The best compact camera for 2024: top pocket choices to take anywhere

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REASONS TO BUY
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Smartphone upgrade or reliable backup camera: the best compact cameras combine capable shooting skills with pocket-friendly proportions. We've extensively tested all of the top options and ranked our favorites below. Our comprehensive round-up is designed to help you find your ideal compact camera.

Based on our in-depth reviews, we think the best compact camera for most people is currently the Fujifilm X100VI. Follow-up to the virally popular X100V – our previous top pick – it retains the fixed 23mm f/2 lens but adds a 40MP sensor and in-body image stabilization to become an even more accomplished street photography tool. It's retro design is still beautiful, too.

If your budget doesn’t stretch that far – or you want a camera with a large optical zoom range – we also highly recommend the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100, one of our favorite travel cameras. It pairs 10x optical zoom with a decent 1-inch sensor to produce rich, detailed images.

Our expert guide covers everything from superzoom travel cameras to fixed-lens premium compacts, plus some of the best vlogging cameras. Each entry has been tested in a range of real-world scenarios, where our experts assess factors such as handling, usability, zoom and viewfinder performance, as well as overall image quality. If you're not sure where to start, you'll find expert buying advice at the bottom of the page.

Written by
Tim Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar's Cameras editor, with over 15 years in the photo video industry and most of those in the world of tech journalism, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with all things camera related. He notes, "modern smartphones are incredibly capable photography tools, but if you're looking for a dedicated camera with superior features and handling, the premium models in this list are definitely worth considering."

The quick list

Use the round-up below for an instant summary of the best compact camera for every need and budget. When you find a compact camera that ticks the right boxes, you can use the links beneath each entry to jump down to our full write-up.

The best compact cameras in 2024

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best compact cameras in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best compact camera for most people

Front of the Fujifilm X100VI reflected in glass table

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact camera for most enthusiasts

Specifications

Sensor: 40.2MP X-Trans CMOS
Lens: 23mm, f/2
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.62m dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 11fps (mechanical), 20fps (electronic)
Movies: 6.2K
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Capable 40MP sensor
+
In-body image stabilization

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than X100V
-
Only one UHS-I card slot
Buy it if:

✅ You want a versatile everyday camera: A sharp sensor and image stabilization make the X100VI a flexible tool for shooting on a daily basis.

✅ You like a retro-modern hybrid: The X100V blends old-school looks with modern features, including a superb hybrid viewfinder.

Don't buy it if:

You want the best value overall: Its new skills are welcome, but the X100V offers many of the same core features for less – if you can find it in stock.

❌ You like to use different focal lengths: The fixed 23mm focal length is a calling card of the X100 series, but some will find it too limiting.

The Fujifilm X100V went viral for its retro style, pocket-friendly design, hybrid viewfinder and fixed 23mm f/2 lens. The X100VI takes the same concept and upgrades it again, boosting resolution to 40MP and adding in-body image stabilization for the first time. It also borrows the class-leading autofocus from the Fujifilm X-T5. In our review, we found images pin-sharp across the entire sensor, with the increased pixel count offering greater flexibility when cropping. Together with impressive subject tracking autofocus and effective stabilization, we think it’s an even more rounded compact for street shooting.

Our tests also revealed the X100VI to be a more capable filmmaking tool, courtesy of 6.2K 10-bit video support. The fixed focal length will still be a limiting factor for some, as will the single UHS-I SD card slot. You need an adaptor for full weather-proofing, too. Given the sold-out demand for the X100V, it’s also unsurprising that Fujifilm has increased the price for its successor. But from our time living with the X100VI, we think it’s the pinnacle of the X100 series, and the best premium compact for everyday use. 

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X100VI review

The best value compact camera

Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100

(Image credit: Panasonic)
The best value premium travel compact

Specifications

Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch
Lens: 25-250mm (10x optical zoom)
Monitor: 3.0-inch rear LCD
Viewfinder: EVF (0.2-inch, 1166k-dot)
Continuous shooting: 10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Useful optical zoom range
+
Has an electronic viewfinder
+
Shoots 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Small EVF
-
Fixed screen
Buy it if:

✅ You want power from your pocket: It's one of the smallest cameras in this guide, yet still boasts a 1in sensor and 10x zoom.

