The best compact cameras for any budget in 2019

Smartphones armed with cameras were said to herald the death of the compact. And while sales had been in sharp decline for a while, camera companies have fought back with some innovative pocket-sized cameras.

Borrowing some of the best tech from their larger counterparts, the compact cameras of today leave smartphones in the dust when it comes to image quality and camera functionality. And better still, they’re all equipped with wireless connectivity, be it NFC, low-power Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or all three.

In short, you no longer have to compromise as much on quality when we don’t want to whip out a large camera. Pack light, capture the moment, transfer the images to your phone and then edit on-the-go.

What is the best compact camera in 2019?

The king of the compacts, Sony’s RX100 Mark VII (£1,199) is a true all-rounder, delivering incredible image quality and pro-level video specifications. All inside a package that fits in your pocket, making it our best compact camera in 2019.

View the Sony DSC RX100 Mark VII for £1,199 on Amazon

Panasonic’s latest pocket travel zoom offers a generous equivalent focal range of 24-360mm considering its diminutive frame. It also produces stunning images and benefits from some innovative 4K-photo capabilities. It’s arguably the best travel compact camera available.

View the Panasonic LUMIX TZ200 for £599 on Amazon

The best compact camera for street photography, the Ricoh GR III (£799, body only) has a fixed 28mm equivalent lens and offers highly detailed image capturing capabilities from its 24MP sensor, but lacks when it comes to video specs.

View the Ricoh GR III for £799 on Amazon

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Sony RX100 Mark VII

WIRED Recommends: Sony’s RX100 Mark VII is the unrivalled king of compact cameras

Sensor: 20.1-MP 1in Exmor RS CMOS | Lens: 24-200mm (equiv.) f2.8-4.5 | Focusing: Hybrid AF | ISO: 100-12,800 | Continuous burst: Up to 20fps | Display: 180° flip screen LCD | Viewfinder: 2.36m dot pop-up OLED | Video: 4K/30p, Full HD/up to 1000fps | IS: 4-stop Optical SteadyShot | Size: 101.6 x 58.1 x 42.8mm | Weight: 302g | Memory: 1x SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick Duo

Sony’s RX-series of cameras have long dominated the compact camera segment. Partly because Sony refuses to end-of-life older models. Even the original Sony RX100 remains available to buy for around £299. Now in its seventh generation, the RX100 VII (£1,199) sports the most capable autofocusing system in its camera class with 357 phase detection AF points and 425 contrast detection AF points, working in tandem. This hybrid AF system covers 68% of the imaging area and can lock on and track subjects rapidly. It’s smart too, capable of picking up individual faces and eyes, whether capturing portraits of people or pets.

One thing that hasn’t changed in seven generations of RX100 is the resolution. Once again Sony opts for a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor. This year’s model is bolstered by the latest Sony Bionz X image processor, which delivers stunning quality images in a wide range of lighting scenarios. This camera offers a versatile lens range of 24-200mm (equivalent) and has a maximum aperture of f2.8-4.5 at its wide and telephoto extremes. This extendable lens effectively replaces two professional lenses and a larger camera in situations where a pro body isn’t appropriate or allowed.

If you’re keen to capture fast-moving subjects, during sports events or family occasions with fidgety kids and pets, the RX100 VII focuses quickly and can rattle off 20fps with AF tracking or 90fps without AF. You’d be hard pressed to miss a moment while using this camera.

And vloggers and bands rejoice! If you need to record quality videos of yourself, the rear screen of the RX100 VII can be rotated 180° to face forwards. In addition, it features a standard 3.5mm input for recording audio using an external microphone. Among its other professional capabilities, the RX100 VII combats shaky pictures using Optical SteadyShot and supports up to 4K HDR video (QFHD resolution 3840 x 2160) as well as super slow motion video in Full HD up to 1000 fps.

Despite the hefty price tag, the RX100 VII represents good value considering the extensive list of capabilities housed inside its diminutive frame. For that reason, the RX100 VII would make a suitable backup camera for any serious creative, whether at enthusiast or professional level. It’s also a phenomenal travel companion with a removable battery that lasts for around 260-300 shots in real world use and it can be charged via USB.

