If you're looking for the best compact cameras of 2016 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 a 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 over recent years, 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 camera
Panasonic Lumix TZ80
Panasonic's TZ-series has long been a favourite and the Lumix TZ80 is its top-end do-it-all compact. It even has a built-in electronic viewfinder to the rear, which is helpful to see an image direct to the eye when sunlight makes the rear screen tough to see.
The TZ80's premier feature is its 30x optical zoom lens, which encompasses wide-angle (24mm equivalent) for those group shots or can zoom right in (to a 720mm equivalent) to make far-away subjects appear large in the frame.
Add decent autofocus, excellent image stabilisation and a whole roster of other top features that show the TZ80's aspirations to be a one-stop shop for all things. It's higher-resolution than the earlier TZ70, however, so how that will affect image quality overall is up for debate.
What we're particularly fond of in the TZ80 is that, finally, there's a touchscreen for added ease of operation. Whoop.
PREVIEW: Panasonic Lumix TZ80 preview
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 the range 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 G7 X / G7 X II
It had taken Canon a while to create compact camera with a 1-inch sensor size, the focus being on high-quality images - and now there are a bunch, from G9 X through to G1 X.
Although the G7 X - or more recent Mark II model, with its additions of enhanced tilt-angle screen and dual function lens control ring - doesn't opt for the smaller scale of the Sony RX100 line - the fourth-generation model of which is further down the page - and there's no viewfinder, there's still a lot to enjoy about Canon's take on the 1-inch market. Plus the price is within reach rather than super-high like Sony's advanced offerings.
The G7 X is still one of our favourite PowerShot cameras to date: that large sensor is matched with a tilt-angle screen which is both touch-sensitive and selfie-capable, alongside a 24-100mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent lens. That aperture is critical to this camera's selection too, as the touchscreen-focused G9 X might sound more tempting, but its price is similar and its slower lens means it's not a particularly sensible option.
The Canon G7 X is that sweet spot in the Canon series; one that takes good quality images and comes bundled into a pocketable, well-built body with customisable controls. Even if there is no viewfinder, the G7 X is one of the more notable G-series Canon cameras.
PRICE: around £370
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot G7 X 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 small sensor sizes their respective lenses are also relatively compact and far more affordable compared to 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 FZ330
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 FZ330 - 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.
As the replacement for 2012's FZ200, the FZ330 adds a touchscreen and ups the ante in the viewfinder resolution stakes too. It's still dependent on a 1/2.3in sensor size, however, so don't expect complete and utter miracles in the image quality department - for that you'll want a larger yet sensor, as found in something like the FZ1000 or Sony RX10 II (both featured below).
Unless a yet longer zoom is an essential to your needs then the FZ330 is our small-sensor top superzoom pick.
PRICE: around £449
PREVIEW: Panasonic Lumix FZ330 preview
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 II or Canon PowerShot G3 X.
PRICE: around £589
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 review
Panasonic Lumix TZ100
Now here's an odd one out, as you can probably tell from looking at the TZ100's small scale. Superzoom, you say? Well it kind of is, kind of isn't. This pocketable camera combines a large 1-inch sensor, similar to that of the FZ1000 (above), but condenses the lens to a 10x optical zoom with a more limited aperture range.
Now while that combination doesn't mean it's a stand-out camera for shooting everything under the sun, if you're after top quality and a decent zoom range then there's not really anything else on the market just yet that can match - not at this pocketable scale, anyway. The exception, perhaps, is the Nikon DL24-500 f/2.8-5.6 (which we're yet to see or test).
The TZ100 otherwise exists within its own world, leaving it almost untouched by any potential current competition. We love that it's more pocketable than Canon's closest equivalent, the G5 X, and having reviewed this Lumix feel the larger-sensor evolution makes more sense than the ever-extending maximum zoom options elsewhere in the TZ series. Just have ample expectations of what the lens can achieve due to its aperture limitations.
PRICE: around £529
PREVIEW: Panasonic Lumix TZ100 review
Best advanced / enthusiast compact camera
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.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV
The Sony RX100 series has gone from strength to strength and in its fourth-generation format it's a camera that, at this size, pretty much has it all.
It's small scale enough to be pocketable, yet has a premium build, a pop-out built-in electronic viewfinder and stacks of features - not to mention great image quality and 4K movie capture from its 1-inch sensor.
You might think we're mad for not including the more affordable original RX100 model, but the original doesn't have a zoom lens quite as advanced. In the case of the Mark VI it's all about the tilt-angle LCD screen, lens ring control and the newer, faster 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent lens. It's a tour de force.
