The best compact cameras are perfect 'second' cameras for DSLR or mirrorless owners who want to travel light now and again. They give little away in features or image quality, but they are small enough to slip into a jacket pocket. These are the ones we rate the highest.
With this guide, we're picking physically compact cameras which nevertheless have sensors large enough for high-quality images and the mix of automatic and manual controls that enthusiasts and experts will be looking for, and that we are used to getting in a DSLR or mirrorless camera. If you want something cheaper and simpler, we've got that covered too in our guide to the best point and shoot cameras (opens in new tab).
The key point about 'compact' cameras is that the lenses are not interchangeable. The lens is built in, and that's it.
You might imagine that one compact camera will be much like another, but there two key features to take into account before you make a decision.
1) Prime vs zoom lenses: With a compact camera is that the lens is non-interchangeable, so the one it comes with will have to do all the jobs you want the camera for. You may be happy with a single focal length prime lens, or you may prefer the extra scope of a zoom.
2) Viewfinders: If you find you use the rear screen on a camera most of the time, you may not need a viewfinder – and this does give you more scope with cameras. Some photographers, though, would be lost without a viewfinder.
So there are a couple of things you'll need to think about when choosing the best compact camera. With that in mind, we think these are the best compact cameras you can get right now.
The best compact cameras in 2022(opens in new tab)
The Fujifilm X100V is styled like a classic rangefinder camera and is the latest model in a highly successful line. It has a new, sharper lens than previous X100 models, in order to do full justice to the latest sensor, and the tilting touchscreen on the back makes this camera much easier to use at awkward angles, without compromising its slimline design. The improved autofocus and 4K video capabilities bring this classic camera design right up to date. The X100V has external lens aperture, shutter speed and ISO dials which, for those raised on film cameras like much of the DCW team, are just wonderful to use – and it's amazing how they encourage all the key exposure skills we still need but which are easily forgotten about with 'P' modes and digital interfaces. It also has a clever hybrid optical/digital viewfinder which is not just super bright and clear but lag-free too.
• Read our Fujifilm X100V review(opens in new tab)
The trouble with big sensors is that you need big lenses to go with them, so there goes any kind of pocketability. Usually. But Panasonic has really hit the sweet spot with the Panasonic LX100 II. It combines a Micro Four Thirds sensor that's not much smaller than the ASP-C sensors in mode DSLRs, with a miniaturised lens assembly that powers down into a camera body slim enough to carry around anywhere. The LX100 II is a brand new version of the original LX100, which was, admittedly, starting to show its age. The new model has a 17-megapixel ‘multi-aspect’ sensor, which means you can use its native 4:3 aspect ratio, the 3:2 ratio used by most DSLRs and mirrorless models, or a 16:9 ‘wide’ format without losing lots of megapixels through cropping. With its external shutter speed dial, lens aperture ring and aspect ratio switch, we just love this camera.
• Read our Panasonic Lumix LX100 II review(opens in new tab)
The Canon G1 X Mark III might be pretty pricey but it's practically a DSLR in a compact body. It boasts an impressive 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, the same sensor you'll find in the Canon EOS 80D DSLR. The lens has a versatile 24-72mm focal range and retracts into the camera to make it perfectly pocket-sized when you're not using it. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a fixed aperture, so at 24mm you can shoot as wide open as f/2.8 but at 72mm the aperture will drop down to f/5.6, which isn't great. The G1 X Mark III can only shoot 1080 video, not 4K, but that doesn't bother us much as it's not what we would buy it for. It can shoot at 7fps in continuous burst mode and has wifi connectivity for transferring images on the go. We do like this flagship PowerShot a lot, and the only thing putting us off is that it's been out for a while but the price has barely shifted. Maybe that's because of how good it is!
• Read our Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review
After months of leaks and teases, we've finally got a glimpse at the future of the M-series in the form of the Leica M11, and it's one of the most technologically advanced rangefinders ever made. Leica hasn't tinkered too much with the formula of a rangefinder camera, but has added lots of smart tweaks and features. The triple-resolution full-frame sensor is a real standout, letting you shoot at 60MP, 36MP or 18MP, all of which use the sensor's full width. This is great for speeding up your workflow with smaller file sizes, and shooting at 18MP also gives you the advantage of an unlimited burst buffer.
