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Best point and shoot compact camera

If you're shopping for a point and shoot compact camera, you've come to the right place! At my sister-site Camera Labs I write in-depth reviews of cameras but understand you're busy people who sometimes just want recommendations of the most outstanding products.

So here I'll cut to the chase and list the best point and shoot compact cameras around right now, with links to my reviews.

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Gordon's favourite compact camera right now: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II

Sony RX100 II review


The market for compacts aimed at enthusiasts is one of the fastest-growing right now and there's loads of great options. Canon's S120 and Panasonic's Lumix LF1 lead the field at the pocket-end, while at the chunkier-end are models like the Lumix LX7 and Fujifilm X100S, see below. But for me the best model in this category sits in the middle, just thick enough to accommodate a larger sensor for better quality, but remaining thin enough to squeeze into most pockets. My personal pick, and the model I carry around with me almost everywhere, is the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II. I appreciate this is not a cheap camera, so if you're looking for something cheaper, scroll down for other great options.

The Sony RX100 II is the successor to the best-selling RX100 and like that model packs a larger than average 20.2 Megapixel sensor, 3.6x 28-100mm Carl Zeiss zoom, and a detailed 3in screen into a relatively pocketable body. It has a bright f1.8 maximum aperture (when zoomed-out), 10fps burst shooting, RAW recording and 1080p HD video. New to the RX100 II over its predecessor are a hotshoe for mounting an optional external flash, microphone or electronic viewfinder, support for an optional cable release, built-in Wifi for image sharing and smartphone remote control, NFC to aid the initial Wifi connection on compatible handsets, and a screen that tilts vertically for easier composition at high or low angles. And even though no-one complained about the image quality of the RX100, Sony's improved that too on the RX100 II with a new back-illuminated sensor. It all adds up to one of the most compelling compacts for enthusiasts, but do compare closely with models like the Canon S120 and Lumix LF1 if you want a smaller body still.

Pros: Big 1in sensor in a pocket body. Wifi, hotshoe, tilting screen, 1080p, RAW.
Cons: Thicker & more expensive than rivals like the Canon S120. Compare closely.
Overall: One of the most compelling compacts for enthusiasts just got even better.

Highly Recommended Alternatives

Panasonic TZ60 / ZS40 review


The Lumix TZ60, or ZS40 as it's known in North America, is the latest version of Panasonic's eternally popular travel zoom series. Like Canon and Sony, the latest Lumix sports a long 30x zoom range, equivalent to 24-720mm, but unlike its rivals, Panasonic has amazingly managed to squeeze an electronic viewfinder into the corner. The view may be small and relatively low resolution, but it offers a useful alternative to composing with the screen in bright light or when you need maximum stability at the long zoom. The TZ60 / ZS40 also aims for a more demanding photographer with RAW, focus peaking and a customizable lens control ring, and there's also built-in Wifi, NFC and GPS. It may be larger than the earlier TZ40 / ZS30 and lack its touchscreen and built-in map, but the TZ60 / ZS40 takes a refreshing step-up to satisfy enthusiasts who want a pocketable super-zoom.

Pros: 30x zoom, viewfinder, Wifi, GPS, RAW files.
Cons: Chunkier than its predecessors and loses their touchscreens too.
Overall: A good choice if you want a 30x pocket superzoom with high-end features.

Canon SX510 HS review


The PowerShot SX510 HS provides an unbeatable combination of massive 30x zoom range in a compact lightweight and affordable body. If you want a smaller camera, you'll normally need to make a compromise on zoom range and if you want a longer zoom range you'll be carrying a bigger, heavier camera. With PASM exposure modes, Creative filters, and Live Control, the SX510 HS caters for the needs of point-and-shoot casual snappers as well as more demanding photographers. The previous version's 16 Megapixel CCD has been swapped for a 12 Megapixel CMOS sensor here which not only delivers better performance in low light, but allows the SX510 HS to film Full HD 1080p video. Canon's also squeezed in Wifi for easy sharing of images. In a market packed with different super-zoom options, the SX510 HS is an affordable classy option with a decent feature-set.

Pros: 30x optical zoom and Wifi in a compact, lightweight and affordable body.
Cons: Average burst shooting. Some coloured fringing at extremes of zoom.
Overall: A compelling balance between compact size and big zoom range.

Canon S120 review


Canon's PowerShot S120 is a pocket-sized camera aimed at enthusiasts. Like previous S-series models, it packs a bright zoom lens, support for RAW and high degree of manual control into a very small body. The PowerShot S120 shares the same 12 Megapixel resolution and 5x 24-120mm equivalent zoom range as its predecessor, but the lens is now a tad brighter with a focal ratio of f1.8-5.7. The touch-screen remains 3in, but it's now higher resolution and you can tap to pull-focus while filming. The built-in Wifi is now easier to setup, there's focus peaking assistance for manual focusing, 1080p video at 60p, enhanced HDR modes and a trio of new astro-photography presets. The big new feature this time though is quicker performance with faster AF, shorter shutter lag and best of all significantly improved continuous shooting. After years of selling compacts with poor burst shooting, the S120 can now fire-off five frame at over 12fps and then continues at 9.4fps pretty much until you run out of memory. There may be tough competition from Sony's RX100 II, but the S120's quality comes close at lower ISOs and it remains cheaper and more pocketable.

