11 Best Compact Cameras for 2022
Updated: June 02,2022
On the hunt for today’s best compact cameras, we narrowed our search to 11 standouts. Below you’ll learn all about their top features and how to choose the best compact camera for you!
We paid particular attention to:
- Autofocus and other features
- Lens and aperture
- Image and video quality
- Design and portability
Need a small portable camera you can just point and shoot? Then take your pick from these 2022 frontrunners.
1. Fujifilm X100V
It doesn’t get more stylish than Fujifilm’s retro-looking X100V. It sports a hybrid optical-electronic viewfinder, pull-out LCD, and 4K video. The new 23mm f/2 lens ensures crisp details, even when focusing at close range. To top it off, it’s great value for the money.
Optical and electronic
In 2020 Fujifilm replaced the X100F with the X100V and introduced weather protection, a tilting LCD, and improved optics. The compact camera maintains its stylish retro look, along with a wide aperture lens, dual optical/electronic viewfinder, and SLR image sensor.
Its lens is at the larger end of Fuji’s pocket cam range, meaning you might have to rely on a jacket pocket when on the move. At 1.1lbs, it measures 2.9 by 5.0 by 2.1 inches.
The X100V is undoubtedly more durable than its predecessor - offering splash and dust protection that appeals to travelers and documentarians who shoot in all elements. However, for total protection against water, you’ll need to pay extra for the adapter ring add-on.
It’s in line with many competitors with its f/2 maximum aperture and 23mm focal length, though its view width isn’t on par. An add-on can increase the zoom to 28mm, and another tightens the view. Perhaps if favoring either add-on option, you might consider a different model.
The X100V uses dedicated controls for the ISO, aperture, and shutter. You can also set speeds from 1 to 1/8,000-second. These controls accompany the usual front and rear dials.
Its hybrid viewfinder sets it apart from other fixed-lens cameras. There’s a simple switch to go between OVF and EVF modes. The EVF is now OLED, producing vibrant colors and a larger view than the optical.
Both viewfinder modes support manual and auto-focus. Using a separate LCD screen at the back, you get an even larger view while tweaking the focus. As it’s hinged, you can tilt upwards or right around for selfie mode. When not in use, it conveniently stores away.
Its resolution specs are top-notch, with an effective pixel resolution of 26.1MP. Meanwhile, you can shoot video in 4K at 30fps.
Furthermore, this Fujifilm point and shoot camera has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and respectable battery life. Find it online for around $1,400.
2. Sony RX100 VII
This Sony compact camera packs many professional features in its small frame. These include a powerful zoom lens, new burst shooting mode, and super-fast autofocus. Image quality is exceptional, whether you’re taking still shots or 4K video that tracks your subject’s eye.
Eye focus technology
It’s impressive how the Sony RX100 VII contains so many features in its small frame. Upgrades over its predecessors include real-time tracking, so you’ll never lose focus of your subject. Plus, improved image stabilization keeps in-check involuntary movements.
The wide 24-200mm zoom lens has an aperture of F2.8 to 4.5, creating a class-leading field depth and providing concise control over subject/background separation. Much more so than most smartphones and other compacts.
This appeals to vloggers on the go, who require all eyes on them. Or rather all eyes on eyes, as Sony currently leads the pack when it comes to Eye AF (eye autofocus). It manages to lock on to the closest eye regardless of how far or tight the shot is. It even applies to animals in still mode.
The RX100 VII might be small enough to fit in your pocket, but the added microphone jack allows for professional audio to an already pro-level camera. Without any mount or shoe, you’ll have to dish out an extra $100 for Sony’s grip kit to do it justice.
The quality is objectively fantastic – sharp images with natural colors. The 1.0 image sensor produces 20.1 megapixels. You also get 4K and 30fps on the video end. It has multiple profiles, including S-Log2 and the HDR-compatible HLG. However, the 8-bit video limitation and minimum ISO of 800 can result in grainy recordings.
Looks-wise, it’s simple but stylish and carries enough weight to feel substantial in hand. The durable flip screen is also a convenient feature. A pop-up flash is useful in dark environments.
Whether you’re a hobby vlogger or a professional, this top compact camera has everything you need. Pick it up for just shy of $1,300.
3. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III
The G7 X Mark III portable camera lets you look like a pro while on the go. Its 4K video, impressive 1.0-type sensor, and its 20.1-megapixels make it ideal for vloggers and streamers. Shooting in 1080p can reach a staggering 120fps.
