The best compact camera easily outmuscles many of the best digital cameras on the market when it comes to portability, wallet-friendly price points, and ease of use. Whether you’re a professional photographer or just starting, these cameras are an essential add-on to your travel bag.
Depending on your budget, you’ll get an enhanced zoom range ideal for wildlife shooting, ISO and aperture controls to get crisp shots in the dark, advanced Wi-Fi capabilities to post on the go, and much more. Not to mention, compact cameras on the higher end of the price spectrum also offer larger sensors that produce excellent image quality similar to some DSLRs.
If you’re shopping for a compact camera that captures lifelike pictures, keep reading our buying guide to discover everything from its features to how they compare with different cameras, plus other factors.
Top Compact Cameras
#1 KIDSCAM 80X2BU Compact Digital Camera
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is an easy-to-use camera with features such as burst mode and face recognition. It is a great choice for beginners.
- Long lasting battery
- Easy to use
- No internal storage
This compact digital camera from Kidscam is an easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera that is rechargeable and can take pictures with a megapixel count of 20MP. Like the Logitech C922X Pro, the camera also supports 1080p Full HD video and should last up to 80 minutes of use per charge. On its rear, it has a 2.8-inch TFT LCD display that acts as a live preview screen, and to its left, there are easy-to-use buttons that allow users to zoom in and out, switch between picture and video mode, scroll through past pictures and apply different photo effects. Unfortunately, the camera does not have any internal storage, but it does make a top-rated digital camera for kids.
To get the camera to work, buyers will have to slot in a memory card, but this will have to be bought separately. The camera can accommodate an SD card with a storage space of up to 32GB, and when transferring pictures, users will have to rely on the USB cable provided to connect it to a computer. The camera is also very lightweight and has close to 19 different photo effects to choose from. It comes with features such as face recognition for clearer selfies and a burst mode for taking up to 6 pictures at a go.
#2 Sony RX100 Premium Compact Digital Camera
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is a great alternative for professionals that want to take high-quality pictures and videos on the go. It has excellent connectivity and a touchscreen display.
- Very easy transfer of media through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
- Tiltable screen for convenience when shooting
- Touchscreen display that is easy to operate
- No headphone jack
The Sony RX100 VII is a top-end compact camera that’ll be great for professionals who want to take high-quality pictures when on the move. It has a 20.1 MP CMOS sensor that delivers good picture quality and also allows for 4K video recording. It also has advanced eye detection and tracking technology for the best portraits and an external mic input for those who want to capture high-quality sound. The compact camera’s screen size is also up to 3 inches large, and with an 8x optical zoom function, its zoom range is bound to impress many. Unfortunately, there isn’t any headphone jack for live listening.
Transferring media from the camera to other devices is super easy, thanks to its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The camera also has a tiltable 3-inch touch screen display that allows users to preview their selfies and live recordings. It features enhanced image stabilization, allowing smooth 4K video even when in motion. Its compact size makes it easy to carry, and its superior color reproduction makes images look ultra-realistic.
#3 Lincom Tech Mini Blogging Portable Compact Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR LONG BATTERY LIFE
WHY WE LIKE IT: It has features that allow for easy streaming and also features a large capacity battery that lasts up to two hours on a single charge.
- Large capacity battery
- Large 3-inch display
- Can be used as a webcam
- No Wi Fi or Bluetooth connectivity
The Lincom tech digital camera is a compact alternative with up to a 48 Megapixel resolution and a 4X digital zoom function. Its built-in flash function lets users take clear pictures even in low light, and its 1500mAh battery keeps it going for up to 2 hours. The camera offers up to 8 different scene selections for the perfect ambiance and 16 other filter effects that are great for personalizing media. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity.
The camera can also be used as a webcam or for direct streaming, and it comes with a 3-inch HD LCD screen on its rear that is great for framing. It comes with a USB 2.0 cable for easy charging, and users will also be able to use the camera as it charges. Also worth noting is that the camera can support an SD card with a capacity of up to 128GB, and with a self-timer that can be set to take pictures after between 2, 5, or 10 seconds, users will be able to take group selfies easily.
#4 Canon EOS M200 Compact Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR EASE OF USE
WHY WE LIKE IT: It has great connectivity and an easy-to-navigate user interface making it ideal for kids and seniors. It also delivers excellent picture quality. Yet, it’s not quite the cheapest vlogging camera for YouTube.
