Best compact camera 2021: the 12 best models for smartphone-beating snaps Fujifilm X100V

Searching for the best compact camera? We’ve tested all of the best models on the planet, from affordable zoom compacts to premium all-rounders with fixed prime lenses. So whether you want to take a step up from your smartphone or need a pocketable alternative to your mirrorless camera, you’ll find your match in our list below.   

Compact cameras have had to evolve in recent years, as smartphones have become increasingly capable. In fact, you may be wondering if you need a dedicated compact at all. While basic point-and-shoots have largely disappeared, today’s compact cameras still bring many physical advantages, which help make them more versatile, creative tools than phones.

These advantages include everything from larger sensors to tilting screens and physical controls, which all help make the best compact cameras great sidekicks for longer shooting sessions. Some models also have stand-out skills that distinguish them from smartphones and standard compacts – from waterproof bodies and stabilizing gimbals to long zoom ranges.

So which is the best compact camera you can buy right now? If image quality is your priority and you don’t mind a slightly larger body, then the Fujifilm X100V is our current top choice. It’s the ultimate street photography camera and produces superb image quality, whether you’re shooting stills or video.

That said, its fixed lens design means it isn’t the most versatile compact camera around. If you need a pocketable model with optical zoom, then our top picks are the Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 (which has a generous 15x zoom) or, if money is no object, the Sony RX100 Mark VII, which brings class-leading autofocus and video quality. Looking for a pocket vlogging tool instead? Our number one choice is the Sony ZV-1. 

Of course, every photographer’s needs are different, so make sure you check out the entire list below. For example, those looking for an alternative point-and-shoot experience may want to consider an instant camera like the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11. Our buying guide also features a number of more affordable recommendations, including a some older models that offer great value.

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. DJI Osmo Pocket
  7. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
  8. Canon PowerShot G5X Mark II
  9. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
  10. Fujifilm X100F
  11. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
  12. 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-sealingFixed 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 viewfinderFixed 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 limitedMicroUSB 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 softNo 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 zoomingFixed 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

(Image credit: Future)

6. DJI Osmo Pocket

A smart stabilized camera for silky smooth compact video

Specifications

Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS

Lens: 26mm, f/2

Monitor: 1-inch touchscreen

Viewfinder: No

Continuous shooting: N/A

Movies: 4K/60p

User level: Beginner/intermediate

Reasons to buy

+Miniature gimbal stabilization+Records 4K video at 60fps

Reasons to avoid

Audio isn’t always greatSmall built-in display

One look confirms that the Osmo Pocket is different to everything else in this list. Using the stabilization tech first seen on DJI’s drones, its lens is mounted to a 3-axis gimbal that sits atop a pocketable wand. And it works: capable of capturing sharp, fluid 4K video at up to 60fps, more remarkable is how silky smooth the footage is. Roughly the size of a flashlight, the Pocket seamlessly counteracts shake and wobble, doing everything larger gimbals can do, yet without the bulk of added equipment. 

It’s featherweight at 116g, easily small enough to slip into a pocket and perfectly proportioned for one-handed use, swiping across the one-inch touchscreen. And although it offers little of the GoPro Hero 8 Black’s durability – especially around the hinge – it’s seriously smart. Nifty camera controls make panning a cinch, while features such as motion time-lapses and active face tracking enhance creativity and usability. It’s versatile, too: the universal port can be used to connect a smartphone, which makes it easy to transfer files, as well as unlocking more settings and an expansive live preview through the app. That port can also be used with a whole range of sold-separately accessories, such as the handy Control Wheel and Wireless Module.

Read our in-depth DJI Osmo Pocket review

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI

7. 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 expensiveHandling 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)

8. 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 rivalsBattery 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

9. 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 rangeOnly 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)

10. 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 practicalVideo 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)

11. 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 smallNo 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)

12. 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 sensitiveNot 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

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 idealExpensive 

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 betterFar, 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 poorSo 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

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