If you’re looking for the best compact cameras of 2015 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.
Panasonic Lumix TZ70
Panasonic’s TZ-series has long been a favourite and the Lumix TZ70 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 – but if you don’t want that feature then consider theLumix TZ57 as an alternative.
The TZ70’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, good image quality (it’s now lower-resolution than the earlier TZ60 for better results), excellent image stabilisation and a whole roster of other top features that show the TZ70’s aspirations to be a one-stop shop for all things.
However, there’s no touchscreen this time around, but if you’re lifting the camera to your face for the viewfinder feature then that would just become an irritation, not to mention an additional cost.
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.
Alternatives to the pair below include the Fujifilm XQ2, the Nikon P340, andviewfinder-donning Panasonic Lumix LF1.
Canon PowerShot S120
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. It’s not as complex as some pricier, more advanced models with larger sensors, but that’s just fine. Its price has dropped considerably since launch too, making now as good a time as any to buy one.
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.
Panasonic Lumix LX7
An oldie but a goody. Panasonic knows a high-end compact and we have a real soft spot for the LX7, despite it being the oldest compact in our list (it’s about three years old). 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.
Autofocus is swift, 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.
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 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, and the latest FZ330 will soon replace this camera, 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 still our top superzoom pick.
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.
Best advanced / 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 G7 X
It’s taken Canon a while to create compact camera with a 1-inch sensor size, the focus being on high-quality images. Although it doesn’t opt for the smaller scale of the Sony RX100 line – first and third generation models are further down the page – and there’s no viewfinder, there’s still a lot to enjoy about Canon’s take.
It’s 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.
But as much as we can split hairs over whether the Sony is better, what’s clear with the Canon G7 X is that it’s a positive push forward for 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 for a number of years.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100
Sony’s original from 2012 still makes the cut, despite there now being a fourth-generation model available.
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, and much the same scale as the Canon G7 X (above). Considering the RX100’s relatively small size that’s a whopper of a sensor.
The high-resolution 20-megapixel sensor is balanced with decent optical performance from the 28-100mm f/1.8-4.9 equivalent lens – but that can’t compete with some of the faster lenses of more recent models, including Sony’s own third-generation RX100 III.
But this first-generation RX100 is here to stay as it’s a bit of a bargain compared to its introductory price a couple of years back. It remains as strong now as it was on launch day. It’s oh so good.
If you’re after a decent viewfinder then the X30’s is as good as they get at this level. Trouble is, it’s a bit of a big beast so couldn’t be considered pocketable compared to some of the more affordable offerings.
The Fujifilm X30, which replaces the X20, a slightly larger-scale follow-up that’s quite excellent but arrives at an obscure time. With the Panasonic Lumix LX100 now on the scene (see further down the page), there’s an argument that the retro-themed Fujifilm line has found its comeuppance.
But having used the camera for some time, we’ve found a lot to love about it. The twist-barrel lens and tilt-angle LCD screen made it easier and often preferable to use than the pricier Panasonic Lumix LX100 in our book. And it’s difficult to be critical of the low-mid ISO shots which show off plenty of detail thanks to the already proven 28-112mm f/2.0-2.8 equivalent lens. We’d like a slightly wider-angle optic next time though, and are surprised by its absence this time around.
Although the Fujifilm X30 has arguably lost its claim to the throne as the best-in-class high-end compact, there’s a lot to be said for the physical controls, useful features, eye-catching design and, importantly, accessible price point. Competition is rife but also more expensive, so the X30 still remains a viable compact camera – just don’t buy one hoping to shoot above ISO 1600.
(to be continued)