The best compact digital camera in 2019 can easily outperform almost any smartphone camera, thanks to a larger image sensor, an optical zoom lens, and various manual controls that influence how the image is captured. Nevertheless, the market for compact digital cameras certainly isn’t what it used to be, as smartphones have grown in popularity, reducing the demand for a simple digital camera that fits in a pocket.
And while that may sound all bad, it isn’t. There is less fragmentation in the segment and as a result its easier to find a quality compact shooter. Sure, the best compact camera typically isn’t going to be able to match advanced DSLR cameras in terms of image quality or manual control features. But nor does it need to, as the ability to slide a compact camera into a pocket and have it available at any time gives these simple models a leg up on their larger counterparts.
- 1 Best Compact Digital Cameras 2019
- 2 #1 PICK Canon PowerShot SX710 HS – Editor’s Choice/Best Compact Travel Camera
- 3 #2 Pick Fujifilm XQ2 – Best Low Light Compact Camera
- 4 #3 Pick Nikon 1 J5 – Best Compact Mirrorless Camera
- 5 #4 Pick Panasonic Lumix ZS60 – Best Compact Zoom Camera
- 6 #5 Pick Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV – Best High-End Compact Camera
- 7 Key Indicators of a Top Compact Camera
- 8 Most Important Compact Camera Features
- 9 Which Compact Digital Camera Is Right For You
Best Compact Digital Cameras 2019
|Canon PowerShot SX710 HS||Fujifilm XQ2||Nikon 1 J5||Panasonic Lumix ZS60||Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV|
|Ranking||#1 - Editor's Choice/Best Compact Travel Camera||#2 - Best Low Light Compact Camera||#3 - Best Compact Mirrorless Camera||#4 - Best Compact Zoom Camera||#5 - Best High-End Compact Camera|
|Image Sensor||1/2.3-inch||2/3-inch||CX format (13.2 mm x 8.8 mm)||1/2.3-inch||1-inch|
|Resolution||20.3 MP||12 MP||20.8 MP||18.1 MP||20.1 MP|
|Optical Zoom Lens||30X||4X||N/A, uses interchangeable|
|Size (Wx H x D)||4.44 x 2.59 x 1.37 inches||3.9 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches||3.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches||4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches||4.0 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches|
|Built-in Flash Unit|
|Display Size||3.0 inches||3.0 inches||3.0 inches||3.0 inches||3.0 inches|
|Display Features||None||None||Touch screen, |
|Touch screen||Tiltable screen|
|Battery Life||230 shots||240 shots||250 shots||320 shots||280 shots|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
#1 PICK Canon PowerShot SX710 HS – Editor’s Choice/Best Compact Travel Camera
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Great to have pocket sized camera with huge zoom lens.
The 30X optical zoom lens in the thin Canon SX710 is a great feature for a compact camera, giving you plenty of versatility and possibly making it a top point and shoot camera. It’s helpful to be able to carry a thin camera with such a large focal range. What is the best compact camera for travel? Photos look great with this model as long as the lighting is good in the scene, but you may have some loss in image quality if you’re trying to shoot in low light conditions without using the popup flash, which is a common problem for compact cameras.
The SX710, which measures 1.37 inches in thickness, offers 20.3 megapixels of resolution, and it has both Wi-Fi and NFC wireless connectivity built into the camera’s software. It has a fast image processor, allowing for good burst mode performance. Unlike many compact cameras that can only record in burst mode for a couple of seconds, the PowerShot SX710 is able to maintain its burst mode over several seconds of shooting.
While it would be nice if this model had a larger image sensor than its 1/2.3-inch chip, the Canon PowerShot SX710’s image quality is adequate for an easy to use, compact camera. Its movie quality is very good, as you can record full 1080p HD movies at up to 60 frames per second. It’s enjoyable to watch your recorded movies on the PowerShot SX710’s sharp 3-inch LCD screen. The SX710 is just a strong overall camera in its price range, providing a lot of features to like in the compact camera market.
#2 Pick Fujifilm XQ2 – Best Low Light Compact Camera
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Amazing image quality in a thin and small camera.
Fujifilm provided the XQ2 with a 2/3-inch image sensor, which gives this model some of the best image quality you’re going to find in a compact camera, especially compared to other cameras in a similar price range. While this camera offers just 12 megapixels of resolution, its image sensor size allows it to outperform other compact cameras that may have more resolution but a smaller image sensor in physical size.
The XQ2 doesn’t have much of an optical zoom measurement at 4X, but it does offer a wide open lens aperture with a minimum f-stop setting of f/1.8, which is very impressive for a compact camera. The XQ2’s LCD screen is another very strong feature, packing nearly 1 million pixels into a 3-inch screen (measured diagonally). The camera is only 1.3 inches in thickness, allowing it to fit in a pocket easily.
The Fujifilm XQ2 is a very fast performer, which is another great option in a compact camera in this price range. It can shoot its first photo 1 second after pressing the power button, and it has almost no shutter lag. This is our pick for the best compact digital camera under $300.
#3 Pick Nikon 1 J5 – Best Compact Mirrorless Camera
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: A large assortment of features packed into a compact 1-inch sensor camera.
Compact cameras can also offer interchangeable lenses, such as the Nikon 1 J5. The mirrorless Nikon 1 J5 only measures 1.3 inches in thickness before you attach a lens, which makes it a great size for such a high-quality compact camera. It has a 1-inch CX-format image sensor with 20.8 megapixels of resolution, as well as plenty of other strong photography features, including full manual control options and numerous special effects, which helps to set the J5 apart from other compact cameras.
