The best compact camera 2022: top pocket cameras to take anywhere

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
The Ricoh GR IIIx, one of the best compact cameras you can buy, on a grey background
(Image credit: Future / Ricoh)
Editor's note: December 2022

Because they squeeze lots features and power into their pocketable bodies, the best compact cameras aren't always cheap. That's why it's a good idea to shop around for deals, and we're approaching a traditionally great time to do just that.

There are some major shopping events on the horizon and it won't be long before we start to see the early Black Friday deals start to appear, which could serve up lots of opportunities to save money when buying a compact camera.

We think the best Black Friday camera deals will start to land in November, so if you wait until then we'd recommend doing that. Because some of the models on this page are now 2-3 years old, there's a good chance that you'll see decent discounts or, in some case, even record-low prices.

To help you pick the best compact camera for you, we've gathered all our favorite picks below. And thanks to our built-in price comparison tool, we'll show you all of the top deals from across the internet, too.

Mark Wilson, Cameras editor

The best compact cameras offer more shooting power than your smartphone, but in a compact bundle that's still pocketable and perfect for travel. While cheaper point-and-shoot cameras have largely been phased out, today's best premium compact cameras offer large sensors, powerful zoom lenses and electronic viewfinders. 

All of these features make them great companions for street shooting and holidays. And based on countless hours of testing out in the field, we've rounded up all of our favorite ones in this regularly updated guide.

What's the best compact camera you can buy right now? We think that's the Fujifilm X100V, a pocketable premium compact that comes with a fixed 23mm lens and fast autofocusing. This stylish option is great for beginners and experienced photographers with its tilting screen, hybrid viewfinder, and incredibly sharp image quality.

The X100V certainly isn't a cheap option though, so if you're looking for something smaller and simpler to take on your travels, we recommend the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV. Combining a small body with a very capable 1-inch sensor and nifty concealed viewfinder, it now offers excellent value.

Speaking of getting the biggest bang for your buck, we've included the best camera deals in this guide as well. This way, you can get the compact camera of your dreams for much less. For more inspiration, you can also check out guide to the best travel cameras. But if a combination of portability and power is what you're after, read on for our pick of the best compact camera around.

The best compact cameras in 2022:

Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The best compact camera Fujifilm X100V resting on a white chair next to a table

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact camera overall

Specifications

Sensor: 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS
Lens: 23mm, f/2
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.62m dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 11fps (mechanical), 30fps (electronic)
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Tilting touchscreen
+
Improved sensor and autofocus
+
4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs filter for full weather-sealing
-
Fixed focal length

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.

Our testing has found the image quality to be much improved, partly thanks to a redesigned lens, and the low-light performance to be better. One of our main complaints with the X100F was that its photos tended to be soft at f/2. Not so much with X100V, as we found it to offer great sharpness in the centre, even at the widest apertures. 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.

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV, one of the best compact cameras, being held in two hands with its viewfinder popped open

(Image credit: Sony)
The best budget compact zoom

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm, f/1.8-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,229K dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 16fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Great sensor for such a small camera
+
Viewfinder cleverly concealed 

Reasons to avoid

-
LCD not touch sensitive
-
Not ergonomically designed 

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 captured lovely images and super-crisp 4K videos during our time with it. 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.

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI, one of the best compact cameras, sitting on a white table in bright daylight

A premium compact that deliver impressive image quality

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: 24fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/expert

Reasons to buy

+
High-speed shooting and 4K
+
Built-in EVF

Reasons to avoid

-
The tech makes it expensive
-
Handling issues

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. During our time with the camera, it has proven to be capable of shooting a burst of 233 JPEG images and 109 raw files at 24fps – a big improvement over the RX100 V's 150 JPEG shots and 77 raws.

That's not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder that its rivals lack. It might seem like a gimmick, but we found it the display to be crisp with a generous field of view. 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. 

The Panasonic Lumix TZ200, one of the best compact camera, sitting on some maps and travel guides

(Image credit: Future)
The best travel zoom camera you can buy right now

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP
Lens: 25-360mm, f/3.3-6.4
Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Large 1.0-inch sensor
+
15x zoom range lens

Reasons to avoid

-
Small electronic viewfinder
-
Fixed screen

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. We found that it improves on the design as well, offering a slightly textured grip in front for better grippage.

Our testing showed that it delivers nicely detailed, vibrant images with good dynamic range and great noise handling – more than enough for capturing those precious travel memories. 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.

