Like your photography to be an all-in-one package? Here are the best compact cameras you can buy right now
For those who like things a little more straightforward or need to travel light, compact cameras are the perfect choice. Despite the name, compact cameras don’t have to be small — the name just refers to any camera with a fixed (i.e. non-interchangeable) lens.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to compact cameras. Here are our top picks, which are available for purchase right now...
The first X100 was a premium compact camera that kickstarted the X series and revitalised Fujifilm’s fortunes. The cameras have a longstanding reputation for being slick, well-designed and so fun to use it’s practically compulsive. In fact, when we called upon pro photographers to tell us what they liked about the series, we were almost buried under the deluge of praise. The classic pairing of a high-quality X-trans sensor with a tack-sharp 23mm prime lens (35mm equivalent on 35mm format) has been winning over photographers since 2011.
The X100F, announced at the top of 2017, is the latest and greatest in the series. Boasting the APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor and the same processor as the X-T2, it carries a maximum native ISO range of 200-12,800, expandable to 100-51,200. The customary dial-led X-series controls are present and correct, while users have the choice between a mechanical and electronic shutter — the latter can reach maximum speeds of 1/32,000sec. The lens sports a built-in 3-stop ND filter for light control, and it’s possible to shoot at continuous speeds of up to 8fps, with a buffer of 25 RAW frames.
One of the best applications for compact cameras is travel, and one of the best-regarded travel compact series is the Lumix TZ range of cameras from Panasonic, which practically invented the concept of the travel zoom. The latest in the series is the TZ200, boasting increased focal flexibility, upgrades to its EVF and rear display, and the welcomed addition of Bluetooth. However, the budget concious might opt for its, still, very capable predecessor, the TZ100.
Pairing a 1in 20.1MP sensor with a generous 25-250mm equivalent f/2.8-5.9 Leica DC lens, the TZ100 has some serious imaging power packed into its diminutive frame. As is now customary on Panasonic models, it also has the capacity to shoot 4K video. This not only allows photographers to add another string to their bow, but also allows for the capture of split-second moments in stills form, thanks to 4K Photo modes, which can extract an 8MP still from 4K footage. And, it does all this while being small enough to fit in your coat pocket!
Canon’s G-series compacts sit at the higher end of the range, with an emphasis placed on quality and the G7 X Mark II is no exception. Pairing a 20.1MP 1in CMOS sensor with a 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens, the G7 X Mark II offers a comfortable and well-rounded shooting experience, with dial-led controls that are sensibly laid out.
One important thing to note regarding the G7 X Mark II is that it lacks a viewfinder, so those who prefer composing their images at eye-level will likely want to seek out an alternative option. However, if you’re happy composing with the rear screen, you’re in for a treat; the high-resolution, tilting model on the rear of the G7 X Mark II is excellent. With the DIGIC 7 processor improving imaging performance and battery life, the G7X Mark II is a very enticing package indeed.
4. Sony RX100 V
As 1in sensor compacts jostle for recognition in a crowded market, the Sony RX100 V makes a compelling case for itself as leader of the pack. It uses a 20.1MP Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor with a stacked design that allows for incredibly fast readout speeds. What this means for photographers is a maximum continuous shooting speed of 24fps — pretty impressive by anyone’s standards.
Pair this with a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens, add a high-resolution vari-angle screen (no touch functionality, unfortunately) and a pop-up electronic viewfinder, and you’ve got an impressive imaging toolkit. 4K video is a nice bonus too, created from oversampled 5.5K video for extra quality.
DSLR-style bridge cameras are popular choices for photographers who want a compact camera with pro-style handling. With that market in mind comes the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000, a chunkier offering than most of the other devices on this list, thanks to its hefty grip and bulky frame. In a compact, a bigger build tends to mean a bigger lens, and, accordingly, FZ2000 users have a 24-480mm equivalent optic to play with, which offers plentiful quality for the 20.1MP 1in sensor to make use of.
The FZ2000 also shoots 4K video and can take advantage of Panasonic’s 4K Photo modes to extract stills, while there’s also a pleasingly bright viewfinder and a built-in ND filter. Panasonic has also added a touch-screen to this camera, and those who want to make use of the 4K video capabilities will welcome the inclusion of an external microphone socket. This is an impressive all-around package.
6. Sony RX10 IV
Sony’s powerful RX10 bridge cameras sit at the top end of compact cameras in terms of both functionality and price, but if quality is your priority you should settle for nothing less. This premium superzoom camera offers a 24-600mm equivalent f/2.4-4 lens, paired with the same stacked sensor we saw in the RX100 V, allowing for the same fast readout times. This means it packs in the same premium features, such as 24fps burst shooting, as well as an autofocus system that uses 315 points to acquire focus in mere tenths of a second. Video users can not only shoot 4K, but also high-frame-rate slow-motion video in Full HD. The RX10 IV also adds a touch-screen for improved operability over the RX10 III.
Canon went about the task of making a new flagship for its G series with gusto, and the result was the G1 X Mark III, on release the only camera to pair an APS-C sensor (a 24MP CMOS model) with a zoom lens (a 24-72mm equivalent f/2.8-5.6 zoom). Adding in a 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder, 9 fps burst shooting and a 3in fully articulating LCD made the G1 X III’s debut into quite an event as it outstripped its competition in many factors. While the lack of 4K means that video shooters will likely want to look elsewhere, the G1X Mark III remains a compelling prospect for the enthusiast or amateur who wants a compact that looks and acts the part.
And finally, for those whose budgets are a little more constrained, we look at an older and more affordable model. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 doesn’t use the 1-inch sensor popular in compacts of its class, instead cropping into a significantly larger Four Thirds sensor. This is paired with a 24-75mm equivalent f/1.7-2.8 lens and the Venus Engine from contemporary high-end cameras like the Lumix GH4. Add in 4K, Wi-Fi connectivity and in-camera RAW conversion, and it’s easy to see why the Lumix LX100 remains popular. There are plenty of interesting creative modes and features hidden within the menus as well, making it a camera that is a genuine delight to play with and explore.
About the Author
Jon Stapley is a professional journalist with a wealth of experience on a number of photography titles including Amateur Photographer, Digital Camera World and What Digital Camera. See more of his writing at jonstapley.tumblr.com