- Easy to navigate user interface
- Bluetooth and Wi Fi connectivity
- Touchscreen display
- No optical zoom function
The Canon EOS M200 is a compact vlogging camera that has support for 4K video and delivers high-quality images through its 24.1 Megapixel sensor. Its 3-inch LCD touch screen allows for live previews, and its built-in support for both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology allows for easy image transfers and geo-tagging. Its LCD touchscreen is also tiltable for convenient framing, and thanks to its Dual Pixel autofocus technology, it finds focus pretty quickly to deliver a clear and accurate picture when need be. However, the camera does not have a wide zoom range and it’s not a great vlogging camera for under $300.
It is also very light to carry around, and its LCD touch screen has a friendly user interface that is easy to navigate. The camera can be used for light streaming since it has a clean HDMI output, though users must be careful not to let it overheat. It is excellent for beginners who prioritize ease of use, and since it has image stabilization technology built-in, users will also be able to take clear pictures and videos even when moving around.
#5 Ricoh GRIII Compact Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR DURABILITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: Its durable exterior makes it ideal for moving around, and its Wi-Fi connectivity makes sharing files very easy to do.
- Great Wi Fi connectivity
- Magnesium alloy makes it durable
- No built in flash
The Ricoh GR III is a 24 MP camera with a wide-angle lens and image stabilization technology for taking clear pictures and videos while in motion. Its Li-Ion battery will have it take up to 200 images before it runs out, and weighing about 0.57 pounds, it is pretty light and easy to carry. The camera also has a 3-inch LCD touch screen for intuitive control and Wi-Fi connectivity for easy file transfer and remote shooting. However, it does not have a built-in flash.
The camera’s magnesium alloy frame makes it quite durable, and when users choose to download and connect it to its Image Sync application, they’ll be able to have it execute various commands through their mobile device. The camera is an excellent pick for users who tend to move around and also travel a lot since its durable nature allows it to withstand rough handling.
#6 Lecran Compact Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR STREAMING
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is ideal for streaming or video calling since users will only need to connect it to their computer or device through the included USB cable to switch it to webcam mode.
- High quality pictures
- Built in fill light
- No support for Wi Fi or Bluetooth
This Lecran FHD digital camera is available in a wide variety of up to 11 fun colors to choose from and has a 36 MP resolution for high-quality images. It is an ideal option for streaming since it can be used as a reliable webcam, and with support for 16X digital zoom, users will be able to take high-quality pictures even from a distance. The camera also has a built-in fill light for taking photos and videos in the dark and an anti-shake feature that eliminates blur. However, it does not have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for connectivity.
The camera has a wide array of features that most people might find useful such as face detection, smile capture, continuous shooting, and a self-timer function. It is also great for users who need something smaller than a smartphone. Since it comes with two rechargeable lithium batteries, users will also be able to enjoy more battery life and take more videos or pictures, especially when on the go.
#7 Fujifilm X100V Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR INTERMEDIATE USERS
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is ideal for photos or videos with a classic design that is sure to delight those that like a timeless design. Shoots high-quality photos and up to 4K video.
- High-quality pictures
- Records 4K at 30 FPS or 1080p at 120 FPS
- Timeless look (for those that like aesthetics)
- Fixed focal length
This Fujifilm X100V digital camera is only available in black or silver, but it has a timeless design and a 26.1 MP resolution for high-quality images. It could be your ideal option for streaming since it can be used as a reliable webcam shooting at 4K with 30 FPS. If you don’t need 4K, it can shoot 1080p up to 120 FPS.
This camera features a quad-core processor for lightning-quick processing and a precision AF. Designed for those that love to take pictures quickly, the X100V has a two-way tilting LCD touchscreen. Thanks to the design, it is also compatible with their existing WCL and TCL lens attachments. This allows users to use additional viewing angles equivalent to 35mm and 50mm on 35mm format.
#8 Polaroid IS048 Waterproof Digital Camera
Award: BEST WATERPROOF
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is ideal for those that just beginning to consider photography or for a kid’s first digital camera. Has a protective cover to protect from scratches and light drops as well as being waterproof up to 10 feet.
- 16 MP photos
- 2.4″ screen
- Waterproof (Up to 10 feet)
- Very small (not suitable for those with large hands)
- Image quality is not as good as others on the list
If you are new to digital cameras or have a child or teen that is interested, this could be the best compact camera for them. It is available in three colors; black, blue, and teal. The camera runs on 2 AAA batteries (included), but you will need to purchase a micro SD card to save your photos and videos. You’ll have good-quality photos thanks to a 16MP sensor and HD video, although other options on the list are much better.
What those other models don’t offer, however, is a waterproof design (up to 10 feet submersible). The body also has a protective case to protect it from scratches or bumps. This makes it great for kids or beginning photographers.
Beginner’s Guide to Compact Cameras
What is a Compact Camera?
