Smartphone cameras might be improving at astonishing rates, but they remain mere tasters for the things you can do with a standalone camera.
When it comes to creative flexibility and outright quality, the laws of physics (and economics) mean that standalone cameras are still levels above smartphone snappers.
The trouble is, dedicated cameras come in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes. Which is where our guide comes in. No matter what kind of camera you want – DSLR, mirrorless or compact – our roundup has the right choice for you.
We review everything from fun and casual compacts to professional DSLRs, and have simmered down all our research to this easy-to-digest list of recommendations. There’s something for everyone here.
Best Camera Buying Guide – What’s the right camera for you?
You need to think about two things when you’re buying a camera: how much you’re able to spend and how you’re going to use it. It’s a tough choice if you’re new to camera buying, so here’s a quick guide to the different types of camera you can buy.
Compacts and Bridge Cameras
If you’re looking for the best cameras for casual use and don’t want to fuss about with settings before hitting the shutter button, a compact camera is probably the best fit for you. There are still plenty of cheap and cheerful compacts out there, but higher-end models also cater for the enthusiast.
There are numerous kinds of quality compacts, too. You’ll find chunkier advanced compacts that give you good manual control, and simpler ones that focus on providing a higher-end sensor and lens optics for better image quality and ease of use.
Bridge cameras are something between a compact camera and an interchangeable-lens system camera. They have permanent, generally very long zoom lenses and a similar feel to a DSLR. Though they’re not compact in size, they are very versatile and well suited to photographing a wide variety of subjects. Though it’s not in this list, the best one you can buy right now is the Sony RX100 VI.
Bridging the gap between compact cameras and DSLRs are mirrorless cameras, whose smaller variants are called compact system cameras (CSCs).
The majority of new cameras with interchangeable lens systems are now mirrorless cameras, which means they have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead of the bulkier mirror-based optical viewfinders of DSLRs.
There are many advantages of to this completely digital approach, such as smaller bodies, being able to see the effects of your setting changes in the viewfinder, and advanced features like face- and eye-detection. Image quality and performance is now very much on a par with DSLRs, although the latter still offer superior battery lives and, depending on your tastes, handling.
All the major camera manufacturers, including Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus and Sony, now have flagship mirrorless models, although it was the latter that really started the trend with cameras like the Sony A7 III.
Mirrorless vs DSLR. The Sony A7R III (left) alongside the Nikon D850 (right)
Within the CSC category, there are a number of different types of sensor used, each giving quite a different experience. Olympus and Panasonic use Micro Four Thirds-size sensors, providing a middle ground and some outstanding and affordable lenses.
The largest sensors you’ll find in affordable CSCs are APS-C ones, used in cameras from Fujifilm and Sony. Of course, Sony has now gone even further, adopting full-frame sensors in the top-end A7-series. These provide the best image quality among CSCs, rivalling pro DSLRs.
DSLRs remain popular among professionals, even if many have now adopted the benefits of mirrorless. Pros who need top-quality lenses, speedy performance and excellent build quality still mainly use DSLRs.
DSLRs are still a top choice for many photographers
This is particularly true for full-frame cameras, where Nikon and Canon both offer some outstanding options. One of the most impressive DSLRs released in recent times is the mighty Nikon D850. There are some good entry-level DSLRs as well, like the Nikon D3500, so there’s plenty of choice and a huge number of lenses to invest in.
In this roundup you’ll find all the best DSLRs, mirrorless and compact cameras grouped together with links to each camera’s in-depth review.
Best Mirrorless Cameras
1. Nikon Z6
A full-frame mirrorless powerhouse
- Excellent handling
- Superb electronic viewfinder
- In-body image stabilisation
- Slick touchscreen interface
- Currently only three native lenses
- Screen only tilts rather than fully articulates
It’s a very close battle between the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6 for the title of ‘best full-frame mirrorless all-rounder’. Right now, Sony’s system has way more native lenses, a better battery life, and is slightly more affordable. But we think the Z6 just shades it, particularly if you’re coming from a DSLR, thanks to its fantastic handling and superior EVF.
