10 best compact cameras 2018: Super-zooms and premium point-and-shoots for incredible picture taking

T3’s roundup of the best compact cameras available to buy this year, featuring Sony, Panasonic, Canon and more

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There's a massive range of choice when it comes to the best compact cameras. Each of the models chosen for our expert buyer's guide offer something your average smartphone can't. That could be a large sensor, optical zoom, or a plethora of manual controls, giving you greater creative freedom with your shots. 

The market is diverse, but that definitely means there's something to suit your needs, whether you're looking for a compact model that also handles 4K video recording, or you're heading off on a sight-seeing holiday and want a smaller, retro-style snapper to pack in your bag.

Our top pick for the best compact camera is the Sony RX100 VI  which offers superlative image quality for something so dinky. But, as always, there's a trade off here... If you’re looking for a big zoom, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Worry not, as we've reviewed and recommended nine other superb compact cameras so that you can easily find the perfect one for you.

Looking for something else? Check out T3's other expert camera buying guides:

 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 Sony RX100 VI 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 are  Panasonic TZ90 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 TZ200, 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 VI

The perfect combination of high image quality and pocketability in this premium compact

Reasons to buy
+High image quality+Inbuilt viewfinder and tilting screen+4K video
Reasons to avoid
-Very high price-Slightly awkward handling

If you want the ultimate in pocket-sized image quality, then you can’t go far wrong with the RX100 VI. 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 24-200mm - 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 V and the Mark IV which are still cracking models. 

2. Panasonic TZ200

The best travel zoom compact you can buy right now

Reasons to buy
+Long zoom length+One-inch sensor+Manual control
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Fixed screen 

Panasonic’s TZ100 was an impressive little compact travel camera, but it upped the ante with the TZ200, boosting the zoom lens up to 15x. Panasonic says that both the TZ cameras will remain in its line-up, giving you two options designed to suit your budget and your needs. 

Design wise, the two cameras are very similar, so we’re still lamenting the lack of a tilting screen for the TZ series, but otherwise, it’s a stylish pocket-friendly camera that is absolutely ideal for your travel needs. The one-inch sensor puts it in a realm above other travel compacts, while the long zoom sees it outperform the Sony RX100 V. 

Other improvements to the model include a better electronic viewfinder and a new sensor which produces better colour. One area where it falls down a little is in low-light, so if you’re somebody who likes to do a lot of dim snapping, it may not be the one for you.

3. Canon G7X Mark II

A well featured and smart premium compact which appeals to DSLR owners

Reasons to buy
+Intuitive operation+High image quality
Reasons to avoid
-Quite pricey-No viewfinder

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

Reasons to buy
+High image quality+Excellent controls
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Not pocket friendly

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

Reasons to buy
+Long zoom+4K video
Reasons to avoid
-Very high price-Bulky body

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

Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous looks+Very large sensor
Reasons to avoid
-High price-One focal length only

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. Canon G1X Mark III

A DSLR in your pocket

Reasons to buy
+Huge sensor+Vari-angle screen+Small size
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Limited zoom range-Limited aperture range-Short battery life 

Canon’s G series have taken a little bit of a backseat in recent times, but the G1X Mark III puts the old favourite right back in the limelight. This seriously impressive feat of miniaturisation sees a DSLR-sized (APS-C) sensor housed inside a teeny tiny body. It’ll even squeeze into your pocket, so long as you’re not sporting super tight skinny jeans. 

Of course you do have some compromise here, most notably the short zoom range - there’s just 3x optical zoom available. That’s still excellent for a compact camera with such a large sensor - most others in this category make do with a fixed length lens. The biggest drawback here is the high asking price, but for something which puts DSLR image quality in your pocket, you may just think the money is worth it.

8. Panasonic TZ90

A well-rounded travel compact camera that packs tonnes of features into its small body

Reasons to buy
+Large zoom+4K Video and Photo
Reasons to avoid
-Less able in low light-Viewfinder very small

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. 

9. Canon SX730

The biggest zoom currently on the market, but it could do with a few more attractive features

Reasons to buy
+Huge zoom+Tilting screen
Reasons to avoid
-No raw format shooting-No touchscreen

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. 

10. Leica Q

A compact camera with a full-frame sensor - just make sure you have plenty of readies to buy it

Reasons to buy
+Full-frame sensor+Superb controls
Reasons to avoid
-Super high price-Large

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.  

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