A compact camera is an all-in-one, lightweight camera primarily known for its simple operation. With these budget-friendly cameras, all you have to do is look at your subject through a viewfinder and shoot. This makes them ideal if you’re not concerned about manually controlling settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. For an example of a great compact cam, check out our Sony RX0 II review.
As you go up the price range, you’ll get top-notch image quality, hands-on controls, and robust features similar to what a full-sized camera offers but in a more portable form.
Compact Cameras vs Other Digital Cameras
A photography enthusiast generally has four different camera options to choose from: compact cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless, and smartphones. Narrowing down on a camera solution is determined by your intended photo use and which option suits your shooting environment best.
Point-and-shoot cameras are often a top choice for novices and professional photographers alike. While beginners appreciate the camera’s low learning curve and wallet-friendly costs, pro photographers love that they can take pictures at a moment’s notice without having to adjust countless camera controls. However, compact cameras do have their limitations.
These devices are no match for their DSLR and mirrorless counterparts when it comes to image quality. This is because the latter have larger sensors. You can also switch out their lenses depending on the task at hand, making these cameras more suitable for specialized photography (portrait, macro, etc.).
In general, compact cameras rarely hold their own against high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras in terms of image quality, manual controls (like ISO and aperture for lighting), and durability. Although, you might wonder can you use different brand lenses on a camera. This depends on their versatility, but it can be done. However, if you’re willing to shell out extra bucks for a high-end compact camera, you can attach lens adaptors to the camera’s original lenses. This way, there’s potential to produce higher quality images than even budget DSLRs.
The advent of smartphones with competent cameras has led to an erosion of the traditional photography market. And this is especially the case with compact cameras since they compare almost evenly to a smartphone’s camera. That said, pro features, like high autofocus performance, image stabilization, optical zoom range, and high-speed shooting modes, are much better on compact cameras. Speaking of features, if you want to learn more about these devices, you can start by understanding the digital camera definition.
How Compact Cameras Work
A compact camera, better known as a point-and-shoot camera, is designed to be the simplest solution for anyone trying their hand at photography. The camera sets the exposure settings, lens aperture, and light sensitivity (ISO) for you. All you have to do is switch your camera to the automatic mode, point it at your subject, look through the viewfinder, and press the shutter button. There are plenty of compact camera options in the market, ranging from models that only offer basic functions to those that give you more hands-on control. However, if you want to know how much is a DSLR camera before buying this one, you’ll be surprised by the prices.
The most standard features you’ll generally find on a compact camera are optical zoom lens strength, automatic scene modes, video mode, image stabilization, and white balance.
The zoom lens strength is an important factor to consider depending on your shooting environment. If you’re shooting photos indoors, a 15× optical zoom camera will be more than enough. But for wildlife photography, you may want to spend a little extra for models with enhanced zoom up to 125× so that you can get up close through your lens without scaring your subject away.
Automatic scene modes come with various options, from sports and landscape mode to portraits and fireworks. The camera will automatically set the exposure settings depending on your chosen scene.
Compact cameras also support video recording, which often makes them great digital cameras for video. Unlike older models, most modern compacts can shoot at 1080p for better quality HD viewing, but at the same time, they aren’t meant to compensate for regular video cameras.
Lastly, image stabilization and white balance let you make adjustments to remove the blur from camera shakes and eliminate unwanted color tints. However, if you’re asking yourself, “Why are photos so blurry,” there’s a chance something else is wrong with the device.
Apart from these basic features, a growing number of compacts today are equipped with ISO setting adjustments to increase their sensitivity to light in dark environments. Plus, these cameras are also Wi-Fi-enabled for on-the-go media sharing.
Why You Should Buy a Compact Camera
If you don’t want to lug around a DSLR with numerous controls but still want better optical zoom options and above-average image quality than smartphones, a compact camera is an excellent all-rounder. The same is true if you’re just starting to dip your toes into photography. They provide an excellent means of learning the basics.
Are Compact Cameras Worth Buying?
- You Want Better Portability: If you’re someone who likes to travel with a camera handy, you’ll prefer the compact body of a point-and-shoot camera since a heavier DSLR may run the risk of weighing you down over time. Check out the best travel camera if you want more travel camera options.
- You’re Just Starting With Photography: When you’re getting into the world of photography, compact cameras are an ideal solution since they simplify the process, have a low learning curve, and cost less than other traditional camera options. And if you’re curious about sensor sizes, we can help you with our guide to APS-C or full frame cameras.
- You’re Shopping On A Budget: The compact camera category offers plenty of cameras that cost only a few hundred dollars compared to the more high-end DSLRs and mirrorless models.