✅ You want a low-cost compact: While it's not exactly cheap, the ZS100 / TZ100 is one of the most affordable options in this list.

Don't buy it if:

You want the best possible image quality: Versatility comes with compromise, and you'll get better stills with some fixed lens options in this guide.

❌ You want a flip screen: The LCD screen is fixed which makes selfies and awkward shooting angles a challenge.

If you're looking for a travel-friendly all-rounder that has a viewfinder and doesn't break the bank, this is the compact camera we'd go for. It's since been succeeded by the ZS200 / TZ200, which is also worth considering – but if you don't need the newer model's slightly longer zoom (15x rather than 10x) and higher-res viewfinder, then you can save money by going for this older classic. The ZS100 / TZ100 remains a solid middle ground between premium compact cameras with larger sensors (in this case, a 1-inch sensor) and super-zoom models with smartphone-beating reach. Its 10x zoom might now be matched by some smartphones, but in our tests the quality of this camera's lens and image processing produced vibrant, punchy photos with excellent detail.

The downsides include a small and relatively low-res viewfinder, plus a fixed touchscreen. These are symptoms of this camera's age, but a small EVF is still better than no viewfinder when you're shooting in sunny conditions, and this camera otherwise offers modern conveniences like 10fps burst shooting, 4K video shooting and built-in Wi-Fi. If you're looking to get high-quality images with minimal baked-in processing, then the ZS100 / TZ100 will serve you well and offer a more enjoyable photographic experience than any glass slab.

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100 review

The best pocket compact for features

Sony RX100 VII

(Image credit: Future)
The best feature-packed compact camera

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-200mm, f/2.8-4.5
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 20fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/Expert

Reasons to buy

+
Sterling autofocus system
+
Lovely video

Reasons to avoid

-
Handling not ideal
-
Expensive
Buy it if:

✅ You need a complete pocket camera: The RX100 VII is arguably the most rounded pocket camera for photo and video.

✅ You shoot action: Lens zoom is limited, but the performance is not with super fast autofocus and continuous shooting. 

Don't buy it if:

You want excellent handling: Small it may well be, the RX100 VII isn't the most ergonomic option available.

❌ You rely on a touch screen: The function of the touch screen is limited, with no support for menu navigation.

In many ways, the RX100 VII is still best compact around right now. Its autofocus system, we found, is comfortably ahead of any other pocket camera, tracking moving subjects with great reliability and making clever use of its Face and Eye AF, even in video mode. Video quality is superb, while image quality is also stellar. But all of this comes at a huge price, and for many people that could be a deal-breaker.

Still, we can't avoid including it in this guide, as it's one of the best options around. If your budget allows, then you won't find a more powerful compact than the Mark VII. But if you're happy to sacrifice some of the latest autofocus features and a microphone jack, check out the RX100 VI, which offers most of its performance but costs a little less.

Read our in-depth Sony RX100 Mark VII review

The best compact video camera

Sony ZV-1

(Image credit: Future)
The best pocket vlogging camera for YouTubers

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch vary-angle touchscreen, 921,600 dots
Viewfinder: None
Continuous shooting: 24fps
Movies: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Unrivaled autofocus
+
Hotshoe and 3.5mm mic port

Reasons to avoid

-
Touchscreen a tad limited
-
MicroUSB rather than USB-C
Buy it if:

✅ You want a powerful vlogging camera: The Sony ZV-1 is the best compact camera for YouTubers right now, shooting smartphone-beating 4K video.

✅ You want a compact you can grow with: Sony has made the ZV-1 simpler for beginners to use, but it's also jam-packed with pro features.

Don't buy it if:

You mainly want to shoot stills: While it's no slouch for stills, the lack of a viewfinder and moderate zoom range will limit some photographers.

❌ You need an all-weather action camera: The ZV-1 is packed with features, but one that's missing is weather-proofing.

