Best compact cameras 2014: The best pocket cameras available to buy today
If you're looking for the best compact cameras of 2014 then you've come to the right place. We will guide you through the hottest cameras to save you time when it comes to buying one from your local shop or online.
Compact cameras are plentiful. With new releases and updates flooding the market every few months it's as much an assurance to know that the most up-to-date tech is out there as it is a hindrance to decide which one to pick.
Run this question through your head: "Which compact camera is best for me?" There are lots of ways to think through it - what do you want to use the camera for? Perhaps you want a versatile, all-rounder for a holiday or travel jaunt, a camera with an bonkers-long zoom for some extra curricular activities or spotting those lions and elephants on safari, a compact with a viewfinder built in, or that pro-spec DSLR alternative. There's something out there for everyone.
Here at Pocket-lint we've been cutting through the abundance of compact camera releases in 2014, including the creme de la creme of last year's models which remain strong. We've broken our list of great cameras down into sub-headed categories to make things easier to digest. You name it, we've got you covered.
We'll be regularly updating this feature with the latest and greatest compact cameras that we review in full - and only those we've seen and judged - so you can see where your money is best spent.
Best do-it-all compact cameras
Panasonic Lumix TZ40
It's said that smartphones are overtaking the bottom end of the compact world, so when it comes to buying a more serious dedicated compact camera there's a lot to think about. A model such as the Panasonic Lumix TZ40 has a wide-ranging 20x zoom that can deal with 24mm wide-angle shots for those group photos, or extend right through its 480mm equivalent to snap those far-away subjects large in the frame.
Built-in image stabilisation moves the lens by microscopic amounts to counteract any wobbly handshake, while the super-fast autofocus and hands-on touchscreen control is about as good as we've seen from a compact camera.
All that delivered from a small-bodied and pocketable model that can be carried anywhere. There's even built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for sharing pictures via a smartphone.
Despite being last year's model - the Lumix TZ60, complete with built-in viewfinder, has now arrived, see the viewfinder section further down the page - the TZ40 remains one of our favourite do-it-all compact cameras.
PRICE: £215 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix TZ40 review
Canon PowerShot SX700 HS
Having a 30x optical zoom is this year's flavour and if top image quality is a must then Canon knows best. The PowerShot SX700 HS might not be a budget buy, but it cleverly undercuts the main competition from Panasonic and Sony by enough to make us stand up and pay attention.
If you must have a massive zoom in a pocketable format then there’s a lot going for the SX700 HS. However the maximum zoom does have its limitations and Canon has negated to boost its general features compared to last year's SX280 HS model - so that might be worth tracking down for a bargain buy.
What the Canon achieves once again is quality images. The SX-line has always been top of its class in this regard and the SX700 HS is no different, hence making it one of the top travel zooms available today.
PRICE: £279 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot SX700 HS review
Best connected compact camera
Samsung Galaxy Camera 2
Connectivity is all the rage at the moment, as who wouldn't want a quick, easy and wireless way of sharing their pictures? But no camera company has been able to deliver that concept better than Samsung.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 may have its share of issues just as the original model did - image quality lacks biting sharpness, and the whole model is rather big - but it's a breeze to use thanks to its Android 4.3 operating system.
The Galaxy Camera 2 is, in essence, a high-end Samsung Galaxy smartphone with a whacking great 21x optical zoom lens popped on the front of it. It's better and just so much easier to work with than any of its connected competitors, but we can't help think a smaller device with a higher-spec lens would elevate this product to a whole new level. It's getting there.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 review
When it comes to something small and pocketable, but where image quality needs to be a step above the conventional compact there are various series on offer.
These tend to have shorter zoom lenses in order to retain best sharpness and clarity throughout while offering more advanced optical features such as wider maximum apertures for low-light shooting or creating that pro-looking, soft-focus background effect.
Canon PowerShot S120
Canon's had it's claws deep in the high-spec compact camera market for a while now, and for good reason: the PowerShot S-series. The S120 model is the epitome of a pocketable yet powerful compact, so if small is your goal then there are few other competitors worth considering in our view.
The 1/1.7-inch sensor produces great-looking images straight from the camera and a maximum f/1.8 aperture at the widest angle setting - a third of a stop brighter than its S110 predecessor - makes for greater shooting control.
There are plenty of other techie features too: Wi-Fi, a touchscreen control, a physical lens ring control that we're particularly fond of and super-fast autofocus. It's a cracking compact camera only let down by some issues, if we're being extra critical: overexposure, limited battery life, the high price and a Wi-Fi setup that could be improved are the main shortfalls. But that doesn't hold it back from being a winner.
