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12 best compact cameras for the perfect shot every time

For those who can’t leave the house without a camera, we’ve put our pocket-sized picks in the frame

Jacob Little
Monday 17 January 2022 10:05
<p>With the rise of smartphones, this sector of the market has had something to prove</p>

With the rise of smartphones, this sector of the market has had something to prove

Camera technology has come a long way in recent years, especially in the compact market.

Although smartphones initially captured large numbers of traditional small camera users, improvements in sensor and image processing capabilities, have made these small packages more and more attractive to buyers.

Plus, with the rise in popularity of lifestyle blogging, vlogging and travel photography, spending good money on a compact camera is now well worth it.

By tradition and definition, these devices don’t have interchangeable lenses, which not only makes them smaller but means there’s a lot less to think about for the casual user. And unlike DSLR’s, which have complicated controls and clunky buttons, compact cameras operate at a fraction of the speed and many have touchscreens, focus tracking and 4K video as standard.

For more serious users, we’d recommend an advanced model – as these machines often enable you to take photos in a RAW file format (a must if you want to edit your photos to a high standard), film in 4K and have a number of other features more akin to higher-grade professional equipment.

Read more:

How we tested

We tested these cameras over a period of a month in a range of settings. Testing criteria included ease of use, ergonomics (how the menu systems operated and how easy they were to hold and operate), video and photography quality, including stabilisation and audio quality, and each individual package’s value for money compared to its competition. We also acknowledged that many people want to travel with their camera, so size and carrying ability was tested as a deciding feature on which setups to include in this list.

Best compact cameras for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Sony ZV-1: £621, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for experienced users – Canon G1X mark III: £1,139, Currys.co.uk
  • Best for travelling – Panasonic lumix LX100 II: £749, Wexphotovideo.com
  • Best zoom range – Panasonic lumix DC-TZ90 super zoom: £299.99, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for compact 4K filming – Canon powershot G7 X mark III: £699, Johnlewis.com
  • Best style and design – Fujifilm X100V: £1,299, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for premium quality – Leica Q2: £4,500, Parkcameras.com
  • Best build quality – Sony A7C: £1,699, Wexphotovideo.com
  • Best for pocket-sized shooting – Sony cyber-shot RX100 V: £799, Parkcameras.com
  • Best for a film look – Fujifilm X-E4 £949, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for street photography – Ricoh GRIII street edition: £899.99, Ricoh-imaging.eu
  • Best smartphone replacement – Fujifilm XF10: £499, Amazon.co.uk

Sony ZV-1

Best: For content creators

Rating: 9/10

  • Sensor: 1.0-type stacked CMOS
  • Lens: ZEISS 24-70mm

Many people who buy compact cameras already have their stills photography needs met by their smartphone, and that’s why we liked the fact that Sony has focused on video with the ZV-1, making it a truly superb vlogging camera. The autofocus and lens quality is among the very best in our tests, and we particularly liked its clever tracking ability which, when recording video, enabled us to keep people or particular subjects in-focus. It comes with a microphone wind protector too, which is a nice touch.

It’s not a one-trick pony, however: the quality of the photographs themselves are excellent and the intelligent scene mode seems to quickly and automatically change relevant settings when required. Highly recommended.

Read the full Sony ZV1 review

Canon G1X mark III

Best: For experienced users

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: APS-C / 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS
  • Lens: f/2.8 - f/5.6 lens

We thought the G1X mark III would be a great purchase for DLSR users or more experienced photographers looking for something a little more compact. It uses the same crop sensor as the Canon 80D (which is no longer available), so you get a fair bit for your money, even though this does rank up there as being a few hundred pounds more expensive than some other options on this list. If you’re a DSLR user or more experienced photographer looking to downsize or have a second camera for B-roll, this is the setup we’d choose.

Panasonic lumix LX100 II

Best: For travelling

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: 1.33in 17-megapixel multi-aspect four thirds sensor
  • Lens: Leica DC f1.7-f2.8 high-speed lens

With the updated version of the LX100 II, Panasonic has managed to create a superb compact setup that uses micro four-thirds sensor technology, which is a little bit smaller than some of the crop sensors used in most compact, bridge or DSLR cameras. Combined with a lens that folds down snug into the body of the camera, it means you can slip it into your pocket wherever you go, which we thought was the perfect feature allowing you to take this camera on your travels. An easy to use, versatile camera that would be a worthwhile purchase for any amateur or serious photographer.

Panasonic lumix DC-TZ90 super zoom

Best: Zoom range

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: 1/2.3in OS sensor
  • Lens: f3.3 – 6.4 Leica lens

Although this camera is a few years old now, we included it firstly because of its super competitive price, but also its impressive zoom range which greatly increases its flexibility and usability in a variety of settings. It’s one of the best zooms we’ve encountered, and if you’re a wildlife photographer, for example, you’ll appreciate the camera’s ability to get close to the action without having to change lenses.

We found focus at all zoom levels to be speedy, and the Leica 24mm lens does a good job of keeping images sharp, even though we did feel there was a little bit of softness around the edge of the frame. If you’re looking for an older, budget setup that has an impressive zoom, this comes highly recommended.

Canon powershot G7 X mark III

Best: For compact 4K filming

Rating: 9/10

  • Sensor: 20.1MP, 1.0”-type sensor
  • Lens: f/1.8-2.8 4.2x 24 mm zoom lens

We tested this product on several shoots during walks over a two-week period, including in low-light conditions. With 4K video shooting, this is a popular camera with YouTubers and vloggers and it’s easy to see why. We particularly liked its simple-to-use layout and ergonomics, which will be familiar to both existing Canon users and traditional compact camera users too, with its built-in rotating wheel on the top-right of the camera for selecting different modes.