The Nikon Z6 has a 24.5-megapixel full-frame sensor, which has around half the number of pixels of its Z7 brother. While that makes the Z7 the better bet for landscape photographers, it does mean the Z6 is better for low light shooting as well as sports and action, thanks to its impressive 12fps burst rate.
In the hand, the Z6 feels very much like a mini DSLR. If you’re coming from a Nikon DSLR, it’ll feel very familiar indeed, and we think it handles better than the slightly more cramped Sony A7 III. In the true DSLR spirit, it’s also extremely tough, with weatherproofing that’ll see it through downpours and drops.
The Z6’s 3.6-million dot viewfinder is one of the best we’ve seen, giving you a clear, bright view of the scene. The tilting touchscreen is also very handy for shooting from awkward angles and navigating menus. One particularly handy trick is being able to double-tap the screen for a 100% view to quickly check that you’ve got perfect focus.
As you’d expect, the Z6’s image quality is excellent, with great dynamic range, detail and sharpness. Focusing is also fast in most situations, with the Z6 tracking fast-moving subjects even better than Z7.
The only real downside of the Nikon Z6 compared to a DSLR like Nikon’s own D750 is battery life. It gives you around 310 shots from a charge, so it’s worth carrying a spare if you like to rattle off a lot of frames.
In every other way, though, the Nikon Z6 is what we hoped its full-frame mirrorless all-rounder would be. With several more native lenses on the way in 2019, it’s the one to beat.
2. Fujifilm X-T3
The perfect sweet spot between size and performance
- Fantastic autofocus
- Superb image quality
- 4K Video quality great, with varied options
- Great handling
- No in-body image stabilisation
- Mediocre battery life
- Screen doesn’t fully articulate
The Fujifilm X-T3 is a superb all-rounder in the mirrorless market, and is one of the best cameras you can pick up for under £1,500.
Following on from the X-T2, the X-T3 has all the hallmarks of its predecessor – think classy, vintage design and gorgeous rich and atmospheric JPEGs. Top it all off with a tactile shooting experience and you’ve got one of the most desirable cameras of recent years.
While the X-T3 may not represent a dramatic overhaul from the last model in terms of looks and style, inside there’s been significant sensor and processor upgrades, with a heft of video capability thrown in for good measure, too.
This camera may not have the increasingly popular full-frame sensor that you’ll see adorning the likes of the Nikon Z6, but what that means is that it’s great for balance. Lenses and accessories can be just that bit smaller so as to make a more manageable experience, without going too small as to potentially sacrifice image quality.
You could view the X-T3 as more like a mini X-H1 than a larger X-T30, but you are missing in-body image stabilisation. Battery life is also a little bit on the so-so side, but packing another one is not a huge cross to bear.
3. Sony A7 III
In many ways, still the full-frame mirrorless trailblazer
- Excellent value for money
- Improved battery stamina
- Fast and responsive autofocus system
- Revised button layout for intuitive control
- AF point illumination could be improved
- Convoluted menu system
- Thin plastic port covers aren’t weather-sealed
- Handles poorly with large gloves in cold climates
It’s a very close call between the Nikon Z6 and Sony A7 III for the title of ‘best full-frame mirrorless camera.’ We think the former’s superb handling and all-round performance just gives it the edge, but the Sony A7 III still wins in three areas: battery life, its superb Eye AF, and its larger range of native FE lenses.
The A7 III is equipped with a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, which benefits from backside-illuminated architecture. You get a wide ISO range that can be expanded to ISO 50-204,800, fast continuous burst shooting up to 10fps with autofocus and exposure adjustment, and a fully-electronic shutter, making it possible to shoot silently when you want to avoid disturbing a subject.
The headline feature of the A7 II was its 5-axis in-body stabilisation. This advanced IS system carries over to the A7 III, but now offers up to 5 stops of stabilisation compared to 4.5 stops on its predecessor. Another improvement sees the A7 III use the same uprated NP-FZ100 battery as the A7R III and A9, offering over twice the capacity of the old NP-FW50. It also gains twin SD card slots, but only one supports the UHS-II type.
