Looking for the best compact camera for your money? We’ve picked out the best buys, no matter your budget.

The best compact camera are an ideal choice for anyone who wants photography or video to be straightforward. Rather than lugging around a system camera, and juggling with changing lenses, you can have everything you need in one tidy package. What could be better than that?

All right, it’s a little more complicated than that. But the fact remains that compact cameras have undergone a revolution in the past few years. No longer simple ‘point-and-shoots’, these days compact cameras offer sophisticated control systems, good-size sensors, extra-sharp lenses, 4K video, lots of megapixels – or at least, a few of the above. Compacts tend to be specialists in one particular area, which is why it pays to do your research and get the one that’s right for you.

That’s where we come in. At AP, our technical team of reviewers is well-versed in all things compact cameras. We’ve reviewed a huge number of them, and have been impressed by a lot of them – which made it a challenge to keep this list at a manageable size! We implemented a rule that every camera we included simply had to be worth the money – it could cost £300 or £1,300, that didn’t matter. If it justifies its price tag, it earns a spot on this list.

How to choose the best compact camera

If technical terms aren’t your thing, don’t worry. We’ve kept this buying guide simple, using easy-to-understand language everyone can follow. In this guide, we’re not interested in comparing images pixel by pixel (if you want to see that sort of thing, check out our camera reviews). All the same, it is worth being mindful of a few key specs when picking your compact camera, so here they are, as simply as possible.

The sensor size and resolution are going to have a big impact on the final look of your image. With compacts, you’re generally dealing with sensors in three sizes. From smallest to largest, they are: 1/2.3-inch, 1-inch, APS-C. A larger sensor is generally better in terms of image quality, allowing for greater tonality and dynamic range. However, they cost more, and require larger cameras to house. Resolution, measured in megapixels (MP), refers to the level of detail in an image. More megapixels mean you can print images in higher quality, but it can incur more image noise, reducing quality in low light.

The other half of a compact camera is, of course, the lens. The focal range will determine how much you can zoom in and out. Big zooms will naturally give you more versatility, but it tends to come at a cost of optical quality. Indeed, some compacts like Fujifilm’s fabulous X100V don’t zoom at all, being equipped with a high-quality prime lens. These produce sublime images, but if you want to get close to a subject, you need to move your feet.

Other features are worth considering. Want to shoot fast action? Check how many frames per second the camera can manage. Think you’ll be working in low light? A higher ISO range is your best bet. If you want to shoot video as well as stills, check the video resolution and frame rate. There’s more to discuss, but the best way to get a feel for it is to take a look through the incredible compact cameras on offer right now.

In this unmissable buyer’s guide we take a closer look at some of the best compact cameras that you can currently buy and give our expert recommendations about what each one is best for…

Best compact for action: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII

Price: £1,150 / $1,298

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII – at a glance

  • Sensor: 20MP Exmor RS CMOS, 13.2 x 8.8mm
  • Lens: 24-200mm equivalent, f/2.8-4.5
  • Pop-up electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch, 921,600-dot tilting touchscreen LCD
  • 20fps shooting
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 101.6×58.1×42.8 mm
  • Weight: 302g

The ultimate offering in portability and overall image quality has to be the Sony RX100 VII. Sony’s RX100 range is what introduced the one-inch sensor to the market, and the camera which others tend to follow. We’re now in the seventh generation from the original camera, and the tech which is packed into this miniature marvel is quite something.

Not only do you have a one-inch sensor, you get a 24-200mm (35mm equivalent) lens which offers an f/2.8-f/4.5 maximum aperture. High-speed shooting is available – pretty incredible for a pocket camera – you can shoot at 24fps. The autofocus system is also pretty impressive, so you could conceivably use this camera to shoot sports and action.

Other exciting features include 4K video, in-built wi-fi and a tilting LCD touchscreen. You also get a cleverly hidden electronic viewfinder which pops out from the corner of the camera.

