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The 6 Best Compact Cameras Today

The Best Compact Cameras for Every Type of Photographer

While smartphones have largely replaced point-and-shoot cameras for casual snapshots, there‘s still a strong case to be made for a dedicated compact camera. With larger sensors, superior optics, more manual control, and better ergonomics, the best compact cameras can elevate your photography in ways that even the latest iPhone can‘t match.

But with so many models to choose from at different price points, selecting the right compact camera for your needs and budget can be a challenge. As a passionate digital technology expert, I‘ve thoroughly tested the leading options to help you find the perfect fit, whether you‘re a globe-trotting adventurer, an aspiring YouTuber, or a street photographer looking for a capable pocketable companion. Let‘s dive in.

What Makes a Great Compact Camera?

First, let‘s define what we mean by "compact camera." For the purposes of this guide, a compact camera is a small, portable, all-in-one camera with a non-interchangeable lens. This distinguishes them from bulkier interchangeable lens cameras like DSLRs and mirrorless models. While some high-end compact cameras may approach the size of smaller mirrorless bodies, they still offer the convenience of a fixed lens design.

When evaluating compact cameras, here are the key factors I consider:

  1. Sensor size – Bigger is better here, as a larger sensor collects more light, leading to improved low-light performance, better dynamic range, and increased background blur for portraits. 1-inch sensors are the gold standard in this class.

  2. Lens quality – The built-in lens needs to be sharp, bright (indicated by its maximum aperture), and offer a versatile zoom range for different types of shooting. Fast lenses with wide maximum apertures (f/1.8-2.8) provide an edge in low light.

  3. Usability – How easy is the camera to use, with well-placed buttons/dials and intuitive menus? Is the body design comfortable to hold for extended periods? Touchscreens and tilting/rotating displays are a plus.

  4. Speed & autofocus – The best compact cameras will have responsive autofocus systems that can track moving subjects and fast burst shooting speeds to capture decisive moments.

  5. Video features – For vloggers and videographers, I look at the camera‘s resolution and frame rates, mic input, and video-centric tools like a selfie screen.

  6. Connectivity – Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow for remote control from a smartphone and quick sharing of images to social media.

  7. Value – Considering the camera‘s image quality, features and construction, does the price offer good bang for the buck compared to similarly spec‘d alternatives?

With that in mind, let‘s count down my top compact camera picks for 2023, starting with the best overall option that balances performance and portability.

The Best Compact Cameras of 2023

  1. Sony RX100 VII – The Ultimate All-Rounder

For the 7th year running, Sony‘s RX100 series takes the crown as the best compact camera line on the market. The latest RX100 VII packs an impressive array of features into a truly pocketable form factor:

  • 20MP 1-inch sensor with superb image quality
  • 24-200mm equivalent f/2.8-4.5 lens with outstanding sharpness
  • Industry-leading autofocus with Real-Time Tracking and Eye AF
  • Excellent 4K video with external mic input and 960fps super slow-mo
  • Pop-up OLED EVF and tilting touchscreen
  • Blazing 20fps continuous shooting with AF

While not cheap at $1300, you‘d be hard-pressed to find a more capable camera that fits in a jacket pocket. It‘s my top recommendation for travel, everyday carry, and as a film-making tool for solo creators. The 24-200mm lens covers all the bases, from landscapes to wildlife, while the fast AF and dense AF point coverage make it easy to nail focus on erratic subjects.

Downsides? The RX100 VII‘s tiny body can be fiddly to operate and high-speed shooting chews through batteries quickly. But overall, it packs the most cutting-edge tech and versatility into the smallest package at a price that, while premium, offers impressive value. Highly recommended.

  1. Fujifilm X100V – The Photographer‘s Compact

Fuji‘s X100V, the fifth generation of the iconic X100 series, is a love letter to photography purists. With classic rangefinder styling, manual dials for shutter speed/aperture, and a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, shooting with the X100V feels like stepping back in time, but with cutting-edge digital conveniences.

At the heart of the X100V is a 26MP APS-C sensor, the largest you‘ll find in a compact camera. This enables unmatched low light performance, dynamic range and shallow depth of field for portraits. The 23mm f/2 lens (35mm full-frame equivalent) encourages you to zoom with your feet, making every shot more intentional. The lens is insanely sharp and renders beautiful, natural colors straight out of camera using Fuji‘s famed film simulations.

Other highlights include a 2-way tilting touchscreen, 4K video at 30fps, weather resistance, and a useful built-in 4-stop ND filter. AF speed isn‘t as snappy as the Sony, but is still very capable.

With an understated design that doesn‘t scream "I‘m a camera!," the X100V is ideal for documentary and street photography. The fixed focal length may limit flexibility compared to zooms, but it pushes you to get creative.

Overall, the X100V is a special camera that inspires joy in the act of picture-taking itself. It‘s pricey at $1400, but built to last. Every serious photographer should experience shooting with an X100 series camera at some point.

  1. Canon G5X Mark II – Premium Features, Reasonable Price

Looking for premium compact features without the premium price tag? Canon‘s G5X Mark II delivers impressive performance and ergonomics for hundreds less than the Sony RX100 VII.