If pocketable is priority then this is hands-down the best option out there. But it's far from cheap.
PRICE: around £759
FULL REVIEW: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV review
Panasonic Lumix LX100
The Panasonic LX100 is like the company's (now aged) LX7 on steroids. It's the first compact camera to feature a large Micro Four Thirds sensor - the same size you will find in top-of-the-line interchangeable lens models - for exceptional image quality. That's a bigger sensor than the RX100 IV (above), delivering equal or better quality overall.
There's heaps on offer too, with physical retro dials giving that chunky metal body plenty of personality. There's an autofocus system that will see off a whole range of compact camera competitors, a fast 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 equivalent lens and brilliant electronic viewfinder. But no tilt-angle screen or touch-based sensitivity is a bit of a downer, as is an aperture priority slow shutter speed glitch.
The LX100 might be in for a hard ride if you're after something pocketable though. It's not "big big", but doesn't achieve a pocketable scale like the Sony RX100 IV. Saying that this is Panasonic laying the foundations of a great product, and one that we think is successful enough to cut the Canon G5 X line out of the picture.
A few physical nips and tucks here and there, plus a couple of layout and features tweaks would see the LX100 be the perfect compact companion. But even as it stands, if the physical size doesn't perturb you then it's a camera with few peers. High-end compact cameras really don't come much better - plus it's way cheaper than the Sony RX100 IV.
PRICE: around £519
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix LX100 review
Best fixed-lens compact cameras
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 - and these 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 X100T keeps the bar high for the series.
The X100T 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 into close-up macro shooting by any means, as wide apertures render soft images in such situations, but what really sells the X100T is the unique-to-Fuji hybrid optical and electronic viewfinder. And now that comes with a fantastic "electronic rangefinder" option for even more accurate manual focus.
That may all 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 X100T 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 from f/4.0 and below, 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: around £799
FULL REVIEW: Fujifilm X100T review
As much as we've got a lot of love for the X100T, the smaller-scale Fujifilm X70 actually pips it in terms of preference for us. This 28mm (equivalent) fixed lens compact is like a more pocketable, wider-angle, slightly more consumer focused aid to the X100T.
First up, that complex (yet wonderful) viewfinder of the X100T isn't to be found in the X70. There's actually no viewfinder at all; instead it's all about touchscreen controls and the screen can even flip around by 180-degrees if you're selfie crazy. Not that we think that'll be the most used feature of this camera.
What's worth shouting about is the lens and sensor combination though: the 28mm equivalent with f/2.8 maximum aperture means it'll be the wider-angle view many X100T owners have been looking for. Plus, with a 16.3-megapixel resolution, there's still scope for 35mm and 50mm equivalents via an in-camera crop mode (without being driven into too low a resolution), which also show as 100 per cent scale in real-time on the rear screen.
Although we'd like a more detailed and faster autofocus system, and are in two minds about the lack of viewfinder, the X70 is otherwise a champion addition to the X-series. It's really all about the image quality, which is why we suspect X100T fans and, to some degree, newcomers will be rushing out to buy this wide-angle wonder.
A fixed-lens compact is never going to be for the masses, though, but as there are so few quality wide-angle solutions out there the Fujifilm X70's 28mm equivalent is a sure-fire route to success for a discerning audience. If you're looking for something more flexible then the Panasonic LX100 (further up the page) is probably the route to go down, not that both models are distinctly comparable.
PRICE: around £549
PREVIEW: Fujifilm X70 review
Best full-frame compact camera
Originally it was the Sony RX1 which held this spot, as the original fixed-lens full-frame compact camera. Ok, so the Leica Q isn't particularly "compact" and its £2,900 price tag certainly isn't small, but its 28mm f/1.7 lens is so out-of-this-world that it has to take the crown.
It's not a compact for everyone, of course, with that price tag indicating so. But its huge full-frame sensor, which is the same size as found in pro-spec DSLR cameras, is paired with a lens so sharp that its results are absolutely pro. Nope, there's no zoom, but in-camera 35/50mm crop modes go some way to help.
There's a built-in electronic viewfinder (a 3.86m-dot LCOS one, no less) which is wonderfully high resolution, but it ought to activate a little quicker for street work. Add surprisingly speedy autofocus, touchscreen control and a burly build - this is every bit the Leica for a new generation.
Sure, it's not a mass market product, as is the case with any fixed-lens camera. But whether you're a staunch Leica fan, or simply a photography fan, the Q is that rare Leica that will transcend users old and new. A rare yet wonderful thing indeed - and the winner of Best Camera in the 2015 Pocket-lint Awards
PRICE: around £2,900
FULL REVIEW: Leica Q review