- Our choice for the #1 Best Overall Compact Camera is FujiFilm X100V.
- Compact cameras are great for people looking to upgrade from their smartphone camera, or for professionals who want a backup camera.
- Some compact cameras have fixed lenses, some have zooms. Lens type will play a big factor in choosing the one that will best accommodate your needs.
- When shopping for the best compact camera, consider the zoom range, manual controls, and price.
The introduction of smartphones nearly killed the point-and-shoot camera. However, rather than let the product fade into obscurity, camera manufacturers have turned to innovation and are now making some serious advancements in the compact camera world. While the convenience of smartphones will ensure they remain the standard for day-to-day photography into the foreseeable future, the image quality of compact cameras has made them relevant again. So, if you are looking to branch out past the smartphone and get a dedicated camera, how do you choose the right one? Well, here are our picks for the six best compact cameras on the market today:
- Best Overall: Fujifilm X100V Digital Camera
- Best for Travel Vloggers: Sony RX100 VII
- Best Mid-Range Option: Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II Digital Camera
- Best on a Budget: Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 4K Digital Camera
- Best for Vlogging: Sony ZV-1
- Best Pocket Camera: DJI Pocket 2
#1 Best Overall Compact Camera: Fujifilm X100V Digital Camera
Our #1 choice for the best compact camera is the Fujifilm X100V Digital Camera, which has already made its mark in the industry. It was trending on social media and many retailers reported backorders when it was first released. That isn’t without reason. The X100V just might be the perfect compact to challenge the smartphone as your primary camera. It has a stylish, compact design that fits right in your pocket. The camera has a large APS-C sensor, meaning it will most likely outperform any smartphone in lowlight conditions.
It has a unique hybrid viewfinder (both optical and electric) and a tilting screen. The 23mm f/2 lens and autofocus system are all improvements on its predecessor, the X100F, which is a quality camera in its own right. The FujiFilm X100V will definitely outperform your smartphone when it comes to video, supporting a surprisingly sharp 4K/30p capture.
The only drawbacks seem to be that it isn’t fully weather-proof and a filter would need to be added to achieve that. The price point is also fairly high and will be a significant obstacle for some. With all that said, the X100V still offers an impressive range of features and manages to put them all in a stylish, retro body that’s also high in quality and fits right in your pocket.
|The tilting touchscreen makes framing your shots easy.||An addition filter must be purchased for weather-proofing.|
|It has a quality sensor and accurate autofocus.||It has a fixed focal length lens.|
|You can record crystal clear 4K video.|
Check out the Fujifilm X100V Digital Camera on Amazon today.
Best for Travel Vloggers: Sony RX100 VII
The Sony RX100 VII is one of the best compact cameras currently on the market, especially for travel vloggers. It has an autofocus system that outperforms many of its competitors. It can track moving subjects with surprising accuracy by utilizing its Face and Eye AF. This remarkable feature even works well in video mode. Speaking of video, the image quality is incredibly crisp in 4K HD.
If you’re thinking the RX100 VII sounds perfect, it should be noted that all these fabulous features come at a cost. The price point is a little high, which unfortunately puts this powerful compact out of reach for many people. Still, if this is within your budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better compact for video than the Mark VII.
|It has an advanced autofocus system.||The price point is a bit high.|
|The video quality is stellar.|
|It comes with a built-in microphone jack.|
Check out the Sony RX100 VII on Amazon.
Best Mid-Range Compact Camera: Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II Digital Camera
The Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II Digital Camera is a quality mid-range camera that is a lot different than its predecessor in both style and specs. Moving away from the clunky DSLR-style shell, the Mark II has a streamlined body that retains the pleasant feel of the grip, but is much more pocketable. As far as the specs go, Mark II has a 20.1MP CMOS sensor. Backed by Canon’s DIGIC 8 engine, it can capture uncropped 4K/30p footage. It also boasts a zoom lens with a relatively large focal range (24-100mm) and a surprisingly wide maximum aperture.
The G5 X Mark II delivers decent image quality on photographs as well. The metering system is reliable and noise performance is well-controlled. Image distortions are also kept to a minimum.
