April 13, 2024

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The 13 Best Compact Cameras of 2024

18 min read

What’s the best way to relive your favorite travel experiences over and over again? By taking epic photos that you can upload to social media or transform into a coffee table photo book, of course. Investing in a proper camera with a high-quality sensor and a decent number of megapixels will yield better, more printable results than your phone camera. But that doesn’t mean you need to lug a full-size DSLR and several interchangeable lenses around with you. You can get amazing results with a compact, or point-and-shoot, camera. 

B&H Senior Technologist Mark Steinberg defines a compact camera as one that is “pocketable, with a minimum number of protrusions, that can be used one-handed.” They’re a great option for anyone who prioritizes easy portability or casual photographers who want good results without a steep learning curve. There are several different kinds of compact cameras, from the budget-friendly to the professional quality, and from digital to film and instant. We’ve researched them all to find the best options across several different categories.

Why We Love It

  • It has a high-quality sensor, near-instant autofocus, and a lens that fulfills both wide-angle and telephoto functions.

Chosen by Mark Steinberg as the best overall compact camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII is the seventh generation of a series that has been raising the bar for compacts since its inception. It’s simple to use for novice photographers, with enough manual settings to allow for experimentation and growth. The 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor is a major highlight, allowing for high sensitivity with a maximum resolution of 20.1 megapixels. With 8x optical zoom and 24–200mm equivalence, the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens gives you the freedom to switch between wide angle and telephoto photography for everything from landscapes to wildlife.

Whatever your subject, the 0.02-second hybrid autofocus ensures sharp images in both still and video mode. You can shoot single, continuous, burst, and self-timer images and set an upper or lower limit for your ISO up to a maximum of 12800 for impressive low-light results. If film is your passion, you’ll love the camera’s 20 frames-per-second, 4K video for its smooth movement and cinema-quality resolution. When it comes to viewing your footage, framing (and taking) your shot, or scrolling through the menu, use the 180-degree-flip LCD touchscreen. In high-glare conditions, you can also revert to the pop-up electronic viewfinder. 

The RX100 VII offers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for instant uploads to social media. 

The Details: 20.1 megapixels | 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor | 24–200mm lens | 3-inch LCD screen | 4K video | 4 x 2.3 x 1.7 inches | 10.7 ounces | Electronic viewfinder

Best Image Quality

RICOH GR IIIx Digital Camera

Amazon RICOH GR IIIx Digital Camera

Amazon


Suitable for all experience levels, the Ricoh GR IIIx Digital Camera was designed with the express purpose of providing superior image quality. The 26.1mm GR lens offers a 40mm angle of view in the 35mm format that’s meant to mirror your natural field of view. It also uses premium technology to eliminate distortion, render colors accurately, and create amazingly sharp images. This is complemented by the camera’s high-resolution CMOS image sensor, which captures HD detail suitable for large-scale prints with up to 24.2 megapixels. 

Other highlights include the camera’s impressive shake reduction technology and its fast, precise hybrid autofocus with eight focus modes to choose from including one that automatically detects the eyes and faces for perfect portraits. We love that you can shoot in macro, while an interval composite shooting mode allows you to capture star trail images (you’ll need to buy a tripod separately.) These are the unique images that set your travel shots apart. The camera offers Full HD video, a LCD touch screen with instantly adjustable brightness, and 2GB of built-in memory — a lifesaver when your memory card malfunctions at the crucial moment. 

The Details: 24.2 megapixels | 1-inch CMOS sensor | 26.1mm GR lens | 3-inch LCD screen | Full HD video | 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches | 9.2 ounces | No viewfinder

Best Full-frame Compact

Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II Digital Camera

Amazon Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II Digital Camera

Amazon


The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II is meant for professional photographers with a price tag and learning curve to match. The 35mm full-frame back-illuminated CMOS sensor is the largest available, offering more light, more information, better quality, and a greater dynamic range than the APS-C frame found in standard compact cameras. With 42.5 megapixels and the ability to shoot in uncompressed 14-bit RAW, this camera will produce pro-quality, large-scale prints with an astonishing amount of detail.

The ZEISS Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 lens is fixed with no optical zoom, making it best for wide-angle and close-up subjects (and especially, street photography). The large aperture allows you to work in low light and use an unusually shallow depth of field. And, if you’re familiar with terms like moiré and aliasing, you’ll appreciate the inclusion of the world’s first optical variable low-pass filter for reducing these kinds of distortion. Other perks include super-fast hybrid autofocus, Full HD video with the ability to capture slow-motion HD video, an electronic viewfinder, and an adjustable 3-inch LCD screen. 

