Best compact cameras 2020
As smartphone cameras get better and better, point-and-shoot compact cameras are becoming a tougher sell, but there's still a few good reasons to pick one up. A decent compact camera is a great way to introduce your kids to photography. Not only will it help them learn the fundamentals, but provide them with an optical zoom lens, a better flash, and better image stabilization than you'll get on a smartphone.
Our favorite compact point-and-shoot camera is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500, which has a wide focal range, flip-up LCD, and a bevy of other features, such as Wi-Fi and image stabilization. Our favorite budget model is the Sony DSC-W800, which costs less than $100, yet also takes reasonably good pictures for the price.
If you're looking for a rugged point-and-shoot camera, consider the Olympus Tough TG-5, which is waterproof to 50 feet and has lots of options for capturing great low-light shots. The newer Olympus Tough TG-6 has the same resolution and processor as before—as well as the same 50-meter waterproofing—but has improved functionality for its Microscope mode.
Instant cameras offer some retro fun too: Our favorite is the Polaroid Snap Touch, which not only prints out a physical photo, but saves a digital version of your shot on a memory card. But there are some other instant models to consider as well. We tested a bunch of instant cameras, and ranked them from best to worst.
Sony's new RX100 VII ($1,200), the latest in its line of premium compact cameras, features a new 1-inch 20.1MP sensor, the latest Bionz X image processor, 357-point phase detection and 425-point contrast detection points, 24-200mm F2.8 – F4.5 lens, and can shoot 4K HDR video, as well as up to 20 fps when shooting still images.
Canon is releasing new versions of two of its advanced compact cameras. The PowerShot G5x Mark II ($899) boasts a 20.1MP 1-inch CMOS sensor, 5X optical zoom, and optical image stabilization, while the G7x Mark III ($749) has a 4.2x optical zoom. Both cameras have built-in flashes and touchscreens that can flip 180 degrees, but only the G5x has an electronic viewfinder.
Fujifilm just announced the X100V, an advanced compact camera with a 26.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, 23mm f/2.0 lens, and a tilting touchscreen. The X100V will be available for $1,399 by the end of February.
1. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500
Wide focal rangeCompactBuilt-in Wi-FiVariety of mobile appsFlip-up LCDBuilt-in image stabilizationNo viewfinderLCD difficult to see in bright sunlight
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500 is the best compact camera overall, as it takes great photos in a variety of situations, thanks in part to Sony's image stabilization, which really kicks in when you want to take clear pictures with limited light. A wide range of PlayMemories apps let you make adjustments and add effects to images on the fly, and built-in Wi-Fi allows you to easily transfer them to your smartphone. And, for less than $400, it has a good range of features and performance for the price.
2. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W800
This camera is a portable 2.1 x 2 x 0.9 inches, and weighs 3.5 ounces. It has a 5x zoom, and shoots 20-MP photos that had strong color and detail in bright conditions. However, quality drops as things get dark, and the camera's flash is easily covered by your finger.
Still, the DSC-W800 is the best compact camera under $100, and is a good option for younger kids interested in photography.
3. Polaroid Snap Touch
The best compact camera for taking on underwater excursions, the Olympus Tough TG-5 features a 12-MP sensor, f/2.0 lens, Olympus' TruPic VIII image processor and a 4X optical zoom. The TG-5 also sports what Olympus calls a Field Sensor System, which tracks your movement, temperature and location, so that you can see your stats later, or embed that info directly into your footage. And because this camera is part of Olympus' Tough line, you get some serious durability that includes water-resistance up to 50 feet, shock-resistance up to 7 feet, and operating temperatures that extend down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
The TG-5's successor, the TG-6, has a few improvements, such as a better microscope mode, but this camera can now be found for less, making it a good deal.
4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
Beautiful and durable retro designSupersharp 4K videoQuick autofocusGreat color and detail in photosSolid low-light performanceSuperclear electronic viewfinderRear LCD is not a touch screenNo external mic jackLacks built-in flash
While its numerous dials give it a decidedly retro feel, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 is a packed with forward-looking features, including great 4K video and fast autofocus. It has a large 16.8 megapixel sensor and a sharp 3.1X Leica optical zoom lens that has an f/1.7 maximum aperture for very shallow depth-of-field photos, a quality found in many professional images. In addition, the LX100 has a rear LCD and an electronic viewfinder. All this in a sturdy, nearly pocketable magnesium alloy frame that makes the LX100 a pricey, but great compact camera.
5. Canon PowerShot SX60 HS
Best Ultra-Zoom lens Great on-screen controls and overall handlingFair priceUsing advanced features like RAW capture and external-mic jack can boost qualityLimited low-light performance, especially for video
While it doesn’t have the longest reach of the cameras we tested, the 65X telephoto lens of the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS is the best compact camera with an ultrazoom lens. It gets you very close to the action, and captures everything in sharp detail, whether you're taking photos or shooting video. It also has an external mic jack, and can shoot in RAW, something few other ultrazooms can do. Its very comfortable handgrip, swiveling LCD, and powerful image stabilization make it capable of capturing sharp photos or jitter-free video of hard-to-reach shots, such as shooting over your head. And, it does all this for less than $500, making the SX60 HS a great deal.