The A7 III has a complex arrangement of 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points, which cover 93% of the frame. Autofocus is further improved by employing the same AF advancements as first used in the Sony A9. The difference in the speed and accuracy of the A7 III’s focusing is noticeable coming from the older A7 II.
With a good level of customisation and a revised button layout that makes operation more intuitive, the A7 III is an extremely enjoyable camera to use. It inherits the AF joystick from the A7R III and presents a new exposure lock (AEL) button below the exposure compensation dial, a new AF-ON button, and an improved rear scroll dial that’s far less fiddly.
Other improvements on the A7 III are found at the rear, where a 2.3m-dot EVF with 0.78x magnification and 3in 922k-dot LCD touchscreen take pride of place. The EVF has a lower resolution than the A7R III, but is complete with Zeiss T* coatings to reduce obtrusive reflections.
The A7 III has come on a long way from the original A7 and A7 II. It does exactly what serious photographers want in a body that’s smaller and lighter than rival DSLRs. It’s quick, it’s highly versatile and delivers excellent image quality when more is asked from the sensor in low-light.
Sony has made a superb all-rounder with the A7 III. It might not be quite as far ahead of its rivals as when it first launched, and in some areas the Nikon Z6 has edged ahead of it, but it remains the more mature full-frame mirrorless system and a great buy for anyone who doesn’t want to stretch their budget to the mighty Sony A7R III.
4. Panasonic Lumix G9
A brilliant camera for sports and wildlife
- Superb design and handling
- Excellent 4K & 6K photo modes
- Well supported by Micro Four Thirds lenses
- Offers high-resolution 40MP & 80MP modes
- Positioning of AF toggle could be better
- Lacks battery level indication as percentage
- Burst shot mode descriptions aren’t clear
- No in-camera panoramic mode
The G9 sits beside Panasonic’s premium GH5 and GH5S models in the Lumix G lineup. Whereas the GH series has always set about appealing to videographers, the G9 is out to fulfil the demands of serious stills-focused photographers. It does this with an impressive specification, however it’s the blistering speeds that it’s capable of that really sets it apart from many other mirrorless cameras.
Shooting continuously in its AF-S mode, the G9 can rattle out a burst at 12fps for as many as 60 frames in RAW, or at 60fps for 50 frames in RAW by activating the camera’s electronic shutter. Switching the camera over to its continuous AF mode (AF-C) sees the burst speed drop, but to a highly respectable 9fps using the mechanical shutter or 20fps using the electronic shutter.
The G9’s new 5-axis Dual I.S II image stabiliser, which offers 6.5 stops of compensation to counteract camera shake when shooting stills or movies, also has dual-purpose. It allows the camera to offer a new 80-megapixel high-resolution mode whereby the sensor is shifted precisely between eight shots to create a single image with much finer detail. It’s wonderfully executed and is easy to use.
There’s so much more to like about the camera. It has a top-plate LCD like you get on most DSLRs, a superb 3680k-dot resolution electronic viewfinder with 0.83x magnification, and a sensitive 3-inch, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen. It combines all of the above with a spritely autofocus system, relying once again on a formula of contrast detection and Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology.
It may lack a really high-end feel, but it’s an incredibly versatile mirrorless camera that’s very capable of delivering satisfying results in the hands of those who love photography. There’s great value to be had from buying Panasonic’s best stills camera to date.
5. Canon EOS M50
A fine mid-ranger for travellers and vloggers
- Compact size and light weight make it easy to carry everywhere
- Excellent image quality, with reliable metering and auto white balance
- Quick and accurate autofocus, even with adapted EF-mount DSLR lenses
- Easy-to-use interface that still gives extensive control over settings
- Fully articulated screen is great for shooting at unusual angles
- Single-dial control slower to use than twin-dial competitors
- Overly contrasty viewfinder blocks up shadow details
- Poorly implemented manual focus magnification
- Very small range of native EF-M lenses
- 4K video is subject to considerable restrictions
The Canon EOS M50 slots into the company’s lineup of mirrorless cameras between the EOS M100 and EOS M6. It offers a similar degree of external control to the firm’s beginner-friendly EOS 200D DSLR, but with an electronic viewfinder built-in, alongside a fully-articulated touchscreen.