You get a 1-inch 20MP sensor, a fast 24-120mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, 4K video, and a pop-up EVF in a body that handles more like a miniature DSLR with a substantial grip. Customizable dials and a responsive touchscreen make it a breeze to use. A unique stacked control ring around the lens can be configured to adjust focus, aperture, shutter speed or exposure comp.

The G5X II‘s AF system is a step behind Sony‘s latest, but still very usable with reliable face/eye detection. Continuous shooting tops out at a respectable 10fps. While not quite as compact as the RX100, it‘ll still slip into a coat pocket.

For around $800, the G5 X Mark II is an excellent value for enthusiasts looking for strong stills and video performance with better ergonomics than the Sony. Vloggers will appreciate the hot shoe for mounting an external mic.

  1. Panasonic LX100 II – 4/3 Sensor, Fast Leica Lens

The Panasonic LX100 II is in a class of its own, with an extra-large 4/3 sensor and a fast Leica-branded 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 lens. This allows for shallower depth of field and better low light performance than any other zoom compact.

With dedicated aperture, shutter speed and exposure comp dials, the solidly-built LX100 II handles like a premium camera despite its small size. The detailed and customizable EVF is a joy to shoot with. While resolution is capped at 17MP and 4K/30p video, image quality is superb thanks to the large sensor.

Autofocus performance isn‘t industry-leading, but is still very capable with Panasonic‘s unique DFD technology. The LX100 II also lacks a tilting screen, but partially makes up for it with a touchscreen UI.

At around $800, it‘s a little pricier than the Canon G5X II but the 4/3 sensor, faster lens, and rangefinder-style controls make it a compelling option for experienced shooters. If you want the absolute best image quality in a compact zoom camera and don‘t need cutting-edge AF or video specs, the LX100 II is hard to beat.

  1. Sony ZV-1 – The YouTuber‘s Compact

Designed specifically with vloggers in mind, the Sony ZV-1 takes key features from the RX100 series and puts them in a more affordable body with useful tools for video creators.

You get the same great 20MP 1-inch sensor as the RX100 line paired with a versatile 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens – perfect for filming yourself handheld. A fully articulating screen makes framing a breeze, while the ergonomic grip and tally lamp (to indicate recording status) enhance usability. There‘s even a built-in ND filter to help maintain proper exposure in bright sunlight.

Vlogger-friendly features abound, including a Background Defocus button to easily switch between blurred/sharp backgrounds, a Product Showcase setting that instantly focuses on objects held up to the camera, and advanced color controls for matching multiple ZV-1s.

A directional 3-mic array captures clear audio, while the hot shoe allows for connecting an external mic for ultimate sound quality. 4K video is recorded at 30fps without a crop, with excellent stabilization.

Stills quality is nearly on par with Sony RX100 series, but with a more limited zoom range and slightly slower AF system. But for vlogging, live streaming and run-and-gun videography, the $750 ZV-1 is hard to top.

  1. Ricoh GR III – The Ultimate Pocket Camera

The GR III wows with DSLR-like APS-C image quality in a body slim enough to fit in a pants pocket. Ricoh‘s GR series has long been a favorite of street photographers for its stealthy frame and razor-sharp 28mm f/2.8 lens. The III ups the ante with a stabilized 24MP sensor, hybrid AF, touch focus/shutter controls, and USB-C charging.

Image quality is class-leading thanks to the APS-C sensor and finely tuned lens profile – landscape details are rendered with excellent edge-to-edge sharpness and portraits have beautiful natural bokeh and subject isolation. Low light performance is fantastic when pushing the ISO.

Built like a tank with a sturdy magnesium body, the GR III encourages one-handed shooting via its textured grip and perfectly-placed controls. The minimalist UI is snappy and stays out of your way, with three customizable function buttons.

Video is limited to 1080p and there‘s no viewfinder, but these are acceptable trade-offs for the pocketable form factor. At $900, the GR III is on the pricey side for a fixed lens compact. But for serious shooters seeking ultimate image quality and portability, nothing else comes close.

Wrapping up

So there you have it – my top recommendations for compact cameras in 2023, from all-rounders to specialized tools for street shooting and vlogging. To recap:

The Sony RX100 VII is the ultimate do-everything compact, with top-notch stills and video backed by best-in-class AF in a pocketable body. It‘s my desert island pick.

Fujifilm‘s X100V packs an APS-C sensor, hybrid viewfinder and retro controls into a beautifully-built body that inspires photographic creativity. It’s pricey but built to last.

For similar premium features at a lower cost, check out Canon‘s G5X Mark II, which combines a fast lens and pop-up EVF with great handling and value.

The Panasonic LX100 II stands out for its large 4/3" sensor, fast Leica zoom lens and manual controls – it‘s the zoom compact of choice for IQ-obsessed shooters.

Vloggers should seriously consider the Sony ZV-1, which takes the RX100‘s excellent video quality and adds a fully articulating screen, better audio options and livestreaming features.

And for the ultimate pocket camera, accept no substitutes for the Ricoh GR III and its unmatched combination of APS-C image quality, one-handed usability and pants-pocketable size.

While the best compact camera for you ultimately depends on your specific needs and budget, I‘m confident that one of these models will help you raise your photography game in a fun, take-anywhere form factor. Pair it with your phone for a lightweight, capable kit and you‘ll be ready for any shooting opportunity. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!