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Best compact camera 2018: 10 top compact cameras to suit all abilities

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From simple snappers for beginners to high-end powerhouses, here are the best compact cameras you can buy right now. 

Compact cameras and the compact camera market have changed a lot over the last few years. Smartphones have decimated the entry-level models and as a result manufacturers have concentrated on putting more advanced features into cameras to make them more attractive than ever before.

Compared to compacts of old, manufacturers are now tending to design compact cameras based around physically larger sensors than used to be the norm, resulting in significantly better image quality than even the best smartphone. In some cases, the sensors in some high-end compact cameras can rival DSLRs and mirrorless cameras in some cases. 

The wide variety of different compact cameras means there’s a wealth of choice out there. There are small cameras that can slip in a pocket yet have huge zoom ranges, and large bridge cameras that look like DSLRs, but have a large, fixed zoom lens and lots of automated easy-to-use options. That’s not forgetting waterproof options and high-end models that are a great alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless camera. 

If you need a bit more help figuring out what kind of camera you need, then read this article: What camera should I buy?

Otherwise, read on to find out what’s the best compact camera for your needs, and why.

It may be one of the more expensive options here and it’s not a compact for everyone, but if you’re after a high-quality camera, you’re not going to be disappointed with the fabulous X100F. Everything about it oozes class. Unlike a lot of compacts here, it has a fixed lens as opposed to a zoom, but this 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens is paired with a DSLR-sized 24.3MP APS-C sensor that delivers cracking results. There’s also the tactile external controls and clever hybrid viewfinder – you have the option of electronic and optical views make it a joy to shoot with. You’ll need some photo knowledge to get the best from it, but the X100F is an exquisite camera that you’ll cherish if you take the plunge.

Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix ZS200

Panasonic invented the travel-zoom camera genre – compact cameras that you can fit in a pocket but that have long zoom lenses built-in. Despite strong competition, the ZS range (known as TZ outside the US) has continued to dominate sales, and it looks set to continue this with the brilliant Lumix ZS200 (called TZ200 outside the US). As we first saw with the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100, Panasonic has been able to keep the camera body about the same size as earlier ZS-series cameras but squeeze a much larger 1-inch sensor into the camera to deliver much better image quality. The zoom lens isn’t quite so extensive as some, but the versatile 15x zoom should be more than enough for most users, while you also get (an admittedly small) electronic viewfinder, 4K video and a great touchscreen interface. If you’re looking for a neat all-in-one compact camera that delivers great images, this is it.  

Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

If you’re looking for a powerful all-in-one bridge camera, then the RX10 IV from Sony is the best there is. You’ll pay a premium for that performance, but when you look at what else is out there for the same price, the RX10 IV is virtually in a league of its own. Featuring a huge 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, the RX10 IV builds on the RX10 III with an overhauled AF system that now does justice to the rest of the camera, while the 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor is capable of achieving excellent levels of detail. Handling is very polished, feeling like a DSLR in the hand and complemented by a large and bright electronic viewfinder. That’s not forgetting the ability to capture video in 4K and shoot at up to 24fps. Impressive stuff.

Best compact camera: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

While there’s now a decent selection of premium 1.0-inch sensor compact cameras to choose from, the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II sets itself apart thanks to its dinky proportions and streamlined controls. The highly pocketable dimensions do mean there are sacrifices to be made, with the PowerShot G9 X Mark II featuring a relatively short focal length zoom lens. However, if you’re looking for a neat compact camera that can produce vastly superior images to your smartphone, and has decent connectivity options and simple-to-use controls, the PowerShot G9 X Mark II is an excellent choice.  

Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix LX15

Panasonic’s muscled it’s way into the growing premium 1-inch compact sector with the brilliant Lumix LX10 (known as the LX15 outside the US), and is the perfect balance of performance, features and price. First, the bad news – there’s no built-in EVF and the smooth finish doesn’t offer the best handgrip, but the 24-72mm lens is one of the fastest around with a maximum aperture of f/1.4. Add to that some polished handling with dual control rings and a touchscreen, snappy AF and 4K video capture, and you have one of the best compact cameras around. 

Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI

Sony’s original RX100 was a landmark camera that fused a 1-inch sensor in a compact, metal body with the controls and image quality demanded by enthusiasts. The RX100 VI goes several steps further, though, with a ‘stacked’ sensor design for high-speed data capture. This means it can shoot 4K video, amazing 40x slow motion and still images at 24fps in continuous burst mode. That’s not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder that its rivals lack, while this sixth generation model now packs an impressive 24-200mm zoom lens. It’s a pricey option and does have its quirks, but if you’re looking for a versatile, pocket-sized compact with a quality zoom lens, you won’t be disappointed. 

Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000

This trend towards bigger sensors shows up in the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US). Bridge cameras are very popular because they offer a colossal zoom range at a modest cost. To design a big zoom, though, the makers have to use a tiny sensor – and here Panasonic took the wise choice to sacrifice zoom range for better quality. The Panasonic FZ2000 uses a 1-inch sensor, and while the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that’s still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use. We love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range – if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, the older FZ1000 is still available.

Best compact camera: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

Keen photographers usually go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but they also want something that will slip in a pocket for those days when the big camera needs to stay at home. Usually, that means putting up with a smaller sensor – but not this time. Somehow, Canon has shoehorned a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor into a compact camera body. There’s also a built-in electronic viewfinder and refined touchscreen interface. The zoom range is a bit modest at 24-72mm, but there’s nothing else quite like it. 

Best compact camera: Olympus Tough TG-5

Waterproof down to 15m, the Tough TG-5 is also crushproof to 100kg and drop-proof from 2.1m. It can even be used in temperatures as low as -10°C. If you want a rugged, go-anywhere camera, this is it. Olympus has taken the unusual step of actually dropping the pixel count from 16MP on the TG-4 to 12MP on the TG-5 for a better high ISO performance. Add in raw file support and this makes image quality that bit better than its predecessor, while it can shoot 4K video at 30p or high speed footage at 120p in Full HD. Our pick of the waterproof bunch of compacts.

Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot WX220

If you’re wanting a compact camera that can do a better job than your smartphone the WX220 ticks a lot of boxes, especially when you consider the extra flexibility offered by the 10x optical zoom, running from 25-250mm. Images are bright and punchy, with decent detail – ideal for sharing online or printing at typical sizes – while it’s nice to see Wi-Fi connectivity included as well. The 2.7-inch screen is a little on the small side, but that does help to keep the dimensions of the camera to a pocket-friendly size. The WX220 may not have lots of bells and whistles, but what it does do, it does well.