PRICE: £365 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot S120 review
Panasonic Lumix LX7
Panasonic knows a high-end compact and we have a real soft spot for the LX7, despite it being a couple of years old now. It's got its own style, which includes a physical lens ring and other on-body controls that make it feel truly high end. Compared to its near competitors the build quality is a step above; this is next-level business.
Autofocus is also fast, raw and JPEG images are detailed from the 1/1.7-inch sensor and there's even a hotshoe that can be used to add an optional electronic viewfinder should you wish.
For our money this is the choice camera in this department - it's ideal as a DSLR supplement when you don't want to roll the big guns out, because the LX7 can happily live in your pocket or bag at all times. None too bad for its now affordable asking price either.
Even if the LX7 doesn't produce class-leading image quality at the mid-high ISO settings, there's just something magic about the design, layout and the way the camera feels in use. We love the physical aperture ring and the super-bright f/1.4-2.3 maximum aperture setting sets it apart from much of the competition. One not to be underestimated - this is all-round quality so long as you don't want to use high ISO settings all the time.
PRICE: £289 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix LX7 review
Best affordable built-in viewfinder
A growing sector. As the demand for compact cameras with built-in viewfinders increases we'll be seeing more and more of them. With high-end models such as the Olympus Stylus 1 adding in an electronic viewfinder just as quality as an interchangeable lens system it's a category that's pushing forward, although many of the more affordable options have their limitations - it's a case of weighing up expectation to price point. More premium options are available, such as the Sony RX100 III - check further down the page for the lowdown on that one.
Panasonic Lumix LF1
The LF1 is a camera with its heart in the right place, even if the viewfinder arguably isn't. But what's important here is that it actually has an electronic viewfinder built-in to aid shooting in brighter conditions. And for the asking price that will make this a camera worth buying for that reason alone.
The viewfinder isn't the largest nor best quality out there, but we're looking at a sub-£300 compact here. A compact that produces decent image quality, has a physical lens control ring, can capture raw files and is truly pocketable.
Given its small scale, the 28-200mm f/2.0-5.9 equivalent lens provides a wide-ranging zoom. The Lumix LF1 is lots of good ideas combined for an affordable price.
PRICE: £285 (at the time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix LF1 review
Panasonic Lumix TZ60
If you want more zoom than the LF1 (above) has to offer, then the Lumix TZ60 is a viable alternative. Although we find it a leftfield update of the TZ40 model, it's one of those new-wave cameras that crams a small electronic viewfinder into its build.
There's decent autofocus, good image quality, excellent image stabilisation and a whole roster of other top features that show the TZ60's aspirations to be a one-stop shop for all things. There's no touchscreen this time around, but if you're lifting the camera to your face then that would just become an irritation, not to mention an additional cost.
Given the TZ60's current affordable price point we can see the attraction for viewfinder seekers on a budget. If you're after a big zoom with big features then the Lumix TZ60's 30x zoom (24-720mm f/3.3-6.4 equivalent) scores big Brownie points.
PRICE: £349 (at the time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix TZZ60 review
When normal compacts just aren't enough and you want to zoom in on those far-away subjects to make them appear large in the frame, a superzoom - sometimes called bridge camera - is just the ticket. Safari, bird spotting and so forth are well matched to a superzoom camera.
These models may not necessarily replace a DSLR camera in terms of ability and final image quality, but by employing compact sensor sizes their respective lenses are smaller and far more affordable than a pro-spec camera. Modern superzooms combine significant zoom lenses in reasonable body sizes with an abundance of tech that makes them very attractive prospects.
Panasonic Lumix FZ200
Typically as a zoom lens extends the amount of light it lets in dips, which potentially means image quality can suffer in low-light conditions. Not so with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 - its wide-angle 24mm lens extends all the way through to a 600mm equivalent, all the while maintaining a maximum f/2.8 aperture. And that's been managed without significant impact to the model's relatively trim scale.
This f/2.8 aperture means more light can enter the camera which is ideal for faster exposures to capture action or to avoid using those less desirable higher ISO sensitivities.
The FZ may not be brand new, but it's a well-proportioned superzoom that, unlike most of its competitors, focuses on advanced control and a bright constant aperture instead of four-figure zoom equivalents. Still, the 600mm maximum equivalent is more than significant, even if it's less than some competitors out there.
Unless a yet longer zoom is an essential to your needs then this is our top pick. King of the superzooms? We reckon so.
PRICE: £325 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix FZ200 review
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
The SX50 HS really does put the "super" in superzoom: its 24-1200mm equivalent lens is a whopper and, fortunately, is matched with top-notch image stabilisation to boot to ensure steady image preview even at the longest of focal lengths.
We love the camera's vari-angle LCD screen and how well it performs in bright conditions, while the fast autofocus is a step beyond its SX40 predecessor and the resulting image quality is impressive from such a camera.