Pros: Pro-level AF; ingenious viewfinder; versatile zoom range
Cons: Battery drains quickly with video; no in-camera RAW editing

Price: £1,199 | Check price on Amazon | Jessops | Park Cameras

Panasonic LUMIX TZ90

The best affordable compact camera

Sensor: 20.3-MP 1/2.3-inch MOS | Focusing: 49-point DFD AF | ISO: 80-3200 | Continuous burst: Up to 10fps | Display: 3in 180° tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 0.2in 1.66-million dot EVF | Video: 4K/30p | IS: Optical IS in-body | Size: 112 x 67 x 41mm | Weight: 322g | Memory: 1 x SDXC card slot

Sometimes finding the best camera for you means taking older models into consideration. The Panasonic LUMIX TZ90 (£299) may be a couple of years old now, but it was once a class-leading model. Since its release there have been a couple of key technological advancements which have knocked it down a few pegs, namely high bitrate 4K-video and improved image processors. But if you’re on a budget and don’t need those extra specs, the TZ90 is still capable of capturing beautiful images.

A 20.3-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor sits at the centre of the LUMIX TZ90, making it one of the smallest sensor camera models in this guide. But it does come with a far-reaching 24-720mm (equivalent) f3.3-6.4 lens, which provides 30x optical zoom. This is one of the reasons the TZ90 is such a popular travel camera. It also offers specs including 10fps continuous burst mode shooting and a built-in viewfinder.

Few cameras around this price point offer RAW image file capture, but as a former high-end compact at release, this does. Further benefits include its 3in tilting touchscreen, which the more recent LUMIX TZ200 lacks. Able to flip 180° to face forwards, the screen is great for selfies and decent for vlogging whether in Full HD or 4K/30 quality. It may be the cheapest and lowest spec option we’re recommeding, but the LUMIX TZ90 also has among the best battery performance, rated to almost 400 shots before needing a charge.

Whether you’d like to capture beautiful sprawling vistas or zoom in to get closer to distant details, the LUMIX TZ90 is the best compact camera available for under £300.

Pros: Extensive zoom range; good battery; top quality in good light
Cons: Lacks some features; small viewfinder; struggles in low light

Price: £299 | Check price on Amazon | John Lewis

Fujifilm X100F

Attractive classic camera design and best JPEGs without editing

Sensor: 24.3 X-Trans CMOS III APS-C | Lens: 35mm (equiv.) f2 | Focusing: 91-area Intelligent Hybrid AF | ISO: 200-12,800 | Continuous burst: Up to 8fps | Display: 3in LCD screen | Viewfinder: Advanced Hybrid EVF | Video: 1080/60p | IS: None | Size: 126.5 x 74.8 x 52.4mm | Weight: 469g | Memory: Single UHS-I SD card slot

You’d be forgiven for gawping at the pricetag. Unless of course you’re familiar with the award-winning line of X100 cameras. Fujifilm’s fixed lens compact beast has been hugely popular since it was first introduced in 2010. Almost 10 years later and the camera hasn’t changed much in essence. The focus of the X100 model has always been on delivering uncompromisingly excellent image quality and the X100F (£1,169) continues the legacy.

Ideal for travel and street photography, the X100F is a popular choice among discerning photographers, whether amateur or professional. That’s because it houses a large APS-C sensor, now upgraded in resolution from 16.3-megapixels to 24.3-megapixels.

Other upgrades over last year’s X100T include an all-new X-Processor Pro imaging engine. The new processor speeds up camera functionality, enhances its AF performance and boosts its maximum drive mode from 6fps to 8fps. It now shoots RAW as well as JPEG, and noise handling performance in low light situations has been upgraded with the range increased to ISO200-12,800.

The X100T is a joy to use if you’re not intimidated by its timeless “proper” camera design. At a glance it looks like a vintage film model. But looking through its intelligent hybrid viewfinder, you’re reminded just how modern this camera is. Fujilm has pioneered a clever 2.36-million-dot OLED EVF that offers an optical view with useful digital information and image overlay. It’s a brilliant innovation and something that gives this camera a big edge over the competition, including its nearest rival the Ricoh GR III.

