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Best compact camera 2021: the 12 best models for smartphone-beating snaps

Fujifilm X100V
(Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Want the best compact camera? Our rigorous tests have put all the best models through their paces to bring your definitive list of the best of the best. Whether you want an affordable zoom compact or a premium all-rounder, here’s where you can step up from your smartphone and take your photography up a notch. 

It’s pretty obvious that the compact camera market has suffered from the onslaught of the smartphone in recent years. In many everyday situations, your phone will do the job just fine. However, there’s still plenty of shooting opportunities that aren’t quite covered by the optics in your smartphone - so while basic point and shoots have pretty much disappeared from the market, there’s still plenty of sensible choices out there. 

The advantages of a dedicated compact camera are many and varied.  A larger sensor is one obvious plus point, as well as tilting screens and physical controls for a more tactile experience. There’s also other niche compact cameras, such as waterproof models, super-long zooms and those with stabilising gimbals which all meet a specific need that a smartphone rarely can.

With all that in mind, exactly what is the best compact camera you can buy? The Fujifilm X100V is a superb choice if image quality is at the forefront of your mind. It has an APS-C sized sensor, but it comes with a fixed length lens which makes it less flexible than some others on our list. It’s ideal for street photography - or as an everyday walk around camera - and is adept at both stills and video.

If you do need a bit more flexibility however, then there are some great options out there. The best compact cameras arguably bring you a bit of everything and that’s particularly true of the Panasonic ZS200 / TZ200. Not only does it have a generous 15x zoom, it also has a large one-inch zoom, allows for full manual control, and is available at a reasonable price.

For those with the budget to splash the cash, the best of the best is the Sony RX100 Mark VII. With it, you get class-leading autofocus, top-notch video, a decent zoom, full manual control and a great screen and viewfinder combination. You pay a hefty price for it though, so it won’t be for everybody. 

Anybody with a penchant for vlogging should look towards the Sony ZV-1, which is our current pick as the best vlogging camera. 

Every photographer is likely to need something different from the best compact camera, so have a good read through out list below. We’ve included some standout options, some for those with a restricted budget, and some choices which are a little bit left field but are worthy of consideration none-the-less.

Best compact camera 2021 at a glance:

  1. Fujifilm X100V
  2. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200
  3. Sony ZV-1
  4. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III
  5. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
  6. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
  7. Canon PowerShot G5X Mark II
  8. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
  9. Fujifilm X100F
  10. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
  11. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV

Best compact cameras

Fujifilm X100V

(Image credit: Future)

1. Fujifilm X100V

A special retro compact with plenty of performance

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.

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 Lumix TZ200

(Image credit: Future)

2. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200

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. 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

Sony ZV-1

(Image credit: Future)

3. Sony ZV-1

Need a compact video camera? This is the best around

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. 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

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

(Image credit: Future)

4. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

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. 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

Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

5. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

A brilliant compact 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. 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 Cyber-shot RX100 VI

6. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI

Sony's premium compact offers better value than the Mark VII

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. 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

Canon G5X Mark II

(Image credit: Future)

7. Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II

A bit pricey, but still 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. 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

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

8. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

A unique compact, thanks to an APS-C sensor and 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. 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

Fujifilm X100F

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

9. Fujifilm X100F

Since superseded, this is still an exceptional street shooter

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
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful retro design+Wonderful to shoot with
Reasons to avoid
-ISO dial isn’t that practical-Video is only 1080p

Back in 2017, we said that Fujifilm had “pretty much made the perfect enthusiast compact camera” in the X100F. And, while the X100V has since raised the bar even higher, it remains a remarkable piece of compact kit in 2021.

Blessed with the unique, retro looks and tactile control system synonymous with the X100 series, the X100F is exquisite to look at and even better shoot with. Complimented by an effective hybrid viewfinder, the refined control layout makes it a lovely camera to go out and use, with a front command dial and focus lever at the rear transforming the handling – even if the ISO dial is less successful.

A large APS-C sensor ensures that image quality is very good indeed, while responsive autofocus, a broad dynamic range and excellent noise-handling offer a useful dose of flexibility – with attractive Film Simulation modes for good measure.

Sure, its fixed focal length might be a little niche compared to the healthy range of 1-inch premium compact competitors with zoom lenses, but few – if any – can match the shooting experience offered by the X100F. Discontinued in the wake of its successor, prices have since dipped – but could rise again as stocks run dry.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X100F review

Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 HERO

(Image credit: TechRadar)

10. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11

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.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

11. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV

Our pick for 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 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

Leica Q2 Monochrom

(Image credit: Future)

12. Leica Q2 Monochrom

A niche option for a niche market - but the results are stunning

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 it for the fact 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’s got a price tag to make your eyes water, naturally. But, for those willing to invest, you’re rewarded with a gorgeous body design, a superbly performing 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

Honorary mentions

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

Sony RX100 VII

(Image credit: Future)

Sony RX100 VII

The most powerful compact camera around – but it 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 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

Leica Q2

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

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.

Ricoh GR III

Ricoh GR III

Also fairly niche, but great at what it does nonetheless

Specifications
Sensor: APS-C 24.2MP
Lens: 28mm f/2.8 (35mm-equivalent)
Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: No
Continuous shooting: 4fps
Movies: Full HD
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Tiny, rugged body+Great sensor and sharp lens
Reasons to avoid
-Video quality is poor-So is battery life 

We had mixed feelings when we came to review the GR III, but it still deserves a mention here. Why's that? Because, despite a few quirks, Ricoh managed to get a lot right, and it delivers something no other compact quite manages right now, namely the combination of an image-stabilized 24MP APS-C sensor inside a body that you can squeeze into your pocket. Other advantages include a high-performing lens, fast operation, a revamped menu system and understated styling to help keep you discreet when you're out shooting. The fixed 28mm-equivalent lens won't be to everyone's taste, and the battery life is also disappointing, but for those who need to travel light and take great images, this is a very capable alternative to an interchangeable-lens camera.

Read our in-depth Ricoh GR III review