, stabilization, a built-in flash, an EVF, the 4K Photo Mode, focus bracketing, HDR, and wireless connectivity.
With this release, Panasonic opted to squeeze in a much larger 1-inch sensor, substantially improving the camera’s low light performance. But, it also simultaneously helps produce better images with a pleasing background blur. Additionally, they’ve also redesigned the lens, now providing a 15x optical and 30x intelligent zoom. And at this price point, it’s the current benchmark in zoom capabilities.
Overall, Panasonic’s ZS200 is a powerful all-in-one with plenty of manual control and versatility. And as a challenger to Sony’s RX100, it’s quite a compelling alternative indeed.
Fujifilm’s X100V is their latest premium street camera. The X100V features a 26-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, a fixed 23mm lens, 4K 30, and 1080p 120 FPS video. It also includes a 3-inch tilting touchscreen, weather sealing, built-in neutral density, zebras, log profiles, panorama, an EVF, a tally lamp, multiple exposures, HDR, time-lapse and wireless connectivity.
With this model, Fuji overhauled both the sensor and autofocusing system. And the X100V now obtains their latest 425-point Hybrid AF system from the flagship X-T3. Even so, its fixed 23mm equivalent lens is also refined. And now, in its second generation, it offers superior sharpness, macro performance, and less distortion. Plus, this release also finally brings 4K to the lineup and a tilting touchscreen to add much-needed versatility along with 30 FPS burst and 17 classic film simulations.
Overall, it’s easy to see that the X100V is an extensively polished release. But, it still delivers the feeling of shooting film in the digital age. As such, it’s a highly unique camera but an excellent option if you want nostalgia.
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III
Canon’s G7 X III is the latest entry into the esteemed G7 X lineup of multimedia cameras. The G7 X III features a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor with a 24-100mm lens and 4K 30 and 1080p 60 FPS video. It also includes a 3-inch flipping touchscreen, optical stabilization, time-lapse, HDR movie, neutral density filters, USB charging, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
Unlike rivals, this particular camera is now one of a few to provide vertical video support for Tik Tok, Instagram, and Facebook. But it is the first camera to support direct live streaming to YouTube, an exciting bonus that will quickly sway content creators. Plus, it also offers the High Frame Rate Movie Mode to shoot 120 FPS videos in-camera.
Overall, the G7 X III offers exciting new additions over its predecessor. And it’s an excellent camera for content creators looking for an intelligent yet portable solution.
Sony RX100 VII
Sony’s RX100 VII is their latest premium compact camera. This seventh-generation model features a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, a 24-100mm lens, 4K 30, and 1080p 120 FPS video. It also includes a 3-inch flipping touchscreen, optical stabilization, an EVF, vertical video, log profiles, time-lapse, HDR, panorama, zebras, a built-in flash, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
The RX100 VII obtains Sony’s class-leading Hybrid AF system, which sports the fastest focusing of all compact cameras at 0.02 seconds. But, it also boasts Real-Time AF, which provides advanced eye detection for humans and animals. Additionally, it inherits some of the flagship capabilities from the a9. Namely, the sensor makes 60 calculations per second, producing 20 FPS bursts with AF, 90 without, or 1,000 using the High Frame Rate Mode. And these speeds make capturing decisive moments an afterthought.
Overall, it’s clear why the RX100 VII is the top compact camera. Inside this camera lies everything required to capture stunning photos and videos. Not only do you get a camera with remarkable telephoto power, but it also offers class-leading flagship performance in a jacket-friendly form factor. And it packs a punch that easily pleases all skill levels, from beginners to pros.
Buyers Guide & Tips
What is a Compact Camera?
Generally, the camera industry defines compact cameras as fixed lens point-and-shoot cameras that are small and portable. They’re usually the gateway for new users looking to upgrade their photography. And they’re designed to be easy, accessible, and affordable. In general, saying a camera is compact means it is relatively small, lightweight, and pocketable. Additionally, compact cameras help simplify the shooting experience and allow beginners to capture high-quality images without understanding photography mechanics. But, more advanced models have full manual control and professional-level capabilities.
Should I buy a camera with interchangeable lenses instead?
No, it’s usually not necessary for most to buy an interchangeable lens camera. However, if you’re looking to capture photos with the highest image quality, then a camera with interchangeable lenses will be a top priority.
Lenses are without a doubt a critical component in photography, and they greatly influence the final image. Changing the camera lens tailors its image quality to the shoot at hand. And it’s a must for capturing professional-grade images. So, if you want professional photos, specialized lenses are required. But, ultimately, this choice comes down to your budget.
There are several compact interchangeable lens cameras. But, whether they stand compact is highly dependent on the lens you attach. And you’ll likely lose much of their compact size advantage in the process. So, it’s something to consider if portability is also important.
How to Choose the Perfect Compact Camera
Below is a detailed guide on how to choose a compact camera that best suits your particular needs. This specific list is ranked in order from most important to least.
What do you plan on shooting with the camera? Knowing this beforehand will help narrow down the most critical factors. It’ll also be your guiding light when deciding between two similarly priced and capable options. If you’re a beginner, look for a camera that’s easy to use and not overly complicated. If you’re an intermediate or advanced photographer, look for cameras with more advanced features, such as RAW, time-lapse, and 4K video.