It’s built around a new generation of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor, which is now capable of phase-detection autofocus across a wider area of the frame. With 24.1MP resolution, it offers a sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 that’s expandable to ISO 51,200. Continuous shooting is a real strength of this camera: 10fps with focus fixed, or 7.4fps with focus adjusted between shots.
For the first time on an EOS model, the EOS M50 provides a silent shooting mode that uses a fully electronic shutter. You get Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimiser for balancing shadows and highlights in high contrast scenes and there’s a good selection of basic modes and subject-based scene modes for beginners to start with before they progress.
Most notably, the EOS M50 marks the debut of the firm’s latest DIGIC 8 processor, making it the first Canon consumer camera capable of recording 4K video.
As you’d expect, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity options are all available, with the latter capable of forming an always-on connection to your smartphone using the free Camera Connect app for Android or iOS. When sharing photos, you can either push your favourite shots from the camera to your phone while browsing in playback mode, or view your images on your phone and pull them across.
The EOS M50 is equipped with a 2.36-million dot, 0.39-type EVF with a magnification of around 0.62x. Beneath the EVF is a 3in 1.04m-dot LCD, with a fully-articulated design. It can tilt upwards or downwards for waist-level or overhead shooting in either portrait or landscape format, face fully forwards for selfies, or even fold away with the screen facing inwards to protect it from scratches.
Autofocus performance is as good as you could hope for: it’s silent and goes about its business accurately. The EOS M50 also works remarkably well with Canon EF-mount DSLR lenses using the Canon EF EOS M mount adapter that can be picked up for around £109.
With the EOS M50, Canon has produced a very likeable camera that manages to be simple and approachable for beginners, while also offering a full degree of manual control for enthusiasts. It has some stiff competition in the market and the only thing that might put you off are the number of lenses currently available in the Canon EF-M lens range.
Related: Best Mirrorless Camera 2019
Best DSLR Cameras
1. Nikon D850
The best DSLR we’ve ever seen
- Sensor resolves exceptionally fine detail
- Super-fast autofocus and silent shooting in Live View
- Inherits AF toggle from D500 for fast AF point positioning
- Impressive battery life with EN-EL15a battery
- Lacks on-chip phase detection AF in Live View
- Touchscreen doesn’t allow users to adjust key exposure settings
- SnapBridge connectivity requires improvement
When the Nikon D850 arrived back in July 2017 it was pretty much unique, offering a combination of blazing speed and resolution that hadn’t really been possible from one body. Since then, mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7R III and Nikon Z7 have repeated this trick. But when we re-reviewed the Nikon D850 in November 2018, we still found it to be the DSLR king and more than a match for its mirrorless rivals.
The Nikon D850 is a high-end, full-frame DSLR designed for professional photographers. It combines high-resolution, speedy performance and impressive low-light performance in a robust, weather-sealed body.
The D850 succeeded the 36.3-megapixel D810 released in 2014, bringing numerous improvements to what was already an excellent DSLR in it own right. The highlight is the 45.7-megapixel sensor, which brings the D850 into line with direct competitors such as the Canon 5DS (50.6 megapixels) and Sony A7R III (42.4 megapixels).
For those who either don’t need the D850’s full 45.7 megapixels for a particular shot or just want to save memory card space, there’s also the option to shoot at either 25.6 megapixels or 11.4 megapixels.
The D850’s new high-resolution sensor is paired with a powerful EXPEED 5 processor, as used by both the D500 and flagship D5 models. This combination gives the D850 plenty of processing power, and ensures noise is kept to a minimum when using higher sensitivity settings. Continuous shooting maxes out at 7fps, although connecting the D850’s optional MB-D18 battery grip (£369) and EN-EL18b (£179) battery increases this to an impressive 9fps.
The D850’s 153-point Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system has also been lifted directly from the D500 and D5. It’s a proven AF module that’s both fast and accurate, thanks in part to the inclusion of 99 cross-type AF points.