If it's mainly video rather than stills that you're looking for from a compact camera, then the Sony ZV-1 is the one of the best options around. Not that it isn't also very capable at shooting still photos – it has the same sensor and processor as Sony's latest RX100 series cameras, after all – but the ZV-1's main strength are its video powers. That includes its class-leading autofocus powers, which helps it tenaciously lock onto people and moving objects in your frame. During testing, we found it to do an excellent job of keeping moving subjects in focus and tracking our eyes across most of the frame. Of course, the video quality from its 20.1MP 1-inch sensor is nothing short of impressive as well.

These are backed up by a 3.5mm mic port for boosting audio quality with an external microphone, and a hotshoe to help mount the latter. Its bright 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 doesn't give you the same reach as the RX100 VII, but it does ensure that you get lovely background blur in both stills and videos – perfect if you mainly shoot portraits or vlogs. Sony has since released the ZV-1 II, but for us the successor was a puzzling update that in real world use offered little extra than the ZV-1 to justify its pricier tag. 

Read our in-depth Sony ZV-1 review

The best photo quality from your pocket

The Ricoh GR IIIx camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact for outright image quality

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C
Lens: 40mm f/2.8-16
Monitor: 3.0-inch TFT LCD touchscreen
Continuous shooting speed: 4fps
Viewfinder: None
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Large sensor pocket power
+
Intuitive handling
+
Quick start up
+
Sharp raw DNG stills

Reasons to avoid

-
No tilt-screen
-
Poor battery life
-
Jittery autofocus
Buy it if:

✅ You want to develop your creative eye: With a fixed focal length lens, exposure tools and a wide range of in-camera edits, the GR III X encourages creativity.

✅ You want a fun pocket camera: Small enough to slip in the pocket, quick to use and intuitive to handle, the GR IIIx is point-and-shoot happiness.

Don't buy it if:

You want a versatile camera: The GR IIIx is as niche as they come. Fixed lens, fixed focal length, modest video specs. This is aimed at a certain type of photographer.

❌ You shoot video a lot: Tech-wise, the GR IIx is way behind today's smartphones for video recording, being limited to Full HD resolution and mono in-camera audio.

If you’re an avid street photographer there’s no doubt you’ll have heard of the Ricoh GR – a superb series of compact cameras that are famous for their sharp, fixed focal length lens and large APS-C sensor. The Ricoh GRIIIx is the latest model and features a 40mm f2.8 lens versus the standard GR III’s wider 28mm f2.8 option, which may make it a more versatile option depending on your proclivities. Personally, we’d prefer the X’s 40mm for portraiture while the GR III’s 28MM is ideally suited to landscape.

From our review, we think the GRIII X is a superb everyday carry camera, with new features like the Snap Focus system making it an intuitive camera for capturing decisive moments. A host of excellent customization options make it a great choice for experienced tinkerers with in-camera raw editing and easy sharing via the wireless smartphone connection. We would have liked better battery life and a tilt-screen, but such omissions are understandable given the compact body. We think this is the best GR iteration yet if you’re on the hunt for superb image quality, snappy performance, and intuitive handling in a pocket-friendly body.

Read our in-depth Ricoh GR IIIx review

The best for keen hobbyists

Panasonic LX100 II

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact camera for hobbyist photographers

Specifications

Sensor: Micro Four Thirds, 17MP
Lens: 24-75mm, f/1.7-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Max continuous shooting: 11fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image quality
+
Good body-mounted controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Sluggish zooming
-
Fixed rear screen
Buy it if:

✅ You want a Micro Four Thirds sensor: The sensor is larger than the 1-inch ones used in most other compacts and produces lovely photos.

✅ You want excellent handling: A sensible size, decent grip, EVF and solid build all combine for a lovely shooting experience.

Don't buy it if:

You want the latest tech: The LX100 II is a fantastic camera but it was launched all the way back in 2018 and feels a little dated with its fixed screen and clunky UX.

❌ You want a speedy shooter: The zoom action is a touch pedestrian; both the zoom lever around the shutter release button and the multi-function control ring respond slowly. 