Ease of Use
As gateway cameras into photography, compact cameras have to be easy to use above all else. If the camera is overly complicated and difficult to use, it’ll turn off newcomers to photography. So if you’re looking at a camera and it looks intimidating, then use that as a measure to rule it out from your list of options.
Size & Weight
Although most compacts are inherently small and lightweight, there’s quite a bit of variation on the market. So important to be aware of its weight and dimensions if portability is essential to you. Most compact cameras range from 100 grams to 400 grams in weight, with the majority weighing around 250 grams. But, cameras with larger sensors, faster lenses, and more advanced features are heavier than the more basic models. But even so, they’re not heavy enough to cause neck problems when using a camera strap. In size, most average around 4-5″ wide, 2-3″ tall, and 1-2″ deep. And the vast majority of cameras are small enough to store in a mid-sized jacket or pants pocket.
Not all cameras offer an electronic viewfinder, so you can compose outdoors in bright conditions and block incoming sunlight. Or you can block distractions while shooting to have a clear, uninterrupted view. But, it’s an essential feature to look for if you plan on taking a lot of photos with the camera. Otherwise, you’ll eventually find it becomes a deal-breaker.
But more importantly, the rear screen on the camera will be the main consideration for most. And it’s worth noting, not all compact cameras have articulating screens that tilt, rotate, or flip. Some models do have fixed screens, which aren’t particularly helpful. So if you want to capture photos or videos at awkward angles or take selfies, a flip screen is a non-negotiable feature to consider. Otherwise, you’ll find it quite difficult to do so, and it may also become a deal-breaker.
Generally, we capture photos by holding the camera in our hands. And most people can’t hold completely still. Unfortunately, if we move during that process, the movement will cause blurry images. Image stabilization solves this issue by compensating for these small movements to produce sharp images. And it’s a non-negotiable feature for compact cameras. It’s also helpful to shoot in low light scenes since you can reduce the shutter speed and capture cleaner images. Additionally, stabilization helps when zooming, as zoom exacerbates motion. So it’s also crucial for cameras with a zoom lens to help maintain sharp images.
Zoom allows you to capture far off objects, scenes, and elements. And the larger the zoom, the further the thing you can capture. This becomes one of the main features why people invest in compact cameras, especially over a smartphone.
Manufacturers indicate zoom by measuring the difference between the most zoom in and zoom out settings. And this notation ranges from 2x to 100x, where 100x makes an object appear 100 times larger. In general, an 8-10x zoom is sufficient for most users. And say if you plan on capturing family photos, events, or selfies, you don’t need a large zoom. But, if you want to capture animals, sports, and the outdoors, a zoom is helpful.
Battery Life & USB Charging
This is usually an overlooked feature. But, most compact cameras have poor battery life, a trade-off given their compact size. But, thankfully, a good number of these cameras support USB charging, so you can charge them on-the-go using a portable battery bank. In general, most compact cameras will offer somewhere around 300 photos per full charge, not much. And here’s also a lot of variation in this regard, especially with features like touchscreens, larger sensors, and 4K video. But, you can find the rating on the manufacturer’s website if you find it important.
If you also plan to record video with the camera, it’ll become an essential consideration in your search. Today’s main video resolution options are Ultra HD or 4K, and full HD, 1080p. But not all cameras offer 4K, even though it’s gradually becoming standard. Instead, they may only offer 1080p full HD video. But, if you want to future-proof the camera, it’s wise to get one that offers 4K.
If you want to share images or video in real-time, you’ll want a camera that offers Wi-Fi connectivity. This feature allows you to connect a smartphone or tablet to the camera and wirelessly transfer images. From there, you can edit them and share them online. Additionally, you can also geotag them if the camera has Bluetooth, which helps revisit locations when traveling. Without this feature, however, you’d be stuck using a computer.
The sensor inside the camera is the modern day equivalent of a piece of Qlm, and this is the part of the camera which records the light and saves it as image data. The size of the image sensor is directly related to the quality of the image the camera will produce, with larger sensors producing better images. So generally the larger the sensor, the better quality the photos will be, especially in lower light situations. For a long time, most compact cameras had similarly sized smaller sensors, but as of 2012, 1 inch sensor cameras have become more popular. These offer improved image quality and better low-light performance, although the cameras tend to be a little bit heavier and more expensive as a result.
RAW Format / Manual controls
If you’re a more advanced photographer, you’ll want to be on the lookout for a camera that offers RAW capabilities. Using RAW allows you to capture all of the details the camera’s sensor provides. And it gives far more flexibility and more control over the creative process. Additionally, manual controls also offer more creative freedom. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO yourself, to capture the same shot in mind. But, if you’re a beginner, then these features are not necessary immediately. Focus on learning the fundamentals instead.
We include some extra features in this post, like time-lapse, HDR, slow-motion recording, and more. These extras are a bonus, in most cases, that offer more useful functions than smartphones. If you find them interesting, look out for them on your search.
Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by Photography PX Published February 1, 2021