The central AF point is sensitive down to -4EV, which should ensure accurate focus, even when light is in short supply. Elsewhere, the D850 also becomes the first Nikon DSLR to support 4K video capture at up to 30fps, with separate microphone and headphone inputs located on the side of the camera.
Construction is – as you’d expect of a £3500 pro-spec DSLR – pretty much bombproof, with the D850 securely housed inside a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. Buttons and controls are plentiful, as are customisation options. The back of the camera is fitted with a 3.2-inch, 2.36m-dot tiltable touchscreen, and above this the 100% viewfinder is described by Nikon as the largest the company has ever made.
The D850 is an incredible camera that’s as impressive now as when it first arrived in 2017. If you still prefer a DSLR’s optical viewfinder and all-day battery life, it’s one of the best ever made.
2. Nikon D3500
The perfect DSLR for beginners
- Very good value for money
- High quality kit lens
- Impressive image quality
- Fast and silent autofocus
- No 4K video
- Large compared to a mirrorless camera
It might not be a huge leap forward from the Nikon D3400, but this beginner-friendly DSLR is superb value for money and a fine all-round performer.
The main plus points are its impressive 18-55mm AF-P kit lens, which is very consistent across its focal range, and a 1,550-shot battery life that trounces its mirrorless rivals.
Of course, it’s quite a bit bigger than your average mirrorless camera, and its autofocus isn’t quite as strong as similarly-priced models like the Panasonic GX80. But it can shoot at a decent 5fps in burst mode (good enough to keep up with fast-moving kids, if not sports cars), and its strong ISO performance means it performs well in low light.
Beginners might also prefer its handling to a mirrorless camera, while its 24-megapixel APS-C sensor delivers strong image quality too. If you really need a swivelling touchscreen for shooting video or awkward shots then it’s worth also considering the Canon 200D, but the Nikon D3500 is otherwise the best DSLR around at this price.
3. Pentax K-1 Mark II
The most feature-packed sub-£2,000 DSLR around
- Excellent image quality with superb resolution and dynamic range
- High features-to-price ratio
- Great controls
- Weather-sealed body
- In-body image stabilisation
- Heavy and bulky
- Slow to wake up
- Screen not touch-sensitive
- Sluggish live view autofocus
Pentax might be relatively new to full-frame DSLRs, with the original Pentax K-1 arriving in 2016, but the K-1 Mark II is a fine option for landscape photographers or anyone who shoots relatively static subjects.
While it makes little sense for Canon and Nikon users to switch given the comparatively limited number of K Mount lenses and third party options, the K-1 Mark II is a great upgrade if you’re currently using an APS-C Pentax DSLR.
You get a tough, weatherproof body, a 36-megapixel full-frame sensor and, unusually for a full-frame DSLR, in-built image stabilisation. This means you can get handheld shots that would otherwise require a tripod, while its low ISO shots have great detail and dynamic range.
In fact, image quality overall is the best you can find at this price, while the sheer number of buttons and dials makes it a joy to use for advanced photographers (even if it does weigh over 1kg and lacks a joystick for moving the AF point).
If you’re starting from scratch and value features like portability and speedy shooting, then you’ll be better off with an advanced mirrorless model like the Sony A7 III. But if you prefer DSLR handling and own an older Pentax DSLR, then the K-1 Mark II is a fantastic upgrade and excellent value compared to its better known Canon and Nikon rivals.
4. Canon EOS 200D
A strong budget alternative to the Nikon D3500
- World’s lightest DSLR with vari-angle screen
- Fast focusing performance in Live View
- Intuitive layout of buttons and dials
- Guided user interface helps beginners learn the key controls and settings
- Basic arrangement of 9 AF points
- Single scroll dial on the top plate
Update 10/4/19: Canon has announced a successor to the 200D, called the Canon 250D. We’ll update this page as soon as we’ve reviewed it, but here’s our verdict on the 200D…
Positioned between the entry-level EOS 1300D and slightly more advanced EOS 760D/EOS 800D models, the Canon EOS 200D succeeds 2013’s EOS 100D model, bringing with it a generous number of hardware upgrades and feature enhancements. Billed by Canon as a “compact, simple and versatile” camera, the 200D is primarily targeted at those looking to buy their first DSLR, along with existing owners of older entry-level Canon DSLRs.