Mac and Windows
optical image stabilizer
Powerful camera phones are slowly challenging the 4K portable camera market. However, Canon comes out swinging with its G7 X Mark III. It provides direct access to YouTube live streaming while offering handheld camera ergonomics and changeable lenses. That makes it our top pick for vloggers and streamers.
The PowerShot benefits from quality zoom, thanks to a 1-inch sensor and 24-100mm f/1.8 to 2.8 aperture. That puts it 100mm shy of Sony’s RX100, while close in performance to Canon’s own 120mm G5X model. Unless fully zoomed in, you won’t notice much difference.
Image quality is on par with other similar cameras. You get 20.1 megapixels for still photos and 4K video that tops out at 30fps. Sign up to Canon’s image gateway service, and with just a few clicks, you can link to your YouTube account and start your streaming. The microphone jack ensures you can stream high-quality audio, though you may need additional equipment.
If you prefer frames over resolution, 1080p maintains 60fps, while 120fps is available only in slow motion. Unfortunately, its image stabilization is not the best on the market. For example, in 4K and 60fps 1080p, best to take or you will notice some movement.
Autofocus is fast and easy to use. Just tap on the tiltable LCD to pick a point of focus. And for self-portraits, it spins right around. There’s no EVF, though.
You can shoot autofocus bursts in Raw format at 30fps, which drops to an acceptable 20fps for JPG. Take a total of 100 shots in one burst. In lighter conditions, focus can lock on in just 0.05 seconds and is no slower than 0.3 seconds in darker conditions.
The G7 X Mark III easily slides into your pocket, measuring just 2.4 x 4.1 x 1.6 inches. It weighs only 0.67lbs and comes in silver or black. Ports include micro-HDMI, USB-C, and an SD card slot.
Controls on the top have power, shutter, zoom, mode-switching dial, and an EV dial. On its back are buttons for exposure lock, video shooting, menu navigation, and playback. Meanwhile, the lens ring works for shutter, aperture, zoom, ISO, or EV compensation.
Grab this professional digital camera for around $750.
4. Sony ZV-1
The Sony ZV-1 is one of the best pocket cameras for vloggers. There’s no need for accessories as it comes with its adjustable handheld and desktop shooting kits. And you can live stream when connected to a PC or Sony Xperia smartphone.
Sony left no confusion when it named its $749.99 ZV-1 a vlog camera. Other advanced compact cameras make vlogging an afterthought and often require accessories. Sony, on the other hand, gives you a powerful handheld shooting rig. It has controls at the top and adjustable feet to place it on a desk or other surface for shooting.
The ZV-1 also stands out with its class-leading autofocus technology. Set it to catch your eye - tracking wherever you go. Then, tap any object on display to focus elsewhere. The seamless transition lets you switch between each with stylistic perfection. It’s ideal for active vlogging.
It also applies to bokeh, the sought-after effect that creates an out-of-focus background. Switch it on and off with a single toggle – no need for manual adjustments.
Moreover, you can automate product showcases with a single button press or just by holding the object up to the camera. This makes unboxings and product review videos even more manageable.
In contrast to these vlogger-friendly features, it lacks a control ring and viewfinder.
Quality, though, isn’t an issue. It’s a bright f/1.8-2.8 lens with respectable 24-70mm zoom and the coveted 1-inch sensor. But practically, Sony didn’t design this for professional photographers who seek a companion mini digital cam to their larger DSLRs.
It’s more for the modern social media creator, and for that purpose, you won’t find much better.
This brings us to the 4K 30fps video mode, with superior oversampling instead of the less impressive pixel binning method. HDR and color profiling take things even further. Couple this with its SteadyShot stabilization feature, and any shakiness becomes a thing of the past.
The stabilization process can cause cropping, but unless you’re at maximum zoom, it shouldn’t disrupt your shot.
The design keeps vloggers in mind. Its side-hinged display opens like a door and can then flip 180-degrees for first-person shooting. If the built-in three-directional capsule mic doesn’t do it for you, the 3.5mm input will. The mic sports a wind deadcat to stop crackling when outdoors.
For charging and live streaming via a PC or Sony Xperia, all you need is a micro-USB.
5. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
The Lumix LX100 II is a perfect solution if seeking a small cam with a traditional feel and a solid manual control layout. Its 4/3 sensor captures 1.6 times the area of your typical 1.0 offering. Meanwhile, its low light performance provides unrivaled detail in the dark.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Continuous Shooting Speed
While compact video camera manufacturers move their sights to the YouTube crowd, Panasonic stays true to its traditional photographer and videographer roots. The Lumix LX100 II looks and feels traditional without sacrificing essential features.