Packing a 35mm equivalent lens at f2 gives the X100F a classic film camera perspective, another reason why its so popular with portrait photographers. Fujifilm has also created two convertors (WCL-X100 II, TCL-X100 II) that can alter the camera’s fixed focal length to give you a 28mm and 50mm equivalent perspective instead.

Pros: Stunning image quality; beautiful design; superb handling
Cons: No touchscreen; no 4K-video; no in-body stabilisation

Price: £1,169 | Check price on Amazon | Jessops | Currys

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

The vlogger’s choice

Sensor: 20.1-MP 1-inch stacked CMOS | Lens: 24-100mm (equiv.) f1.8-2.8 | Focusing: 31-focus point with face/object tracking | ISO Range: 125-12,800 | Continuous burst: Up to 8.3fps | Display: 3in tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: None | Video: 4K/30p, 120fps FHD | IS: Intelligent 5-axis IS | Size: 105.5 x 60.9 x 41.4mm | Weight: 304g | Memory: Single UHS-I SD card slot

Canon’s PowerShot G range of compact cameras have slipped into limbo of late, but this year’s generation seem to represent a renewed effort by Canon to reclaim lost ground. The Canon G7X model in particular, has been popular with vlogger and travel types since its inception. The G7X III(£699) goes further than ever to entice creative types with a suite of features that make it an attractive option for people who prioritise quality video over stills.

But that’s not to say the G7X III won’t capture good pictures however. It houses a 20.1-megapixel stacked CMOS sensor, similar in spec to the one in our top WIRED Recommends choice – the Sony RX100 VII. So why does this camera cost almost half the price of the top spec pick?

At first glance, it matches the best models in its class in a number of key areas. It features Canon’s latest DIGIC 8 sensor, the same processor used in Canon’s latest mirrorless camera model. The DIGIC 8 processor delivers smooth functionality and enhances image processing in camera. This keeps images captured in low light relatively noise-free at ISO sensitivities up to and around ISO 2500, although the camera has an extensive range of between ISO 125-12,800.

With fully manual controls, the G7X III will allow you to take complete control of your exposure. However, if you find yourself needing the higher ISO settings, expect grainy images, that struggle to reproduce faithful detail, due in part to the heavy-handed noise reduction that Canon applies in-camera.

One of the biggest advantages offered by this camera is its built-in 3-stop neutral density filter. It’s a particular boon for video creatives who want to maintain lower apertures in bright light for a more filmic look when recording videos. But the same benefit applies for capturing portraits on bright sunny days with attractive shallow depth of field. This is a feature we’d love to see in more cameras at this price point and above. Vloggers will also love the 180° flip-up touchscreen, which makes recording to camera a breeze.

Canon’s latest G7X III handles intuitively and offers some meaningful improvements over its predecessor, particularly in terms of video. But if video isn’t a huge factor for you and you’re happy with Full HD res for your movies, it may be worth considering the Canon G7X II (£479). It offers the same versatile lens range of 24-100mm and similar 240-280 shot battery performance, for around £200 less.

Pros: Good suite of video features; mic in-put; reliable stabilisation
Cons: AF lags; no viewfinder or hotshoe; video better than stills

Price: £699 | Check price on Amazon | John Lewis

Panasonic LUMIX TZ200

The best travel companion

Sensor: 20.1-MP 1-inch CMOS | Lens: 24-360mm (equiv.) f3.3-6.4 Leica Vario-Elmar | Focusing: LUMIX Light Speed AF | ISO Range: 125-12,800 | Continuous burst: Up to 10fps | Display: 3.0in fixed touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 2.33-million dot | Video: 4K/30p | IS: 5-axis in-body | Size: 111.2 x 66.4 x 45.2mm | Weight: 340g | Memory: 1 x UHS-I SD card slot

Panasonic’s LUMIX team all but invented the pocket travel zoom camera category by developing the TZ (Travel Zoom) range. The LUMIX TZ is a series of compact bodies that offer impressive zoom capabilities in an easily pocketable form factor.

