Best compact cameras 2014: 21 we recommend

Get the best compact digital camera for your needs

Rugged or waterproof compact cameras allow you to take photographs in places that you wouldn't dare use a normal camera.

They are a great choice for beach holidays and ideal for families with children that might want to have a go at taking a photograph. Here are some of the best around.

Olympus TG-2

Price: $380

Specs: Waterproof to 50 feet, accepts filters and conversion lenses, GPS and digital compass, macro LED light

Olympus TG 2

As with the Olympus TG-1, one of the most exciting aspects of the Olympus TG-2's lens is that it has an aperture range of f/2-4.9. This means that at the shortest focal length a wide aperture is available, which enables you to use fast shutter speeds when light levels fall.

Modern extras include GPS technology and an electronic compass built-in to record where you take your pictures, along with FlashAir card compatibility to enable wireless sharing of images on social media via your smartphone.

It's also possible to shoot Full HD movies with stereo sound and record video at up to 240fps (frames per second) for slow motion playback.

Modern extras include GPS technology and an electronic compass built-in to record where you take your pictures, along with FlashAir card compatibility to enable wireless sharing of images on social media via your smartphone.

Panasonic TS5

Price: $349

Specs: 16.1MP, 1/2.33-inch High Sensitivity MOS Sensor, 4.6x optical zoom, HD Video,

Panasonic TS5

Like the Panasonic TS4, the Panasonic TS5 has a Leica lens with a focal length range equivalent to 28-128mm. We found that this performed pretty well on the PanasonicTS4, so it will be interesting to see what it can do with an extra 4 million pixels at its disposal.

The addition of NFC (Near Field Communication) and Wi-Fi technology is likely to be popular with those who want to share their images quickly. This seems a particularly good addition for a rugged camera that is likely to get wet and dirty, because it means no port covers need to be opened to download images.

Sony Cyber-Shot TX30

Price: $259.99

Specs: 18.2MP, CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom (26-130mm equivalent), 1080p HD video

Sony TX30

Believe it or not, the TX30 is waterproof and shockproof to the tune of 32-feet depths and 5-foot drops. It's also freeze and dust-proof, yet you get all this toughness in a case with around half the bulk and twice the style of your average rugged camera.

However this super-sleek styling also means it's tough to hold on to when underwater or wearing gloves. In these scenarios the touch sensitive screen is another irritation as it'll only work when dry and operated by bare hands. Thankfully the camera's advanced automatic modes do a great job of capturing decent shots without your help.

Despite its diminutive dimensions the TX30 is big on image quality, with good detail and dynamic range. Close-up shots also look the part thanks to the nifty Magnifying Glass macro mode with LED illumination.

If you're after a high-performing tough camera that doesn't sacrifice style, look no further.

Nikon Coolpix AW110

Price: $349.95

Specs: 16.0MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen

Nikon Coolpix AW110

Divers and mermaids rejoice, as this new Nikon will handle underwater excursions as deep as 59-feet. Freeze it to -10°C or drop it from up to 6.6-feet and it'll also pull through unscathed.

And the features keep on coming. There's GPS equipped with a world map to chart your snaps, as well as a landmark database and compass to help you take more. Wi-Fi with remote camera control is present too, as is an altimeter and barometer to keep you posted with height and depth data.

It's not all plain sailing though, as the AW110 falls short where it matters most. Image detail is prone to smoothing at all sensitivities, and when you ramp up the ISO, expect some grain and color speckling.

Fortunately the quality isn't significantly lower than similar cameras, yet the AW110's price tag is, making it great value if you avoid pixel-peeping too much.

Fujifilm FinePix XP200

Price: $299.95

Specs: 16MP, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video


Fuji's latest ruggedized offering has a lot in common with the Nikon AW110. It's nearly as waterproof with its 49-feet depth rating and features a similar knob and locking button arrangement to seal its battery card compartment without resorting to fiddly clips.

The XP200 is far easier to cling on to than the Nikon though, thanks to a rubberized back panel and ribbed edges. The controls are also large and the screen exceptionally crisp and bright. It all comes together to make this the easiest camera of the bunch to use when you're in the thick of the action.

It's a pity image quality isn't as impressive, with slightly more noise and detail smoothing than some rivals, but it's not the XP200's biggest issue.

That honor goes to the downright dire 9 cm macro mode, which is the only major flaw in what's otherwise a well designed and capable camera.

Pentax WG3/WG3-GPS

Price: $298

Specs: 16.0MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom (25-100mm equivalent), 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen

Pentax WG3 WG3 GPS

The WG-3 GPS sits atop Pentax's tough camera hierarchy, sporting a maximum ISO 6400 sensitivity and sensor-shift image stabilzsation. Allied to the rapid autofocus system, it's easy to capture low light and action snaps free from motion blur.

However, image quality could be improved, as it suffers from high ISO image noise and detail smoothing throughout the sensitivity range.

Optically the camera fares better, with a wide-aperture f/2.0 lens meaning you won't have to resort to high sensitivity settings too often. Circling the lens are 6 small LEDs to illuminate extreme close-up shots in Digital Microscope mode.

Put the WG-3 through some rough and tumble and it should survive intact thanks to reassuringly rugged build quality and well-secured openings. Wireless Qi charging on the WG-3 GPS further reduces the chances of dust or water ingress.

Better finger and thumb grips wouldn't go amiss though, for when the going gets frantic.