The Sony ZV-1, one of the best compact cameras, mounted on a tripod outside overlooking a river

(Image credit: Future)
The best compact video camera

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-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

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. 

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. 

best compact camera Ricoh GR IIIx on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
A niche but super-pocketable street shooter

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.2MP
Lens: 40mm, f/2.8-16
Monitor: 3.0-inch LCD, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: N/A
Continuous shooting: 4fps
Movies: 1080p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Big sensor in a small body
+
Intuitive and responsive

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor battery life
-
Screen doesn’t tilt

The latest in a long line of discrete Ricoh cameras, the GR IIIx sticks to a familiar formula: a large APS-C sensor and sharp, fixed focal length lens in a small, simple shell. Like its predecessors, our testing found the GR IIIx to offer intuitive handling, rapid responsiveness and unparalleled pocketability. 

What’s new compared to the standard GR III (which you can find further down this list) is the focal length, which is 40mm instead of 28mm. This limits versatility in a way that won’t appeal to everyone, but many will relish the creative discipline it requires. We also found it ideal for environmental portraits and certain street scenes, offering reasonable control over depth of field. 

The GR IIIx is not a camera without compromise, suffering from a poor battery life and a screen that doesn’t tilt. But we also found that it was a joy to use and shoot with, courtesy of its straightforward interface and customization options. The GR IIIx is a niche compact camera and you’ll find more functionality for your money elsewhere. But we still think it’s a compelling choice if you want a streamlined shooting tool.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III, one of the best compact cameras, sitting on a red cushion with its lens extended

(Image credit: Future)
Perfect for vloggers shooting on the fly

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-100mm, f/1.8-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: No
Continuous shooting: 20fps (30fps in Raw Burst mode)
Movie: 4K
User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Super-fast burst shooting
+
Great build and handling

Reasons to avoid

-
Lens can be a little soft
-
No hot shoe

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. 

Our testing shows that the video quality is very good, detailed enough for everyday use and for vloggers to roll out great content. If you've no interest in video, we found the detail in the center of its still shots to be decent as well, particularly at mid-range aperture settings.

There other things to keep you happy here, 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.

TThe Panasonic Lumix LX100 II, one of the best compact cameras, being held in two hands

The best compact camera for the enthusiast photographer

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
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

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.

The Canon G5X Mark II, one of the best compact cameras, being held in two hands with its viewfinder popped open

(Image credit: Future)
An excellent all-rounder for enthusiasts

Specifications

Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, approx. 1.04 million dots
Viewfinder: 0.39-inch EVF, 2.36 million dots
Continuous shooting: 20fps (8fps with AF); 30fps in raw burst mode
Movies: 4K (UHD)
User level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Good handling for a small body
+
Clear, useful EVF

Reasons to avoid

-
A little pricey compared to rivals
-
Battery could be better

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. 

We found that the G5 X Mark II delivers reliably good image quality. During our time with it, its metering system has proven to be dependable and its noise performance very good. Image distortions are well-controlled as well.

Well-rounded and wonderful to use, it also boasts 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.

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III, one of the best compact cameras, being held in two hands

The best compact camera with higher image quality and a zoom lens

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.2MP
Lens: 24-72mm, f/2.8-5.6
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 7fps
Movies: 1080p
User level: Intermediate/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Big sensor, small body
+
Refined touchscreen controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited zoom range
-
Only 1080p video capture

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. 

In terms of performance, we found the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III's image stabilization impressive, allowing for sharp shots even at slower shutter speeds. Its detail rendition is very good and the image noise is well-handled.

Thinner and smaller than the G1 X Mark II – despite squeezing in a larger sensor, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III felt much better and satisfying in our hand. That's thanks to the sculptured front grip, pronounced thumb rest, and textured grip. There's also a built-in electronic viewfinder, which is nice and crisp, and a refined displace with a gapless design for excellent viewing angles and a responsive touch interface. The zoom range is a bit modest at 24-72mm, but there's nothing else quite like it. 

The Ricoh GR III, one of the best compact cameras, sitting on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The fine compact camera for street photographers

Specifications

Sensor: 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS
Lens: 23mm, f/2
Monitor: 3.0-inch, 1.04m dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots
Continuous shooting: 8fps
Movies: 1080p
User level: Intermediate
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C
Lens: 18.5mm, f/2.8-16
Monitor: 3-inch LCD, 1037K dots
Viewfinder: No
Continuous shooting: 4fps
Movies: 1080/60p
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image detail
+
Compact, rugged body

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor battery life
-
Fixed LCD screen

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 at all but the highest sensitivities also impressed us during testing. 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.

