4 Best Compact Cameras

Disclosure: WiredGraft is reader-supported. We may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
By Wiredgraft Editor
Last updated: May 27, 2020

 

The best compact camera for us currently comes from Panasonic and is called Lumix LX15. With its clever touchscreen operation, fast autofocus and 4K video, it pushes our previous favourite, the Sony RX100 III, from the throne of the finest- looking compacts. Sony has indeed with the RX100 IV and the RX100 V two models in the program, which are slightly superior to the Panasonic LX-15 – but cost much more.

 

A compact camera is, as its name suggests, very compact and fits in any pocket. This is convenient because the little vacation companions have a technically mature interior, making a large camera superfluous in most cases.

 

For compact cameras remains only a niche

 

Who needs a compact camera today? Finally, modern smartphones take pictures with up to 20 megapixels.

 

But as soon as the lighting conditions get worse, for example at dusk, smartphone cameras are quickly overwhelmed and the shots become poor.

 

Better pictures thanks to large sensor

 

Smartphones also have the disadvantage over compact cameras that there is no zoom, the setting options are often very limited and the autofocus is hardly suitable for fast continuous shooting. Since the handy compact cameras simply offer more and also much better picture quality.

 

If you want to take good pictures even in difficult light situations, but do not want to lug around an SLR or system camera, then a good compact camera is just the thing for you. Because they not only have much better lenses with at least a small optical telephoto zoom, above all, they have a much larger image sensor, which makes much better photos, especially in low light.

 

Cheap compact digital cameras have now been almost completely replaced by the smartphone. They take at least as good photos and you always have it with you. But there is still a niche for compact cameras, which offer a much better picture quality than smartphones, which comes even to those of SLR and system cameras. They even come with a full-frame sensor.

 

We looked at six models that are priced under 1140 dollars. Sony and Panasonic dominate here clearly, other manufacturers play virtually no role in this class.

 

Short overview: Our recommendations

 

Panasonic Lumix LX15

Sony has long led the noble compacts with a large image sensor, but now the Panasonic Lumix LX15 is our new favourite. 4K video, very fast autofocus and excellent picture quality are synonymous with Sony – but not at the price for which Panasonic offers its LX15. It also retains the practical touchscreen.

 

Sony RX100 III

Even the former test winner Sony RX100 III is still worth a recommendation. Your advantage over our new favourite is the fold-out electronic viewfinder. In the picture quality of the photos, both donate nothing, but the RX100 III is already getting a bit old, which is mainly because it can only record videos in HD. If that does not matter, for the RX100 III is also a good choice.

 

Sony RX100V

The Sony RX100 V is the latest addition to the successful RX-100 series. It makes everything a little better, both as its predecessor and the competition. Thus, the RX100 V is currently technically the best compact in this price range – but it is also very expensive. The hefty mark-up is not worth the small quality advantage from our point of view. But who does not have to look at the money, gets with the RX100 V without question currently the ultimate of the noble compact.

 

Panasonic Lumix TZ101

If you care about a large zoom range, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ101 is the best option. It is technically quite similar to our test winner, but its 10x zoom brings sights or nature shots closer to the lens than the competition. As always, the large optical zoom but at the expense of the light intensity, accordingly, the image quality of the TZ101 in low light not quite keep up with the other candidates.

 

That’s how we tested

We looked at six current models. In addition to the two Panasonic cameras Lumix DMC-LX15 and the Lumix DMC-TZ101, we have the models from Sony RX 100 III, IV and V under the microscope.

 

An outlier in this category is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. It was the only one to break the Panasonic Sony monopoly.

 

In our test, we paid particular attention to the display, image quality, features and operation. The price also played a role, since the best compact camera should finally be affordable for most people.

 

Why a compact camera?

Who needs a compact camera today? Finally, modern smartphones take pictures with up to 20 megapixels.

 

But as soon as the lighting conditions get worse, for example at dusk, smartphone cameras are quickly overwhelmed and the shots become poor.

 

Better pictures thanks to large sensor

 

Smartphones also have the disadvantage over compact cameras that there is no zoom, the setting options are often very limited and the autofocus is hardly suitable for fast continuous shooting. Since the handy compact cameras simply offer more and also much better picture quality.

 

If you want to take good pictures even in difficult light situations, but do not want to lug around an SLR or system camera, then a good compact camera is just the thing for you. Because they not only have much better lenses with at least a small optical telephoto zoom, above all, they have a much larger image sensor, which makes much better photos, especially in low light.

 

Test winner: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15

If you frequently use a smartphone, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 will get you right the first time – your display is touch-sensitive. A fingertip is enough to instantly focus on the desired subject area and trigger the camera. If you want, you can operate the camera almost completely via the touch screen, for important functions, there are so-called “Quick” fields.

 

Huge equipment, simple operation

A touch screen, our previous frontrunner, the Sony RX100 III, not to offer. But she is waiting with a small video searcher. Practical help when the sun shines directly on the back of the display and hardly anything is visible on the screen. However, we believe that the mini-viewfinder RX100 III does not bring so much in everyday life. He is simply too small, especially for spectacle wearers.

 

Like the camera from Sony, the Panasonic LX15 is high-quality and looks chic. Both cameras are about the size of a pack of cigarettes, so they fit well in your trouser or handbag. Panasonic has provided the LX15 with a suggested grip bead, the front of the RX100 III, however, is completely smooth. The best way to keep the camera while photographing and filming like a smartphone with both hands.

 

Good results even in low light


The lens of the Panasonic LX15 zooms 3 times from 24 to 72 millimetres focal length. With the RX100 III, the zoom ranges from 24 to 70 millimetres. A minimal difference does not matter in practice. For landscape and overview shots, both cameras are very well suited, but they skimp on the telephoto zoom. Good that there is alternatively a digital zoom. This will bring you closer even closer, but at the expense of image quality.

 

The lenses of both cameras are very bright and allow you to shoot with low shutter speed or low ISO even in low light or low brightness. Sony has also donated the RX100 III an ND filter that can be switched on by pressing a button. This makes it possible to shoot in a bright environment with a large aperture, which means that then the image background is much blurred than the subject in the foreground.

 

Both Panasonic and Sony equip their precious compacts with many useful automatic functions. LX15 and RX100 III automatically detect faces and focus on them. Both cameras have an HDR automatic to record very high-contrast subjects brilliantly. Likewise, both have a panoramic automatic. You can simply swivel the camera over the scenery while holding down the shutter button.

 

In terms of smart special features, the Sony LX15 is superior, however. For example with the “Post Focus” function. Here it is determined after the recording with a fingertip on the display, whether the flower in the foreground or the church tower in the background should be sharp. In addition, the LX15 dominates “Focus Stacking”. This feature combines multiple shots with different distance settings to create an image that is sharp from front to back.

 

Fast continuous shooting and 4K video

Both the LX15 from Panasonic, as well as the RX100 III from Sony, offer a wealth of functions, which was previously reserved for full-blown SLR cameras. For example, savvy photographers use them to manually specify the aperture, shutter speed and ISO number. Even the focus can be adjusted manually – with both cameras, by the way, with a practical adjustment ring on the lens.

 

Also impressive is the burst rate, which is over 10 frames per second. Both cameras manage this equally. Thus, they are real sports guns, with the LX15 the competitor of Sony has much faster autofocus ahead. If you frequently shoot sports and action photos, you should, therefore, resort to the Panasonic LX15.

 

Even Sony can 4K – for significantly more money

 

This also applies if you want to record videos. Because the Panasonic LX15 films in 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels), the RX100 III is only on Full HD (1920 x 1080). Sony can only film the RX100 IV in 4K resolution, but it is about 230 dollars more expensive than our recommendation from Panasonic.

 

With the other video functions, there are hardly any differences: The zoom can be adjusted very sensitively with both cameras during a video recording. Exposure and autofocus will both work as desired and the sound to the movie will be recorded in stereo.