Compact cameras with sensors larger than 1-inch in size are typically limited to fixed-focal-length lenses, which is great for quality but less so for flexibility. But not the Panasonic LX100 II; it manages to marry a 17MP Four Thirds sensor – the same size as those found inside Panasonic's G-series mirrorless cameras – with a zoom lens equivalent to 24-75mm in 35mm terms, proving that sometimes you can get quality and flexibility at once. 

We found its Leica-badged lens to be very impressive, capturing very good levels of detail that's worthy of pricier APS-C cameras, and its exposure metering system more than reliable. Our tests also show that it handles noise pretty well and produces natural-looking images with faithful colors. The original LX100 was something of a landmark camera for offering something similar, and this latest iteration takes the baton, with a nippy AF system, robust body, clear 4K videos and a useful electronic viewfinder among its highlights.

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix LX100 II review

The best compact superzoom

Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95

(Image credit: Future)
The best all-in-one superzoom right now

Specifications

Sensor: 1/2.3in CMOS, 20.3MP
Lens: 24-720mm, f/3.3-6.4
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,330,000 dots
Continuous shooting: 10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Speedy AF and face detection
+
Great UI and responsive touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-
Softness at wide-angle
-
Imperfect EVF
Buy it if:

✅ You want an all-in-one camera: The generous 30x optical zoom covers every shooting scenario and a perfect companion for your travels.

✅ You want to take selfies: A flip-up screen is ideal for anyone who imagines they will be capturing selfies or group shots – particularly as the face detection works so well.

Don't buy it if:

You're after excellent image quality: A 30x zoom lens in any camera let alone one so small like the ZS80 / TZ95 has its drawbacks, namely soft edge detail.

❌ You shoot in low light: The 1/2.3-inch image sensor is much smaller than both flagship smartphones and rivals in this guide, struggling with noise in low light.

With a pocketable body and 30x zoom range, the Panasonic ZS80 / TZ95 is pitched at those looking for the flexibility to shoot a range of scenes, but without the hassle of interchangeable lenses. A small grip and thumb rest make it nicer to handle than many rivals, while a control ring around the lens can be configured for easy adjustments, including zoom and focus. Its sensor is small, but the shooting specs are still not to be sniffed at: the ZS80 / TZ95 can shoot 4K video at 30fps, while 10fps burst shooting is decent for a compact. Focusing is similarly speedy, with great face detection. 

During our time with it, we found the image quality to be generally reasonable. There was some softness around the edge of the frame at 24mm. All the same, image stabilization keeps things sharp, with pleasing colors and broadly reliable exposures when shooting in JPEG or raw. The ZS70 / TZ90 might represent better value if you don’t need a high-resolution viewfinder, but the ZS80 / TZ95 is a well-built, comprehensive compact package that’s enjoyable to shoot with.

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95 review

The best all-rounder for photographers

Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact all-rounder for enthusiasts

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-100mm, f/1.8-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch LCD tilting touchscreen
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360,000 dots
Continuous shooting: 30fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Very good image quality overall
+
High-quality build and attention to detail
+
Good handling for such a small body
+
EVF is nice and clear

Reasons to avoid

-
Lens is soft at wider apertures
-
4K videos good but not too competitive
-
Battery life could be better
-
Somewhat pricey next to rivals
Buy it if:

✅ You want excellent build quality: Build quality feels great overall, with secure handling and plenty of attention to detail around all the controls.

✅ You're want an everyday shooter: The 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 lens strikes a nice balance between versatility and image quality, covering most everyday scenarios.

Don't buy it if:

You shoot 4K video: The G5X Mark II can shoot 4K video, but cannot match the superior features from Sony's rival offerings.

❌ You want excellent value: Canon is never cheap, and the G5X Mark II looks like an expensive option compared to its rivals. 

The best Canon cameras you can buy don’t just include full-frame flagships - the Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II is easily one of the top options from the brand currently. It’s not the cheapest option out there currently but it’s a well-rounded camera with a pocket-friendly form-factor and fantastic handling, New features for the Mark II include the excellent stacked 20.1MP 1-inch CMOS sensor equipped with the brand’s DIGIC processing engine. 