Our only criticism is that the autofocus tended to “hunt” a little and the images could be on the soft side. It was a fast and simple camera to use, however, with its built-in neutral-density filter providing excellent image quality in a range of conditions. The vertical tilting rear screen makes selfies and vlogging especially easy. Our second favourite camera on this list.

Read the full Canon powershot G7 X Mark III

Fujifilm X100V

Best: Style and design

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C CMOS image sensor
  • Lens: Newly designed 23mmF2 lens

The X100V from Fujifilm is a highly attractive product, and probably the camera we’d go to again and again in the looks department. It has a stylish, retro design with a fixed 23mm lens, which makes it perfect for street photography. It was one of our favourite lenses we tested, however, the package is somewhat let down by the prohibitive cost. For this money, we think that there are options available that still do just as good a job.

This model is currently out of stock, but you can sign up for email notifications once it becomes available.

Read the full Fujifilm X1OOV

Leica Q2

Best: For premium quality

Rating: 9/10

  • Sensor: 47.3MP full-frame sensor
  • Lens:28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens

Not just one of the best compact cameras on the market, the Lecia Q2 is arguably one of the best cameras in the world, full stop. Leica has always prided itself on quality, and this full-frame offering is no exception. It has a 47.3 MP full-frame sensor, is totally weather-resistant, spray and dustproof and comes with a fast, fixed 28mm 1.7 prime lens that is the perfect focal length for a range of portraiture, landscape and street shooting styles.

Prohibitively expensive for most of us, but an article about the best compact cameras wouldn’t be complete without including an example of how far the technology has come in this area.

Read the full Leica Q2 review

Sony A7C

Best: Build quality

Rating: 9/10

  • Sensor: 24.2 megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R sensor
  • Lens: E-mount lens

The alpha range from Sony offers tremendously powerful performance in small, mirrorless packages. It is proof that an alternative manufacturer away from the mainstream camera producers such as Canon and Nikon can make devices that rival pro DSLRs.

The A7C, although larger than some of the other cameras we tested, is still Sony’s smallest full-frame camera with interchangeable lenses. We liked its side-hinged vari-angle screen, fast autofocus and the fact that you can swap out lenses for more flexibility. We’d recommend this for photography enthusiasts who’d like to bridge the gap between compact cameras and larger DSLR offerings. It is, however, on the pricey side.

Sony cyber-shot RX100 V

Best: For pocket-sized shooting

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: 1.0-tye stacked Exmor RS CMOS 20.1MP sensor
  • Lens: Zeiss 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 large aperture lens

Size, or lack thereof, is the name of the game when it comes to the RX100. The camera fits a relatively large sensor into a small body, so we think this is the perfect option for travelling around and keeping it in your pocket or rucksack. This model has had number of different iterations over the years, and now the 24FPS continuous shooting has been refined, there’s extended support for 4K video capture and a super slow-motion function has been added. It also has one of the fastest autofocus systems we’ve come across. A good example of a brand refining a successful product over the years.

Fujifilm X-E4

Best: For a film look

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: 16.1 megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
  • Lens: XF 27mm lens

Another stylish option from Fujifilm, this compact setup is lightweight, easy to use and although quite expensive, offers excellent build quality and ultra-high-resolution 4K footage, sampled from native 6K for movie makers, which we thought was a great addition for a small setup. Fujifilm have included a film simulation option in this camera, and you can choose between classic film styles for your images, which we can see being a popular feature. We were impressed with this mode too – a retro feel is achieved without compromising on the quality of colour reproduction, skin tones or overall feel.

Ricoh GRIII street edition

Best: For street photography

  • Sensor: APS-C-size CMOS image sensor
  • Lens: 18.3mm, f2.8 lens

The Ricoh GR is a famous luxury camera from a brand that was first started in the film era. It’s a go-to for many travel and street photography fans. We liked the size of this new incarnation of its GRIII – a “street edition” with a detachable viewfinder, an orange lens ring, two batteries and a bespoke leather strap.

This limited edition is not, however, necessarily any better than the original GRIII (£799, Ricoh-imaging.eu). And although the original has been around a while, its portability, discreet appearance and the 18.3mm, f2.8 lens is still well suited to those wide street scenes, also making it a good option.

Fujifilm XF10

Best: Smartphone replacement

Rating: 8/10

  • Sensor: 24 MP APS-C sized sensor
  • Lens: 18.5 mm F2.8 Fujinon lens

We liked this other stylish option from Fujifilm as it’s one of the cheapest high-end compact cameras on the market and also one of the simplest on which to take good, striking images full of depth and colour. We’d recommend this for people moving up from smartphones who want to learn the basics of camera and photography technology. Its handling, ergonomics and functionality all work well considering the price point.

It feels sturdy and solid, but we noticed the difference compared to more expensive cameras in the speed of the autofocus and the quality of the video. If shooting movies isn’t your thing, and you need something on a bit more of a budget, we’d recommend this.

While the Champagne gold that we tested is currently out of stock, it’s also available in black.

The verdict: Compact cameras

Our best buy is the Sony ZV-1, which in stills mode is much like the RX100 (also included in this list), but has superior filmmaking and audio recording functionality. It’s therefore an exceptional camera for vloggers and budding filmmakers.

The Canon powershot G7 X mark III, meanwhile, is a very close second, nearly pipping the Sony to the spot if it wasn’t for the soft and sometimes wayward autofocus. We would recommend road-testing these examples for yourself, as it can be down to personal preference.

In third place, we do love the Fujifilm X100V, if you have the money to spend.

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