So, what’s the drawback? Well – it’s the price. You need to pay top whack to get all of these features in such a small package, and the RX100 VII currently retails for around £1,000. That’s a heck of a lot of money to spend on a compact camera, but you do get something seriously impressive for your cash. If you don’t have those kind of readies available, take a look at some of the older RX100 models. The RX100 V is still a fantastic, somewhat more affordable, option but its lens doesn’t have as much optical zoom.

What we like:

  • Excellent zoom range
  • High-speed 24fps shooting
  • Pop-up viewfinder

What we don’t like:

  • Very expensive

Read our Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII Review

Best all-rounder: Panasonic Lumix TZ100 / ZS100

Price: £389 / $497

Panasonic Lumix TZ100 – at a glance

  • 20.1MP image sensor
  • 10x optical zoom; 25-250mm equivalent
  • Light Speed DFD AF technology
  • 4K Movie
  • 5-axis image stabilisation
  • Screen: 3-inch, rear LCD screen
  • Available in grey and silver or black
  • Dimensions: 110.5×64.5×44.3mm
  • Weight: 312g (with battery and card)

In most cases, compacts which feature a large (one-inch) sensor, have a restricted zoom. However, Panasonic’s TZ100 manages to bridge the gap between premium compacts and superzooms, with its 10x optical zoom offering.

While 10x doesn’t get near the heady heights of the 30x or 40x zooms elsewhere in this list, the 25-250mm equivalent should be more than enough for most situations. Alongside this, there’s a rich feature list which includes 4K video shooting, 10fps shooting, built-in WiFi and an electronic viewfinder.

The main drawback is a rather small electronic viewfinder, though it does offer a 1.16-million-dot resolution, but a 3-inch rear LCD with touch sensitivity helps with the handling. The screen is fixed, which is a shame when composing from awkward angles, but it did perhaps help to keep the overall size of the camera down.

Overall, this is a very likeable camera and it’s probably the best compromise of all the cameras here – you get a bit of everything for your cash, and the price isn’t outrageously high either. Image quality is very good, and while it’s not going to match your DSLR, the fact that you can fit it into your pocket makes it particularly appealing as a travel camera.

What we like:

  • Pocketable form factor
  • Useful zoom range
  • Great value for money

What we don’t like:

  • Small EVF
  • Fixed rear screen

Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 review

Best value compact: Panasonic Lumix LX15 / LX10

Price: £429 / $547

Panasonic Lumix LX15 – at a glance

  • Sensor: 20MP, 1-inch sensor
  • Lens: 24-72mm equivalent, f/1.4-2.8 lens
  • Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD
  • ISO range: 100-12,800 (extendable to ISO 25,600)
  • 10fps shooting
  • 4K video recording up to 15 minutes
  • 5-axis hybrid image stabilisation
  • Dimensions: 105.5x60x42mm
  • Weight: 310g

Aimed squarely at the Sony RX100 audience, the Panasonic LX15/LX10 is a small camera with a one-inch sensor and a 24-72mm equivalent focal length range. It goes one small step better than the RX100 V, offering a maximum aperture of f/1.4 at its widest angle, and then dropping to a still very usable f/2.8 at the far end of the zoom.

Unlike the TZ100, the screen on the LX15 is hinged, meaning you can tilt it to face forward – which is useful for selfies, but also opens up the opportunities to take other awkwardly angled shots.

This being Panasonic, 4K video and 4K photo modes are included with the LX15 – both of which are appealing to a wide range of people. One big downside here though, especially for enthusiasts, is the lack of a viewfinder.

The LX15 is another very likeable compact camera from Panasonic, which produces great images at a fraction of the price of the Sony RX100 VII. Depending on what you need from a camera, this could be the better choice if you don’t want to spend too much.