This model is now capable of 30fps in raw burst mode, 20fps burst in regular JPEG, and also features a respectable line-up of video specs. Being able to fully capture video at 4K without any crop factor is a particular highlight in such a small body. Other excellent new additions include USB charging, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity, which are all fantastic quality of life additions for any camera - especially one at this price point. These additions, combined with the Mark II’s excellent build quality and versatile 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 lens make this camera an excellent every day carry option and one of best travel cameras in particular.

Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II review

The best money-no-object compact camera

Leica Q3 camera in the hand

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact you can buy for big money

Specifications

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS, 60.3MP
Lens: Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,840,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 5,760,000 dots, 120fps
Continuous shooting: 15fps
Movies: 8K/30p
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Unparalleled lens design and quality
+
The most powerful compact available
+
60.3MP to play with
+
Simply a joy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
New tilt screen poorly implemented
-
Improved autofocus still bettered elsewhere
-
Average optical stabilization
-
Middling 350-shot battery life
Buy it if:

✅ You like manual control and a tactile experience: The robust dials and shutter button offer the tactile experience that we'd like to see more of.

✅ You want the best-quality everyday camera: With a super-sharp lens and full-frame sensor, no compact camera can better the Leica Q3 on stills.

Don't buy it if:

You want to push a camera hard: The Q3 has some seriously impressive features, but they work best when in moderate, everyday use.

❌ You’re after great value: There’s no real rival to the Q3, and it does represent reasonable value for a Leica, but $5,995 / £5,300 / AU$9,790 is a lot of anyone’s money. 

Compact cameras can be cost-effective alternatives to interchangeable lens cameras but that doesn’t mean there aren’t superb high-end options. Take the stunning Leica Q3: a full-frame monster that comes complete with the exceptional Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH fixed lens. Calling the Leica Q3 compact may be a slight stretch – it's around the same size as the Panasonic Lumix S5 II with a pancake lens – but it is the full package if you’re looking for superlative image quality and almost unparalleled build quality. 

It’s this latter point that allows the Leica Q3 to stand out from the competition and smartphones. Put simply, the Leica Q3 offers a premium tactile shooting experience that even the best camera phones can’t hope to match. And, price aside, the Leica Q3 is an excellent performer. Unlike the well-known M-series rangefinders from the brand, the Q3 is fully autofocus capable, which makes it an excellent everyday carry for the well-heeled. Sure, the autofocus performance doesn’t quite match the best systems on the market right now but the Leica Q3 is the brand’s easiest to use camera yet - and one that scores full marks on style points.

Read our in-depth Leica Q3 review

The best compact instant camera

Polaroid Go

(Image credit: Future)
The best retro compact for instant prints

Specifications

Sensor: N/A
Lens: 35mm equivalent
Screen: No
Viewfinder: Optical
Continuous shooting: No
Movies: No
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Properly dinky dimensions
+
Point-and-shoot simplicity
+
Rechargeable battery

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed focus can be tricky
-
No dedicated close-up mode
-
Film more expensive than rivals
Buy it if:

✅ You love keepsakes: There's nothing like a physical print and the Go spits out beautiful little prints that you can keep or share with those around you.

✅ You want a small instant camera: Most instant cameras are big and bulky and awkward, but the Polaroid Go is as small as they come. 

Don't buy it if:

You want low running costs: The Go itself is inexpensive, but its instant film refills increase the cost significantly.

❌ You shoot close ups: Most instant cameras are point-and-shoot, but the fixed focus can feel quite limiting for close ups.

Instant cameras are designed for fun – and few make it easier to capture quick, attractive snaps than the Polaroid Go. Pitched as “the world’s smallest analogue digital camera”, its boxy, retro shape means it isn’t as portable as a digital compact camera – but it’s still one of the dinkiest instant cameras you can buy in 2021. Capable of producing credit card-sized prints with dreamy pastel tones and impressive detail, the Go’s greatest merit is its point-and-shoot simplicity. 

