There’s a huge range of choice when it comes to compact cameras these days. All of the models mentioned in our round-up offer something your average smartphone simply can’t - whether that’s optical zoom, a large sensor or a host of manual controls. It’s quite a diverse market too, meaning there’s something to suit a wide variety of needs.
The ultimate all-rounder here is the Sony RX100 V which offers superlative image quality in something dinky and small. But, as there’s always a trade off, if you’re looking for a big zoom you’ll need to look elsewhere - luckily for you, we've reviewed and recommended nine other excellent compact cameras to help find the perfect one for your needs.
How to buy the best compact camera
While testing each of these cameras, we put them through what we think the average user is going to do with them. That includes a range of different shooting scenarios, including low light. It’s also important that it handles nicely and isn’t overly complicated to use.
When you’re looking to choose a compact camera, have a think about what matters to you the most. Is it being able to fit it in your pocket? Is it having a huge zoom? Is it manual controls at your fingertips? It’s almost impossible to find something that fulfils all of those criteria, but we have chosen the RX100 V because it offers probably the best compromise. For this, you have a high price to pay - currently retailing for nearly £900, that’s a hefty chunk of change for a compact camera.
If zoom is the most important to you, cameras like the Canon SX730, Panasonic TZ90 and Nikon A900 are the ticket, but, you get a smaller sensor than some of the others here. To truly combine both, you need to go big - that’s where premium bridge cameras like the Panasonic FZ2000 and the Sony RX10 III come in.
While the Sony RX100 V is a great compromise, if you don’t have the budget to stretch, other good all-rounders are the Canon G7X Mark II and the Panasonic TZ100, both of which also feature one-inch sensors.
Lastly, for the more niche user, there’s the Fuji X100F and the Leica Q. These beautiful compact cameras offer superb image quality with DSLR size sensors, but, you only get one focal length to play with.
The 10 best compact cameras for you
1. Sony RX100 V
The perfect combination of high image quality and pocketability in this premium compact
If you want the ultimate in pocket-sized image quality, then you can’t go far wrong with the RX100 V. You pay a hefty price for all that technology, but you get a heck of a camera in return.
A large one-inch sensor is joined by a wonderful lens which offers a 35mm equivalent of 24-70mm - a classic walk around length. There’s also a host of other handy features, such as an inbuilt retractable viewfinder and a tilting touch-sensitive screen.
If you’re struggling to justify the high asking price, have a look at older versions of the RX100, such as the Mark IV and the Mark III which are still cracking models.
2. Panasonic TZ90
A well-rounded travel compact camera that packs tonnes of features into its small body
If you’re looking for a travel compact camera that can do a bit of everything, the TZ90 is the most well-rounded currently on the market. It’s got a whole host of appealing features, including a 30x optical zoom, a tilting touch-sensitive screen, a viewfinder (albeit small), and 4K Video and Photo modes.
If you’re mainly shooting in bright light you should be very impressed with what it produces, but it can struggle in some dark conditions. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this model, and you can even shoot in raw format and take full manual control if that’s your thing too.
3. Canon G7X Mark II
A well featured and smart premium compact which appeals to DSLR owners
Canon’s range of PowerShot G series cameras are a great alternative to your DSLR when size and weight is of the utmost importance. There’s a great range to choose from, but the G7X Mark II sits nicely in the middle with a great balance between small size and a range of features.
It’s got a 4x optical zoom, a tilting touch-sensitive screen and a large one-inch sensor. You can shoot in raw format and take full manual control, but the lack of a viewfinder may be off-putting for some traditionalists. If you can find room for a camera a little bigger, the Canon G5X might be the more appealing choice.
4. Panasonic FZ2000
A bridge camera, but perhaps not as you know it - the FZ2000 is the ideal travel companion
Time was that bridge cameras had a bit of a dodgy reputation. They offered a high zoom but the image quality was a bit ropey. That’s not the case any more with the current crop of well-performing and very appealing premium bridge cameras like the FZ2000.