What we like:

  • Clever 4K Photo modes
  • f/1.4 lens for low light
  • Screen can face forwards

What we don’t like:

  • No viewfinder

Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 review

Best for YouTube and streaming: Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

Price: £699 / $749

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III – at a glance

  • Sensor: 20.1MP, 1-inch CMOS
  • Lens: 24-100mm equivalent, f/1.8-2.8 lens
  • ISO range: 125-12,800
  • Screen: 3-inch 180-degree tilting touchscreen, 1.04 million dots LCD
  • 20fps burst shooting (8.3fps with AF)
  • Dimensions: 104.9 x 61 x 41.4mm
  • Weight: 303g (with battery and card)

Canon’s PowerShot G7 X Mark II was an unexpected hit with YouTubers, with its combination of a high-quality 1-inch sensor and 24-100mm equivalent lens providing everything needed in one handy setup. Accordingly, the Mark III version leant into that, providing basically the same fundamental camera, but with uncropped 4K UHD video, a 3.5mm mic jack, and the ability to livestream directly to YouTube.

Photographers may be put off by the lack of a viewfinder; vloggers and YouTubers, less so. The 180-degree tilting LCD screen is very useful for selfies and self-taping, while the defined grip also makes the camera more comfortable to hold than its slim dimensions might indicate. The metal control ring around the lens is also comfortable to use, giving the G7 X Mark III a premium feel.

Image quality is excellent, in stills as well as video – it may be a vlogging camera first, but the G7 X Mark III is no slouch for photographers. If you are a hybrid content creator who wants a lightweight camera that’ll do a bit of everything, the G7 X Mark III might just be it.

What we like:

  • Vlogger-friendly features
  • Excellent image quality
  • Feels premium

What we don’t like:

  • No viewfinder

Best travel zoom: Panasonic Lumix TZ90 / ZS70

Price: £319 / $397

Panasonic Lumix TZ90 – at a glance

  • Sensor: 20.3MP, 1/2.3-inch size
  • Lens: 24-720mm equivalent, 30x optical zoom
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1040k-dot touch-sensitive LCD screen, tilts 180 degrees
  • Viewfinder: 0.2-inch, 1,166k-dot, 100% field of view, 0.46x magnification
  • ISO range: 80-3200
  • 4K video recording (can get 30fps stills)
  • Dimensions: 112×67.3×41.2mm
  • Weight: 322g (with battery and card)

Panasonic’s travel zoom compact builds on the successes of all that came before it. It features a 30x optical zoom, but in return for that large zoom range, you need to accept a smaller sensor than its one-inch comrade, the TZ100.

This is still among the most well-featured superzoom compacts on the market. As well as the huge zoom, you get an in-built viewfinder (albeit small), 4K video shooting, a touch-sensitive screen, manual controls, raw format shooting and a body which just about fits in your pocket.

A great choice for those looking for something to take on their travels, in low light it suffers by comparison to its larger sensor rivals. If you’re mainly going to be using it on your sunny holidays, you shouldn’t worry too much about that.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ90 was updated by the TZ95 with a slightly larger EVF and the addition of Bluetooth, but the TZ90 remains excellent value for money.

What we like:

  • Great feature-set
  • Fits in a pocket
  • Beefy zoom range

What we don’t like:

  • Small sensor reduces low light performance

Read our Panasonic TZ90 vs Panasonic TZ100 comparison

Best compact for vlogging: Sony ZV-1

Price: £699 / $748

Sony ZV-1 – at a glance

  • Sensor: 20.1MP 1in BSI CMOS
  • Lens: 25-70mm equivalent, f/1.8-2.8
  • ISO range: 125-12,800 (extendable to ISO 64)
  • Viewfinder: N/A
  • Screen: 3-inch, fully articulated touchscreen
  • 24fps continuous shooting
  • 4K video recording (25fps)
  • Dimensions: 105.5 x60x43.5mm
  • Weight: 294g

The Sony ZV-1 has been specifically designed to be an excellent compact camera for vlogging and video recording, and thanks to a 1-inch sensor, a high quality lens, and some video friendly features, it delivers the goods.