The streamlined interface is super easy to use, with a handy digital shot counter for tracking your snaps. Unlike other instant cameras, we found this to be very versatile. Automatic flash can be manually overridden, while self-timer and double-exposure modes add welcome opportunities for creativity – although its fixed focus and lack of a macro mode mean it isn’t quite as flexible as certain alternatives. Film refills aren’t the cheapest, and you do pay a premium for the Polaroid Go’s portability. What you also get, though, is an entertaining, accessible and convenient – not to mention surprisingly capable – instant printing camera.

Read our in-depth Polaroid Go review

Best for vlogging

DJI Pocket 3 vlogging camera in the hand shooting video of fancy food on a table

(Image credit: DJI)
The best camera for solo vloggers

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor size: 1-inch
Resolution: 10MP
Effective focal length: 20mm
Viewfinder: None
Connectivity: Wi-Fi
Max movie resolution: 4K 120p
Size, weight: 139.7 x 42.2 x 33.5mm, 179g

Reasons to buy

+
Much larger 1-inch sensor
+
Multi-aspect vdieo and rotating screen
+
Creator Combo for vloggers

Reasons to avoid

-
Can get hot when filming
-
Only 10MP photos
Buy it if:

✅ You shoot handheld solo vlogs: The three-axis gimbal offers unmatched stabilization, while ActiveTrack works like a virtual cameraman.

✅ You value portability: True to its name, the Pocket 3 is a pocket-friendly solution for shooting steady vlogs wherever you go.

Don't buy it if:

You shoot a lot of photos, too: Low light image quality is improved over the Pocket 2, but resolution is much lower.

❌ You’re happy with your smartphone: If you prefer shooting with your phone, a gimbal mount like the DJI OM 5 might make more sense.

We were already big fans of the DJI Osmo Pocket 2, yet its successor takes quality and convenience for vlogging to a whole new level. It equals the video quality of larger models like the Sony ZV-1, yet still has an incredibly compact form factor. The improvement in video and image quality, now up to 4K 120p, is enough to pick the Pocket 3 over your smartphone for vlogging, as is the super smooth footage achieved thanks to the three-axis gimbal. It's also a massively convenient device, comfortably slipping into a pocket, with decent audio quality and compatibility with remote mics.

There's also a new trick up the Pocket 3's sleeve: multi-aspect video recording. Taking a leaf out the GoPro Hero 12 Black playbook, the Pocket 3's 1-inch sensor is squarer than your traditional 16:9 aspect, so you don't unnecessarily lose detail when switching between horizontal and vertical formats. The rear LCD screen touchscreen even rotates to instantly switch between those formats. Little wonder that the Pocket 3 is now our top recommendation for most vloggers. 

Read our in-depth DJI Pocket 3 review

How to choose the best compact camera for you

When it comes to selecting a compact camera, there are several factors to consider. As the name suggests, all compact cameras promise portability, but there’s more to keep in mind than form factor alone. All of the cameras in our list above offer some combination of versatility, handling, features and image quality. Which specific aspects matter most will depend on what and how you like to shoot. If you can’t find a compact the ticks your key boxes, you might be better off using your smartphone’s camera.

One of the key things to think about is sensor size. All of the best compact cameras should represent a step up from your smartphone. Micro Four Thirds and APS-C options, such as the Fujifilm X100V, are now as prevalent as 1-inch models. 

If you plan on using your compact camera for travel, you should take a closer look at its lens and zoom capabilities. To be worthy of your attention, the latter should offer at least 10x optical zoom, if not more. If you plan on using your camera for street photography or candid portraits, a fixed lens might work better for you. Or if night-time shots are your thing, look for a compact with good noise handling and high ISO capabilities.

Whatever your subject of choice, pay attention to how a camera handles. This is something we cover in our reviews. Most compacts have an electronic viewfinder, but a small number use an optical one instead. Most also feature a touchscreen interface, which makes it more straightforward to upgrade from a smartphone, although not every display can tilt. You should also think about whether manual controls matter to you.

