Best compact camera 2020: 10 top premium compacts for all abilities

Are you looking for the best compact cameras around right now? You've come to the right place. We've rounded up all the best smartphone-beating compacts, from simple point-and-shoot snappers to big-sensor premium models, in one handy list.

Smartphone cameras might have replaced budget compacts with limited zooms, but there are still very good reasons to buy a standalone pocket camera. Whether you need a waterproof model for the beach, one with lengthy optical zoom for holiday snaps, or a big sensor for low light street shooting, many compacts still have physical advantages that allow them to trump smartphones in certain situations.

All of the compacts below offer a great blend of portability, features and performance, and can produce results to rival many DSLR cameras. 

If your budget is unlimited, our current pick of the compact crowd is the Sony RX100 VII. It might be a good deal more expensive than the still pricey RX100 VI, but its impressive autofocus system and superb video quality make it impossible to pass over.

If the RX100 VII is too much, though – and for almost everyone it will be – read on for a host of excellent suggestions to suit every need and budget. Each camera in this list has been tested in-depth by us, while our price comparison tool means you’ll get the best deal on whichever compact camera you choose.

Best compact camera 2020 at a glance:

  1. Fujifilm X100F
  2. Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200
  3. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
  4. Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III
  5. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
  6. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
  7. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
  8. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
  9. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV
  10. Panasonic ZS100 / TZ100

best overall compact camera

In some respects, this is the best compact around right now. Its autofocus system is way ahead of what anyone else is doing right now, tracking moving subjects with excellent skill and cleverly switch into and out of face- and eye-detection as necessary. Control over video recording is as superb as the quality of the footage itself, while image quality is also stellar. But all of this comes at a price, and for many people it's just a little too steep for the camera to be included in the main list, but we can't pass it by as one of the best options there is. So if you have some spare change, we'd highly recommend the RX 100 VII.

If, however, you like the idea of the seventh-generation RX100 but are happy to sacrifice that superb autofocus system, check out the RX100 VI (position 6), which maintains much of what we see here for a little less outlay.

Read more about the Sony RX100 VII

Best compact camera: Fujifilm X100F

There's something very special about Fujifilm's X100 series, which mixes retro styling, a fixed 35mm f/2 lens and a large, APS-C sensor. Street photographers love them, and the X100F is the fourth entry in the popular series – though it may not be the latest one for long. There are strong rumors that a fifth version, the Fujifilm X100V, is going to be announced soon. Does that mean you shouldn't consider the X100F? While it's probably wise to wait for now, its likely price drop could still make it a fine buy, depending on what new features its successor brings. This is likely to include a new sensor, but there's certainly nothing wrong with the X100F in this department – its 24MP APS-C sensor delivers cracking images with superb colors, while the hybrid viewfinder and manual dials give it a shooting experience that's unmatched by other compact cameras. We'll update this page when news of the X100V breaks, but at current prices the X100F is still a fine premium compact camera.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X100F review 

Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix ZS200

Panasonic invented the travel-zoom camera genre – compact cameras that you can fit in a pocket but that have long zoom lenses built-in. Despite strong competition, the ZS range (known as TZ outside the US) has continued to dominate sales, and it looks set to continue this with the brilliant Lumix ZS200 (called TZ200 outside the US). As we first saw with the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100, Panasonic has been able to keep the camera body about the same size as earlier ZS-series cameras but squeeze a much larger 1-inch sensor into the camera to deliver much better image quality. The zoom lens isn't quite so extensive as some, but the versatile 15x zoom should be more than enough for most users, while you also get (an admittedly small) electronic viewfinder, 4K video and a great touchscreen interface. If you're looking for a neat all-in-one compact camera that delivers great images, this is it.  

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 review

Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

If you're looking for a powerful all-in-one bridge camera, then the RX10 IV from Sony is the best there is. You'll pay a premium for that performance, but when you look at what else is out there for the same price, the RX10 IV is virtually in a league of its own. Featuring a huge 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, the RX10 IV builds on the RX10 III with an overhauled AF system that now does justice to the rest of the camera, while the 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor is capable of achieving excellent levels of detail. Handling is very polished, feeling like a DSLR in the hand and complemented by a large and bright electronic viewfinder. That's not forgetting the ability to capture video in 4K and shoot at up to 24fps. Impressive stuff.

Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review

Best compact camera: Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III

The G7X Mark II proved to be a smash and we're confident that this will be just a great a hit with vloggers and enthusiast photographers. With the new advantages of 4K shooting, a mic port and live streaming to YouTube joining the previously seen built-in ND filter and flip up LCD screen, this is arguably the strongest compact right now for vlogging. But if you've no interest in video there's still plenty to keep you happy, from 30fps shooting at full resolution to a super-sensitive touchscreen, in-camera raw processing and the added convenience of USB charging. It's a shame there's no viewfinder or hot shoe, but then not everyone needs these.

Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III review

Best compact camera: Panasonic Lumix LX100 II

Compact cameras with sensors larger than 1-inch in size are typically limited to fixed-focal-length lenses, which is great for quality but less so for flexibility. But not the Panasonic LX100 II; it manages to marry a 17MP Four Thirds sensor – the same size as those found inside Panasonic's G-series mirrorless cameras – with a zoom lens equivalent to 24-75mm in 35mm terms, proving that sometimes you can get quality and flexibility at once. The original LX100 was something of a landmark camera for offering something similar, and this latest iteration takes the baton, with a nippy AF system, robust body, clear 4K videos and a useful electronic viewfinder among its highlights.