This is a genuine contender for a DSLR replacement, giving you a 20x optical zoom in a body which means you don’t need to carry around extra lenses. It’s also got a cracking viewfinder, a great free-angle screen and a range of 4K Video and Photo options.
If you’re looking for an all-rounder for travelling, and have got more room than just a pocket, the FZ2000 is an excellent choice.
5. Sony RX10 III
Another superb bridge camera that gets you even closer to the action
It’s very difficult to choose between the Panasonic FZ2000 and the Sony RX10 III, so we’ve included them both in this round-up. The Sony is more expensive, but you do get a longer zoom lens at 25x optical for your extra outlay. Not only is the lens long, it also has a lovely wide maximum aperture ring of f/2.8-4 making it great in low light.
If you’re mainly concerned with ultimate flexibility, then it’s a fantastic option - just think how good your safari photos will look next to a phone snapper.
Other fantastic features include super quick autofocusing, 4K video recording and the ability to shoot video in super slow motion.
6. Fuji X100F
Look the business with this retro premium compact which is superb for street photography
The Fuji X100F is as beautiful as it is capable. If the retro look floats your boat, then the X100F is a thing to behold, just like pretty much every camera in Fuji’s impressive stable.
The X100F is a compact camera but it’s got the same size sensor as a DSLR (APS-C). It’s paired with a lovely 35mm f/2.0 fixed length lens - and while that sounds restrictive, it’s superb for capturing street life and travel images which really make you think about what you’re photographing before indiscriminately hitting the shutter release.
There’s also a wonderful hybrid viewfinder which combines optical and digital technology for the best of both worlds. It’s a shame the screen doesn’t tilt, or the camera would be nigh-on perfect.
7. Panasonic TZ100
A nifty travel camera which combines zoom with a large sensor
Generally speaking, when it comes to choosing a pocket-sized compact camera, you need to choose between zoom length and sensor size. Panasonic has managed to come up with a decent compromise here with the TZ100, mixing a one-inch sensor with a 10x optical zoom.
The large sensor means image quality is great in a variety of different conditions, including low light, while the reach of the zoom should be flexible enough for most situations you find yourself in.
If we had to pick one problem it would be that the screen doesn’t tilt, which would make composition from awkward angles (aka selfies) much easier.
8. Canon SX730
The biggest zoom currently on the market, but it could do with a few more attractive features
If your main concern is how long your zoom is, then the Canon SX730 is the obvious choice for you. The market-leading 40x optical zoom gives you a 35mm equivalent of 24-960mm, getting you as close to the action as you’re going to get without shifting yourself.
As with many compact cameras with a small sensor, image quality is best when you can shoot in bright light - if you’re looking for a travel camera that should be most of the time.
While you can shoot in full manual mode, there’s no raw format shooting available, nor can AF point be moved - both likely to be a veto for high-end enthusiasts, but less likely to be of bother to beginners. You’ll also have to make do with Full HD video recording, but at least the screen tilts for those perfect selfies.
9. Nikon Coolpix A900
A great value high zoom camera, with enough extra features to make it an all-rounder
The Nikon A900 has almost the longest zoom on the market, at 35x optical - an equivalent of 24-840mm. It’ll fit in your pocket, so long as you’re not wearing ultra tight skinnies.
The look of the A900 is a bit utilitarian, but along with that cracking zoom range, there’s also full manual control, a tilting screen and 4K video recording. There’s no raw format shooting again though, which is a black mark against an otherwise well specced camera.
If low light is your bag, the A900’s small sensor isn’t going to be your friend, but for good light travel snaps that you want the zoom for, it’s a wise choice.
10. Leica Q
A compact camera with a full-frame sensor - just make sure you have plenty of readies to buy it
Everybody wants a Leica, right? The main reason being that pretty much all of its cameras are wildly expensive - only making you want them even more. In fairness, image quality is also excellent, and the Leica Q is the only camera in this round-up to have a super big full-frame sensor. You also get enthusiast friendly manual type controls, and a lovely 28mm f/1.7 lens for your rather thick wad of cash too.
The Q looks like a camera from the 1950s, but it has a touch-sensitive screen and a very useable electronic viewfinder - offering the best of both worlds.