Looking for the best compact camera? You've come to the right place. Whether you want a pocketable option for your travels or a premium compact for convenient street photography, we’ve tested all of the top pocket cameras and shared our recommendations in the list below.
Improvements in smartphone photography have made budget point-and-shoots largely redundant. But despite the rise of camera phones, other kinds of compact are still going strong. From super-zooms to large-sensor compacts, you’ll find the top compacts to suit every type of photographer in our guide.
There are many reasons why you might want a compact camera in 2021. While basic models have all but disappeared, the best compact cameras offer several advantages over smartphones. Larger sensors and optical zoom are obvious benefits, while physical controls and ergonomic cases offer a more tactile shooting experience. Most compact cameras now also use touchscreen interfaces, making them accessible for smartphone users.
A number of the compact cameras in our list include features designed to suit specific needs. Waterproof compacts, for example, allow you to take decent snaps beneath the waves, while super-zoom options give you the flexibility to shoot in a wide range of scenarios.
Our pick for the title of best compact camera right now is the Fujifilm X100V. Equipped with a 26.1MP APS-C sensor, it can capture excellent stills, as well as stellar 4K footage. But because its lens has a fixed focal length, it’s less flexible than other options, so you might find that a different camera in our list is better suited to your requirements.
The Panasonic ZS200 / TZ200, for example, is the top pocket camera for travel photography. Its generous 15x zoom range is complimented by a large one-inch sensor and full manual control options. Alternatively, the Sony RX100 Mark VI (which we think offers better value than the Mark VII) could tick the right boxes if your budget is bigger, with high-speed performance to match its premium price tag.
There are also good choices for vloggers included in the list below, such as Sony’s ZV-1. It’s the best compact vlogging camera you can buy right now, thanks to its impressive video quality, unrivaled autofocus and useful features for videographers, including a tilting touchscreen, a hot-shoe and a 3.5mm mic input.
Our buying guide features recommendations to cover all bases and budgets. Each has been picked because it offers a brilliant blend of portability and performance. From the latest releases to more affordable options, there’s a compact camera below to suit every kind of photographer.
Best compact camera 2021 at a glance:
- Fujifilm X100V
- Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200
- Sony ZV-1
- Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III
- Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
- Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
- Canon PowerShot G5X Mark II
- Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
- Ricoh GR III
- Polaroid Go
- Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV
- Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95
- Leica Q2 Monochrom
- Fujifilm XF10
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
Best compact cameras
The Fujifilm X100V takes what was already a special camera and fixes all of its weaknesses – it's the perfect compact for the smartphone age.
The concept is the same as before: a stylish, pocketable design, large APS-C sensor, unique hybrid viewfinder and a fixed 23mm f/2 lens. All of those areas, though, have now been improved on the X100V, which brings a new tilting screen and improved autofocus performance.
Image quality has been improved, partly thanks to a redesigned lens, and low-light performance is better. Then there’s the higher resolution hybrid viewfinder – both optical and electronic – as well as support for 4K/30p video capture.
Sure, you need to add a filter for full weather-proofing and the cost will be prohibitive for some, but the X100V puts an impressive range of features into a polished, premium body, with throwback style that sets it apart from the crowd – yet still fits perfectly in your pocket.
Read our in-depth Fujifilm X100V review
Panasonic invented the travel-zoom camera genre – compact cameras that you can fit in a pocket but that have long zoom lenses built-in. Despite strong competition, the ZS range (known as TZ outside the US) has dominated sales, and that form has continued with the brilliant Lumix ZS200 (called TZ200 outside the US). As we first saw with the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100, Panasonic has been able to keep the camera body about the same size as earlier ZS-series cameras but squeeze a much larger 1-inch sensor into the camera to deliver much better image quality.
The zoom lens isn't quite so extensive as some, but the versatile 15x zoom should be more than enough for most people and still comfortably beats all smartphones. You get (an admittedly small) electronic viewfinder, but there's also 4K video and a great touchscreen interface. If you're looking for a neat all-in-one compact camera that delivers great images, this is it.
Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 review
If it's mainly video rather than stills that you're looking for from a compact camera, then the Sony ZV-1 is the best option 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. These include class-leading autofocus powers, which helps it tenaciously lock onto people and moving objects in your frame, and impressive video quality from its 20.1MP 1-inch sensor.
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.
Read our in-depth Sony ZV-1 review
The G7X Mark II proved to be a smash and we're confident that this will be just a great a hit with vloggers and enthusiast photographers. With the new advantages of 4K shooting, a mic port and live streaming to YouTube joining the previously seen built-in ND filter and flip up LCD screen, this is arguably the strongest compact right now for vlogging. But if you've no interest in video there's still plenty to keep you happy, from 30fps shooting at full resolution to a super-sensitive touchscreen, in-camera Raw processing and the added convenience of USB charging. It's a shame there's no viewfinder or hot shoe, but then not everyone needs these.
Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III review
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. 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
Sony's original RX100 was a landmark camera that fused a 1-inch sensor in a compact, metal body with the controls and image quality demanded by enthusiasts. The RX100 VI goes several steps further, though, with a 'stacked' sensor design for high-speed data capture. It's not Sony's latest model, but if you don't need the microphone jack and video autofocus skills of the Mark VII, then it does offer better value. That sensor means it shoot 4K video, amazing 40x slow motion and still images at 24fps in continuous burst mode. That's not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder that its rivals lack, while this sixth generation model packs an impressive 24-200mm zoom lens. It's a pricey option and does have its quirks, but if you're looking for a versatile, pocket-sized compact with a quality zoom lens, you won't be disappointed.
Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI review
The second coming of the G5 X is a serious step-change in styling and spec for the series. Gone is the DSLR-style shell in favor of a streamlined body that’s still a pleasure to grip but far easier to slip into a pocket. Inside, a new 20.1MP stacked CMOS sensor, driven by Canon’s DIGIC 8 engine, is able to capture uncropped 4K footage, while a fresh 24-100mm lens offers a generous focal range and a relatively wide maximum aperture. Well-rounded and wonderful to use, the G5 X Mark II delivers reliably good image quality, brisk focussing and a strong feature set. Battery life could be better and the lens can be a little soft at longer focal lengths, but the Mark II remains a very capable all-rounder that’s untroubled by almost all scenes. So why the lower ranking? It needs to come down in price.
Read our in-depth Canon Powershot G5X Mark II review
Keen photographers usually go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but they also want something that will slip in a pocket for those days when the big camera needs to stay at home. Usually, that means putting up with a smaller sensor – but not this time. Somehow, Canon has shoehorned a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor into a compact camera body. There's also a built-in electronic viewfinder and refined touchscreen interface. The zoom range is a bit modest at 24-72mm, but there's nothing else quite like it.
Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review
With an APS-C sensor squeezed into a tough yet tiny shell, the Ricoh GR III puts powerful performance in your pocket. A GR ENGINE 6 chip makes the GR III a swift operator, allowing you to start it up and adjust settings speedily – ideal for capturing spontaneous shooting opportunities. The LCD touchscreen helps: its position might be fixed, but the display itself is crisp, responsive and easy to use. There’s no 4K video for budding vloggers, but stills quality from the GR III is dependable in a range of scenarios.
The 24.2MP resolution translates into detailed images, while three-axis Shake Reduction means the camera is flexible in low light. Noise control is also impressive at all but the highest sensitivities. The updated hybrid autofocus system is better than the contrast-detection system of previous models, but it can be sluggish in low light. The biggest drawback? At just 200 frames per charge, battery life is sub-par. Still, provided you’re happy to pack some spare cells, the Ricoh GR III is a comprehensive and capable compact camera.
Read our in-depth Ricoh GR III review
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. 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
It's tempting for list this model higher up just for the value for money it offers. It isn't the newest model and, as a result, doesn't have the topnotch performance of its newer siblings. The RX100 IV sits in the middle of the RX100 family, and while newer models beat it for burst shooting, autofocus and focal range, for most people this cheaper alternative would still serve them brilliantly.
