Best high-end compact camera: 6 compared

The best back-ups or alternatives to your DSLR

Best high end compact camera

Sony RX100 - £450/AU$680/US$650

The Sony RX100's claim to fame is that, at its heart, it has an oversized image sensor. Measuring 13.2 x 8.8mm, it's significantly larger than the sensors of all other cameras here, and enables a much higher resolution of 20.2MP, along with the promise of good low-light performance.

Crafted from sturdy aluminium, the Sony RX100 nevertheless lacks a sculpted finger grip around the front. This impairs handling somewhat but at least there's an optical image stabiliser, although it's not quite as effective as in the Canon G15, Nikon P7700 and Fuji X20. On the plus side, the Sony RX100 is certainly pocket-friendly, being small and light.

There's no viewfinder and, more bizarrely, the Sony RX100 lacks a hotshoe for mounting a flashgun, so you're stuck with the tiny pop-up flash. Direct access controls are few and far between, Sony favouring a simple and uncluttered layout. There's something to be said for this approach, although there's a little too much reliance on menus for our liking.

Plus points include a multi-function control ring around the lens and a customisable Fn button on the back of the camera, helping to make important shooting parameters more accessible.

The Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens boasts a fast f/1.8 aperture at the wide-angle end, although this drops to f/4.9 at the long end. That's poor, given that the zoom range is a mere 3.6x, equivalent to 28-100mm.

The Sony RX100 delivers sumptuous image quality even in demanding lighting conditions. Its autofocus and metering systems work flawlessly, there's good control over dynamic range, and pictures have a natural and lifelike appeal. Results are particularly impressive under very low lighting, with great retention of fine detail and little image noise.

Outdoor images

Best high end compact camera

Rich yet natural and lifelike colour, along with great definition throughout the tonal range, make this a winning shot from the Sony RX100.


Best high end compact camera

The 20.2MP image sensor and Zeiss lens come up trumps for sharpness, beating all of the other cameras.


Best high end compact camera
Noise at ISO 200

Best high end compact camera
Noise at ISO 3200

Fine detail is well preserved and image noise is kept very low, the Sony RX100 making the most of its oversized sensor.

Colour error

Best high end compact camera

The colour accuracy score is the closest to perfection of any camera in the group, so that's another win for the Sony.

Image test verdict

The Sony RX100 beats all competing cameras here when it comes to image quality. It delivers beautiful pictures even in the most demanding conditions.

Read our full Sony RX100 review