Looking for the best compact camera? In today’s article, I’ll show you what you should look out for and give you my current top 3 recommendations. I’m all about the highest image quality in pocket format.
Below you’ll find detailed information on the best compact cameras. If you don’t want to read it all, here’s the quick overview.
- The best compact cameras – My current top 3 recommendations
- Why am I even looking at a compact camera?
- Best compact camera = Best digital camera = Best travel camera
- What you should look for when buying a compact camera
- Compact camera, SLR camera or system camera
- Conclusion: Which is the best compact camera?
My recommendations in this article are based on 15 years of photography and many different cameras I’ve used during that time.
The best compact cameras – My current top 3 recommendations
Here comes my current top 3 best compact cameras. I update this list regularly.
1st place: Sony RX100 VII – Best digital camera overall
After testing the Canon G7X Mark II, I thought that other manufacturers could actually improve very little except for the zoom lens. Until I tried the Sony RX100 VII. Everything about this camera is just right. With its successor, Sony has now gone one better. The image quality is fantastic over the entire zoom range from 24 to 200 mm right into the corners. The operation is very well thought out, I felt at home as a Canon user. This digital camera also uses a 20 megapixel sensor and an image stabilizer.
However, the electronic viewfinder is a particular highlight. This folds out at the top left corner of the camera. The viewfinder image is also very sharp and the image does not drag in any way. I can make my picture compositions much better with it, as I am used to from my SLR camera. In sunny conditions, the images are much easier to view in the electronic viewfinder than on a normal display. The speed is 2.8-4.5 over the zoom range.
The autofocus is very fast and accurate. The lens also allows for good shots in low light. The small camera brings a lot of setting options and is also very good in video. For me, the Sony RX100 VII is currently the best compact camera.
It is currently the test winner in numerous tests. This premium compact camera also has its price, but hardly has any weaknesses.
2nd place: Sony RX100 VA – The fast compact camera with high-end image quality
I have been taking pictures for 15 years now. Today I know that I don’t need a large zoom range. A normal zoom lens with 28-90 mm is fully sufficient for me. Light intensity is more important to me.
After 8 years of shooting with a Canon Powershot S95, I recently switched to the Sony RX100 VA.
I am very excited about this camera. It is really compact and offers an electronic viewfinder. The 20 megapixels are also perfectly sufficient for printing. Thanks to the image stabilizer and the fast 24-70 mm lens, I can easily take pictures in less light without blurring. The menu has been revised in the new version VA and is now easier to use. The buttons and dials on the camera are relatively small, which makes it not so easy for people with large hands.
However, the biggest strength of the Sony RX100 VA is its image quality. I took comparison pictures between this camera and my SLR, often the RX100 VA is better. You can find more info in my Sony RX100 VA review. It is also my recommendation if you are looking for a particularly fast compact camera.
3rd place: Panasonic Lumix TZ202 – Largest zoom range
All three of the best compact cameras have a 1-inch sensor. The larger the sensor, the better the image quality.
The TZ202 is a travel zoom camera with 20.1 megapixels from Panasonic. Thus, it brings a focal length range of 24-360 mm. Compared to its predecessor, the TZ101, the viewfinder has been improved, among other things. Also, the TZ202 handles much better because there is a rubber pad on both the front and back. The zoom range is a decent 15x, but the lens is not particularly fast. On the other hand, it has an integrated image stabilizer. Considering the large zoom range, it is surprising how compact the camera is. It also comes with an electronic viewfinder.
Autofocus and image quality are very good on the TZ202. Only in the wide-angle range, as with the Canon G7X Mark II, the corners are not quite as good. In terms of video, the TZ202 offers 4K resolution at the 30 frames per second or Full HD at 60 fps.
Why am I even looking at a compact camera?
Almost all of my pictures are taken with a system camera, the Sony Alpha 7 III. I like working with a tripod, figuring out my composition carefully, and slowly working my way up to the final image.
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Best compact camera = Best digital camera = Best travel camera
But I don’t always want to lug all that camera gear around. Especially with tripod, photo backpack, lenses and filters quickly add up to 5 – 10 kilos. That’s why I use a small camera as a second camera, which I can take everywhere. In other words, I’m looking for the best travel camera.
Each of us wants to capture the memories of his vacations. Even if in the meantime the cell phone often comes into question for this, it is still worthwhile to have your own camera for the very special trips. This is exactly what my recommendations are intended to do.
What you should look for when buying a compact camera
Compact size and low weight
My requirements are clear: I want to have the best possible image quality in the size of a compact camera. There are now several very good bridge and system cameras, but I’m looking for a camera that I can really put in my jacket pocket without it getting in the way.
