Best compact cameras 2014: 21 we recommend

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Best compact camera

There are hundreds of digital compact cameras on the market, with advanced, superzoom and rugged camera options all being available, which makes finding the right one quite tricky.

The right choice, of course, depends on what you want from your compact digital camera. Maybe you're looking for a high-end compact camera to take the place of your SLR, or perhaps you want something more basic to get a few snaps on vacation.

Whichever type you are looking for, we've pulled together a selection of what we believe are the best compact cameras on the market now.

Best advanced compact cameras:

Sony RX100 II

Price: $750

Specs: 20 MP, 3.6 x optical zoom, 1080p video, 12.8 x 9.6 (1") mm sensor

Sony RX100 II

There's plenty to like about the Sony RX100 Mark II, from its small, pocketable size to its excellent image quality.

We're most pleased about the improvement to low light performance, which is significantly better than its predecessor, thanks to that new backlit sensor.

Putting aside our disappointment about there still not being a touchscreen, we're still a little bugged by the functions that can't be shot in raw format, leading to some pretty tedious menu diving. Still, if you predominantly shoot in JPEG only, this shouldn't be too much of an issue for you.

Fuji X100S

Price: $1,300

Specs: 16.3MP APS-C format CMOS II sensor, EXR Processor II, Full HD video

Best compact camera

Fuji's replacement to its popular FinePix X100 compact camera draws on user feedback to make improvements. The Fuji FinePix X100S uses the same sized sensor (APS-C) but it's an X-Trans CMOS II device with a resolution of 16.3 million pixels with the 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern seen on the Fuji X-Pro1's sensor. There's also a new EXR Processor II.

We liked the retro design and control arrangement of the Fuji X100 and this continues with the X100S. The hybrid viewfinder, which can be switched between optical and electronic operation, gives the camera an advantage over most compact cameras which only allow images to be composed on an LCD screen.

Its image quality is also very good and on a par with some SLRs, so shots have sharp detail and natural color.

Although it's a little bulky, the X100S is one of our favorite compact cameras.

Fuji X20

Price: $600

Specs: 12MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor, 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, 7.1-28.4mm f/2-2.8 lens

Best compact camera

The Fuji X10 was our favorite high-end compact camera of 2012, and combining it with the same sensor design as one of our favorite compact system cameras - the Fuji X-Pro1 - bodes very well.

Fuji says it's made 50 improvements on the X10 for the X20, including a new 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor with 12 million effective pixels and a 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, which combines with an EXR Processor II. The Fuji X20 also boasts a hybrid AF system and a Digital Trans Panel in the viewfinder.

Canon Powershot G1 X

Price: $700

Specs: Large 14.3MP CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, swivel LCD screen

Best compact cameras

Although the zoom range is limited when compared to other Canon G-series cameras, the trump card of the Canon G1 X is its unusually large sensor. A larger sensor has more surface area to receive light, improving image quality at high sensitivities and boosting dynamic range. Interestingly, Canon has opted to stick with the 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than 3:2 as most APS-C sensors are, even though the sensor in the G1 X is roughly the same height as APS-C format.

In order to make the most of what the sensor can offer, Canon has equipped the G1 X with the latest Digic 5 processor, which promises better control over noise at high ISO sensitivities, faster operation and smoother 1080p video recording.

The 4x zoom lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 28-122mm lens on a 35mm camera, and the usual array of direct controls found on G-series cameras should make manual operation a pleasure.

Nikon Coolpix A

Price: $1,097

Specs: 16.2Mp APS-C format CMOS sensor, 28mm (equivalent) f/2.8 lens, 3-inch 921,000-dot LCD

Nikon Coolpix A best compact camera

Nikon has given the Coolpix A the same 16.2-million-pixel sensor as the Nikon D7000, but it has left off the anti-aliasing (low-pass) filter to allow it to record sharper details in-camera.

Aimed at serious photographers, the Coolpix A has advanced exposure modes such as aperture priority, shutter priority and manual as well as fully automatic and scene options.

Our tests reveal that the Coolpix A can capture lots of sharp detail, on par with an SLR, but the file write times are a little longer than we'd like and vignetting is apparent in images shot with apertures down to f/8 and in some cases f/16.