Getting a compact camera (also known as a point-and-shoot) is a logical step if you want to jump from your smartphone to a dedicated camera. Compact cameras are typically small and lightweight, often pocketable, but without the complexity of an interchangeable lens, so you can focus on pointing and shooting. Despite their small sizes, many compact cameras still offer excellent image quality and features that you can't really get on a smartphone camera, like long zoom lenses and optical image stabilization, making them a great choice for travel or street photography.
Most of our picks here are higher-end point-and-shoots. Cheaper options typically aren't worth the investment over simply using the smartphone you most likely already own. If you're an enthusiast who needs a compact camera to shoot with on the side, or you like the idea of a dedicated all-in-one camera, there are plenty of premium options to choose from, though we've also included a budget pick to round out the list.
We've bought over 100 cameras, and below, you'll find the best digital compact cameras we've tested in our lab. If you want something relatively compact with an interchangeable lens, try the best mirrorless cameras for travel or the best mirrorless cameras, which tend to be more portable than traditional DSLR options. Alternatively, if you're looking for a small camera to vlog with, you can look at the best cameras for vlogging.
Though it isn't cheap, the Sony RX100 VII is one of the best compact cameras we've tested. Thanks to a highly portable design, a wide zoom range, and plenty of extra features, this portable zoom camera has everything you need. Unlike your average point-and-shoot, the RX100 VII uses a larger 1-inch type sensor, so image quality is good for its class, and the sensor's stacked design minimizes rolling shutter effect and allows for a blistering 20 fps burst rate.
While it doesn't have the longest zoom range, the camera's 24-200mm full-frame equivalent focal length is versatile enough for all kinds of subjects. The camera's also packed with thoughtful design touches, like a small pop-up viewfinder and a pop-up flash—all while easily fitting into a coat pocket or handbag. That portability does come at the cost of a short battery life, but that comes with the territory, as most compact cameras struggle in that arena. If you want to save money, you can still find older models in the RX100 series on the used market for cheaper.
If image quality is your top priority, the RICOH GR III won't disappoint. It's one of the most compact cameras on this list and the only one with a larger APS-C sensor. That sensor provides excellent image quality, more dynamic range, and generally better low-light performance than cameras with smaller sensors. The GR III's minimalist design is also perfect for travel or street photography. However, the camera doesn't have many frills—no viewfinder or 4k video capability and a fixed screen that limits your shooting angles.
Unlike the Sony RX100 VII, this camera uses a fixed prime lens. While it isn't as versatile for far-away subjects, the 28mm equivalent focal length gives you a lot of coverage to capture street scenes or landscapes. If you prefer a tighter field of view, opt for the RICOH GR IIIx—while it's a little pricier, it has a lens with a narrower 40mm equivalent focal length. Ultimately, if you're looking for a highly portable, discreet camera that captures beautiful images, you can't go wrong with a GR III or GR IIIx.
If more expensive cameras like the Sony RX100 VII or the RICOH GR III are out of your price range, a mid-range option like the Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II delivers solid image quality and plenty of features at a lower price point. It's a well-built camera with some of the best ergonomics of any point-and-shoot we've tested, thanks to a surprisingly comfortable handgrip and thumb rest. Just like the Sony, it has a little pop-up viewfinder that helps when shooting on sunny days, along with a tilting screen that you can use for waist-level shots. Though it can't match the APS-C sensor on the RICOH, its 1-inch sensor still captures better-than-average image quality.
The built-in lens is quite good, too. It can open up to a fairly wide aperture, and its 5x zoom capability is versatile, although it doesn't have as much range as the lens on the RX100 VII. Still, you get extra features like image stabilization and a built-in digital ND filter to help you shoot at slower shutter speeds in bright lighting. That said, the autofocus on this camera can be sluggish and unreliable, and like most compact cameras, battery life is limited. Still, if you're looking for a versatile point-and-shoot that won't cost you a fortune, the G5 X is a great choice.
Once you dip into budget territory, worthwhile options are fewer and farther between, but the Canon PowerShot SX740 is a solid choice that won't break the bank. Of course, if you really want to save money, the best option is your smartphone camera, which most people already have in their back pockets. But if you're craving the feel of a point-and-shoot camera, or you need the zoom range they provide, the SX740 has much to offer.
Though it has a smaller sensor than our previous picks, its built-in lens can extend to a max full-frame equivalent focal length of 960mm, giving you an incredibly wide zoom range to shoot everything from landscape shots to close-ups of far-away subjects. Its image quality is nothing to write home about, but it's more than suitable for casual or family photography, and the camera's tilt-up screen makes it easy to take selfies or shoot at waist level. Ultimately, this point-and-shoot will serve you well if you need something very compact with a ton of zoom at a reasonable price.
Compact cameras can be a good choice for vlogging, thanks to their ease of use and portability, and the Sony ZV-1 is among the best we've tested. While the Sony ZV-1 II, which has a wider-angle lens, has replaced it, the lower price and optical stabilization of the original ZV-1 make it our top pick. The camera is designed specifically for vloggers, so it's the only option on this list with a fully articulated screen for self-recording. It even has a specialized 'Product Showcase' mode for product and beauty vloggers, prioritizing focus on any objects held up in the frame.
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III is another popular compact camera for vlogging. Unlike the ZV-1, it has a built-in livestreaming feature that lets you stream directly to YouTube, though you need a certain amount of subscribers to take advantage of it. Both cameras struggle with battery performance, but the ZV-1's articulated screen and fantastic autofocus give it an edge for vlogging and light video work.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best small digital 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 U.S.).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for compact and ultra-compact 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.