Light intensity & image stabilizer
How important is it to me that the compact camera is particularly fast? Only moderately. An optical image stabilizer is more important to me than light intensity. Because with it, I’m more likely to be able to take pictures handheld without blurring them. Nevertheless, you will of course find my recommendation for a fast compact camera.
Very good image quality
When I’m on the road, I often pass motifs that make me wish I had a camera with me. When this is the case, the image quality should always be such that I can make good prints from the pictures. Therefore, the image quality of the smartphone camera is not enough for me.
I am therefore always on the lookout for the maximum image quality that is possible with a compact camera. A lot has happened here in recent years. Sony and Panasonic in particular have made great progress. When I’m really traveling a lot and size and weight play a role, a good travel camera is important to me.
My main requirements: Small, light, maximum image quality.
Compact camera with viewfinder for better image composition
In addition, I now find it good if the compact camera also comes with a viewfinder. Since we are talking about compact cameras, only an electronic viewfinder comes into question here.
Why is that important to me? Because the display is not always easy to read. Especially in situations where the sun shines on the camera display, such a viewfinder is helpful. In it, you can usually see the image more clearly and larger.
This makes it much easier to compose the image using a compact camera with a viewfinder. Another advantage of an electronic viewfinder over an optical one: Settings such as image format(e.g. square) or black and white are displayed directly while taking the picture. Again, these points help immensely in image composition.
Good operation, speed and setting options as a basis
Of course, the digital camera should also be fast, easy to operate and offer the same setting options as my DSLR camera.
Digital camera with tilting display
If you often want to take photos from unusual shooting positions, then a digital camera with a swiveling display is a good choice.
A typical scenario is taking photos close to the ground. If you want to take pictures of flowers or insects in this position, for example, you can see the preview image much better with a display that swivels upwards.
The same applies to concerts, for example. Here, if you hold the camera up and tilt the display down, you can see much better what you’re shooting.
For my landscape shots, I use the flip-up display a lot when shooting from a tripod. I rarely have the tripod set up at eye level as well. With the tilting display, I can look at the screen so much better and judge my image composition. The same is true for macro shots from a low height. Here, a tilting display is worth a lot because you can almost put the camera on the ground and still have your image in view.
Of the cameras mentioned above, the Sony RX100 VII and the Sony RX 100 VA have a display that can be tilted up and down.
Good compact camera for vlogging
Another aspect for a digital camera with a tilting or swiveling display is vlogging. So if you’re looking for a vlog camera directly, the Sony ZV-1 is currently recommended. Not only does it deliver 4K videos, but it also has a side-folding (selfie) display that allows you to see yourself while recording. It also comes with a directional microphone including a windscreen.
There is even a ZV-1 kit with a matching Bluetooth handle. So you have the controls on the handle and can also use this handle as a table tripod.
Compact camera, SLR camera or system camera
After my recommendations, it makes sense to ask yourself once again whether a compact camera is the right choice for you. For the price of the best compact cameras, you can also consider a system camera or an SLR camera.
The biggest advantages of compact cameras are their small size and relatively low weight. You get a good compromise between these factors and image quality. In addition, a compact camera is not so conspicuous when taking pictures. Especially when I shoot interior design, I appreciate this advantage. For many photographers, a good compact camera is the secondary camera that you can always have with you.
System and SLR cameras are much larger and heavier. On the other hand, the image quality is usually better. Another big advantage is, of course, that you can change lenses here. This way you can develop your photography over time and adapt your equipment to your needs. If you shoot a lot of landscape, you can use a wide-angle lens. If you shoot a lot of portraits, a fast fixed focal length is a good idea because it blurs the background. If you like to shoot insects or flowers, then a macro lens is a good idea because it gets you closer to those subjects.
If you want a camera that has a slightly larger sensor and a powerful zoom lens at the same time, then a good bridge camera might be an idea for you. Here, only one lens is installed, which cannot be changed. So you don’t have to choose between several lenses. Some of these bridge cameras have powerful zoom lenses up to 600 mm and more, so you can photograph more distant subjects like athletes or animals.
In the end, the question about a compact camera is: How important is it to you that your new camera is particularly small and light?
If you decide to go for a system camera or an SLR, you can find help in my articles about SLRs for beginners and system cameras for beginners. If you are still not sure which of the two systems you should buy, my article SLR or System Camera (DSLR vs. DSLM) will help you.
Conclusion: Which is the best compact camera?
The best compact camera is currently the Sony RX100 VII, which offers the ultimate combination of image quality and zoom range in a pocket-sized package. It also has an excellent electronic viewfinder. You can’t go wrong with this digital camera.
Was this article helpful to you? Do you have any questions about compact cameras? Drop me a line in the comments!