Despite its relatively humble positioning, the 200D comes equipped with a good set of features for the price, not least Canon’s Dual-Pixel AF technology that employs on-sensor phase-detection pixels for impressively speedy autofocus performance in Live View mode.
This alone is a big distinguishing factor between the 200D and the cheaper 1300D, which doesn’t get Dual-Pixel AF and can be painfully slow to focus in Live View. Operated through the viewfinder, the 200D sticks with the same 9-point phase-detection AF system employed by the 1300D and 100D.
The other most notable enhancement is the addition of a high-resolution, vari-angle LCD screen on the back that provides touchscreen control over the camera. Again, this is something that’s absent on the 1300D.
At its core, the 200D is built around the same 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor used inside the 77D and 800D, which is paired with Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processor. This raises the camera’s maximum burst speed up to 5fps – one frame faster than its predecessor.
Native sensitivity, meanwhile, ranges from ISO 100 to 25,600, with an expanded “Hi” setting of ISO 51,200. Shutter speeds range from 30sec to 1/4000sec. Video can be recorded up to a maximum 1080p Full HD at 60fps, with a dedicated microphone jack also provided should you want to use an external mic.
While build quality obviously isn’t as robust as more expensive Canon DSLRs, the 200D feels solid enough in the hand. It’s also impressively small and compact for a DSLR. In fact, Canon claims it’s the world’s smallest DSLR to feature a vari-angle LCD. Physical controls – although relatively few – are well spaced and easy to reach. Overall, for those looking to buy into the Canon DSLR ecosystem, and wanting something a bit more advanced than the bare-bones 1300D, the 200D represents a solid option.
5. Nikon D500
A fine choice for shooting sports and wildlife
- 100% optical viewfinder
- Tilting screen
- Enthusiast-centric controls
- Dual memory card slots
- APS-C format sensor
- Screen not articulating
Released in 2016, the D500 is Nikon’s current flagship APS-C DSLR. As such, it sits directly above the more recent D7500, which actually borrows a number of its more expensive sibling’s core specifications and features. These include the same 20.9-megapixel sensor, EXPEED 5 image processor and 4K movie abilities.
There are quite a few differences between the two, however. Despite being slightly older, the D500 has the edge over the D7500 in several departments, most notably in terms of its more advanced autofocus system (153 AF-points vs 51 AF-points), higher continuous shooting speed (10fps vs 8fps) and superior buffer performance.
In addition, the D500 also gets a higher-resolution rear LCD (2.36m-dots vs 922k-dots), a dedicated AF-point positioning joystick and two SD memory card slots to the D7500’s single slot. Physically, the D500 is larger and heavier than the D7500 and slightly more robust in its construction too. For all these extra features and enhancements, you can expect to pay around £500 more for the D500.
One of the most impressive features of the D500 is its 153-point autofocus system. This is spread out across the entire viewfinder and includes 99 cross-type sensors. Tracking abilities are excellent, too, making this a great camera for wildlife and sports photographers. The D500’s APS-C sensor helps out here too, since its inherent 1.5x crop-factor has the effect of giving full-frame telephoto lenses even more reach when mounted on the D500.
Elsewhere, the D500 comes with an 100% optical viewfinder that’s impressively large, while below this an impressively sharp 3-inch, 2.36m-dot tiltable LCD offers touchscreen control over the camera.
Video enthusiasts are well catered for too, with the D500 able to record 4K footage as well as 1080p Full HD at up to 60fps. Image quality, as you’d expect is excellent.
Overall, the D500 serves as a timely reminder that while full-frame might be desirable, there remains a place for APS-C cameras – especially for those who value shooting action sequences continuously at high speed. As such, it’s an ideal DSLR for wildlife, sports and action photographers.