It features 4K video recording and specific video features to make vlogging even easier, with a ‘Product Showcase’ mode, as well as a Background Defocus switch. You’ll find a multi-direction microphone on top, which is provided with a ‘deadcat’ that’s designed to reduce wind noise, and a screen that can be turned around for vlogging and selfies.

Although it’s clearly aimed at vloggers if there’s one feature that might tempt serious photographers to try the ZV-1, it’s the rare delight of getting a fully articulated screen on a pocket camera. This is something you’ll usually only find on larger SLR-styled bodies, like the Canon G5 X and G1 X Mark III, which really stretch the definition of ‘pocketable’.

If you want to use an external microphone you can, as there’s a microphone socket on the side, as well as HDMI output. Overall, the ZV-1 is a really interesting little camera that takes RX100-series technology and gives it a video-centric twist. Its vlogging features generally work well, and appear cleverly targeted to its intended audience.

What we like:

  • Vlog-friendly feature set
  • Fully articulated screen
  • Comes with wind muffler

What we don’t like:

  • No viewfinder

Read our Sony ZV-1 Review

Best retro compact camera: Fujifilm X100V

Price: £1,299 / $1,399

Fujifilm X100V – at a glance

  • Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4
  • Processor: X-Processor 4
  • Lens: 23mm F2.0 lens (35mm equivalent)
  • Viewfinder: Hybrid Viewfinder (OVF&EVF)
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1.62-million-dot, two-way tilting touchscreen
  • 4K video at 30fps
  • Compatible with legacy conversion lenses
  • Dimensions: 128×74.8×53.3mm
  • Weight: 478g (with battery and card)

The Fujifilm X100V isn’t just a good looking camera, it also takes some excellent photos thank to a 26MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor, and an updated lens design improves macro performance. The lens on the front is a 23mm f/2.0 prime lens, giving a 35mm equivalent (in 35mm terms).

You’ll also find Fujifilm’s latest Film Simulation modes, with a number of black and white film options, including ACROS, as well as the option to add a film-like grain effect to images, great for those gritty black and white street photographs.

There’s a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder that can give you the best of both worlds, and give you the true rangefinder camera experience. The touchscreen on the back tilts which can help with awkward angles, or when you want to ‘shoot from the hip’.

If you’re interested in recording video, then you’ll find the camera has 4K video recording at 30fps, although the lack of image stabilisation may be a deal-breaker for some. The X100V is a gorgeous little camera that’s as satisfying to look at as it is to shoot with. It has a special thing going for it in the way it inspires you to venture out and take pictures, as it’s very easy it is to carry and produces great images.

What we like:

  • Gorgeous image quality
  • A pleasure to use
  • Stylish looks

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive

Read our Fujifilm X100V Review

Best pocket camera: Ricoh GR IIIx

Price: £899 / $996

Ricoh GR IIIx – at a glance

  • Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS, 23.5×15.6mm
  • Lens: 26.1mm f/2.8 (40mm equivalent)
  •  ISO range: 100-102,400
  • Continuous: 4fps shooting
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1.04m-dot, fixed touchscreen
  • Video: Full HD 60p/30p/24p
  • Dimensions: 109.4×61.9×35.2mm
  • Weight: 262g (with battery and card)

The Ricoh GR IIIx, like the Fujifilm X100V, has an APS-C CMOS Sensor, which is impressive considering the compact size of the camera. It features a 26.1mm f/2.8 lens, equivalent to 40mm (in 35mm terms), and the camera has a clever ‘Snap’ focus system so you can quickly get shots without any delay from focusing, making it another great street camera.

The Ricoh GR IIIx is the latest digital iteration of the cult classic Ricoh GR film camera, and is designed to be a pocketable camera (weighing just 262g) that you can take anywhere. There’s also built-in sensor-shift shake reduction, which moves the 24MP sensor on 3-axis to counter any shake.

There’s a 3-inch touch-screen on the back, and you’ll find dual command dials making it easier to change settings quickly. The GR IIIx handles really well. It has a rapid sub-one-second start up time, quick shutter response, comfortable single-handed operation and intuitive controls.

