A high-end compact camera lets you get the benefits of a DSLR and mirrorless image quality, without having to carry it around in a bag or around your neck.
Since this style of camera is small enough to fit in your back pocket, it makes great options for those who need to react to the shots around them, or just those who can’t. afford the bulk of other types of cameras.
You might be wondering what exactly is a compact camera. Well, aside from the smaller size, all of these cameras will come with a non-interchangeable lens – either prime or zoom – and usually, with an older design.
In this list, we’ll detail the best small cameras at various price points – read on to find out why you should consider these picks.
1. Best Overall
Sony touts it as the perfect vlogging camera, but it’s great for everything else too.
- Full flip screen
- Impressive video capabilities and audio options
- Incredible autofocus
- Not the longest battery life
- Zoom range could be longer
The Sony ZV-1 is heavily marketed to the vlogging crowd, but if you don’t fancy donning a selfie-stick and starting a YouTube channel, you shouldn’t let that deter you.
In practice, this means the ZV-1 delivers incredible video performance and fantastic sound, combined with one of the best autofocus tracking any camera can offer. There’s a 1-inch sensor which also helps with low-light performance, and it has a fairly fast 1.8 aperture on its built-in zoom lens.
While most of the features are geared slightly towards video shooters, the stills modes still take advantage of the superb autofocus system, ensuring your shots are razor sharp. We found the only real downside was the shorter zoom range, compared to some of the other options on this list.
Canon Powershot V10
2. Ideal for vlogging
If you’ve been vlogging on a phone and want to up your quality, the Canon Powershot V10 might be the perfect tool for the job.
- Small pocket form factor
- 19mm equivalent wide-angle lens
- Two stereo microphones and 3.5 mm input
- Fixed focal length
- Contrast-based autofocus system
The Canon Powershot V10 is Canon’s first attempt at a camera designed specifically for vlogging, and it’s an impressive start. In terms of hardware, it shares many similarities with the Powershot G7 X Mark III, but this time it’s scaled down to a smaller chassis, and it’s also a bit cheaper.
That means you get a 1-inch sensor, up to 4K 30fps video recording, 20MP stills, and even a flip-out screen so you can see yourself while recording. You lose the zoom lens, but instead you get a super wide equivalent 19mm lens, which is perfect for vlogging style shooting.
Downsides are its unusual looks, plastic feel and non-replaceable battery – although Canon claims you can expect an hour and 20 minutes of FHD video recording on a charge, which is probably enough for most people .
Sony RX100 VII
About as perfect as a high-end small-scale compact camera can get, but you’ll have to pay a premium price.
- Superb image and video quality
- Excellent image stabilization
- Contextual viewfinder
- Small buttons can be difficult to press
- It is very expensive
The latest model follows the standards set by the Mark VI, which has extended the lens for greater versatility, and adds an advanced image processing engine and mic input to the package. It’s got some serious zoom on it, taking you from full wide-angle to telescope mode.
The video features are plentiful and there is even an option for slow motion up to 1000 fps. The built-in stabilization is also very good. As always with high-performance compacts, the battery life isn’t going to blow anyone away, but we found it to be on par with its competitors.
However, you’ll need deep pockets to take advantage of it – and not because of its size, just because the asking price usually hovers above the four-figure mark.
Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K
4. Best for zooming
A compact all-rounder with an excellent optical zoom, top-notch image stabilization and a very neat design.
- Versatile 30x zoom range
- Simple touch controls
- Convenient mode dial and control ring
- Aperture limited to long focal lengths
- Poor performance in low light
Panasonic’s ZS series (or TZ series, for those in the UK) have long been a great choice for those who need a versatile compact, and the ZS70 is no different.
The camera’s distinguishing feature is its 30x optical zoom lens, which encompasses wide-angle (24mm equivalent) for those group shots, or can zoom in (up to 720mm equivalent) to reveal distant subjects wide in frame.
With decent autofocus, an electronic viewfinder, excellent image stabilization, a tilting LCD screen for selfies and a whole list of other top features, the ZS70’s aspirations make it a real jack-of-all-trades. .
GoPro Hero 11 Black
5. Ideal for action
If you’re looking for the best GoPro has to offer, look no further.
- Fully waterproof
- Extremely durable design
- 27MP photos and 5.3K videos
- Fixed ultra-wide lens
- Better for video than photography
This option is a bit out of left field, but it still meets our definition of a compact camera, and for many scenarios it’s the right tool for the job. If you’re the type who loves action-packed vacations involving things like skiing, mountain biking, or surfing, then a GoPro is an almost essential purchase.
The Hero 11 Black takes surprisingly good photos, but the fixed ultra-wide lens is its main limiting factor. We were particularly surprised by its ability to take long exposure photos at night, it’s a little underperforming.
Where the GoPro really shines is in its video performance. It can capture up to 5.3K of video at 60fps, all with gimbal-style stabilization built into its small chassis. Plus, you can drop it in the ocean without worry because it’s fully water resistant.
How to choose a compact camera
Compact cameras come with all sorts of different specs to suit different people, from people who want a smartphone upgrade to everyday vloggers who need something lightweight to document their daily adventures.
This variety gives you a world of options, but it can also be quite difficult to determine which model is right for you. Here are some things to think about before you get started.
What will you be using your compact camera for?
Thinking about that should really help you narrow things down. If you’re into shooting wildlife, you’ll want a fairly long zoom, but if it’s primarily going to be used for group shots at parties, you’ll care more about its width.
If you’re using the camera for videos, you might want to make sure it has a microphone input, as built-in microphones aren’t always good enough for polished video. Image stabilization is also an important factor for videos, especially with these tiny cameras, as their form factor makes them more prone to shaking.
What’s wrong with 1 inch sensors?
A few cameras on our list feature 1-inch sensors, but what does that even mean? We won’t go into detail here, because all you really need to know is that a larger sensor gives you better low-light performance and allows for shallower depth of field.
1-inch sensors have made their way into smaller and smaller devices and you’re even starting to see them in some phones. So if you’re looking for your camera to be a step up in image quality, you’ll probably be looking at at least 1 inch.
Is a point-and-shoot camera right for you?
The clue with compact cameras is right in the name, they are compact! Most people don’t want to lug around a heavy DSLR and a bag full of lenses, so compacts offer a great alternative with a wide range of built-in focal lengths.
If you’re an avid smartphone shooter, a compact camera can give you true bokeh, as opposed to the AI-driven portrait modes that so often cut into your subject’s hair or body. The zoom range will also be welcome if you’ve ever tried to take a picture of wild animals with your phone.
More experienced photographers often like compacts because they are much more discreet. This allows them to get candid shots and maybe even shoot in areas that don’t allow for more professional gear.
If you’re new to photography but thinking about getting into it more seriously, you might possibly feel a little limited without interchangeable lenses – you might also want to check out some of our other camera buying guides.