You get a high-quality black design with an excellent handgrip and an emphasis on physical dials and buttons. The f/1.7-2.8 lens has a physical aperture ring with automatic and manual controls that you toggle with a side switch. You can also add 43mm density filters, which are notably lacking from most small video cameras.
A hot-shoe with built-in flash is on its top, alongside the power button and shutter speed dial. Moreover, you’ll find an auto shooting button, EV compensation, eye sensor, and diopter dial. Plus, a viewfinder/display switch.
While the LX100 II’s LCD is immovable, it does have touchscreen capabilities. To its right are menu buttons, an EVF toggle, and another button for activating WiFi. The latter two are programmable to allow for customization.
For sure, it’s a model for those that like hands-on control. However, it’s not the smallest of the bunch - measuring 2.6 x 4.5 x 2.2 inches and weighing 0.87lbs. Small enough for a coat, but skinny jeans are out of the question.
Users seeking flexibility will appreciate its large 4/3 sensor, which produces more than double the surface area of most competitors. Exactly how much your frame captures depends on the chosen aspect ratio. It covers 17MP at 4:3, 15MP at 16:9, 16MP at 3:2, and 12.5MP at 1:1. However, it lacks a bit in zoom, covering only 24-75mm.
The stabilized lens accomplishes crisp and smooth 4K video at 30fps, with fast autofocus and touch screen focus switching. It offers a high frame rate at 1080p.
The built-in microphone is acceptable, but the lack of a 3.5mm jack knocks off half a star. It also sports an AV/USB 2.0 port, Micro-HDMI (only for playback), and SD card slot.
At $800, it’s a good deal with the 4/3 type sensor as a standout spec. However, it lacks several features - preventing it from becoming one of the best small cameras.
6. Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II
There are several PowerShot editions, but no doubt, the G5 X Mark II is the flagship model. This point-and-shoot mini Canon camera provides five times zoom and a built-in EVF. Furthermore, WiFi lets you control the camera remotely, transfer files, and even livestream to YouTube.
White balance settings
At roughly $900, the G5 X Mark II is slightly more expensive than its G7 X Mark III cousin. However, you’re paying for more zoom power and an OLED electronic viewfinder. This is retractable to maintain pocket-friendliness and measures 2.4 by 4.4 by 1.8 inches. It weighs in at 0.75lbs. You’ll love its premium build, with a metal exterior, classic black finish, and a leatherette grip.
Although it’s still a point and shoot camera with WiFi, it lacks the streaming capabilities of the Mark III. The connection is used for transferring files or remote control but not going live.
The lens follows the industry-standard 1-inch sensor, with a range of f/1.8 to f/2.8. This is equivalent to 24-120mm, bettering the Sony ZV-1 as well as Canon’s G7 X.
With good lighting, the G5 X is quick and responsive when locking on focus and taking shots within five hundredths of a second. While in dimmer conditions, the average speed slows to three-tenths of a second. It easily accommodates more than 100 images in burst mode at 20fps. Moreover, it offers a three-second 20fps Raw burst mode, but you need the Canon desktop software for shot extraction.
If you forgo burst shots, autofocus legitimately comes into its own. It will locate and track human faces while picking out the most prominent objects when no faces are present. Stills are detail-rich and noise-free up to ISO 800. There’s also a built-in ND filter with three settings to create longer exposures in bright light conditions.
Meanwhile, you can capture video in 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps. The latter is ideal for slow-mo playback. While it produces stable and detailed video, there aren’t many extra settings. Moreover, it hides the 4K setting behind the video capture dial. It’s kind of confusing, as you can still shoot in 1080p without ever setting this dial.
You can control the shutter and aperture with the lens ring, while located top-side is the power, zoom rocker, shutter release, and mode dial. On its back are menu controls, a video recording button, and an exposure lock. The 3-inch LCD is sufficiently bright for outdoor use and is adjustable for selfie mode. It also doubles as a touchscreen for focus.
USB-C, micro-HDMI, and memory card slots make up its inputs.
For sure, it is one of the best Canon compact cameras on the market.
7. RICOH GR III
Ricoh kicks it up to 24MP with its GR III. This exceptionally light model is roughly half a pound yet packs in four-step shake reduction and effortless quality. It’s the perfect choice for photographers that want straightforward but powerful snap-shooting. It’s our pick for the best small point-and-shoot camera!