Nikon gave the J5 a number of move recording options, including 4K resolution at 15 frames per second or full HD at 60 fps. It has built-in WiFi and NFC wireless connectivity, meaning you can upload photos as soon as you shoot them to social networking sites. And Nikon gave this model a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD, which is going to help beginning photographers learn to use this camera more quickly. You will have some extra expense with the Nikon J5, as you must purchase interchangeable lenses separately, but this is a really good compact camera that’s worth the extra money.
#4 Pick Panasonic Lumix ZS60 – Best Compact Zoom Camera
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Tremendous zoom capability and desirable viewfinder in a pocket sized camera.
Along with being a strong compact camera, Panasonic’s Lumix ZS60 could rank as a best travel camera, thanks to its 30X optical zoom lens in a camera that measures just 1.5 inches in depth, allowing it to fit in a pocket. Few other compact cameras can offer such a large optical zoom lens. This model also weighs less than 10 ounces, even with the battery inserted, which is impressive even in the world of compact cameras.
The Panasonic ZS60 is an upgrade to the popular ZS50 from a couple of years ago, now offering 18.1 megapixels of resolution in a 1/2.3-inch image sensor. That’s a 50% improvement in resolution from the previous model. You can record 4K movies with the ZS60. And it has an electronic viewfinder, along with a 3.0-inch touch screen display that offers extremely sharp resolution.
Another area where the Lumix ZS60 shows impressive performance versus the other cameras on this list is in its shooting speed. It has almost no shutter lag, and you can shoot full resolution images at up to 10 frames per second, which is great speed.
#5 Pick Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV – Best High-End Compact Camera
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Amazingly sharp photos and movies, especially versus other fixed lens cameras.
The high-quality image sensor inside the Sony RX100 IV makes this model one of the best fixed lens camera options on the market. With 20.2 megapixels of resolution on its 1-inch image sensor, the RX100 IV can create amazing photographs, outperforming most compact cameras in terms of low light image quality. This Sony camera also can record 4K resolution movies for up to 29 minutes continuously, which is rare among compact cameras.
Another key to the RX100 IV’s strong image quality is its Zeiss lens, which has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. It does offer a limited optical zoom measurement of 2.9X, which lags behind the other compact cameras on this list.
The Sony RX100 Mark 4 has built-in WiFi and NFC connectivity options, along with a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD screen. Finding all of these features in a camera that measures 1.6 inches in thickness and weighs less than 11 ounces is pretty impressive in the compact camera market. However, be prepared to pay quite a bit for these features, as the RX100 IV has nearly a four figure price tag.
Key Indicators of a Top Compact Camera
The best compact cameras contain a few key features.
- Small and Thin: If you’re in the market for the best compact camera, you’re likely primarily interested in the size of the model. Such thin cameras easily fit inside a pocket or purse, leaving your hands free for other tasks but keeping the camera within reach at all times. Because such tiny cameras can be difficult to hold and use comfortably, you may want to seek one that has a slightly raised area to serve as a hand grip and a tacky camera body surface to make it easier to hold.
- Optical Zoom Lens: Even though a top compact camera is small, it can have an optical zoom lens with a good telephoto measurement. Most compact cameras are designed to have the zoom lens extend well away from the camera body when you activate it, and the lens then retracts inside the camera when it is powered down, meaning a camera that measures 1.3 inches in thickness when powered down won’t be that thin when you’re actually using it. Other cameras don’t extend the zoom lens outside the camera body, which keeps them very thin all of the time.
- Image Quality: The compact camera category has the widest variation in image quality among all camera categories. You’ll find very basic cameras in this category, alongside intermediate mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Keep an eye on both the image sensor size and the megapixels of resolution for the camera, and look for the largest you can afford in both categories to achieve the best image quality.
Most Important Compact Camera Features
- Image Sensor
- As discussed in our list of the Best Digital Cameras for 2015, image sensor size plays a key role in image quality. If you can find an image sensor that’s a bigger than the minimum 1/2.3-inch image sensor in a compact camera, you’ll receive much improved image quality.
- The number of megapixels of resolution a compact camera can record plays a role in image quality, but it’s not quite as important as the image sensor size.
- Optical Zoom Lens
- Because compact cameras are so thin, large optical zoom lens measurements are rare in this category.
- Check this specification to see how thin the camera is when powered down.
- Flash Unit
- Many people will use compact cameras at parties during nighttime hours, so the type of flash you have is important. Popup flashes are more powerful and have a better angle to the scene than a flash embedded inside a corner of the camera body.
- Display Size
- Even thin cameras should have a large, bright display screen.
- Extra Display Features
- If you like to shoot selfies, look for a screen that can twist and tilt away from the camera body. A touch screen display can make the best compact camera easier to use too.
- Wireless Connectivity
- Many cameras now offer built-in Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity. Both will drain the camera’s battery quickly, though.
- Battery Life
- Compact cameras contain thin batteries, which may cause you to run out of battery power quickly. Look at the battery usage rating from the manufacturer … and then plan on receiving about 75% of that rating. Manufacturers nearly always overrate the camera’s battery power.
Which Compact Digital Camera Is Right For You
While some people will choose to rely on their smartphone over the hassle of carrying a compact camera as a second device, such dedicated, thin digital cameras do have significant advantages over smartphone cameras. Because most people shopping for a compact camera are beginning photographers, look for a camera that’s easy and fun to use. A well-designed touch screen display can really help in this area too. And don’t spend too much, as the best compact cameras can be had for a relatively low price versus more advanced models. Just don’t let your desire for a thin camera cause you to sacrifice image quality, and you’ll be pleased with your options in the compact camera category!
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