The Polaroid Go, one of the best compact cameras, held up in one hand on a beach

(Image credit: Future)
The best instant compact camera

Specifications

Sensor: N/A
Lens: 35mm equivalent
Monitor: N/A
Viewfinder: optical
Continuous shooting: N/A
Movies: N/A
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Point-and-shoot simplicity
+
Properly dinky dimensions

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed focus can be tricky
-
No close-up mode

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.

The Leica Q2 Monochrom, one of the best compact cameras, resting on a woodchip panel

(Image credit: Future)
The best black and white compact camera

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 47.3MP
Lens: Fixed, 28mm f/1.7
Monitor: 3.0-inch touch-sensitive 1040K dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 10fps
Movies: C4K
User level: Intermediate/Expert

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful design
+
Superb image quality 
+
Great controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Super high price
-
Black and white only

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 find, as we have, that shooting with it is an absolute treat, especially since its sensor configuration makes it possible to shoot at high ISO settings with significantly less ISO noise. In short, it'll make you fall in love with B&W images again. 

You’ll also 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. 

The Panasonic Lumix TZ95, one of the best compact cameras, perched on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)
A stellar superzoom all-rounder

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

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.

The Fujifilm XF10, one of the best compact cameras, perched on a wooden handrail outside

(Image credit: Future)
Pocketable and affordable APS-C

Specifications

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C
Lens: 18.5mm, f/2.8-16
Monitor: 3-inch LCD, 1040K dots
Viewfinder: No
Continuous shooting: 6fps
Movies: 4K/15p
User level: Beginner/intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Very good image quality
+
Small, robust body

Reasons to avoid

-
Disappointing 4K video
-
No image stabilisation

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. Our tests show that 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.

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 11, one of the best compact cameras, sitting on a tree trunk

(Image credit: TechRadar)
Our favorite instant camera is an affordable point-and-shoot option

Specifications

Lens: 60mm
Focusing: Normal and macro
Flash: Built-in
Self-timer: None

Reasons to buy

+
Very beginner-friendly
+
Largely accurate auto exposure
+
Compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
Instax Mini prints rather small
-
No advanced features for pros

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.

Honorary mentions

None of the above take your fancy? Got some cash to play with? Here are three further options.

Top-down shot of the Sony RX100 VII placed on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)
The most powerful compact camera around, but comes at a price

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 videos

Reasons to avoid

-
Handling not ideal
-
Expensive 

In many ways, the RX100 VII is 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 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.

The Leica Q2 being pulled from a leather carry case

Leica Q2

Expensive? Yes. Brilliant? Hell yes.

Specifications

Sensor: Full-frame 47.3MP
Lens: 28mm f/1.7
Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 20/10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Stellar images
+
Rock-solid build

Reasons to avoid

-
Video specs could be better
-
Far, FAR from cheap

We haven't tested the Q2 ourselves, but it is still 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.

How to choose the best compact camera for you

When choosing the best compact camera for you, things like the sensor size and type of viewfinder might not be as important. After all, while pro and experienced photographers do use compact cameras, it's really the novice, casual shooter, and point-and-shoot crowd that these cameras are most ideal for.

If you have some general knowledge about cameras, definitely take a look at the sensor size as Micro Four Thirds and APS-C options are as much on hand as 1-inch ones. Take a look at the type of viewfinder as well – or at least whether or not the camera you're looking at has one. Most compact cameras have an electronic viewfinder, but a small number have an optical one.

Otherwise, those things might not matter as much to you depending on what you need it for. If you plan on using your compact camera for travel, you should take a closer look at the lens and its zoom capabilities. You'll find that when it comes to taking travel photos, you'll get a lot more use out of a camera with a built-in lens with impressive zooming capabilities. If you plan on using your camera for street photography or for snapshots of people, a fixed lens might just be ideal for you. If you want to shoot nighttime photos, look for one with high ISO capabilities and great noise handling.

Take a look at features as well. Some features you might not need, but a few might prove to be useful like image stabilization or face/eye tracking. Of course, price is a factor as well, and you will find many options whether your budget is low or flexible. However, don't just go for the cheapest one, especially if you want more features or better performance. You're best served by a camera that will meet your needs and expectations, so hold off and save up for a better choice.

The Sony RX100 VII sitting on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

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.

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.