But it's how the SX50 HS performs as a whole that makes it such a cracker. There's plenty of bang for the budget which is more affordable than a DSLR body, so we can see the appeal.
The SX50 is the full package deal and delivers on the zoom front - its top-end 1200mm equivalent focal length is double that of the Panasonic FZ200. But it's not just big on zoom, it's big on image quality too and we still don't think there's another superzoom on the market today that can deliver the same clarity as this Canon. The SX50 is pushing the limits of what's possible from a compact camera and, for the most part, succeeding.
PRICE: £330 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS review
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
Stepping things up a gear is the "premium superzoom" category, headed by the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000. It takes a 25-400mm f/2.8-4.0 lens and wraps it around a large 1-inch sensor for premium image quality. Many of the features are just as well as impressive as the top-spec Panasonic G-series interchangeable lens cameras, as is performance.
Although the Lumix FZ1000's physical size and price tag will be a barrier for more casual users, those it will appeal to will find lots of value for money in its jumbo feature set. From 4K video, to silent operation, fast 12fps burst mode, through to the vari-angle LCD and built-in electronic viewfinder combination, decent autofocus and stacks of physical controls. There's a lot on offer here.
Thing is, it's a lot of money to fork out and calling it a "compact" camera is a stretch. But if you don't want to be buying a system camera and want an all-in-one solution (which, admittedly, is a chunky beast) then this could be a viable solution. The longer lens and more accessible price point see it sit a step ahead of the Sony Cyber-shot RX10.
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 review
Best advanced or enthusiast compact cameras
Here's where compacts step up a gear. Whether it's all the bells and whistles in the form of hands-on controls, a built-in viewfinder or a large sensor for optimum quality, there are all kinds of advanced compacts to suit different tastes. But these bigger wedges of camera are not only larger, they tend to demand a more considerable asking price too.
Canon PowerShot G16
The G16 may be starting to look a little dated, particularly when you compare it to something like Sony's sleek RX100 II, but that doesn't stop the Canon remaining a top-notch snapper all round. When something's right, it's just right - and the G16 largely represents that.
Largely is the operative word though. It won't suit all photographers on account of its bulky size, but for those that it will, that 28-140mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture lens and fantastic image quality make it an undeniable winner.
Despite no vari-angle screen like some earlier G-series models, the G16 represents Canon's ability to refine and perfect the high-end compact. Yes it's fairly bulky, but the G16 delivers some of the best image quality of any compact, while that quality lens makes it a hugely attractive creative prospect. Shoot raw, shoot JPEG, share with Wi-Fi - it's all pro. And when it comes to build and functions you'd be hard-pressed to find any fault.
PRICE: £469 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot G16 review
Sony Cyber-shot RX100
Why hello there. Beneath the RX100's rich black exterior is a 1-inch sensor - the same size sensor as you'd find in a Nikon 1-series compact system camera. Considering the RX100's relatively small size that's a whopper of a sensor.
Sony's gone in for the kill with this one, creating a high-resolution and high-quality compact thanks to the 20-megapixel sensor, which is balanced out with decent optical performance from the 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 equivalent lens. The maximum aperture does dip rather steeply when zoomed in, but that's the price to pay for a truly compact body with such a large sensor - we think it's an inventive play on the high-end compact concept, and one that will put creativity in plenty of palms.
What makes the RX100 perhaps most attractive is that the release of the Mark II model has brought the price right down. This original model may lack of any viewfinder or provisions, but if you've got the extra cash then see below for the RX100 II if that's an essential.
Time has been a blessing, as the RX100 remains as strong as it was on launch day but is now far more affordable. It's oh so good.
PRICE: £360 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 review
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II
Déjà vu? Almost. We had to put the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II into the top compacts list alongside the original model as, despite its similarities, this supped-up compact comes complete with a hotshoe for adding on an electronic viewfinder if you want - or can afford - it.
That's the main thing that'll throw people off the RX100 II's scent: the price. The original £649 recommended price certainly wasn't cheap, but with its brand new 1-inch sensor, tilt-angle LCD screen and wonderful-to-use rotational lens ring there's oh so much going for this camera.
We may have a fistful of niggles - no built-in neutral density (ND) filter, maximum aperture limitations, and its generalised focus area in low-light conditions - that hold the RX100 II back from perfection, but there's no getting around it: it's among the best compact cameras on the market today.
But to own this wonderful slice of compact camera pie you'll need to fork out the cash. Is it worth it? Just take a look at the excellent image quality and that will most likely make the decision for you.
PRICE: £530 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II review
We've got a lot of praise for the Fujifilm X20. There's something charming about its retro cool style, the 2/3-inch sensor makes for cracking image quality and the 28-112mm equivalent zoom offers up an f/2.0-2.8 maximum aperture which is ideal for blurred background effects or shooting in low light.