The Details: 42.4 megapixels | Full-frame BSI CMOS sensor | 35mm lens | 3-inch LCD screen | Full HD video | 4.5 x 2.6 x 2.8 inches | 1.1 pounds | Electronic viewfinder

Best Zoom

Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200D Digital Camera

Amazon Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200D Digital Camera

Amazon


If you want to be able to photograph animals, birds, or any other subject from a distance without forking out thousands of dollars for a DSLR with a telephoto lens, the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200D is an excellent option. The Leica DC Vario-Elmar 24–360mm lens offers a 15x optical zoom — which brings subjects 15 times closer without any of the pixelation associated with digital zoom. Optical Image Stabilizer technology means your photos won’t suffer from blurry camera shake either. 

The 1-inch MOS sensor with 20.1 megapixels results in bright, colorful images that lend themselves well to print. You can expand your photographic skills by playing around with traditional aperture and shutter priority modes, or use preset scene and filter modes for instantly different effects. We especially love the camera’s Post Focus feature, which varies the focal point while taking 30 photos per second so that you can go back afterwards and select the best one. In terms of video, shoot in 4K or use high-speed Full HD for instant 120 frames-per-second, slow-motion playback. 

The Details: 20.1 megapixels | 1-inch MOS sensor | 24–360mm lens | 3-inch OLED screen | 4K video | 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 inches | 12 ounces | Electronic viewfinder

Best Splurge

Leica Q3 Digital Camera

Leica Q3 Digital Camera

Leica


The Leica Q3 is an ultra-exclusive option limited to one purchase per customer. And don’t be fooled by its compact size — coming in at just under $6,000, it’s a premium product for serious professionals. It boasts a full-frame BSI CMOS sensor for unparalleled photo and video quality. With a maximum aperture size of f/1.7 and a maximum ISO of 100000, it performs unbelievably well in low light conditions. The Summilux 28mm fixed lens includes an integrated macro mode, making the camera ideal for close-up work as well as wide-angle street photography. 

There’s no optical zoom. However, Triple Resolution Technology with up to 60 megapixels means you can use the digital zoom without losing significant detail. You can also shoot in 36 or 18 megapixel mode to save space on your memory card. Video is equally versatile with multiple formats to choose from including 8K, 4K, ProRes, and Full HD. All of your work benefits from hybrid autofocus and subject tracking, while the Leica FOTOS app can be used for audiovisual content creation. Finally, you can frame shots using the 3-inch display or the OLED viewfinder.

The Details: Up to 60 megapixels | Full-frame BSI CMOS sensor | 28mm lens | 3-inch LCD screen | 8K video | 5.1 x 3.2 x 3.6 inches | 1.6 pounds | Electronic viewfinder

Best for Videos and Vlogging

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III Camera

Amazon Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III Camera

Amazon


Looking for the best camera for filming quality reels? The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III is designed especially for this purpose with 4K and Full HD video, the ability to shoot horizontally or vertically, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to social media, and the ability to live stream straight to YouTube. Whether you’re shooting video or still photos, the fact that you can tilt the LCD touch screen by 180 degrees makes it ideal for framing quality selfies. 

The technology is impressive, too. We’re talking a 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor paired with a DIGIC 8 image processor for exceptionally fast autofocusing, with facial recognition that puts you in the center no matter how much you move around. The 24–100mm lens is suitable for a versatile mix of wide-angle and short telephoto shots, while the f/1.8-2.8 aperture performs well in low light conditions. Finally, the Optical Image Stabilizer reduces camera shake for clear, crisp results. Adding other gadgets is easy. The camera has a 3.5mm microphone terminal and can be purchased as part of a video creator kit that includes a tripod grip and remote control. 

The Details: 20.1 megapixels | 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor | 24–100mm lens | 3-inch LCD screen | 4K video | 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.6 inches | 10.7 ounces | No viewfinder

Best Retro

Fujifilm X100VI Camera

B&H Photo Fujifilm X100VI Camera

B&H Photo


First off, the Fujifilm X100VI just looks cool, with a gorgeous silver-and-black or all-black aesthetic reminiscent of a vintage film camera. Beneath the retro exterior lies a cutting-edge X-Trans CMOS 5 HR sensor with a revolutionary image-processing algorithm for efficient light reception and amazing image resolution at any ISO sensitivity. Thanks to the fixed 23mm f/2 lens, you’ll also get 35mm equivalency in terms of low-light performance and the ability to achieve a shallow depth of field — for a much lower cost than a full-frame compact camera.  

You can zoom digitally by 1.4x or 2x. The 425-point intelligent autofocus system is super fast, while built-in image stabilization reduces the appearance of camera shake by up to six f-stops. And when it comes to video, you can switch between 6.2K, 4K, and Full HD at will. Above all, we love that this camera includes 20 simulation modes inspired by iconic Fujifilm film types ranging from Eterna Bleach Bypass to Nostalgic Neg. You can even shoot using a Grain Effect that replicates the textured look of vintage film photography. 

The Details: 40.2 megapixels | X-Trans CMOS 5 HR sensor | 23mm lens | 3-inch LCD screen | 6.2K video | 5 x 3 x 2.1 inches | 1.1 pounds | Hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder

Best Film

Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Film Camera

Amazon Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Film Camera

Amazon


Perhaps you feel nostalgic for the days of film, or perhaps you grew up in the digital era and want to experience photography as it used to be. Either way, the Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Film Camera is great for film novices, those wanting to stretch their abilities as a photographer, and those who just love the retro look of original film. It’s inexpensive in terms of initial layout and because the half-frame format gives you twice as many images per roll as you’d get from a full-frame camera. 

Weighing in at just three and a half ounces, this pocket-sized camera is made for on-the-go convenience. It features a 22mm f/9.5 lens — so with no zoom and no autofocus, it’s best for wide-angle shots and back-to-basics experimentation that’s as fun as it is challenging. You can frame shots using the optical viewfinder and deploy the built-in flash in low light or at night. The camera is compatible with black-and-white and color film and requires one AAA battery to work. Choose yours in Black, Brown, Sand, or Sage. 

The Details: 22mm lens | 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.5 inches | 3.5 ounces | Optical viewfinder

Best Instant

Fujifilm Instax Mini EVO Instant Camera

Fujifilm Instax Mini EVO Instant Camera

Amazon


Available with a retro black or brown leather effect, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Instant Camera lets you create 2 x 3-inch prints of your images in approximately 16 seconds. It features an autofocusing 28mm f/2 lens and uses automatic shutter speed and ISO for fool-proof results. Expressing your creativity is easy, with 10 lens effects (including Light Leak, Double Exposure, and Soft Focus) and 10 film effects from Vivid to Sepia. You can use these interchangeably for a total of 100 different possibilities. 

Other features include a built-in flash, a self-timer, a selfie mirror, and a 3-inch LCD screen. What makes this instant camera different from the Polaroids of the past is the ability to use it in conjunction with the INSTAX app. This means being able to use your smartphone as a remote for releasing the camera shutter (handy for group shots and selfies) and being able to save a digital version of your instant prints complete with an INSTAX frame. From there, you can upload them to social media. You can even use Bluetooth to send pictures from your smartphone to the camera to print. 

The Details: 2560 x 1920 pixels | 1/5-inch CMOS sensor | 28mm lens | 3-inch LCD screen | 4.8 x 3.4 x 1.4 inches | 10.1 ounces | No viewfinder

Best Durable

Ricoh Pentax WG-90 Digital Camera

Amazon Ricoh Pentax WG-90 Digital Camera

Amazon


Why We Love It

  • Drop it, crush it, take it out in a sandstorm or underwater and this camera should still emerge in one piece.

When it comes to durability, B&H’s Mark Steinberg recommends the Ricoh Pentax WG-90 above all others. It lives up to its armored appearance with some pretty impressive technical specs. It’s waterproof up to 46 feet underwater for up to two hours of continuous operation, making it ideal for surface water sports or snorkeling. It’s also shockproof against falls from five feet, crushproof against 220-pound-force weights, and dustproof. Heading somewhere cold? Unlike many of the cameras on this list, this one will still operate in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Toughness aside, it’s also a great little camera from a photography perspective. The 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor offers high sensitivity and minimal noise, even when using the maximum ISO setting (6400.) A built-in ring light and flash help out in low-light situations, while the 28–140mm equivalent lens is suited to both wide-angle and short telephoto use with a 5x optical zoom. Choose from a range of shooting modes including Fish-Eye, Sports, and Handheld Night; or capture moving images with Full HD video. 

The Details: 16 megapixels | 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor | Equivalent 28–140mm lens | 2.7-inch LCD screen | Full HD video | 4.8 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches | 6.1 ounces | No viewfinder

Best for Action Sports

GoPro HERO12 Black

Amazon GoPro HERO12 Black

Amazon


Why We Love It

  • This camera stands out for its Emmy Award-winning video stabilization, 177-degree field of view, and action-ready, rugged build.

GoPro’s reputation precedes it in the action sports category, and the latest Hero12 camera really is a thing of wonder. Film High Dynamic Range (HDR) video in 5.3K, 4K, 2.7K, or Full HD. Revel in the 177-degree field of view that shows more of your daredevil POV than ever before. And know that whether you’re jumping out of an airplane or racing at high speed down a mountain, the camera’s HyperSmooth 6.0 video stabilization ensures the footage is super smooth. Turning a full 360 degrees? Horizon Lock keeps the horizon level throughout. 

You can film vertically for direct upload to social media and slow things down by up to eight times for an epic fast-action/slow-motion effect. Meanwhile, Bluetooth audio support allows you to connect headphones for sound recording and remote voice commands. The camera also takes 27-megapixel still photos. Or, you can grab 24.7 megapixel stills from your video. The GoPro 12 is waterproof to 33 feet, can run continuously for over two and a half hours on Full HD, and features a new Enduro battery especially for temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The Details: 27 megapixels | 1/1.9-inch CMOS sensor | 12–39mm equivalent lens | 2.3 and 1.4-inch LCD screens | 5.3K video | 2.8 x 2 x 1.3 inches | 5.4 ounces | No viewfinder

Best Waterproof

SeaLife Micro 3.0 Digital Underwater Camera

SeaLife Micro 3.0 Digital Underwater Camera

Walmart


Unlike the other waterproof cameras on this list, the SeaLife Micro 3.0 is designed with scuba divers in mind. It’s waterproof to 200 feet (exceeding recreational dive limits) and is permanently sealed making it suitable for even the most careless or inexperienced underwater photographer. Use the 100-degree wide-angle lens to get as close as possible to your subject for the best results. You can rely on the built-in underwater color correction to counteract the loss of red tones; or, for the more advanced, there’s a manual white balance option. 

We love the large, f/2.8 aperture for its ability to make the most of limited ambient light. But if you tend to dive deep, the camera is also compatible with single or double after-market strobe sets. The camera delivers high-quality, 16-megapixel images in single or burst shooting mode and can also film 4K or Full HD video. And if you get all the way out to the dive site and realize you’ve left your memory card at home? No problem, the 64GB internal memory’s got your back. Finally, Piano Key controls make for easy menu navigation, even with dive gloves on. 

The Details: 16 megapixels | 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor | 20mm equivalent lens | 2.4-inch LCD screen | 4K video | 4.2 x 2.1 x 2.9 inches | 11.6 ounces | No viewfinder

Best Budget

Kodak Pixpro AZ255 Camera

Amazon Kodak Pixpro AZ255 Camera

Amazon


If you’re just getting into photography and don’t want to make a major investment just yet, the Kodak Pixpro AZ255 offers plenty of functionality for roughly nine times less money than our overall winner. It uses a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor and is well suited to most kinds of photography with a wide-angle 24mm lens and a 25x optical zoom that brings you significantly closer to your subject without compromising image quality. You can also use the 4x digital zoom, although you should expect some pixelation. 

Optical Image Stabilization helps eliminate blur, a continuous shooting mode ensures you never miss that action shot, and a built-in flash allows for nighttime shooting. And although the autofocus isn’t nearly as advanced as the more expensive models on this list, you’ll still benefit from subject tracking and face detection. Our favorite feature? The ability to keep things simple with 22 preset scene modes or to experiment with aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual settings. You’re not limited to still photos — this camera also shoots Full HD video. 

The Details: 16 megapixels | 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor | 24–600mm equivalent lens | 3-inch LCD screen | Full HD video | 4.5 x 3.1 x 2.7 inches | 12.5 ounces | No viewfinder

Tips for Buying a Compact Camera

Understand the specs

Before purchasing a compact camera, it’s important to understand some of the key specifications to look out for. 

Sensor size: Sensor size has the greatest impact on photo quality and clarity, especially in low-light conditions. The larger the sensor, the better your image quality will be with greater sensitivity and less noise (or graininess). B&H Senior Technologist Mark Steinberg says that BSI, or Back Side Illumination, sensors are superior for their ability to increase light-gathering efficiency. 

Megapixels: A megapixel equals one million pixels. Pixels are the tiny digital squares that make up your image and the more you have, the more detail you’ll capture. Most digital cameras offer sufficient megapixels for viewing on a screen. But the number of megapixels becomes important when zooming in on an image, cropping it, or printing it. Look for a higher number of megapixels if you plan on printing your photos, but bear in mind that more megapixels means larger files and less space on your memory card. 

Zoom: If you plan on photographing wildlife or anything else that requires a zoom, it’s important to understand the difference between optical and digital zoom. Optical zoom brings the subject closer before capturing the image, with a lens that extends outwards from the camera body. This preserves photo quality. Digital zoom simply crops and resizes a smaller section of the original image, resulting in a blurrier, grainier picture. 

LCD screen: The LCD screen is important because it allows you to view and compose your image before taking a picture. It also allows you to play your images back and scroll through the settings menu. Therefore, it’s important to choose a high-resolution LCD screen that displays colors accurately, even in bright light. It also needs to be big enough for you to see details clearly. Some point-and-shoots offer touchscreen capability for increased ease of use. 

Viewfinder: Many compact cameras lack a traditional viewfinder (the hole you look through to view and frame your image). But if you plan on shooting in bright conditions, investing in a camera with a viewfinder is helpful for when glare impacts your ability to see the LCD screen clearly. 

Video resolution: Video resolution refers to the number of horizontal and vertical pixels. The more you have, the more detailed your footage will be. Look for Full HD (1920 x 1090 pixels) as a minimum or 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) for premium, cinema-quality video. 

Prioritize quality

It goes without saying that for the best results, you should spend as much as you can afford on the best quality camera possible. All of the specifications detailed above are worth considering, but if you focus on just one thing, Steinberg says that the most important factor in terms of image quality is the type and size of the sensor. If you plan on printing your vacation photos or using them to create a photo book or other memento, a reasonable number of megapixels (10 or more) is key. Finally, Steinberg points out that build quality and manufacturer support are also important. 

Choose a camera based on your skill level and goals

Having said that, there’s no point in spending a fortune on a high-end compact camera with advanced specifications if all you really want is a simple way of capturing fun vacation snaps for social media. Beginners should prioritize cameras that are intuitive and simple to use. If your goals are more ambitious, Steinberg recommends looking for manual settings that will allow you to fine tune shutter speed, aperture size, and ISO for the best results. 

It’s also worth considering where you’re traveling and your planned activities. If your camera will be exposed to dust, sand, humidity, or water, then looking for one that’s IP rated against dust and water ingress is crucial. When it comes to interpreting IP numbers, remember that the first number after the IP relates to dust while the second number relates to water. Only water ratings of seven or higher are fully waterproof. Scuba divers should be sure to check depth ratings.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How should I choose a compact camera?

    In addition to considering all of the specifications listed above and how they relate to your requirements, Steinberg says it’s important to consider the ergonomics of the camera. Does it feel comfortable in your hands and next to your face? Are the controls and buttons easy for you to access and operate? Can you view the LCD screen clearly and does the menu navigation system make sense? You should also think about the ease of use. If you’re not sure, consider booking a free in-person or virtual appointment with a B&H expert to talk through different options.

  • Can a compact camera still take print-worthy pictures?

    Absolutely, and especially if you choose one with a decent number of megapixels. It’s generally accepted that in order for an image to be made into a high quality print, it needs to have 300 pixels per inch (300 PPI). The number of megapixels required to achieve this depends on how big you want your prints to be. For a standard 6 x 4 inch image, you’d need at least 2.2 megapixels. For a 5 x 7 inch image, you’d need at least 3.2 megapixels. It’s also worth remembering that good printing results are dependent on printer and paper quality too.

  • What is the difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras?

    Before we tackle this question, it’s important to note that while compact cameras lack a mirror (and mirrorless cameras are more compact than DSLRs), mirrorless cameras are not the same as compact cameras for the purpose of this list. We’ve focused on point-and-shoot cameras for novice photographers and more advanced photographers who prioritize portability. Advantages of point-and-shoots over DSLRs include reduced size and weight, ease of use, and cost. 

    Mirrorless cameras were introduced in 2004 and have since evolved to compete with DSLRs as the category of choice for intermediate and professional photographers. They have a larger sensor than a traditional point-and-shoot, offering superior image quality. They’re bulkier, cost a lot more, and come with interchangeable lenses. The key difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is that mirrorless cameras let light hit the sensor directly whereas DSLRs use a mirror to reflect light onto the sensor. 

    This difference makes mirrorless cameras quicker and quieter — key advantages for fast-action and wildlife photography. High-end mirrorless cameras can also offer superior autofocus and better performance in low light conditions. DSLRs still hold the edge in terms of viewfinder accuracy, battery life, and a greater range of compatible lenses.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Jessica Macdonald has been writing about travel gear for more than a decade. She’s also a professional photographer who has sold images to many publications including Travel + Leisure. Although she typically shoots with her trusty Nikon DSLR, she has often used compact cameras especially for underwater photography. For this article, she conducted hours of online research and consulted the opinion of Mark Steinberg, a B&H Senior Technologist.

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