Related: Best DSLR 2019
Best Compact Cameras
1. Sony RX100 VI
Pricey, but the best compact camera you can buy
- Longer zoom range than predecessors
- Superb image quality
- Speedy autofocus and burst shooting
- Built-in EVF and tilting screen
- Small buttons can hinder usability
- Very expensive
- Average battery life
We’ve long been fans of Sony’s RX100 series, which have been the trailblazers of the compact camera world since 2012. This latest version comes with a weighty price tag, but the RX100 VI justifies it by being the best and most advanced compact around.
The big difference from its predecessors is the 24-200mm zoom lens, which gives you a very useful 8.3x optical zoom (compared to the 2.9x on the RX100 V). The cost of that is that its aperture range is a slightly slower f/2.8-f/4.5, so if you mainly shoot close-up or with mid-range zoom, then the Mark IV or V might offer better value.
If you can afford this version, though, then your reward will be the most advanced compact ever made. The RX100 VI has incredibly fast autofocus, a bright 2.36-million dot OLED viewfinder, and a superb 24fps burst shooting rate for capturing speedy objects.
It’s great for shooting video too, with the ability to capture 4K in HDR, while the 20.1-megapixel sensor is able to capture great snaps at low ISOs and noise-free shots up to ISO 1600.
There are naturally some limitations to cramming this amount of tech into a pocketable camera (battery life is only 230 shots and it can be slightly fiddly to use at times), but its all-round performance and extras like the pop-up EVF give it the edge over rivals like the Panasonic TZ200 and make it our favourite compact camera.
2. Panasonic Lumix TZ200
A brilliant compact travel zoom
- Great zoom range for a compact camera
- Very respectable image quality
- Much better grip compared to Lumix TZ100
- Rear screen doesn’t tilt
- Lacklustre out-of-camera JPEG image quality
- Control layout is poor for eye-level shooting
Panasonic has long owned the high-zoom travel compact sector, with the TZ200 the successor to one of its most popular cameras. And despite some fresh competition from Sony’s RX100 VI, it remains a better value compact for taking on city breaks and global adventures.
The TZ200’s killer feature is its 24-360mm lens, which gives you incredibly long reach considering the camera has a one-inch sensor. It’s also kept steady by the built-in optical image stabilisation, which means you don’t have to worry too much about camera shake or raising the ISO to compensate.
With a huge variety of shooting modes, the TZ200 is also suitable for most types of photographer. Those coming from DSLRs or mirrorless cameras will be pleased to find the familiar PASM (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual) modes, but there are also a range of intelligent options for beginners. These include the point-and-shoot Intelligent Auto mode, auto-stitched panoramas, and Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode for grabbing 8MP still images from 30fps video.
While the older TZ100 remains good value, one of the TZ200’s biggest improvements over its predecessor is its viewfinder. This 2.33m-dot EVF isn’t class-leading but it is good enough for you to want to use it on a regular basis. It’s also joined by an excellent 3-inch touchscreen, which gives you great options for composing.
With its excellent image quality (at lower ISOs, at least), speedy operation and reliable autofocus, the TZ200 is a brilliant pocketable travel camera and the best you can find for under £700.
3. Olympus Tough TG-5
The best waterproof compact camera you can buy
- Excellent photo quality
- 4K and slo-mo video recording
- Sensors aplenty
- Virtually indestructible
- Limited zoom range
- Pricey for a compact
The Olympus Tough TG-5 is the standout model in the tough compact camera segment of the market and was the winner of our waterproof compact group test. Unlike many tough compacts that only shoot in the JPEG format, the TG-5’s unique selling point is its ability to shoot in RAW format, giving users unprecedented control when it comes to editing images at the post-processing stage.
Its 12MP BSI CMOS sensor teams up with a TruePic VIII processor to provide a wide sensitivity range (ISO 100-12,800), while the 4x optical zoom is equivalent to 25-100mm and boasts a variable f/2-4.9 aperture.
The TG-5 is built to survive a drop from 2.1m, is crushproof to a weight of 100kg, freezeproof down to -10°C and waterproof to a depth of 15m. Olympus also makes a underwater housing (£279) that enables deep sea divers to take it up to 45m below the surface of the water. As well as offering Wi-Fi and GPS, it’s fitted out with a compass, manometer and temperature sensor for those who want more detailed information than just the EXIF data.
