If you're looking to make the jump from the camera on your smartphone to a dedicated camera, getting a compact or point-and-shoot is a logical step. Compact cameras are typically small and lightweight, often pocketable, but without the complexity of an interchangeable lens, so you can focus on the pointing and shooting. Despite their small size, they still offer superior image quality to most smartphone cameras, as well as features like optical zoom and image stabilization, making them a great choice for travel photography or vlogging.
We've tested over 50 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best compact cameras to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their overall performance but also their feature set and price. You can also check our recommendations for the best cameras for beginners, the best mirrorless cameras for beginners, and the best mirrorless cameras for travel.
The best compact camera we've tested is the Sony RX100 VII. It's incredibly portable, with a small, lightweight design, but it doesn't lack in image quality and features either. It includes a large touchscreen that can tilt and flip-up for unconventional angles or selfies, as well as a pop-up electronic viewfinder if you want more control over composition.
The image quality is excellent, as photos have minimal visual noise and stay sharp even at higher ISO levels, so it performs well in low light. It also has a fantastic autofocus system that does an excellent job of tracking moving faces and objects, whether taking photos or recording video. While it only shoots 4k video with a crop, and the overall video quality is underwhelming in low light, it can shoot at up to 120 fps in FHD, allowing you to capture fast action.
Unfortunately, its battery life is a bit disappointing, though this can vary with settings and usage. Its lens also has a fair amount of light falloff, so the edges of photos may appear darker than the center. On the upside, it has a zoom lens with a fairly wide focal length range that gives you enough flexibility to capture wider angle landscapes or zoom in closer on a subject. Overall, this camera packs many features and great all-around performance into an incredibly portable body, making it one of the best digital compact cameras we've tested.
The best compact camera we've tested for travel photography is the Fujifilm X100V. It's a sleekly designed camera with a fixed prime lens and retro styling, including a hybrid electronic/optical rangefinder that encourages you to look at your surroundings first rather than composing shots solely through the lens or using Live View. That said, it also has a tilting touchscreen if you prefer to shoot from the hip or take photos at more unconventional angles.
It uses an APS-C sensor and delivers amazing image quality and great low-light performance, with shots that stay sharp and relatively noise-free even at higher ISO levels. It's also small and lightweight, making it easy to take with you wherever you go, and easily fits into a small travel bag. The battery life is only decent, so it may not last you a full day, depending on your choice of settings and usage habits.
Unfortunately, its fixed lens may be limited for some, as it lacks some of the versatility of a zoom lens. However, the fixed prime lens still gives you a wide enough field of view to capture street scenes and everyday moments. You can also use compatible Fujifilm conversion lenses to achieve different focal lengths, but you have to buy them separately. Still, this is one of the best compact cameras out there for travel photography that we've tested.
If you're a vlogger or looking to start, the best digital compact camera we've tested is the Sony ZV-1. This portable point-and-shoot is aimed specifically at vloggers, and its lightweight design makes it easy to take with you wherever you go. It has a fully articulated screen that's ideal for vlogging, making it super easy to monitor yourself from any angle as you record. It also comes with a windscreen for its mic to reduce wind noise, although we haven't tested its efficacy.
The camera delivers good overall video quality in 4k, although it's noticeably worse in dimmer lighting conditions and FHD. If you like to take photos as well, it also has amazing image quality with good noise handling capability. Its autofocus system is also incredibly, tracking faces and objects easily and reliably. Finally, while it lacks in-body image stabilization, its digital stabilization feature does a fantastic job of smoothing out camera shake in 4k and FHD.
That said, as is typical of compact cameras, it overheats easily when recording video for longer periods and has a poor overall battery life, although this can vary depending on settings and usage. It also has a disappointingly short five-minute recording time limit in 4k. On the upside, it can shoot in FHD at up to 120 fps without a crop, so it's suitable for a variety of video styles, from more cinematic-looking video to smooth fast-action video and slow motion. All in all, this is among the best cameras we've tested for vlogging.
If you do a lot of livestreaming, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III is a good compact alternative. Its video quality isn't as good as that of the Sony ZV-1, especially in FHD, but it has a built-in livestream function that lets you stream directly to YouTube using your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It's just as small and lightweight as the Sony but lacks a fully articulated screen; however, you can flip the screen up to face you if you need. Unlike the Sony, it can record 4k video without a crop, although its frame rates are more limited, as it can only shoot in up to 60 fps in FHD and 30 fps in 4k. Its autofocus system also performs noticeably worse, but on the upside, it has great overall video stabilization.
Get the Sony if you prioritize video quality and autofocus performance, but if you do a lot of livestreaming and want built-in support for it, the Canon is a good choice to consider.
The best ultracompact camera we've tested is the Panasonic LUMIX ZS80. It has an exceptionally small body and feels incredibly lightweight, so you can easily carry it around in a bag or even your pocket. It also has a flip-out touchscreen so you can shoot from a lower angle or flip it up to monitor yourself as you record. That said, it doesn't get overly bright, so glare may be an issue on sunny days.
Image quality is decent, though it's limited by its small sensor. Still, it packs in an incredibly long full-frame equivalent max focal length, giving you the versatility to shoot wider angle shots or zoom in to capture subjects that are farther away. Unfortunately, the smaller sensor means the max aperture is limited, so it doesn't perform as well in low light, and it can struggle to shoot photos with a shallow depth of field. Image sharpness also drops off significantly at higher ISO levels.
When it comes to video, its features are more limited. It can shoot in 4k but only with a severe crop, and its autofocus system struggles to keep moving subjects in focus. In FHD, it performs a little better, especially with object tracking, but it still struggles to track faces. Video quality is poor overall, especially in low light. That said, it's still a great option if you want the best small digital camera that won't break the bank.
Jul 26, 2021: Reviewed picks for accuracy and clarity; no change to recommendations.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best compact cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for compact and ultracompact cameras. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.