Why Compact Cameras May Not Be for You
- You Want Excellent Image Quality: DSLRs are interchangeable lens cameras that pack larger sensors, so their image quality is far superior to compact cameras. Plus, more hands-on control leads to enhanced image quality as well. For a nice DSLR to consider, read our Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR camera review.
- You’d Rather Use Your Smartphone: Camera brands have almost phased out their compact category due to the influx of feature-rich smartphone cameras. If you’re still new to photography and don’t want to invest in a camera just yet, using your smartphone is a wise option.
How Long Will a Compact Camera Last?
The exact number of years a compact camera will last is difficult to pinpoint since its longevity isn’t determined by shutter count. Unlike DSLRs and mirrorless models, compact cameras lack a manual shutter, so naturally, they don’t have a shutter actuation figure. Since there’s no risk of a manual shutter breaking, a compact camera’s lifespan is ultimately dictated by how well you care for it.
A point-and-shoot camera is an investment, even at budget prices. There are ways you can keep it in excellent working condition, so it will last you for years to come. First, ensure you purchase a case that snugly fits your camera for maximum protection so that it’s not subjected to bumps and mishaps while traveling. Additionally, you’ll want to clean it with a microfibre cloth to eliminate dust and other particles that worked their way inside. Moreover, regularly cleaning your lens means you’ll get sharper and cleaner images.
How to Choose a Compact Camera
Now that you’ve decided a compact camera is a worthwhile investment let’s look at various factors before arriving at a choice that matches your photography style.
Best Compact Camera Key Factors to Consider
1. What Controls Do You Require?
The controls you get on a compact camera go hand in hand with the amount you’re willing to spend. Almost all compact cameras come with a decent zoom range, flash, and automatic scene modes. However, more advanced and premium models will offer aperture, ISO, and enhanced optical zoom capabilities. But, remember to compare compact digital cameras before you buy anything.
Aperture is a crucial setting if you’re planning to shoot in different lighting environments. As a general rule, the lower the aperture number (measured in f-numbers), the better your camera will perform in low light. ISO can help you capture images in darker environments, and a better zoom range will let you get up close with your subject without moving physically closer.
2. Do You Want Audio or Video Capabilities?
Other than capturing stunning images, good-quality compact cameras let you record videos and audio as well. Video recording is ideal for both indoor and outdoor environments. So, if you head out to parties or trekking adventures frequently and want to take videos in ultra HD, you might want to invest in a camera with 4K video footage capability.
Additionally, you can record the sounds of nature when out trekking with audio recording functions. In that case, make sure you purchase a camera that supports a camera mount and mic input for an external microphone.
3. How Big Are the Sensors?
To be clear, if you’re on a budget, you’re not going to get a large APS-C sensor in your camera, and most likely, you’ll have to make do with below-average image quality. These days, manufacturers have upgraded compact cameras to 1-inch class image sensors, equivalent to four times the size of smartphone cameras. These sensors are great for low-light shooting, and when coupled with a bright lens and modest zoom range, you’ll get images that pop.
If high-quality images are what you’re looking for, a camera with a 1-inch sensor is worth the investment. But if you’re an expert photographer in search of a larger image sensor that delivers images with unparalleled detail, you should go for the best medium format digital camera.
4. Is Wireless Image Sharing Supported?
The most common image-sharing format you’ll likely find on all digital cameras is a physical USB connection. However, more expensive models further give you an option to share photos while on the move with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or even NFC. This way, you don’t need to offload photos to a computer every time, and instead, you can send them wirelessly to your phone to instantly post on social media.
5. How Durable is Your Camera?
A significant upside of compact cameras, like the best Kodak digital cameras, is that they tend to withstand harsh environments, making them ideal if you’re an adventurous person who likes to hit the mountains or water frequently. Compact cameras share core features like underwater capability and shock and cold resistance. For more day-to-day use, like when you’re hauling the camera into your bag or squeezing it into your pocket week after week, durability is crucial.
With toughness, you’ll also want to consider the camera’s weight, especially for the times you’ll be shooting outdoors or dabbling with street photography. A few extra ounces of weight can quickly wear an adventure seeker down as the miles add up.
6. What’s Your Budget?
You’ll find compact cameras across a wide range of prices. Budget-friendly solutions that cost around $200 will have limited capabilities like below-average video quality and CCD sensors that aren’t great for low-light shooting. If you’re willing to spend a few hundred dollars more, you’ll get a better optical zoom range. Add another few hundred dollars, and you’ll get a larger sensor. However, if you want both the features in one, be prepared to shell out well over $1000.