It’s also worth noting that its excellent predecessor – the Ricoh GR III, which has a wider angle 18.3mm f/2.8 (28mm equivalent) lens – remains on the market from £689.

The Ricoh GR IIIx is a well positioned niche alternative to smartphones and big cameras, offering a wonderful mix of the two. There’s enough in it to compel smartphone users considering a ‘real’ camera, and experienced photographers who want a ‘proper’ photographic tool in their pocket. But, first and foremost, it needs to deliver excellent image quality in any kind of light… and the GR IIIx achieves this thanks to the combination of its 24MP APS-C sensor, DNG raw capture and sharp 40mm f/2.8 lens.

What we like:

  • Fast, reactive focusing
  • 3-axis stabilisation
  • Useful all-purpose focal length

What we don’t like:

  • Quite a niche proposition

Read our Ricoh GR IIIx Review

Best waterproof camera: Olympus Tough TG-6

Price: £379 / $499

Olympus Tough TG-6 – at a glance

  • 12MP image sensor
  • 4x optical zoom; 25-100mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Waterproof down to 15m
  • Shock resistant – 2.1m (dropping from height)
  • Crushproof (to 100kg)
  • Freezeproof (to -10°C)
  • 4K Movie
  • 16 scene modes
  • Available in black or red
  • Measures 66x113mm

Olympus has been making tough, waterproof, compact cameras for a very long time now, and it’s culminated in the Olympus Tough TG-6, the sixth version of the premium waterproof camera.

Over the years it’s been refined, with improvements made to image quality, video recording, and strength. You’ll even find there’s a range of accessories available for this camera that can improve close up flash performance or add extra protection to the camera.

The camera uses a 12MP sensor along with an f/2.0 lens which gives it an edge over entry-level waterproof cameras, and will help with the low-light conditions you find underwater. Thanks to the folded optics used in the construction of the lens, the camera has an impressive level of macro performance letting you get detailed close-up shots.

4K video recording is included. Fans of macro photography will be impressed by the built-in focus stacking, and there are some manual controls available for when you’re shooting.

What we like:

  • Tougher than a tank
  • f/2 zoom lens
  • Useful macro modes

What we don’t like:

  • Small sensor

Read our guide to the Top 12 Best Waterproof and Underwater Cameras

Best compact for low light: Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

Price: £799 / $797

Panasonic Lumix LX100 II – at a glance

  • Sensor: 17MP Four Thirds MOS sensor
  • Lens: 24-75mm equivalent, f/1.7-2.8
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1.28M dot touchscreen
  • ISO range: 200-25,600 (standard), ISO 100 (extended)
  • Continuous shooting: 11fps max (5.5fps with AF-C)
  • 4K video at 30p
  • Dimensions: 115.0 x 66.2 x 64.2mm
  • Weight: 392g (including battery and card)

The Panasonic Lumix LX100 II offers a multi-aspect ratio sensor, based on a Four Thirds sensor, and combined with a bright f/1.7-2.8 zoom lens with optical image stabilisation, you get a camera that can perform well in low-light shooting situations.

There’s a 3-inch touchscreen, but unfortunately this doesn’t tilt. You’ll also find a high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 2.76m dots.

The metal bodied camera benefits from a number of external controls and switches, and this makes it a great tactile camera to use, letting you set different settings even when the camera is switched off.

As you would expect with a premium camera, you can record 4K video, and the camera has built-in Wi-Fi so you can transfer images to your smartphone, as well as control it remotely. Despite coming out back in 2018, the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II remains a very versatile and easy-to-carry travel companion.

What we like:

  • Premium metallic construction
  • High-quality f/1.7 lens
  • Multi-aspect sensor

What we don’t like:

  • Fixed touchscreen

Read our Panasonic Lumix LX100 II Long Term Review

We hope that’s been of some help to you when choosing your next compact camera. Have a look at more buying guides here.

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