The Ricoh GR III is one of the lightest reviewed cams and considered best for snap photography. For example, when taking quick singular shots of subjects within your desired range. It achieves this with zone-focusing, where you preset the focus range and snap away.
For example, if you set it to f/8, auto-ISO, and a shutter speed of at least 1/200, - you can create high-quality shots as fast as your finger allows. It’s old school and a preferred method for street photographers and paparazzi.
That’s not to say its on-sensor autofocus isn’t good, as it’s quite capable. You can even tap an object on its LCD touch screen to bring it into focus.
With its lack of 4K, it’s not trying to captivate the social media, selfie-centered consumer, is its lack of 4K. Instead, it sticks with a capable 60fps at 1080p, while its 3-inch LCD doesn’t swivel like those designed for vloggers.
It weighs only 0.57lbs and measures in at 2.4 x 4.3 x 1.3-inches – ideal for pockets. USB-C allows for in-camera charging.
Modern image features are available in spades. Not many of the best point-and-shoot cameras max out at 24MP. Moreover, the new GR Engine 6 imaging processor is capable of high-res multi-tone, 14-bit RAW formatting. Plus, it's possible to shoot in ISO 102400 without any noise.
Its 3-axis, 4-step image stabilization keeps things crisp when taking split-second snapshots of moving targets. By slightly moving the image sensor during exposure, it maintains natural colors and simulates an anti-aliasing filter.
The GR III uses an atypical lens, consisting of six elements and four groups. Its maximum aperture is f/2.8.
With its fixed lens, it lacks a zoom function. However, you can effectively zoom in using the 35mm and 50mm crop modes.
From its modest design to its snap-focusing capabilities, the GR III is a natural progression for experienced manual focus photographers. It’s available for less than $900.
8. Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200
Panasonic combines long-zoom with a 1-inch sensor to create a solid entry into the best small camera rankings. If transferring files to other devices, its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities are the icing on the cake.
When factoring in its impressive performance, the Lumix DC-ZS200 offers good value for money at $799. Firstly, the f/3.3 to f/6.4 aperture accompanies a leading 24-360mm focal range. Although having a narrower angle is a trade-off. And with settings for up to 15x zoom, it is one of the best small zoom cameras on the market.
Secondly, its auto-focus almost instantly locks on in well-lit areas while requiring less than a second of lag in dark conditions. Its pinpoint focus mode requires approximately 1 second in good lighting but vastly improves focus capabilities in hectic environments.
For example, when there are moving objects like tree branches, you can focus quickly and accurately on a small bird amidst the leaves. Its focus capabilities are also excellent during burst mode. This produces continuous shots at 9.4fps in full-res Raw or JPEG format. Tracking objects reduces framerate to 6fps.
An alternative to the burst feature is its 4K Photo mode. This feature records 4K video and extracts 30fps still shots at 8MP. However, the widest angle possible is 36mm. Outside of burst and 4K Photo modes, individual pictures come out at a sharp 20MP.
It also produces clear and detailed 4K video with an expected fast and smooth autofocus. Unfortunately, its LCD is fixed and doesn’t support selfie requirements.
The Lumix DC-ZS200 is pocket-friendly at 2.6 x 4.4 x 1.8 inches and sports a fully retractable lens. Its 0.21-inch EVF is good quality but could be more prominent. It weighs just 0.75lbs and comes in black or silver.
Controls-wise, you get a top plate with a pop-up flash, power, shutter, record button, mode dial, and zoom rocker. Located on the backside is the EVF and LCD switch, along with a flash release, focus lock, and navigation buttons.
For connectivity, Panasonic provides its Image App for Android and iOS. You can quickly transfer images and videos with any mobile device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. However, it doesn't support live streaming.
9. Leica Q2
The Leica Q2 is the best compact video camera for megapixels and video resolution. This stylish model produces 47.3MP and noise-free 4K video. Additionally, its fast and accurate autofocus will wow you. And if needing manual control, its focus ring is handily available.
The Leica Q2 is a high-end digital camera with Wi-Fi. This allows it to connect to your Android or iOS device via the Leica Q or FOTOS apps. Not only does it support file transfer, but you can also control the camera remotely, which is perfect for self-shooting vlogs.
It jumps out on our list with its pioneering 47.3 megapixels, produced by a full-frame sensor. The fixed lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.7, accompanied by 75mm of digital zoom. Whether shooting up close or in the distance, indoor portraits, or street photography – it’s an all-around performer.