The 1-inch sensor at its heart captures lovely images and super-crisp 4K videos, and while the 24-70mm (35mm equivalent) lens range isn't quite as broad as on the RX100 VI and RX100 VII, the lens itself has a wider f/1.8-2.8 aperture. The 2.36 million-dot viewfinder cleverly hides away when not in use, while optical image stabilization inside the lens keeps everything steady. You might want to pair it with a separate grip for better handling, but if you need a powerful compact to slip into your pocket – and you don't want to spend a fortune getting it – you'll find the RX100 IV delivers plenty.
Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV review
This may be a bit of a left-field choice, but we’ve included the Leica Q2 Monochrom for the simple reason that it's both beautiful and capable of taking stunning imagery. First of all, though, you need to get your head around the idea of a camera which is only capable of taking black and white images – it won’t be for everybody.
This being a Leica, it also has a price tag to make your eyes water. But for those willing to invest, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous body design, a superbly 47.3MP full-frame sensor and 28mm f/1.7 lens, Cinema 4K video recording, minimalist external controls, and a fantastic viewfinder and screen combo. Plus, on top of all that, it’s a camera that all your mates are likely to drool over.
Read our in-depth Leica Q2 Monochrom review
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. Image quality is generally reasonable, too. There is some softness around the edge of the frame at 24mm and the sensor size does limit dynamic range. 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
It’s not a cutting-edge compact camera, but the Fujifilm XF10 offers solid APS-C performance in a robust, portable package – and it’s now more affordable than ever. With an attractive, streamlined design, the XF10 is an enjoyable camera to use. Its touchscreen doesn’t tilt, but the interface is responsive, supported by a useful AF lever on the back.
As you’d expect, the XF10 delivers better image quality than a smartphone or entry-level compact: detail is generally very good across the frame, noise is well controlled and colors are pleasing – although there is a slight tendency to overexpose. Less impressive is 4K video quality. A frame rate of 15fps makes footage feel staggered, while rolling shutter and a susceptibility to wind noise limit the usefulness of movies. Its affordability also comes with some compromises: there’s no image stabilization, no viewfinder and autofocus isn’t the fastest around. But for an affordable APS-C performer that’s genuinely pocketable, the XF10 is still well worth considering.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm XF10 review
It's certainly not a pocket camera, but if you want a small, affordable point-and-shoot option with oodles of charm then it's well worth considering the Instax Mini 11.
Our favorite instant camera has an auto-exposure system that helps takes the guesswork out of shooting, without removing the variability and happy accidents that are part of the charm of the Instax charm.
As part of the smaller Instax Mini line, this camera produces credit card-sized prints that are ideal souvenirs from parties or family gatherings. If you fancy taking selfies, there's also a little mirror built into the front of the camera.
The design is still on the chunky side, so if you want the smallest Fuji instant camera that remains the Instax Mini LiPlay. The latter costs twice as much as the Instax Mini 11, though, so we reckon this is the better pick for anyone who's looking for a relatively compact instant camera that doesn't break the bank.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 review
None of the above take your fancy? Got some cash to play with? Here are three further options.
In many ways, the RX100 VII is best compact around right now. Its autofocus system 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 it's just a little too steep for the camera to be included in the main list. Still, we can't avoid mentioning it as it's one of the best options around. If your budget isn't limited at all, 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 (position 6), which offers most of its performance a little less cash.
Read more about the Sony RX100 VII
The Q2 is a thing of beauty, and right now it's arguably the best compact camera around. It's not for everyone – not least because it costs a small fortune – but if you genuinely want the best compact you'll be hard pushed to find a finer one than the Q2. Leica hasn't compromised on the spec sheet, with the 47.3MP sensor producing masses of detail and keeping noise impressive low, while the 3.68 million dot electronic viewfinder is bright and sharp. Also bright and sharp is that 28mm f/1.7 lens, while 4K videos show plenty of detail. It's not the easiest to handle (although you can get an optional grip) and some may have preferred a tilting screen, but its build quality is near-faultless. If you're pining for such a camera in your life but can't quite find the funds, consider the previous Q1 model, which offers a slightly stripped-down feature set by comparison for a hell of a lot less.