The X20 rarely puts a foot wrong - it even comes complete with an optical viewfinder with a digital overlay which, despite its somewhat limited 85 per cent field-of-view, blows similar models such as the Canon G16 (further up the page) out of the water. Our one qualm is that there's no built-in neutral density (ND) filter, but that's about as much moaning as we can muster.
We've got a lot of love for the X20, in fact it's one of our favourite cameras ever.
PRICE: £350 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Fujifilm X20 review
Best luxury compact camera
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II
The original G1 X wasn't a camera that made our best compacts list because - and despite undoubtedly excellent image quality thanks to its 1.5-inch sensor - it just lacked in the performance stakes. The G1 X Mark II rectifies this: it's faster, leaner, meaner and a considerable overhaul to the series.
But if you want premium image quality then you'll have to pay for it - there's no escaping the huge expense the G1 X II demands. And there are still some niggles such as the chunky size, limited battery life, the absence of a viewfinder and performance when shooting moving subjects feels far more compact-like than DSLR-like.
Other moans are more or less absent though. The premium build, dual lens ring controls, considerable customisation options, sharp lens and raft of improvements compared to the first generation model see the Canon fill a gap somewhere between the Sony RX100 and the Sony RX1. And in that sense it's an untouchable camera that exists in its own little world.
However, if you're after something a little smaller then the Sony RX100 III might be the preferable option (see below).
FULL REVIEW: Canon G1 X II review
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III
You might think we're mad for including all three generations of Sony's RX100 camera. But each of them is oh so good and each one has its own individual point of praise. In the case of the Mark III it's all about the cool pop-up viewfinder built in to that small body.
We also love the tilt-angle LCD screen, lens ring control and the newer, faster 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent lens. The Mark III isn't a subtle re-rub of the known formula, it's a rethink for the better and one that further elevates Sony's position in the premium camera market. If pocketable is priority then this is hands-down the best option out there.
We're more reluctant to praise the price point, however, which is why the RX100 III finds itself sat under a different title on this page.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III review
Best fixed-lens compact camera
When money is no barrier and quality is everything, there's a camera for that. DSLR sensor sizes in compact bodies and, typically, a fixed lens (no zoom) that's matched up to its respective sensor for best possible image quality. Here's where the compact goes pro; these two special specimens don't just match DSLR quality, they often better it.
Fujifilm has stormed the high-end compact market with the X-range, and the X100S keeps the bar high for the series. The X100S isn't going to be suitable for a huge audience as there's no zoom and its retro aesthetic is a specialist thing in itself - but that, in some regard, is all part of what makes this high-end compact so appealing.
It's not the model to pick if you're in to close-up macro shooting by any means, but what really sells the X100S is the unique-to-Fuji hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder. That may sound bonkers, but it's not: think of a wider-than-100-per-cent optical viewfinder with all the bells and whistles of an electronic overlay and that's what the X100S delivers. You can see beyond the frame's edges to help capture the shot at that decisive moment.
Image quality from the fixed 23mm f/2.0 lens - that's a 35mm equivalent when paired with the APS-C sensor - is so crisp, in part thanks to Fujifilm's own special colour array design and the fact there's no low-pass filter to bypass light diffusion for heightened sharpness. It's perfect for those candid street photography snaps.
PRICE: £899 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Fujifilm X100S review
Best full-frame compact camera
Sony Cyber-shot RX1
Sony's RX1 is a full-frame compact camera. In fact it's the world's first and - excluding Leica's rangefinder models - only full-frame compact (ignoring the sister RX1R, that is).
Now that won't necessarily mean much to many, except those in the know. In summary it means the RX1 has a whopping great sensor at its core - the same size as traditional 35mm film negatives, no less - putting it on par with what you'd find in super-pricey pro-spec DSLR camera. Hence the RX1's apparently bonkers near-£2,000 asking price.
On the front of the RX1 is a fixed 35mm f/2.0 lens that doesn't compromise on quality, while the sensor is able to resolve wonderful image quality. But there's no compromise on price either: upon release the £2,500 recommended price tag saw the RX1 be among the priciest of compacts ever conceived.
All that cash doesn't mean a ticket straight to compact heaven, however, as we've seen chromatic aberrations - those purple fringes around subject edges - in shots, while the autofocus is, well, it's just sluggish.
Sometimes you love something enough for the great things it does to ignore its shortcomings. That's what the Sony RX1 has done to us - while it's got shortcomings, to a select group of snappers this chunk of well-thought-out metal and glass will be a full-marks camera. It definitely feels special, and that's why it's made our list - because it's like the (Japanese) Ferrari of the compact camera world and unlike anything else you can buy today.
PRICE: £1,950 (at time of writing)
FULL REVIEW: Sony Cyber-shot RX1 review