: Very compact body; manual control; RAW; 1080p video; Wifi; touch-screen.
Cons: Lens aperture slows down at telephoto end. Needs smartphone for GPS.
Overall: One the best choices if you want a very small camera with manual & RAW.

Canon SX700 HS review


At the top of Canon's 2014 compact super-zoom line-up, the PowerShot SX700 HS provides a big 30x zoom range in a compact body. Different people want different things from a travel zoom and the competition in this market segment is intense. Canon's approach is simple - provide the longest zoom in the most compact possible body at a price that undercuts the competition. Of course there are less expensive second tier models available from Sony and Panasonic, not to mention Canon itself, but Sony's HX50 lacks GPS and often costs more, and although the Lumix TZ55 / ZS35 is cheaper, it 'only' has a 20x zoom. Sure, there are things you wish the SX700 HS could do better; a panorama mode wouldn't go amiss, battery life is below par, remote shooting via Wifi is quite basic and it's time Canon updated its slow motion video offerings. But none of this got in the way of my enjoyment of the SX700 HS nor prevented me getting some great shots.

Pros: 30x stabilised zoom; 1080p video; Wifi with NFC; best quality of peer group.
Cons: No auto panoramas, no touchscreen, basic remote control via Wifi.
Overall: Out-featured by the Lumix TZ60 / ZS40, but better quality & cheaper.

Sony HX50V / HX60V review


The Sony Cyber-shot HX50V was the first pocket camera to feature a 30x optical zoom range, boasting a 24-720mm equivalent range. It also features a 20 Megapixel CMOS sensor, 3in screen, full manual control (if desired), 1080p movies, 10fps continuous shooting, built-in Wifi and GPS (on the V version), and a hotshoe for accessories including an EVF, flash or external microphone. This makes it one of the most feature-packed pocket super-zooms to date, but there's a few downsides to be aware of including a screen that's hard to see in bright conditions, basic Wifi compared to models like Panasonic's TZ40 / ZS30, and strangely the miniature effect can't be applied to movies. I'd recommend comparing very closely with the Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 and Canon's SX700 HS, which is exactly what we've done in our SX700 HS review. But there's no denying the draw of its unique selling point: a 30x zoom in a pocketable body.

Pros: 30x zoom in pocket body; Wifi and GPS in V version; 10fps shooting.
Cons: Screen hard to see in sunlight; basic Wifi features; no miniature effect for video.
Overall: Ideal if you want a big zoom in a small body.

Canon ELPH 330 HS / IXUS 255 HS review


Canon's ELPH 330 HS / IXUS 255 HS is a classy point-and-shoot camera with a 10x optically stabilized zoom, 3in screen, and Wifi that lets you transfer images wirelessly. It features 12 Megapixels, which may be four less than some of the cheaper PowerShots, but crucially uses a CMOS sensor rather than a CCD for better quality in low light. Coupled with Canon's latest DIGIC processor, the ELPH 330 / IXUS 255 can also capture Full HD 1080p or slow motion movies, offers cunning wink, smile and face self-timers and a wealth of creative effects, albeit not a panorama mode. It's an excellent choice for those looking for a versatile and classy point-and-shoot compact with great image quality and a capable zoom range, but without breaking the bank. If you're looking for a true budget model in double-digits though, go for the PowerShot A2500 below.

Pros: 10x stabilized zoom; Wifi; quality 12 Megapixel sensor; 1080p video.
Cons: Lenghty shooting mode menu; Wifi operation could have been simpler.
Overall: One of the best point-and-shoot compacts at this price.

Canon PowerShot A2500 review


Canon's PowerShot A2500 is one of the lowest-priced point-and-shoot cameras that's worth having. Despite a double-digit price tag it packs a good quality 5x zoom, 16 Megapixel sensor, 720p video and 3in screen into a surprisingly classy-looking body. Revealingly the same sensor is employed by many models higher in Canon's compact range, meaning the A2500 shares their image quality until you get to the noticeably pricier HS models. So while the lens isn't optically stabilized and the video is 720p rather than 1080p, the A2500 represents a good solid budget camera which shares key aspects of pricier models. If this is how much money you have to spend, then I'd strongly recommend the A2500. No wonder it's become one of the best selling cameras of 2013.

Pros: 5x zoom; 16 Megapixel sensor; 720p video; low price.
Cons: Disappointing quality in low light; no Wifi; lengthy shooting menu.
Overall: If you have a double-digit budget, this is the best camera for your money.

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