As far as downsides, the battery life isn’t impressive and the focus tends to be a little soft when the lens is set to longer focal lengths. It’s also a tad on the pricey side for what will be little more than a smartphone camera upgrade for most people. Overall though, the Mark II is a well-rounded compact that’s fairly adaptable to most conditions.
|The burst shooting mode is remarkably fast.||The focus can be a bit soft at larger focal lengths.|
|It has a stylish, well-built casing.||It does not have a hot shoe mount for accessories.|
|The zoom lens provides a versatile focal range.|
Take a look at the Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II Digital Camera on Amazon today.
Best Budget Compact Camera: Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 4K Digital Camera
- Affordable high-quality compact camera
- Face detection enabled autofocus
- 4K HD video capture
- Intuitive touchscreen display
Our pick for the best budget option is the Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 4K Digital Camera. It has a 30x zoom range which makes it perfect for anyone that wants the flexibility of multiple focal lengths without the hassle of interchangeable lenses. With a pocketable body, small grip, and thumb rest, this model is a lot nicer to handle than several of its rivals. A control ring around the lens can be used to make easy adjustments to the zoom or focus. It has a small sensor, but the shooting specs more than make up for it.
On the video side, it can shoot 4K video at 30fps. Focusing is typically sharp, with great face detection. The image stabilization is pretty solid as well. The video specs also provide some reliable exposures whether you are shooting in JPEG or raw.
|The autofocus has a great face-detection feature.||The focus can be a little soft at wide angles.|
|It has a touchscreen with an intuitive and easy-to-use interface.|
Check out the Panasonic LUMIX ZS80 4K Digital Camera on Amazon.
Best for Vlogging: Sony ZV-1
If you are mostly a videographer, then the Sony ZV-1 is probably the one for you. It should be noted that the ZV-1 is also capable of shooting decent photos, but its main strength is capturing professional-quality video. The ZV-1 leads its class in autofocus ability, tenaciously locking onto moving people or objects in the frame. It also does an excellent job of maintaining focus on moving subjects and tracking human eyes across the frame.
It comes equipped with a 3.5mm mic port, which is an absolute must for anyone interested in vlogging. The ability to boost your audio quality by plugging in an external microphone will absolutely set you apart from the competition. Its remarkably bright 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens will ensure you get that lovely background blur in your videos, adding a professional quality to your image.
|It has a 3.5mm port for headphones or an external microphone.||The touchscreen display has limited functions.|
|The autofocus feature can detect moving people or objects.||It has a MicroUSB port which may require special cables or adaptors.|
|A hot shoe mount is included.|
Take a look at the Sony ZV-1 on Amazon today.
Best Pocket Camera: DJI Pocket 2
- Lightweight, pocketable camera
- 3-axis gimbal stabilization for smooth video
- Includes four microphones for recording stereo audio
- Face-tracking auto focus
The DJI Pocket 2 has quietly become one of the go-to cameras for solo vlogging. It has a 64MP sensor attached to a three-axis gimbal, which provides very stable footage. Its compact size and handy automatic face-tracking feature make it an ideal camera for videographers who are on the go. It has a 93-degree field of view which allows it to capture a sizable portion of any given scene. The small touchscreen is the perfect tool for previewing footage in the field.
The 4K footage may not be as crisp as some of its competitors, but the skin-tone-friendly color balance makes up for that a bit. The tiny 1/1.7-inch sensor is less than ideal in low-light and high-contrast conditions. Stills are also not its forte, so if you are interested in photos, you may want to look at some of the other premium compacts on this list. What sets the Pocket 2 apart though, is its unparalleled stabilization abilities, which are even more remarkable when you consider its pocket-friendly proportions.
|The camera is attached to a stabilized gimbal head.||It doesn’t perform well in low-light conditions.|
|It is small enough to fit in your pocket.||High-contrast images aren’t its specialty.|
|The autofocus feature has face-tracking technology.|
Check out the DJI Pocket 2 on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Compact Camera: Step by Step
The market for quality compact cameras includes professionals and beginners alike. So whether you’re looking to upgrade your smartphone or back up your mirrorless camera, it’s important to do your research before dropping a bunch of money on a camera that may not suit your needs. That’s why the most important consideration is how you will be using it.
After determining your needs, there are three main considerations when buying a compact camera:
- Zoom Range
- Manual Controls
Let’s review each of these in more detail.
If you are looking for a compact camera you can take on vacation to capture those fun, candid moments of your family, you’ll want something with a sizable zoom range. If street or lifestyle photography is more your speed, a compact that has a fixed lens with a fast shutter speed might be what you’re looking for.