In an age where almost everyone has a capable camera in their pocket, zoom and sensor size are really the only areas where compact cameras offer a distinct advantage over smartphones. That’s where the LUMIX TZ200 (£599) comes in. Housing a 1-inch sensor with a resolution of (you guessed it) 20.1-megapixels, the LUMIX TZ200 features a 24-360mm (equivalent) Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens. This provides an effective optical zoom range of 15x, far larger than much of its competition and the quality of those highly zoomed images is practically witchcraft if you can keep the camera steady enough. Thankfully the TZ200 uses a 5-axis hybrid optical image stabilisation system, which will steady stills and movies (excluding 4K and high-speed video).

The built-in viewfinder of the TZ200 also helps to steady footage when trying to capture distant details and cuts out the issue of glare when taking pictures on bright days. When capturing pictures that are a little closer in proximity, the TZ200 is able to focus as little as 3cm away from your subject. This is ideal for getting macro shots of plants, wildlife and textures.

Creative functions also bolster this camera’s wildlife photography credentials, making it possible to pull still images from a 30fps 4K video sequence. It’s an intuitive feature and makes it significantly easier to capture challenging action images. For example: birds taking off, fleety wildlife, dance performances or BMX tricks. LUMIX’ clever 4K tech also offers a Post Focus feature that effectively allows users to reselect the point of focus by touching the screen, after capturing the image.

Designed specifically with travel in mind, the Panasonic LUMIX TZ200 offers unrivalled zoom performance in this category and does a great job with stills too. It lags slightly in terms of low-light performance and capturing fast-moving subjects. However, compromises have to be made to keep the size of this camera down. It’s worth noting that the battery longevity of this model is also among the leaders in the segment, at around 350 images. If zoom matters, this is a very strong option.

Pros: Strong creative functionality; class-leading zoom quality
Cons: No tilting touchscreen; EVF feels a little too small

Price: £599 | Check price on Amazon | John Lewis

Ricoh GR III

Our pick for street photography

Sensor: 24.24-MP APS-C | Focusing: On-sensor hybrid AF | ISO: 100-102400 | Continuous burst: Up to 4fps | Display: 3in touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: None | Video: 1080/60p | IS: 3-axis IS in-body | Size: 109.4 x 61.9 x 33.2mm | Weight: 257g | Memory: 1 x UHS-I SD card slot

The Ricoh GR III (£799, body only) is a camera that speaks to a niche of the market. One that prioritises image quality over features like 4K-video and creative filters. It even caters to a type of photographer who priorities image quality over zoom range.

Housing a 24.24-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, the Ricoh GR III has a distinct light gathering advantage over its compact rivals. More light collected by the sensor translates into higher image quality in terms of colour accuracy, detail and tone depth. Its sensor also includes an anti-aliasing filter-less construction, which tackles moire effects and renders details in superb quality. It’s for this reason that fans of Ricoh GR cameras are happy to pay hundreds of pounds for a fixed lens camera.

The lens of the Ricoh GR III is fixed at 18.3mm (equivalent to 28mm) and offers a maximum aperture of f2.8. This focal length makes it ideal for capturing images of street scenes, architecture and travel. If you want to zoom, you’ll just have to walk closer. Its no-frills design makes this camera perfect for remaining inconspicuous, which makes it much easier to capture candid moments and natural portraits.

Now in its third generation, the Ricoh GR III has a larger resolution sensor and has been refined in meaningful ways. The things people love – great image quality, low noise and reliability have been enhanced with the new GR Engine 6 image processor. But the things that frustrated in the previous models have also been fixed with the upgraded GR Engine 6, such as autofocusing and laggy operation.

The GR III has 3-axis image stabilisation, and uses a high-speed, on-sensor phase detection AF system that snaps onto subjects quickly and consistently. It’s also intuitive to use. Weighing only 257g, the Ricoh GR III is one of the most compact options we’ve considered here and it slips into pockets easily. This, coupled with its stunning image quality and no-nonsense design make it a perfect camera for street photography, whether at home or abroad.

Pros: Best in-class quality; highly reliable; understated design
Cons: No 4K video; no viewfinder

Price: £799 body only | Check price on Amazon | Park Cameras

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