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix LX100 II review

Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI

Sony's original RX100 was a landmark camera that fused a 1-inch sensor in a compact, metal body with the controls and image quality demanded by enthusiasts. The RX100 VI goes several steps further, though, with a 'stacked' sensor design for high-speed data capture. This means it can shoot 4K video, amazing 40x slow motion and still images at 24fps in continuous burst mode. That's not forgetting the neat little built-in electronic viewfinder that its rivals lack, while this sixth generation model now packs an impressive 24-200mm zoom lens. It's a pricey option and does have its quirks, but if you're looking for a versatile, pocket-sized compact with a quality zoom lens, you won't be disappointed. 

Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI review

Canon G5X Mark II

The second coming of the G5 X is a serious step-change in styling and spec for the series. Gone is the DSLR-style shell in favor of a streamlined body that’s still a pleasure to grip but far easier to slip into a pocket. Inside, a new 20.1MP stacked CMOS sensor, driven by Canon’s DIGIC 8 engine, is able to capture uncropped 4K footage, while a fresh 24-100mm lens offers a generous focal range and a relatively wide maximum aperture. Well-rounded and wonderful to use, the G5 X Mark II delivers reliably good image quality, brisk focussing and a strong feature set. Battery life could be better and the lens can be a little soft at longer focal lengths, but the Mark II remains a very capable all-rounder that’s untroubled by almost all scenes. So why the lower ranking? It needs to come down in price.

Read our in-depth Canon Powershot G5X Mark II review

Best compact camera: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

Keen photographers usually go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but they also want something that will slip in a pocket for those days when the big camera needs to stay at home. Usually, that means putting up with a smaller sensor – but not this time. Somehow, Canon has shoehorned a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor into a compact camera body. There's also a built-in electronic viewfinder and refined touchscreen interface. The zoom range is a bit modest at 24-72mm, but there's nothing else quite like it. 

Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review

Best compact camera: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV

It's tempting for list this model higher up just for the value for money it offer, but it isn't the newest model and, as a result, doesn't have the topnotch performance of its newer siblings. The RX100 IV sits in the middle of the RX100 family, and while newer models beat it for burst shooting, autofocus and focal range, for most people this cheaper alternative would still serve them brilliantly. The 1-inch sensor at its heart captures lovely images and super-crisp 4K videos, and while the 24-70mm (35mm equivalent) lens range isn't quite as broad as on the RX100 VI and RX100 VII, the lens itself has a wider f/1.8-2.8 aperture. The 2.36 million-dot viewfinder cleverly hides away when not in use, while optical image stabilisation inside the lens keeps everything steady. You might want to pair it with a separate grip for better handling, but if you need a powerful compact to slip into your pocket – and you don't want to spend a fortune getting it – you'll find the RX100 IV delivers plenty.

Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV review

Best compact camera: Panasonic TZ100/FS100

The ZS100 may have been refreshed by the ZS200 (position 2) but don't let that put you off; this is still a fine camera, and its last-gen status means it's at a better price than ever. Part of its charm is that fact that it partners a large 1-inch sensor with a 10x optical zoom lens, which provides better image and video quality than other superzoom compacts, but with the flexibility of a broad zoom lens – not something many cameras can claim. Other niceties include a built-in EVF, very good quality 4K video and Wi-Fi, along with image capture in raw. 

Read our in-depth Panasonic ZS100 review

None of the above take your fancy? Got some cash to play with? Here are two further options.

Best premium compact camera: Leica Q2

The Q2 is a thing of beauty, and right now it's arguably the best compact camera around. It's not for everyone – not least because it costs a small fortune – but if you genuinely want the best compact you'll be hard pushed to find a finer one than the Q2. Leica hasn't compromised on the spec sheet, with the 47.3MP sensor producing masses of detail and keeping noise impressive low, while the 3.68 million dot electronic viewfinder is bright and sharp. Also bright and sharp is that 28mm f/1.7 lens, while 4K videos show plenty of detail. It's not the easiest to handle (although you can get an optional grip) and some may have preferred a tilting screen, but its build quality is near-faultless. If you're pining for such a camera in your life but can't quite find the funds, consider the previous Q1 model, which offers a slightly stripped-down feature set by comparison for a hell of a lot less.

Best premium compact camera: Ricoh GR III

We had mixed feelings when we came to review the GR III, but it still deserves a mention here. Why's that? Because, despite a few quirks, Ricoh managed to get a lot right, and it delivers something no other compact quite manages right now, namely the combination of an image-stabilized 24MP APS-C sensor inside a body that you can squeeze into your pocket. Other advantages include a high-performing lens, fast operation, a revamped menu system and understated styling to help keep you discreet when you're out shooting. The fixed 28mm-equivalent lens won't be to everyone's taste, and the battery life is also disappointing, but for those who need to travel light and take great images, this is a very capable alternative to an interchangeable-lens camera.

Read our in-depth Ricoh GR III review


TechRadar: Software news

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: