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The best compact cameras

Matthew Field
Canon Powershot G9 MKII

Compact cameras can provide an ideal first camera, a family point-and-shoot or holiday snapper, small enough to slip into your pocket.

Point-and-shoot cameras are not as popular as they were a few years ago. The advent of smartphone photography has left many people feeling they don't need an additional digital camera. 

But for those who want the option of high-quality photography on its own, a compact camera can be an easy, portable way of getting beautiful pictures without splashing out on an expensive DSLR.

The Telegraph took a look at the top of the range of point-and-shoot cameras as well as budget options, and reviewed four of our favourites.

The best compact cameras for 2018

Canon Powershot G9 MKII

£399, John Lewis

Canon Powershot G9 MKii Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph

The Canon Powershot series is a super range of mid-tier cameras, including the excellent G9 MII. Coming in at under £500 it is far cheaper than many more powerful digital cameras, but offers exceptional ease of use and enough features to go beyond what you could find on smartphone photos.

It features a smart design and a large, 1-inch sensor on a  20.1MP lens. Zoom isn't bad, but at 3x optical zoom it does start to lose detail earlier than some of the more expensive models we tried. Its Wi-Fi connections are fast and link up with the dedicated Canon app, plus it connects with Bluetooth and NFC. Battery life lasts around 230 shots.

It does only have 1080p video capture, which puts it below models from Panasonic's Lumix range and slightly more pricey cameras. Despite this it is a neat little compact camera that packs more than a punch for its price.

Telegraph rating: 8.5/10

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Panasonic Lumix LX-15

£499, John Lewis

Panasonic LX-15

Panasonic's new mid-range Lumix LX-15 camera is an excellent compact option for casual photographers who want something more powerful than a budget point-and-shoot. It comes with a touchscreen for quickly navigating and focusing your shot. The camera features a 1-inch sensor and a 20.1 megapixel lens. 

It's a small, pocket-sized camera that you can happily take on a day out, plus it has 4K video capabilities to take it a cut above the other point-and-shoots we looked at. It will be a little light for some who prefer a more grippy camera, but for those looking for a compact model which offers next level pictures the Lumix LX-15 is our pick.

Telegraph rating: 8.5/10

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Sony Cybershot RX 100

£279, Jessops

Sony Cybershot RX100

This Sony Cybershot RX100 camera puts many other models at this price to shame for the power and specs it offers, even if it is a few years old now. It comes with a 20.3MP lens and a large 1-inch sensor. It also has 3.6x optical zoom. 

It does lack a touchscreen and some of the controls and options are flicked through using a slightly fiddly control ring. This model is a couple of years old, so it lacks Wi-Fi connections. That said, the pictures it takes are stellar quality compared to many of the other models we took a look at and are on a par with some of the more expensive cameras we reviewed.

If you want more connectivity you should buy the more recent model, the RX100 V. Then you can expect to pay more like £850. 

Telegraph rating: 7.5/10

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The best cheap point-and-shoot camera

Canon IXUS 185

£92, Amazon

Canon IXUS 185

Need something cheap and user-friendly? As a first camera for a child in the family or a second camera to take on holiday, the Canon Ixus series gives you a small package that's lighter than most smartphones. The Canon Ixus is a perfect camera for slipping into your pocket with 12x optical zoom, solid image quality for the price and several colour schemes to pick from.

The pictures you get are good enough for £99. In low-light quality suffers and some colourful images lose detail and depth. The Ixus is largely built for use in Auto mode, so you can't get much variation out of the pictures. It also does not feature a touchscreen. 

For the price it's a great little point-and-shoot camera, just don't expect any fancy features.

Telegraph rating: 7/10

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The best compact camera pictures compared

Canon Powershot G9 MKII

The mid-range Canon model we tested took nice, punchy photographs and had a reasonable number of manual settings for controlling ISO and saturation. It was more advanced than the Ixus and had more capable zoom and recording functionality.

Generally the pictures appear with plenty of colour, and its autofocus was quick to pick out the details. It also had a quick and simple Wi-Fi link for uploading photos.

Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph
Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph

Sony Cybershot RX 100

The Sony Cybershot took some of the cleanest pictures of the bunch. It provided clearer definition, although there is some noise around close up shots. This is not surprising as the Sony series comes highly regarded, however this camera is a couple of years old and is maybe starting to show its age. When this Sony model first came out it changed the compact camera market. 

Don't let age alone put you off buying a camera. According to this piece in the Wirecutter: "All cameras are good cameras." Most models made in the last few years can take an exceptional snap, but what you are paying for is features and added connectivity.

Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph
Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph

Panasonic Lumix LX-15

The Panasonic Lumix was more than capable of tackling challenging shots. It is a little more complicated to use than the other cameras we tested, with more manual options for settings and focus. 

Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph
Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph
Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph

Canon IXUS 185

The Canon Ixus was the least powerful camera we tested. With only a handful of customisation features, you are largely limited to taking shots in full auto mode. This meant that low-light shots were largely out of the question, coming across as quite grainy, while the flash settings largely dominated and washed out pictures.

That said, in good lighting you can achieve some nice pictures with the Ixus, making it a fine camera for when you are out or on holiday as a portable second camera. Note the slightly more washed out images compared to more expensive models.

Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph
Credit: Matthew Field/Telegraph

What to look for in a camera

There are a few key things to look for when buying a camera. For our review, we focused on compact cameras. These smaller cameras are light enough to slip into a pocket or be taken on holiday in a backpack. They don't have the bulky features of more expensive models, but still come with a raft of features.

Some key things to look for in a camera include:

  • Camera power: Look to the camera's MP and zoom levels to see how much detail you will get out of the camera. Features like a greater ISO range will allow for more light to get in to the camera.
  • Features and shooting modes: The cheapest cameras won't have many shooting modes. More expensive cameras will let you shoot high quality video, switch to manual settings to adjust zoom and focus.
  • Touchscreen: Some cameras now come with a touchscreen, making them easier to navigate. Cheaper models do not.
  • Connectivity: Most modern cameras let you connect via Wi-Fi and other connection modes. Some also have NFC connections.

Verdict

Of the cameras we tested, the Canon Powershot G9 MII and the Panasonic Lumix L-15 were the best performers in terms of ease of use and camera quality. The Panasonic probably has more manual settings for a discerning photographer, while the Canon Powershot was better for a casual photographer. It also has a more attractive price tag.

That said, there are better cameras out there if you are willing to splash more cash. But for the average photographer, these four models should cover the basics.

For more, see our reviews of the best DSLR cameras and the best GoPro and action cameras.

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