To neutralize shaking hands and other interference, the Summilux lens offers optical stabilization. Meanwhile, the autofocus system and manual focus ring breathe fresh life into subjects. Granted, it focuses in 0.15 seconds, which isn’t the fastest. Yet, the result is beyond expectations. While other cameras lose detail and experience noise, the Q2 presents unrivaled clarity at night. It even manages to maintain the full 47.3MP resolution in 10fps burst mode.
Another premium feature is its IP52-rated weatherproofing. Adventurers no longer need to fear dust or rain. Though probably best not to drop it in a lake. For a firm grip, Leica wraps the magnesium alloy body in genuine leather.
It sports an intuitive thumb rest next to the shutter, on/off button, and dial. On the back is a three-button layout for Play, Function, and Menu, alongside a four-way navigation toggle. You also get a zoom lock and digital zoom button. On its bottom, you’ll find separate battery and SD card slots.
The high-resolution OLED 3.68MP EVF leaves no second-guessing when viewing your subject. Then there’s the 3-inch LCD touch display for reviewing and focus switching during filming. All that’s lacking is tilt.
You have complete control over video resolution, maxing out at 30fps for 4K and 120fps at 1080p. There is also an automatic HDR mode, though this disables the ISO, aperture, and white balance settings.
You’ll need a sizable budget of $4,995 for such a high-quality camera.
10. Fujifilm XF10
You can’t rely on your phone for everything. The XF10 fits in your pocket just the same but provides a much larger sensor than the average smartphone. It has video and photo filters, as well as a perfect aspect ratio for social media posts. This is the cheapest point-and-shoot camera on our list.
Continuous Shooting Speed
For less than $600, you can purchase this 4K small camera and enjoy features often reserved for models that cost hundreds more.
First off, you get to shoot a cool 24 MP with its 18.5mm F2.8 fixed lens. The APS-C sensor is approximately 14 times larger than the average smartphone, producing high-res results with natural color reproduction. This is true even at night, thanks to its high sensitivity.
Secondly, its versatile framing options let you jump between 28mm and the equivalents of 35mm and 50mm. Macro mode lets you get in tight without losing focus. Set the aspect ratio to 3:2 for its native photo mode, 16:9 for widescreen (great for video), or 1:1 for those dazzling Instagram shots. 4K burst mode lets you choose the best shot from 15 frames per second.
Unfortunately, this frame rate remains for continuous footage, so don’t expect 30fps videos at 4K resolution. However, switching down to 1080p gives you the option for higher video frame rates.
This Fuji point and shoot camera have numerous filters and processing modes to ensure pro-like results. Choose from 11 film simulation settings to mimic different movie styles. Meanwhile, stills have even more choices. These range from subtle color and lighting enhancements to transforming photos into digital watercolor paintings. These feel right at home in the era of smartphone camera filters.
At just 0.62lbs, it’s one of the lightest we’ve reviewed. It’s also one of the easiest to carry at only 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.6-inches. On its topside are a power button and dials. Select the shooting mode with the mode dial and modify the aperture and shutter speed with the command dial. Advanced SR mode automatically recognizes the most prominent objects in-frame and applies focus.
To the rear is a crisp 3-inch touchscreen that supports pinch to zoom and swiping gestures.
After shooting, pair the cam with your smartphone for effortless wireless transfer via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
11. Leica Q2 Monochrom
This great quality camera is as high-end as you can get in the niche black and white cam market. The Q2 Monochrom maintains Leica’s class-leading 47.3 megapixels, weatherproofing, and OLED EVF. You can also shoot in crystal clear 4K at 30fps.
Like the standard Q2, Leica’s Q2 Monochrom commands a high-end price tag. That’s because of its best-in-class performance. You’re looking at 47.3MP, a 28mm F/1.7 lens, and a usable ISO range of up to 100,000. That’s without mentioning 4K video at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps.
However, with a price tag of $5,700, shooting in black and white might baffle most. Heck - regardless of price, it might stump most. Its niche user base opts for colorless cams for several reasons.
A color filter separates light into red, green, or blue photosites on most mini digital cameras. The processor then interpolates these into a color image. When the camera doesn’t require interpolation, there is more light absorption. Moreover, ISO sensitivity increases and each photosite gets a truer tone.
The short explanation is that because there’s less going, higher resolutions are achievable. The black also allows for longer exposure times with crisper results. For those that appreciate these benefits, Leica does it best among the compacts.