Some features you might not need, but a few – such image stabilization or face/eye tracking – could prove to be useful bonuses. Of course, price is a factor as well, so if the models above are too pricey new, check out their second-hand availability. Our guide on how to buy a second-hand DSLR or mirrorless cameramay be aimed at larger models, but much of the same advice applies to premium compact cameras.

Is a compact camera better than a smartphone?

It’s widely accepted that the best camera is the one you have with you, and this will often be the smartphone in your pocket – especially if you’re looking to capture quick, sharp images for sharing on social media. While the best camera phone options are better than ever, though, the top compact cameras remain a cut above their mobile rivals when it comes to image quality and the overall shooting experience.

Larger sensors are an obvious bonus: the sensor inside a premium compact will, in general, be bigger than the one in your average smartphone. This means you’ll get more detail and better low-light performance, which will be evident if you choose to print out your images. It helps that most compact cameras also benefit from high-quality optics.

Only a handful of smartphones offer the versatility of optical zoom. While zoom range varies by model, most of the best compact cameras feature this as standard. Even with huge improvements to the quality of digital zoom technology, it can rarely compete with the quality of optical zoom when it comes to preserving detail.

Many compact cameras also have physical advantages over smartphones. While both types of device are designed to be pocket-friendly, the best compacts feature dedicated buttons and dials that offer greater creative control. Similarly, many of the best compact options feature a small but useful grip that gives them an ergonomic edge over smartphones when it comes to handling. Tilting touchscreens and dedicated electronic viewfinders are also handy for framing, while certain compacts ship with niche features, such as stabilizing gimbals and waterproof bodies. 

The Sony RX100 VII sitting on a wooden bench

A camera like the Sony RX100 VII (above) is a great example of a model that packs all of the advantages of compact cameras into one pocketable body (for a price) (Image credit: Future)

Do photographers use compact cameras?

Given their performance and relative portability, most photographers now favor one of the best mirrorless cameras as their primary camera. These models are not much bigger than a premium compact, with many numbering among the best travel cameras, yet they also offer the flexibility of interchangeable lenses.

That being said, many photographers still choose to travel with a premium compact as a second camera. While they might not compete outright with the images captured by top mirrorless models, a reliable compact camera can be a useful tool to keep within easy reach, in case a photo-worthy scene unfolds before you.

This is particularly true for street and travel photographers. A compact is less conspicuous than a professional full-frame camera, making it easier to shoot comfortably in public. The smaller proportions also mean you’re more likely to take it with you whenever you head out, without needing a bulky kit bag.

The same is true for photographers who want to travel light and leave their main camera at home. You’ll rarely see an image from a compact adorning billboard, but the best models can produce images plenty sharp enough for digital assignments and prize-winning pics. That’s especially true if you pick a compact that focuses on a specific niche, such as the Fujifilm X100V with its fixed 23mm f/2 lens – ideal for street and low-light photography.

How we test compact cameras

Real-world tests are the most revealing way to understand the best compact cameras' performance, quirks, and features. So, along with standardized tests for factors like ISO performance, we take every camera we test for a spin to see how it fares in real-world scenarios.

We'll use it both handheld and on a tripod to get a sense of where its strengths lie, and test its startup speed. We also use a formatted UHS-1 card and shoot in both raw and JPEG (if available), testing its burst shooting and buffer performance. 

For autofocusing, we use the different autofocus modes on hand in single point, area, and continuous modes. Naturally, we take a look at how accurate and reliable its metering is, how well it handles noise, and how well it minimizes things like fringing and distortion. Its video shooting skills are tested as well by shooting some test footage at different frame-rates and resolutions.

Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, we also look at the camera's design, handling, and user interface while getting a sense of what kind of photographer it's most ideal for. Battery life is tested as well over the course of the day with the screen set to the default settings. Once the battery has reached zero, we'll then count the number of shots to see how it compares to the camera's CIPA rating. 

Once all is said and done, we take all our data and everything we've learned about the compact camera and compare it to its price tag to see if it offer great value for your money.