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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 ZS30 / TZ40 review

 

Panasonic's Lumix TZ40, or ZS30 as it's known in North America, is the company's flagship pocket super-zoom camera for 2013. It shares the same 20x optical range as its predecessor, not to mention the same manual control, 1080p HD video, touchscreen, 360 degree panoramas, and GPS with a database of over a million landmarks and on-screen mapping. So what's new? The optical stabilization has been improved, especially for video, the GPS is now more accurate in urban environments and the slow motion video options are much better. Most significantly the TZ40 / ZS30 gains Wifi allowing you to wirelessly copy images to smartphones, computers or direct to sharing services; you can also remote control the camera with your phone over Wifi, and if it has NFC, the TZ40 / ZS30 will connect to it with a mere touch. The boost in resolution to 18 Megapixels is a step too far though and the TZ40 / ZS30's image quality is the worst of its peer group when viewed up close. But few owners will be pixel-peeping and will instead revel in the control and handling. So long as you don't look too closely at the images it's Highly Recommended.

Pros: Broad 20x stabilized zoom, 1080p, GPS, Wifi, NFC, decent slow-mo movies.
Cons: Better photo quality on rival models if you like to look very closely.
Overall: One of the best overall pocket super-zooms, but not for pixel-peepers.





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.

Pros
: 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 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.





Panasonic ZS25 / TZ35 review

 

Panasonic's Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 is a simpler and more affordable version of the flagship TZ40 / ZS30 pocket super-zoom. It shares the same 20x optical zoom as its pricier sibling, but lacks many of its features. The screen is the same size, but isn't touch-sensitive and sports half the resolution (460k vs 920k dots); there's 1080 video, but it's interlaced not progressive and there's no slow motion option; there's no GPS, no Wifi and no NFC; there's fewer burst options with a maximum speed of 10fps at 3 Megapixels compared to the TZ40 / ZS30 which can shoot at 10fps at 18 Megapixels for six frames. It also has two fewer Megapixels, although that's no bad thing considering the TZ40 / ZS30's 18 Megapixels are a step too far for the sensor size. But the message remains the same as before: if you want a big zoom in a small package and don't need the frills, then the TZ35 / ZS25 will deliver it in a cheaper package than the flagship model. This sounds like a compelling sell for some, but they should also consider last year's flagship, the TZ30 / ZS20.

Pros: 16x stabilised zoom with 24mm; 1080i video.
Cons: Slow burst shooting; no GPS.
Overall: Ideal no-frills super-zoom with great quality.




Canon SX280 HS review

 

The PowerShot SX280 HS is Canon's pocket super-zoom for 2013. It shares the same 12 Megapixel resolution and 20x (25-500mm equivalent) range as its predecessor, the SX260 HS, along with essentially the same body, controls, screen and GPS. New to the SX280 HS though are built-in Wifi and Canon's latest DIGIC 6 processor which offers 1080p at 60fps and lower noise levels than before. The cheaper SX270 HS, available in some regions, is identical other than not having the GPS and Wifi capabilities. In my tests the SX280 HS delivered the best image quality of its rival 2013 super-zooms, but maybe not by the margin you were hoping for; Indeed if you don't pixel-peep you may not even notice it. It's also out-featured by the admittedly pricier Lumix TZ40 / ZS30. So you have to carefully think about their respective feature-sets and how closely you'll be looking at your images. But there's no denying the PowerShot SX280 HS is a good solid pocket super-zoom that should be on you shortlist; also consider its predecessor, below. PS - Canon appears to have fixed early issues with the battery life for movies. If you have a model where the battery icon flashes too soon, contact Canon for a firmware update.

Pros: 20x stabilised zoom; 1080p video; Wifi; GPS; best quality of peer group.
Cons: No auto panoramas, no touchscreen, no remote control via Wifi.
Overall: Out-featured by the Lumix TZ40 / ZS30, but better image quality & cheaper.



Sony HX50V review

 

The Sony Cyber-shot HX50V is the World's smallest and lightest compact camera with 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 TZ40 / ZS30 and Canon's SX280 HS, which is exactly what we've done in our HX50V 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 the biggest zoom in the smallest 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.




Panasonic LX7 review

 

Panasonic's Lumix LX7 is a compact aimed at enthusiasts. Like its popular predecessor, the LX7 delivers a winning combination of a bright 24-90mm zoom, sensible 10 Megapixel resolution, RAW files and high degree of manual control in a relatively pocketable package. What makes the LX7 different from previous models though is the addition of 1080p video, a more detailed screen, a MOS sensor supporting fast burst shooting, and an even brighter lens with an f1.4-2.3 focal ratio. Crucially this allows the LX7 to shoot at lower ISOs when rival models with slower lenses are forced to use higher sensitivities. Revealingly the fast lens on the LX7 also lets it achieve shallow depth-of-field effects to rival many models with much bigger sensors. So even in a world with big-sensor compacts, the LX7 remains a relevant and compelling option for enthusiasts.

Pros: Bright 24-90mm f1.4-2.3 lens; RAW; hotshoe; 1080p video.
Cons: Lens cap obstructs power-up. No Wifi, GPS or touchscreen.
Overall: A great choice for enthusiasts even against bigger sensors.




Fujifilm X100S review

 


Fujifilm's X100S is a compact, retro-styled camera with a large APS-C sized sensor, fixed 35mm f2 equivalent lens and the choice of screen or viewfinder for composition. It's the successor to the X100, a model that revitalized the market for fixed-lens cameras aimed at enthusiasts. The X100 proved there was demand for such a camera but suffered from a number of issues. The X100S attempts to resolve those issues and deliver excellent performance without losing the retro charm of its predecessor. The result is a camera that looks great, handles beautifully and delivers images of a much higher quality than its 16 Megapixels imply due to a cunning sensor design. It's an unashamedly high-end camera with a price tag to match, but for demanding enthusiasts it could be their ideal 'compact' camera. If you want something smaller with similar quality and don't mind losing the viewfinder, consider the Nikon COOLPIX A.

Pros: APS-C sensor and fixed lens deliver superb quality;
Cons: No zoom - lens is fixed; basic movie mode; no Wifi or GPS.
Overall: A highly desirable retro-styled compact for enthusiasts with great quality.





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