There are certain compact cameras that provide a large zoom range, sometimes up to 20x or more. Usually, that variety of focal lengths comes at a cost, though. Not to mention that more glass means a bigger and heavier camera. Fixed or prime lenses will usually provide lower apertures and enable larger sensors. Of course, the downside to a prime lens is that you lose zoom capabilities and have a fixed focal length.
Manual controls are a must-have for professionals and advanced amateurs. On the other hand, easy-to-use auto settings are indispensable to newer photographers who might also enjoy something like an intuitive touchscreen. Anyone who is buying a compact camera predominantly for video should look for a model that includes some kind of microphone jack that also doesn’t limit recording capabilities.
Some of the compact cameras that offer manual controls might require users to access those settings through the menu. Often the sleek, pocket-friendly designs of compacts don’t allow room for a lot of quick-access buttons and dials that their prosumer counterparts may have.
Of course, price is a big consideration for most people. Typically something with a fast shutter speed, a large sensor, and a quality lens will cost significantly more than a beginner camera with a basic, simplified build.
You definitely want to stay within your budget, but it’s also worth remembering that quality cameras aren’t cheap. If you are looking to upgrade from your smartphone, you may want to keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for, so make a solid investment in a quality compact camera.
What to Know Before Buying a Compact Camera
Before picking a camera, it’s best to think about what you shoot. Compact cameras do not feature interchangeable lenses. You might not think that is not a big deal, but lenses are just as important as camera specs when it comes to the quality of your image (maybe more so, actually). So if you pay decent money for a compact camera, you want to make sure the lens you’re stuck with suits all your needs because there’s no way to change it.
Most of the major smartphone models provide a relatively wide 28-mm-equivalent focal length in their lenses. It’s an ideal focal length for people who shoot a lot of landscapes or architecture. If you’re doing more portraiture, you want to be able to get closer to your subjects. A lens that is a 35 or 40mm equivalent may better suit your needs. Just bear in mind that if you get a fixed focal length, you will have to physically move towards or away from the subject if you want to change your framing.
Compact cameras are too small to include built-in storage, so no matter what model you chose, you’ll need to purchase an SD card separately. We’d also recommend that you consider picking up some accessories. Despite their diminutive size, some compact cameras are a bit too big for a sling bag. A bag might be a necessity because not every camera model comes with a quality strap.
Most compact cameras will have removable batteries, giving them a distinct advantage over smartphones. This may not seem like a big deal, but it gives you the ability to carry a spare for extended shoots. It can also extend the life of your camera by allowing you to swap in a replacement in a few years when the original battery cell isn’t capable of holding a charge anymore.
Using Compact Cameras: What It’s Like
These cameras are a little different than a selfie on your smartphone. They require some level of attention to detail and as a result, you will find yourself putting in a little more effort while shooting images and recording video. Some people who have only ever used a smartphone for photos may be disappointed in the results at first. It may take time to learn how to properly use a new compact camera in order to get the most out of it. Although many compact cameras will include some kind of automatic mode, you won’t really be able to unlock the quality of your camera until you take some time to look over the user manual, watch some YouTube tutorials, and ask a few questions on some forums.
|Fujifilm X100V||The tilting touchscreen makes framing your shots easy. It has a quality sensor and accurate autofocus. You can record crystal clear 4K video.||An addition filter must be purchased for weather-proofing. It has a fixed focal length lens.|
|Sony RX100 VII||It has an advanced autofocus system. The video quality is stellar. It comes with a built-in microphone jack.||The price point is a bit high.|
|Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II||The burst shooting mode is remarkably fast. It has a stylish, well-built casing. The zoom lens provides a versatile focal range.||The focus can be a bit soft at larger focal lengths. It does not have a hot shoe mount for accessories.|
|Panasonic LUMIX ZS80||The autofocus has a great face-detection feature. It has a touchscreen with an intuitive and easy-to-use interface.||The focus can be a little soft at wide angles.|
|Sony ZV-1||It has a 3.5mm port for headphones or an external microphone. The autofocus feature can detect moving people or objects. A hot shoe mount is included.||The touchscreen display has limited functions. It has a MicroUSB port which may require special cables or adaptors.|
|DJI Pocket 2||The camera is attached to a stabilized gimbal head. It is small enough to fit in your pocket. The autofocus feature has face-tracking technology.||It doesnât perform well in low-light conditions. High-contrast images arenât its specialty.|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Urbanscape/Shutterstock.com.