It has a simple design, with an electronic viewfinder. On top are located the power button, shutter, and a shutter speed dial. There’s also a command button for choosing third-stop shutter speeds. On its back, you’ll find the four-way directional for navigating the menu alongside the play, function, and menu buttons.
You can swap between the EVF and its fixed 3-inch LCD touchscreen with the function button. Above this is the diopter button to lock in settings. Another button for different croppings is to the right. You can program both for focus and exposure lock.
The OLED EVF is very bright and about as accurate as you can get. Instead of zooming, it supports full Raw images at 35mm, 50mm, or 75mm. A grid in the EVF displays a cropped version of the full-frame view. There’s no need to remove your eye from the camera or use the LCD unless for touch focus or playback.
For super closeups, switching on macro mode does all the hard work to ensure a well-focused subject.
In conclusion, it's a camera for those that love the art of photography. Full-frame image quality and higher pixel count allow you to demonstrate your talent.
Best Compact Camera for 2022
- •Fujifilm X100V – Best for mid-range budgets.
- •Sony RX100 VII – Best compact zoom camera .
- •Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III – Best camera for live streaming.
- •Sony ZV-1 – Best portable cam for vloggers.
- •Panasonic Lumix LX100 II – Best compact cam with a 4/3 sensor.
- •Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II – Best camera with WiFI.
- •RICOH GR III – Best point and shoot lightweight camera.
- •Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200 – Best value compact zoom camera.
- •Leica Q2 – Best all-round compact camera specs.
- •Fujifilm XF10 – Overall, best-priced compact cam.
- •Leica Q2 Monochrom – Best cam for black and white photography.
How To Choose the Best Compact Camera
Choosing the best compact digital camera is not as simple as selecting the highest-priced model. For example, the Leica Q2 Monochrom costs over $5,000 and shoots in black and white, appealing to only a select crowd. As such, consider the following factors before taking the plunge.
Generally, we can’t describe the best small camera choices as cheap. You should expect to pay between $600 and $6,000. If you want a versatile model that won’t break the bank, aim for the $1,000 and under options. Once you exceed this, specs significantly increase or are highly specialized.
Megapixels are only one piece of the puzzle, and there are endless debates about whether this spec indeed representatives image quality. It's true, factors like color accuracy, low-light abilities, and aperture also play a role. However, the megapixel count still indicates how much detail a single image can capture.
When blowing-up an image, low MP count creates low resolution and blurriness. Contrarily, with a high pixel count, you can clearly zoom in on a blade of grass.
For compact cams, the gold standard is 20MP. Even lower-priced models manage this. At the higher-end, some models reach over 47MP. You may note that flagship smartphones now have higher pixel counts. For sure advantageous, but not the only factor to consider. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 still lack the optical zoom quality, aperture, and dynamic range of an excellent compact zoom camera.
Different lenses are inherently better at shooting various subjects. For example, landscapes suit wide lenses. In general, larger lenses allow more light absorption, resulting in brighter and sharper images. You also get a greater field of view.
This is why a mini digital camera beats the average smartphone, which sacrifices lens size for all the other tech it has to fit inside a thin profile.
Compacts also accommodate optical zoom, where the lens physically expands, while phones mostly rely on digital zoom. This is just a fancy term for cropping, which results in lower quality images the further it “zooms.”
While some compacts use digital zoom too, their standard 1.0 type lenses already surpass the capabilities of most smartphones. You should aim for nothing less.
Micro four-third lenses provide greater optical zoom and are second only to the full-frame interchangeable lenses found on DSLRs. The other benefit of being smaller in comparison to full-frame is keeping your camera compact.
In short, go for the largest and most versatile lens that suits your budget and pocket space.
Does size matter?
There’s quite a bit of size variation when it comes to the top compact cameras. Much of its size relates to its protruding lens and whether it features optical zoom and its expectant larger sizes. If the lens wasn’t a factor, they’re not much bigger than your average smartphone.
Fitting in your pants pocket isn’t a given, but the majority will easily slide into a jacket pocket. If you’ve got a bag, you’ve got nothing to worry about. These are the most portable cams on the market.
Weight is also not an issue as there’s not much hardware inside. These light, digital cameras vary but rarely exceed 1lb. They tend to be only slightly heavier than your average smartphone.
Aperture refers to the hole in a camera lens that lets light pass through. A small aperture can sharpen an image because it rejects excess light - something like laser targeting.
