Best compact cameras 2014: 21 we recommend

Get the best compact digital camera for your needs

Panasonic ZS30

Price: $400

Specs: 18.1MP, 20x optical zoom, 920k touch-screen resolution, built-in Wifi with NFC, Full HD 1080p

Panasonic ZS30

If you're not bothered by having a touch-sensitive LCD display, or prefer to use physical buttons, then the Panasonic ZS30 is worthy of consideration - especially if you're equally unbothered about GPS and Wi-Fi functionality.

It's fairly remarkable that a 20x optical zoom can fit into a body of this pocket-friendly size. It's an extremely flexible option for vacationing photographers, with the GPS functionality proving a valuable addition for plotting the exact locations of your shots.

Although Wi-Fi is a useful addition, it could be better implemented, perhaps by giving you the ability to email a picture, rather than sharing only via the Lumix network.

Overall, this is an excellent camera, which should be one of the highest considerations for those looking for the ideal travel compact that offers more than some of the standard options on the market.

Nikon Coolpix S9500

Price: $350

Specs: 18.1MP, 22x optical zoom, 1/2.3 in. sensor size with back illumination, 3D, GPS, Wi-Fi, subject-tracking autofocus, 1080p video

Nikon Coolpix S9500

The Nikon S9500 is at the top of the brand's style range of digital compact cameras, and is designed for beginners and casual users.

In the hand, the S9500's body feels substantial without leaving you in any doubt that it is a camera you're meant to have fun with.

As is to be expected from a camera in this range, Nikon is providing a device filled with all the frills and thrills (3D, GPS, Wi-Fi, subject-tracking autofocus) and if the camera's built-in GPS and electronic compass is turned on, geolocation metadata will be added onto your images.

The Nikon S9500 offers great image stabilization on a long zoom range for a camera of this size. It looks good, feels nice, and is versatile and compact with a bright screen. There are lots of scene modes to get creative with, and most of the features you could hope for in a camera at this price point.

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS

Price: $329

Specs: 12.1MP, 20x optical zoom, GPS, Wi-Fi,1080p video capture

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS

Canon's SX280 is a very appealing proposition for anybody looking for a decent travel compact camera that offers lots of control over different settings, as well as a high zoom ratio and pocket-friendly proportions.

Its pictures display a good range of color and plenty of detail, and low light performance is admirable. Keeping the pixel count down to 12.1 million pixels may seem strange in this age where most companies are pushing 16-18 million pixel sensored devices, but we think this relatively low resolution helps with the low light and low noise performance.

What we have here is an excellent and well performing compact camera that offers lots of flexibility both to beginner users and those looking for something a little more advanced.

Nikon Coolpix S6400

Price: $250

Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 12x optical zoom , Full HD video

Best compact camera

The Nikon Coolpix S6400 appears to have just about everything you want from a digital compact camera of its class. With a 12x optical zoom, 3-inch 460,000-dot touchscreen, 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, Full HD video recording, a host of direct controls, 20 scene modes, small, lightweight body and a modest price tag, what more could you ask for?

The Nikon S6400 does a number of things pretty well and offers a lot of flexibility, from its wide range of creative filters to its responsive touchscreen, accurate AF system on down to the all-important thing: great image quality.

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Price: $400

Specs: 16MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 21x optical zoom, Full HD video, Wi-Fi and 3G

Best compact cameras

Best compact camera 2013

It's not really a surprise that Samsung, a company that makes both Android smartphones and dedicated cameras, should decide to merge the best aspects of these two devices to create the Samsung Galaxy Camera.

The combination of a compact camera-sized sensor and a 21x optical zoom lens in a relatively thin body with a huge (by camera standards) touchscreen is very enticing. And an Android operating system and Wi-Fi tools stand out from the crowd. The good news is that this isn't all window dressing - the Samsung Galaxy Camera delivers the goods.