The M11 makes use of new electronic shutter that gives users the options of a 1/16,000sec shutter speed. It does away with the bottom base plate, giving easier access to the battery and SD card. And in another neat touch, the camera also has 64GB internal storage, making it easy to record simultaneous copies of your images. Leica has beefed up the battery and added USB-C charging; what's more, if you can afford a little extra on top of the considerable price tag, you can add new Visoflex 2 electronic viewfinder to augment the rangefinder experience. Designed in conjunction with the M11, it has a 90-degree tilt function.
While we still need to fully review the Leica M11, all signs so far are pointing to a triumph.
Read more: Leica M11 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Compact cameras with prime lenses or short range zooms can feel limiting. While a 24-72/75mm focal length is still pretty good, you'll still struggle to shoot anything that's a little way away. The Canon G5X Mark II comes with a zoom range that covers 24-120mm, however and has a variable aperture of f/1.8-/2.8 which means that at the telephoto end of zoom range you can still use fast shutter speeds and achieve a shallow depth of field. It does have a smaller, 1-inch 20MP sensor but that can be expected with the longer zoom range. It also features 4K video, a super-fast burst mode of 30fps and a tilting, LCD touchscreen. It has a pop-up viewfinder should you choose not to shoot in live view mode and also has a pop-up flash just in case you need some extra light. If you can live without a bigger APS-C or MFT sensor, this could be perfect.
• Read our Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II review(opens in new tab)
Aimed at vloggers, the Sony ZV-1 might just look like another variant from the RX100 range but in reality, it's so much more. If you've used one of the RX100's, the sensor and lens will probably be quite familiar. Where this camera excels is the controls, rear screen and the body. It too has the poplar zoom range of 24-70mm with a variable aperture of f/1.8 - f/2.8 however, there is a big change in minimum focusing distance as you zoom which is annoying especially if you're using it to record video. The SteadyShot active stabilization wasn't the best however the autofocus is very impressive. It has a vari-angle, rear tilting screen that means it's perfect for recording yourself or taking selfies and it comes with a mic-wind shield which means its audio quality even with the built-in mic is still pretty good. Unlike the Sony RX100 cameras, it doesn't have a viewfinder, but it produces high-quality images, is even better at video and, best of all, it'll cost you less.
• Read our Sony ZV-1 review(opens in new tab)
The Panasonic LX15, which goes by the name LX10 in North America, lacks a viewfinder and rather than including a Micro Four Thirds sensor it has a smaller 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor. However, it is capable of recording 4K video and it has a super-responsive touch screen which makes focusing really easy. It has a zoom range of 24-72mm and a really fast variable aperture of f/1.4-2.0, making it the fastest compact zoom lens available. Overall, it's a great little camera that has a perfect balance of features, performance and pricing. It's small enough to fit in a pocket but is powerful enough to take some stunning photos. It's just that... having used both, we'd rather pay the extra for the LX100 II.
• Read our Panasonic Lumix LX10 review(opens in new tab)
Leica cameras are a bit like Marmite – you either love them or hate them. No matter where you stand, you can't deny they are incredible cameras that offer exceptional image quality. The Leica Q2 features an impressive full-frame 47-megapixel sensor. It has a fixed 28mm f/1.7 lens, making it one of the fastest prime lenses available on a compact camera. It doesn't shoot in 4K but if you can cope with full HD it can still record good quality video. The biggest downside of this camera is the thing that will put most people off – the price. It's an insanely expensive bit of kit and it would probably be higher on our list if it didn't cost an arm and a leg. You could pick up one of the best mirrorless cameras and a lens for less, but sometimes the experience of using a Leica is worth the money. Other than the price, they're relatively hard to get hold of so if you have your heart set on one, you might have to hunt for one first. (I LOVE Marmite – ed.)
• Read our Leica Q2 review(opens in new tab)
The Ricoh GR has a long history, both as a premium-quality compact 35mm film camera and now as a digital model. However, its specs and its performance are now looking a little behind the curve compared to its latest rivals. GR fans, or GRists as Ricoh calls them, will love this update of an iconic camera. But in the world of multi-lens camera phones the wider appeal of this fixed lens compact will probably be limited. This is a beautiful-sized APS-C compact, ideal for carrying around in the pocket, and for discrete street photography. But this is sold at a luxury price that we do think is hard to justify for the features it offers.
• Read our Ricoh GR III review
How we test cameras
We test cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and, for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We only use real-world testing for our guides to instant and compact cameras - comparing results against similar models that we have tested.
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