A large aperture creates a wider field of view, but too much light can blur an image. Larger apertures are suitable for focusing on objects in the foreground while blurring the background. Often called the bokeh effect.
Similarly, because a small aperture limits light, it also creates a darker image. A larger aperture takes in more light for brighter images. As such, if shooting in darker conditions, a large aperture is preferable. While in really bright conditions, a smaller aperture prevents overexposure.
A camera expresses its aperture capabilities as an f-number, such as f/8. The smaller the number, the larger the aperture (confusing, we know). Panasonic’s Lumix LX100 II has an aperture range of f/1.7 to f/2.8. Such a range allows a lot of light for bright images and quality performance in the dark but isn’t so good in bright conditions or for wide-angle shots.
Focal length accompanies aperture and refers to the distance between the lens and image sensor in millimeters. With a more significant focal length, more zoom is achievable. For example, 16mm provides a very wide field of view, while 200mm enters telephoto range.
Fixed lenses crop or digitally zoom, rather than physically adjusting the focal length. Because of their compact nature, a small lightweight camera tends to have a limited focal length. However, some models like the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200 can reach an impressive 360mm.
The ability to shoot from further distances without artificial cropping ensures image quality.
Video Resolution and Framerate
If you want to shoot video, resolution remains an essential factor.
Fortunately, if you’re looking for the best HD camera, all the compacts reviewed shoot in 1080p at a 30fps minimum. The cream of the crop can capture continuous 1080p as high as 120fps. This is great for creating slow-motion videos.
It’s challenging to pick the overall best compact camera for video because even the lower-priced models offer 30fps at 4K. So, if 4K is a requirement, don’t settle for anything lower than 15fps unless only looking for burst stills or time-lapse capabilities. Framerate is not as crucial for these applications.
An all-round solution combines high framerates at 1080p and 30fps for 4K.
While it's possible to shoot HD and 4K in the dark, it doesn’t necessarily mean the image will have good dynamic range and noise reduction. This requires a slower shutter speed to brighten the footage, while a secondary light source will also help.
A best image quality camera is needed when primarily photographing wildlife, landscapes, or other people. For such users - considering to frame oneself or record voice may never cross their minds.
However, if you’re a vlogger or otherwise enjoy self-portraits, you need to be able to pose yourself in front of the camera correctly. If doing more than sitting in a chair, you also need to see your positioning in real-time.
That’s where an adjustable LCD comes into play. It’s larger than an electronic viewfinder, and you typically use it for menu navigation and image reviews. However, it’s now common for the display to unclip from the camera’s back and rotate 180-degrees - allowing users to become their camera’s subjects.
Some cameras also come with adjustable stick-grips and tripods so vloggers can shoot from the go with better angles.
As for sound, most built-in mics are adequate for capturing background sounds. For higher quality voice recordings, best to look for a mic jack.
Even the steadiest of hands and most secure tripods can result in shakiness, especially when shooting HD and 4K video. To solve this, most cameras implement image stabilization. This is digitally accomplished for the most part, while some advanced mechanical processes are available.
In some cases, dynamic cropping helps reduce shaky footage but may result in missing details. Similarly, video editing software can make such corrections. Again with a slight loss of quality.
Fortunately, all the cams in this review have some form of image stabilization. You can expect good correction performance from all. Only when zoomed-in too far will blur be noticeable.
Where aperture refers to the amount of light, ISO is a measure of the digital sensor’s sensitivity to that light. A low ISO number means less sensitivity, while a high value means more sensitivity.
In practice, using a low ISO is better in bright conditions and for landscape photography. This is because it reduces graininess and overexposure – the washed-out look. Higher ISO can increase sharpness, improve shots in the dark, and help prevent blur.
Users often consider the best quality camera to be one that produces high ISO without image noise to be better.
Just like our eyes hone in on objects, camera lenses focus on what you’re shooting. This is a relatively complex process that factors in lens size, aperture, zoom, ISO, and image stabilization. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert to sharpen an image with autofocus.
Before snapping your pic, all you have to do is point the camera at your desired subject and allow it to become clear in the viewfinder. Some cameras are faster at this than others, but all modern compact cams offer autofocus.
If you’re shooting moving objects, you’ll want a cam with tracking. This locks on to a moving target and keeps it in focus. Some cams come with eye-tracking, an advanced version that follows the eyes of its human or animal subjects. This ensures continuous focus as long as the subject remains in the frame.
