Compact cameras and the compact camera market have changed a lot over the last few years. Smartphones have decimated the entry-level range of point-and-shoot models that used to be popular and as a result manufacturers have concentrated on putting more advanced features into cameras to make them more attractive.
In addition to a move towards having physically larger sensors to boost image quality that can rival DSLRs in some cases, some compact cameras sport lenses long zoom ranges or wide maximum apertures. Wi-Fi connectivity is also now de rigueur on most compacts, so you can transfer shots quickly to a phone for sharing on Facebook etc.
Many enthusiast photographers used to be very sniffy about compact digital cameras, but there are now many that make a great alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless system camera. And those who are new to photography and are thinking about stepping up from a smartphone have some pretty sophisticated choices at their disposal as well.
There are small cameras that can slip in a pocket yet have huge zoom ranges, and large bridge cameras that look like DSLRs, but have a fixed lens and lots of automated easy-to-use options.
These cameras prove that you don't have to buy one that needs interchangeable lenses to get great shots.
If you need a bit more help figuring out what kind of camera you need, then read this article: What camera should I buy?
Or if you already know what kind of camera you want, then check out our more specific compact camera guides:
1. Fujifilm X100F
THe X100F is the perfect compact for the enthusiast photographer
Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.3MP | Lens: 23mm f/2 | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Hybrid optical/EVF | Continuous shooting: 8fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Expert
It may be one of the more expensive options here and it's not a compact for everyone, but if you're after a high-quality camera, you're not going to be disappointed with the X100F. Everything about it oozes class.
Unlike a lot of compacts here, it has a fixed lens as opposed to a zoom, but this 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens is paired with a DSLR-sized 24.3MP APS-C sensor that delivers cracking results. There's also the tactile external controls and clever hybrid viewfinder - you have the option of electronic and optical views that make it a joy to shoot with. You'll need some photo knowledge to get the best from it, but the X100F is an exquisite camera.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X100F
2. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
Expensive, but highly capable and offering a huge focal range
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.2MP | Lens: 24-600mm, f/2.4-4 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.44m dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/Expert
If you're looking for a powerful all-in-one bridge camera, then the RX10 IV from Sony is the best there is. You'll pay a premium for that performance, but when you look at what else is out there for the same price, the RX10 IV is virtually in a league of its own.
Featuring a huge 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, the RX10 IV builds on the RX10 III with an overhauled AF system that now does justice to the rest of the camera, while the 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor is capable of achieving excellent levels of detail.
Handling is very polished, it feels like a DSLR in the hand and complemented by a large and bright electronic viewfinder. That's not forgetting the ability to capture video in 4K and shoot at up to 24fps. Impressive stuff.
Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review
3. Panasonic Lumix LX10 / LX15
With some stiff competition, this is our pick of the 1-inch compacts
Sensor: 1-inch type, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-72mm, f/1.4-2.8 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 6fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Panasonic's muscled it's way into the growing premium 1-inch compact sector with the brilliant Lumix LX10 (known as the LX10 outside the US), and is the perfect balance of performance, features and price.
First, the bad news - there's no built-in EVF and the smooth finish doesn't offer the best handgrip, but the 24-72mm lens is one of the fastest around with a maximum aperture of f/1.4.
Add to that some polished handling with dual control rings and a touchscreen, snappy AF and 4K video capture, and you have one of the best compact cameras around.
4. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
A pocket powerhouse of a compact camera
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 28-84mm, f/2-4.9 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 8.2fps | Movie: 1080p | User level: Beginner/Intermediate
While there's now a decent selection of premium 1.0-inch sensor compact cameras to choose from, the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II sets itself apart thanks to its dinky proportions and streamlined controls. The highly pocketable dimensions do mean there are sacrifices to be made, with the PowerShot G9 X Mark II featuring a relatively short focal length zoom lens.
However, if you're looking for a neat compact camera that can produce vastly superior images to your smartphone, and has decent connectivity options and simple-to-use controls - the PowerShot G9 X Mark II is an excellent choice.
Read the full review: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
5. Sony RX100 V
Sony's super-high speed sensor tech is brilliant but pricey
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm, f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,228,800 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
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 V goes a step further, though, with a 'stacked' sensor design for high-speed data capture. This means it can 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.
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 the full review: Sony RX100 V
6. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
The FZ2000 / FZ2500 combines a bridge camera zoom with a big 1-inch sensor
Sensor: 1-inch, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-480mm, f/2.8-4.5 | Monitor: 3.0-inch articulating display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate
This trend towards bigger sensors shows up in the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US). Bridge cameras are very popular because they offer a colossal zoom range at a modest cost. To design a big zoom, though, the makers have to use a tiny sensor – and here Panasonic took the wise choice to sacrifice zoom range for better quality. The Panasonic FZ2000 uses a 1-inch sensor, and while the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that's still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use.
Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
7. Sony WX220
Cheap and cheerful 10x compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 18.2MP | Lens: 25-250mm, f/3.3-5.9 | Monitor: 2.7-inch display, 460,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 1.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
If you're looking for a compact camera that can do a better job than your smartphone - the WX220 ticks a lot of boxes, especially when you consider the extra flexibility offered by the 10x optical zoom, running from 25-250mm.
Images are bright and punchy, with decent detail – ideal for sharing online or printing at typical sizes – while it's nice to see Wi-Fi connectivity included as well.
The 2.7-inch screen is a little on the small side, but that does help in keeping the dimensions of the camera to a pocket-friendly size. The WX220 may not have lots of bells and whistles, but what it does do, it does well.
Read the full review: Sony WX220
8. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
A pocket powerhouse
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: No | Continuous shooting: 7fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Intermediate/Expert
The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III can be termed as the compact sized DSLR camera. The reason behind this is the APS-C CMOS sensor which Canon has used inside a small body. The image sensor along with the DIGIC 7 processing unit delivers good quality of images. The camera also comes with Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity which allows faster transferring of files to other smart devices.
Read the full review: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III