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Best compact camera: Top compact cameras for all budgets

So you want to buy the best compact camera – but where do you turn? Are Canon and Nikon just as strong here as they are with their more advanced DSLRs and mirrorless cameras? Or should you look towards the likes of Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm? 

We think the best compact camera right now is the Sony RX100 Mark IV. It’s been blessed with a large sensor, cracking 4K video, a high-quality EVF and speedy burst shooting, all inside a body that squeezes into your pocket. 

The best camera for you, though, depends on what you’re prepared to carry around with you, and how accommodating your budget is. Plus, it pays to think about what you tend to shoot, as this determines the features you really need. 

If you'll be shooting outdoors in the sun, a high-quality electronic viewfinder is a huge bonus, while selfie-lovers and those tending to shoot from the ground or above their heads always benefit from tilting LCD screens.

Those capturing moving subjects would be wise to make hybrid phase- and contrast-detect AF systems one of the key wants, while those with video on the mind should look not just for 4K video but also a built-in ND filter to help control exposure.

Whatever you plan to shoot – and no matter your budget – we've got an option for you below. Here are the best compact cameras right now. 

1. Sony RX100 Mark IV: Best overall

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Sony RX100 Mark IV

A delicate balancing act between performance, price and portability makes this the best compact right now

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1-inch type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 (35mm equiv) | Screen: 3-inch tilting, 1.23million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 16fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 1.44million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Wonderful image and video quality
Tiny, super-portable body
No grip makes handling less than ideal
No touchscreen

This is the fourth of seven RX100-series camera, and while the Mark V and VI (position 4) versions are more advanced, they’re also a fair bit costlier. We reckon the Mark IV strikes the sweet spot between being advanced enough to offer the average photographer everything they need by way of up-to-date tech without it being so pricey that nobody can justify the outlay. Image quality is strong in good light and bad, while video quality is also excellent on account of footage being oversampled before it’s output at 4K. If you can’t quite stretch to it, the older RX100 Mark III is still available new, while Canon’s PowerShot G5 X Mark II (position 5) and Panasonic LX15 are also shortlist-worthy.

2. Panasonic Lumix ZS200: Best travel zoom

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Panasonic Lumix ZS200

Huge lenses often mean tiny, poor-performing sensors – but not here

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1-inch type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-360mm f/3.3-6.4 (35mm equiv) | Screen: 3-inch touchscreen, 1.24million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, 2.33million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Great sensor/lens balance
Lovely 4K videos
EVF could be a bit better
Screen doesn't tilt

The Lumix ZS200’s specs (also known as the Lumix TZ200 outside the US) belie its compact proportions: not only do you get a healthy 15x optical zoom, but you get a large 1-inch sensor thrown in too. That bodes very well for image quality, and it’s bolstered by effective image stabilization inside the lens and Raw shooting to help you squeeze out extra goodness from images. Panasonic has even shoehorned in a detailed electronic viewfinder to make shooting in bright light a breeze, while WiFi, Bluetooth and a super-responsive LCD screen make the process of capturing, viewfinder and outputting your images a cinch. Great for travels but compact enough for general use back home too.

3. Fujifilm X100F: Best enthusiast compact

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Fujifilm X100F

With a DSLR-sized sensor and handsome design, this is a premium compact for the discerning photographer

Type: Compact | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens: 35mm f/2 (35mm equiv) | Screen: 3-inch fixed, 1.04million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, 2.36million dots | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast/expert

Beautiful design and solid build
Large and well-respected X-Trans sensor
Video limited to Full HD
Fixed focal length not for everyone

The premium X100F might not be the newest model here, but it still sits towards the upper end of the compact camera tree, with a stylishly retro body mingling with a large, APS-C sensor and a good helping of Fujifilm’s prized technology on the inside. Film Simulation options help to deliver beautiful colors straight out of the camera while physical dials for aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO give you plenty of physical control – no faffing around the menus here. The main party trick unique to Fujifilm, however, is its hybrid viewfinder, which can cleverly be alternated between optical and electronic views of the scene.

4. Sony RX100 VI: Best advanced compact

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Sony RX100 VI

Packing a generous 1-inch sensor and diminutive proportions, the RX100 Mark IV marries portability with quality results

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1-inch type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 (35mm equiv) | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 24fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.35million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Super small considering sensor/lens combo
Excellent EVF is hidden when not in use
Expensive for a compact
Handling not the best 

The RX100 line was already popular before the RX100 VI came along, but this version’s ace card is its expansive 24-200mm lens (in 35mm terms) inside a body just as small as before. But that’s just a sliver of what makes it shine, with brilliant 4K video, a pop-up EVF, tilting touchscreen, 24fps burst shooting and blistering autofocus all sitting alongside. You get the impression that the body has been designed to be as small as possible rather than comfortable to handle, although you can buy a separate grip if it bothers you. Either way, for day-to-day shooting or as the main cameras on a holiday, the RX100 VI packs a mighty punch for a camera this diddy. If you don't need wide focal range, check out the RX100 IV (position 1).

5. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II: Best for general photography

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Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

One of the latest arrivals to crash the premium compact party, the LX100 II is overflowing with high-end tech

Type: Compact | Sensor: Four Thirds | Megapixels: 17MP | Lens: 24-75 f/1.7-2.8 (in 35mm terms) | Screen: 3-inch touchscreen, 1.24million dots | Continuous shooting speed: | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.76million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Large Four Thirds sensor
Great image quality and strong video
LCD can’t be tilted in any way
Relatively short focal range

The original LX100 was notable for being the first compact of its kind to sport a large Four Thirds sensor, and this second-gen update packs a handful of useful improvements. We get a fresh sensor – the same as that inside Panasonic's Lumux GX9 mirrorless camera – and some tweaks to image processing, together with a higher-resolution LCD that’s sensitive to touch. With masses of physical control, it’s perfect for those who like to change things like aperture and exposure compensation as directly as possible. It’s one of a number of enthusiast compacts fighting for your attention, but with that huge sensor and a great lens, it’s definitely one of the most appealing right now. Great as a walkaround camera where a larger interchangeable-lens camera might not be practical.

6. Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II

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Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II

One of the freshest compacts around with plenty to tempt the enthusiast

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1-inch type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 (in 35mm terms) | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 30fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Very good viewfinder
Great handling
A little pricey
No hotshoe

The new PowerShot G5 X Mark II might be relatively compact but don't let that fool you; there's plenty of wizardry on the inside. You get an EVF that pops up when you need it and hides when you don't, together with a large 1-inch sensor, 4K video, and an LCD screen that flips up to face the front. The 30fps Raw burst mode is unique, and handling is also better than similar models from competitors. It all adds up to being a strong camera for the enthusiast that requires top image quality in a compact form – our only real reservation is price right now, which is partly down to just how new the camera is. For something similar but cheaper, check out the Sony RX100 Mark IV (position 1).

7. Panasonic Lumix ZS60

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7. Panasonic Lumix ZS60

A big zoom and masses of tech inside a compact body

Type: Compact superzoom | Sensor: 1/1.23in-type | Megapixels: 18MP | Lens: 24-720mm f/3.3-6.4 (in 35mm terms) | Screen: 3-inch touchscreen, 1.04million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 1.2million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Huge zoom that's well stabilized
Cheap for a 4K-capable camera
Noise reduction can rob image detail
EVF is a little small

The Lumix ZS60 (known as the Lumix TZ80 outside the US) is one of a number of budget ZS models from Panasonic that packs a little more than the norm inside its slender body. It's not quite the newest – the Lumix ZS70 arrived quite recently – but at its current price point it represents the best value among its siblings, and indeed, many other cameras at this level. Key features run from a 30x optical zoom, 4K video recording and 5-axis image stabilization through to a 1.2 million dot EVF and Wi-Fi, while clever tricks include the ability to adjust focus after you've taken an image and even the option to pull out 8MP stills from 4K videos. If you want something similar but more advanced, the Lumix ZS200 (position 2) would be something to consider.

8. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

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Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

A superzoom at a super price, this would be a dazzling choice for those after an all-in-one option

Type: Bridge-style superzoom | Sensor: 1-inch | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 25-400mm f/2.8-4 (in 35mm terms) | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 921k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, 2.36million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Huge zoom with respectably wide aperture
Superb price 
No built-in ND filter
Quite large

If there's one thing Panasonic knows how to deliver in its cameras it's value for money, and the FZ1000 shows you just how generous the company can be. While far from 'compact' for a compact camera, the marriage of a 1-in sensor with a lens equivalent to 25-400mm in 35mm terms makes its current asking price extraordinarily good. Some of this is down to the fact that it's been on the market for some time, but with 5-axis image stabilization, 4K video, 12fps burst shooting, a mic port and both Wi-Fi and NFC all on board, the spec sheet shows the camera to still be relevant in today's marketplace. The Sony RX10 III (position 10) would be its closest rival on this list, although the FZ1000 has the advantage of being less than half that camera's price. And while the FZ1000 has been updated by a mark II version, the price difference between the two means it's still this one that gets our nod.

9. Ricoh GR III

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Ricoh GR III

Not for everyone but the humungous APS-C sensor, smashing lens and stabilisation make GR III sparkle.

Type: Compact | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens: 28mm f/2.8 (35mm equiv) | Screen: 3in touchscreen, 1.04million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 4fps | Viewfinder: No | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast

Great image quality across the frame
Tiny body considering the APS-C sensor
Screen doesn’t tilt
Underwhelming video (and no 4K)

With an understated design and a prime (ie non-zoom) lens, the GR III is decidedly a niche option – but with an APS-C sensor inside its petite shell, it’s capable of producing images expected from much larger interchangeable-lens cameras. It’s ideal for street photographers, and the fact that Ricoh has somehow managed to find space for sensor-based stabilization is very welcome given that we don't tend to see this on such cameras. On the flipside, there’s no viewfinder nor 4K video, and the touchscreen is fixed in place – but what it lacks in versatility it makes up for in quality of performance and results.

10. Sony RX10 III

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Sony RX10 III

This all-in-one superzoom compact is perfect for travels

Type: Bridge-style superzoom | Sensor: 1-inch type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-600mm f/2.4-4 (in 35mm terms) | Screen: 3-inch tilting, 1.23million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 14fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, approx. 2.36million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Great image and video quality
Lens is very consistent 
No built-in ND filter
Pricier than many other cameras here

Sony has now released four very capable RX10-series models, but it's the third model in the line that hits the sweet spot between capabilities and price, with a wonderful lens equivalent to 24-600mm in 35mm terms being the star. It's capable of producing nicely sharp images at all settings, thanks in part to an excellent image stabilization system, while 4K video, DSLR-like control, and a weather-sealed body only add to its flexibility. It's a little larger than the norm but much smaller than a DSLR packing the same kind of zoom range. If you need something more compact, the Panasonic SZ200/TZ200 (position 2) also packs a 1-inch sensor, 4K video, electronic viewfinder and a wide-reaching zoom lens, albeit one that works between focal lengths equivalent to 24-360mm.