Professionals out there may also desire a manual focus option. For adjustments, you’ll find either a traditional focus ring around the lens or a button equivalent. And it’s always handy as a backup when auto just isn’t cutting it.
LCD Screen for touch focus
If wanting extra control over-focusing on objects, touch focus is an excellent feature. You’ll find it as part of most LCD touch screens at the back of the camera. After activating the display as the viewfinder, simply select the mode if it isn't already by default. Then, just tap on any object and watch as it sharpens in real-time.
This is useful when standard autofocus is missing your target. It’s also good when filming video with lots of motion and many objects that can confuse the camera’s sensors.
Of course, the LCD screen’s primary purposes are as a larger EVF, for navigating the digital settings and for easy review and replay of recorded materials. No matter where you are, you can view your shots in all their glory.
An electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a small electronic display that you look through to frame your shot. It replaces the traditional optical viewfinder (OVF) and is now the standard for portable cams. It’s best to choose an OLED EVF over LCD.
An EVF allows you to see exactly what your camera sensor views, and it never obstructs your vision like a DSLR. Additionally, it's easier to see through an EVF than with an OVF, even if the display is enhanced and not quite true to life.
A key benefit is you can view overlayed information like framing grids, settings codes, and focussed areas. It might also adjust the brightness so you can view your shots better in the dark.
Some users may prefer an optical viewfinder because it relies on natural light passing through the camera. This gives you a clearer understanding of the lighting conditions rather than a digital representation. Also, an OVF has zero delay, which may be advantageous in high-pressure situations.
Another consideration is how to transfer images and videos from your camera to periphery devices. The traditional digital way, which works perfectly well, is to remove the memory card and insert it directly into your device. A card reader is required if a slot isn’t available. It’s common now to have a combination USB port that allows for direct data transfer as well as charging.
Using an AC cable, it's possible to connect the camera to your TV, DVD player, or projector for playback, but not necessarily for file transfer. The modern equivalent is AV to HDMI or straight HDMI. This option adds computers with HDMI into the mix.
A burgeoning and more convenient option is Wi-Fi. This allows you to wirelessly transfer files over an internet connection or mobile network - with help from Bluetooth. Many camera brands provide an app for this process.
Small Canon cameras like the PowerShot G7 X Mark III can even use WiFi to live stream directly on YouTube!
Today we explored the buzzing bazaar of compact cameras, which has no shortage of high-quality spec offerings. Even the cheaper models on our list feature 4K video, impressive aperture, and remarkable sensors.
Whether you’re a professional looking for a portable alternative to a DSLR or a hobbyist looking beyond your smartphone - alternatives abound.
Even vloggers and live streamers can up their game with many tailored features.
Which is the best small compact camera?
If looking for the smallest HD cameras in terms of dimensions and weight, none can slip easier in your pocket than the Ricoh HR III. It measures in at just 2.4 x 4.3 x 1.3-inches and weighs roughly 0.57lbs.
Despite its tiny stature, the device delivers 24MP, 1080p at 60fps, and a maximum aperture of f/2.8.
What is the best compact camera for 2022?
There are many factors to consider when ranking the best compact digital camera. The Lecia Q2 is our pick when it comes to all-around features and performance. It shoots in 4K at 30fps, delivers 47.3MP resolution, and has a maximum aperture of f/1.7. Lots of other premium touches like waterproofing and leather grips put it ahead of the competition.
Alternatively, those that don’t want to spend over $4,000 will want to consider the 24MP Fujifilm X100V. It too shoots in 4K and excels with a hybrid viewfinder and tiltable LCD for selfie shots.
Can a compact camera replace a DSLR?
Simply put, professionals use traditional DSLR cameras. They’re bigger, typically have better image sensors and lenses, and you can swap out the latter for various purposes. The most obvious is telephoto zoom capabilities for sports and other zoom-centric photography.
DSLRs often require more adjustments, and users consider it a more technical medium. Moreover, proponents argue you get better shots with a DSLR, at least if you know what you’re doing.
In contrast, the best compact camera models currently available are more portable and much smaller. They lean towards fixed lenses and modest zoom capabilities. Autofocus and many other settings do the creative work for you.
While they look and feel like traditional cameras, they have a lot in common with how smartphone cameras operate.
If you want an affordable camera that’s ready to point and shoot, a compact is for you.
A qualified journalist and longtime web content writer, Keelan has a passion for exploring information and learning new things. If he's not writing or pushing his own brands, you'll find him watching pro wrestling or trying not to rant about politics online.
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