10 best compact cameras of 2015

From high-end compacts to bridge cameras and simple point-and-shooters, we help you choose

Read: Sony RX10 review

Panasonic FZ1000

5. Panasonic FZ1000

Bridge cameras usually match yucky, small sensors with crazy big zooms... but not this time

Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1 megapixels | Lens: 25-400mm, f/2.8-4 | Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 921K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate

The Sony RX10 is impressive enough, but the Panasonic FZ1000 takes it a step further. 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. Like the Sony RX10, the Panasonic FZ1000 uses a 1-inch sensor, and while the zoom tops out at 400mm equivalent, that's still plenty for all but the most extreme uses. If you want both zoom power and quality, the FZ1000 is the answer.

Read: Panasonic FZ1000 review

Canon SX60 HS

6. Canon SX60 HS

Big-zoom bridge cameras don't deliver the best quality, but the SX60 HS is best-of-breed

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated CMOS, 16.1MP | Lens: 21-1365mm, f/3.4-6.5 | Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 922K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 6.4fps | Movies: 1080 | User level: Basic/Intermediate

Having just complained that regular bridge cameras use small sensors that compromise the quality, we're still going to recommend the Canon SX60 HS. The Panasonic FZ1000 is big and expensive, and the Canon is much more manageable in both respects. Its 1/2.3-inch sensor has a back-illuminated design for better light gathering, and while its 65x zoom has now been beaten by the 83x zoom on the Nikon P900, it's still right up there with the biggest on the market. You get an articulating LCD, full manual controls and the ability to shoot raw files, so the SX60 is about as good as regular bridge cameras get.

Read: Canon SX60 HS review

Panasonic TZ70 ZS50

7. Panasonic TZ70/ZS50

Travel cameras combine big zoom ranges with pocket-sized bodies, and the TZ70 is the best

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 12.1 | Lens: 24-720mm, f/3.3-6.4 | Monitor: 3-inch, 1040K dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 1080 | User level: Basic/Intermediate

Most of us like to travel light, and this has led to a big market in versatile 'travel', or 'long-zoom' compacts. Panasonic kicked off this whole camera genre with its TZ-series, and these are still the best. The latest model, the TZ70, has a 30x zoom and some remarkably powerful features, including full manual exposure modes, the ability to shoot raw files and even an electronic viewfinder. The small sensor is a necessary evil for this type of camera, but Panasonic has bravely dropped the resolution to 12 megapixels to give better sensitivity and all-round quality.

Read: Panasonic TZ70/ZS50 review

Olympus TG 4

8. Olympus Tough TG-4

If you like to live on the wild side, the TG-4 can take as much punishment as you can

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 16MP | Lens: 25-100mm, f/2.0-4.9 | Monitor: 3-inch, 460K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Movies: 1080 | User level: Basic/Intermediate

We haven't yet had Olympus's latest TG-4 in for review, but we've tested the TG-3 and we like it a lot. You normally think of cameras as delicate electronic devices, but the TG-4 is as tough as they come. It's shockproof to a height of 2.1m (the height you can drop it from), crushproof (resisting a force of 100kg), waterproof (down to a depth of 15m) and freezeproof (down to -10 degrees centigrade). You also get a surprisingly fast 4x zoom lens – f/2.0 at its widest focal length – and built-in GPS, so that you can follow your adventures on a map.

Read: Olympus TG-3 review

Canon PowerShot D30

9. Canon PowerShot D30

Tough and smart-looking at the same time, the D30 is waterproof down to an amazing 25m

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated CMOS, 12.1 megapixels | Lens: 28-140mm, f/3.9-4.8 | Monitor: 3-inch, 461K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 1.9fps | Movies: 1080 | User level: Basic

Still on the subject of tough cameras, we also like the Canon PowerShot D30. It's a lot cheaper than the Olympus TG-4 and a little less aggressive in its styling. It goes even deeper, too, with a depth rating of 25m, and all this combines to make it a tough and practical family camera. But while the D30 does have GPS, like the Olympus, there's no Wi-Fi – and there's no 'crushproof' rating either. The image quality isn't quite on a par with the Olympus's (which also shoots raw files, by the way) and the macro mode can be a bit hit and miss, but you can't fault its value.

Read: Canon D30 review

Sony W800

10. Sony W800

It's cheap, it's simple and it still gives you a 5x zoom – the Sony is our top low-cost buy

Sensor: 1/2.3-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 26-130mm, f/3.2-6.4 | Monitor: 2.7-inch, 230K dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 0.5fps | Movies: 720 | User level: Basic

If price is the biggest factor, then you can hardly do better than the Sony W800. At this end of the market you have to tread a careful line between 'cheap' and 'rubbish', and the W800 keeps you firmly on the side of 'cheap'. Its 20MP 1/2.3-inch sensor and 5x zoom lens deliver perfectly satisfactory quality for a budget point-and-shoot camera, and both the build quality and the styling are a cut above what you might expect at this price. It's small, light, easy to use and gives you just enough manual control to cope with the occasional tricky situation.

Read: Sony W800 review

See also: Camera reviews, Best cheap camera, Best high-end compact, Best bridge camera, Best travel camera, Best waterproof camera