Autofocus speed is another area where the TG-5 stands out from its competition. It’s quick to focus both above and below water and its auto white balance does a commendable job of ensuring colour is vibrant when shooting underwater scenes.
It’s not the cheapest underwater compact you can buy, but as the old saying goes you do get what you pay for. If you’re venturing away on a trip of a lifetime and want an indestructible camera to record great memories and high-definition videos, the Olympus Tough TG-5 should be high on your wish list. Best of all it’s a camera you can hand over to the kids to have fun with on holiday and won’t have any fear of it getting damaged.
4. Panasonic LX100 II
A great compact for street photography
- Large Four Thirds sensor
- Touch-sensitive screen
- Built-in electronic viewfinder
- 4K Photo and Video modes
- No tilting screen
‘Big sensor compacts’ are well-liked for their ability to shoot pro-looking snaps in challenging conditions without taking up too much room in your pocket or luggage – and our favourite right now is the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II.
The successor to the excellent LX100, it brings a large Four Thirds sensor (the same size as ones you’ll found in Panasonic’s interchangeable lens cameras) and 3x optical zoom. Its lens also has a bright f/1.8-2.8 aperture, which means you get pleasing bokeh effects and strong low light performance for a compact camera.
Perhaps the only real downer is that its screen doesn’t tilt (a bit of a shame for a camera that’s otherwise perfect for stealthy street photography), but the LX100 II is an otherwise great stills shooter and also captures decent 4K video (albeit with a crop).
Image quality is superb, with vibrant colours and plenty of detail, and we particularly like effects like the L.Monochrome D Photo Style for atmospheric street shots. If you’d rather have the added flexibility of being able to change lenses, then it’s worth checking out the Panasonic GX9, but the LX100 II is a brilliant compact camera for those who want a camera that marries simplicity with impressive performance.
5. Canon G1X Mark III
A great ‘mini DSLR’ for advanced snappers
- Class-leading image quality
- Excellent control layout and handling
- Robust weather-resistant construction
- Lens is a little limited in terms of creative potential
- Relatively poor battery life
- No 4K video recording
Canon’s latest ‘mini DSLR’ is a real technological feat – it’s the first truly pocketable camera to combine an APS-C sensor with a zoom lens. This means the G1X Mark III can match the image quality of many DSLRs, while also being best the zoom compact you can buy right now.
Of course, there are a few compromises, including the lens’s comparatively limited f/2.8-5.6 aperture range and a short 200-shots-per-charge battery life. But thanks to Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF tech, the G1X Mark III’s autofocus is impressively quick, even when subjects are moving towards or away from you. Its Digic 7 processor also helps provide EOS-like image processing features, such as Diffraction Compensation for sharper looking images.
That relatively short 3x zoom and modest 7fps burst mode might not make it your first choice for action photography, but the G1X Mark III is otherwise a fine DSLR backup for travelling. Its centrally-placed electronic viewfinder and extensive controls mean DSLR fans will feel right at home, while the generous handgrip means it feels less cramped than smaller rivals like Sony’s RX100 VI.
Beginners might be better off with the simpler experience offered by Panasonic’s TZ range or Sony’x RX series, but enthusiasts who need pro shooting that can slip into a jacket pocket will struggle to find anything that trumps the G1X Mark III.
Related: Best Compact Camera 2019
Incoming: new cameras
It wasn’t long ago that Sony had the full-frame mirrorless market sewn up. Then along came Nikon, shortly followed by Canon, with their own cameras to bring to the game. At Photokina, keen to outdo them all, Panasonic announced the S1 and S1R, two new full-frame cameras that will be released next year as part of the new L Mount Alliance between Panasonic, Sigma and Leica. The S1R will feature a 47-megapixel full-frame sensor, while the standard S1 will have a 24-megapixel device.
Fujifilm GFX 50R
Full-frame not big enough for you? Why not go one better with a medium-format sensor. A new addition to Fuji’s GFX range, the 50R uses a rangefinder style for a flatter and more compact design. That could make it the ideal choice for street and perhaps travel photography, albeit a little less discreet than you might usually crave.