 

Also with the topic “connectivity”, both cameras give nothing. They take up contact with a smartphone via WLAN and can thus transfer images to the mobile phone or can be remotely controlled via an app. With the RX100 III, the first connection between the camera and the smart device is particularly easy because it masters NFC. But with the LX-15, pairing is also not rocket science.

 

Outstanding picture quality

Most compact cameras need an image sensor no bigger than a fingernail. In the smartphone camera, the sensor is even smaller. Quite different with the Panasonic and Sony cameras: the image sensor fills the area of ??a postage stamp. A clear advantage, because: The larger the sensor, the better the image quality – at least in theory.

 

Image editing can be adjusted manually


But even in practice, the Panasonic LX-15 shows that good pictures are not only possible with a single-lens reflex camera. It does not rustle much less than a system camera right into middle ISO regions. Even at dusk or in the dimly lit party cellar, the LX-15 still delivers sizable photos with lots of details and bright colours. All this can the Sony RX100 III but also: The differences in image quality between the two cameras are so small that you can neglect them in practice.

 

This also applies to the lenses – often the weak point of a compact camera. Both Panasonic and Sony do not skimp on the optics. They sharpen to the edge, smaller aberrations are automatically digitally corrected. Only in the wide-angle position of the zoom, the very finest details are lost at the edges of the picture. Who does not print his photos in poster size, but will not notice.

 

Ambitious photographers could rather disturb that both cameras in the default settings prepare the image data vigorously – the Panasonic LX15 a bit stronger than the RX100 III from Sony. This is not a broken leg, in both models, the image editing can be adjusted to your taste. And who wants to have all the freedom, records with both cameras in RAW format.

 

The differences between Panasonic Lumix LX 15 and the Sony RX 100 III are not great. But the Lumix LX 15 has some clever features more, has faster autofocus and can record videos in 4K. In addition, it is partly cheaper to get than Sony. Thus, it clearly offers better value for money.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX-15 in the test mirror

Almost every test editor who had the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 in his hand praises the noble compact camera. The respected online magazine Digital Photography Review (11/2016) is particularly impressed by the fast autofocus and comes to the following conclusion:

 

“A 1-inch sensor, excellent autofocus and solid 4K video make the LX15 one of the most powerful compact cameras.”

 

This is exactly how Moritz Wanke of CHIP (12/2016) sees it. He has convinced the image quality of the LX15, as well as the extensive extras including Ultra HD video and touch screen. The tester emphasizes fast autofocus. His conclusion:

 

“The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 is among the best digital cameras in its class.”

 

The Stiftung Warentest (01/2017) also looked at the LX15. She was able to inspire in all categories and got the final mark of 1.8.

 

“Extremely good compact camera, for particularly high standards.”

 

Criticism is there of almost all testers at the somewhat low battery capacity of the LX15, which only enough for about 260 shots. But the Sony RX100 III also only creates 60 more pictures with one battery charge – and only if the electronic viewfinder stays off.

 

Alternatives

Although the Panasonic LX15 with our fast autofocus and 4K video is our new favourite, that does not mean that Sony and other brands have to hide – they have other advantages, but not enough to win the test.

 

Sony RX100 III

For a long time, the Sony RX100 III was our clear favourite among the demanding compact cameras. Now the Panasonic LX15 has displaced it from the first place.

 

Still ahead of you, the RX100 III has the practical, fold-out viewfinder. If this is particularly important to you, the already somewhat outdated Sony is still a good alternative to the Panasonic LX15.

 

Portraits are also possible with her without any problems, as the autofocus with eye detection sharpens the eyes. This also works when filming. Thanks to lock-on autofocus, it creates a sharp focus, even when the subject is moving. Whether playing children or a concert of the favourite band – with the RX100 III you get everything razor-sharp.

 

Sony RX100V

The Sony RX100 V sets in comparison to its predecessors in many points again a little bit on it. This also surpasses our favourite from Panasonic. With a price of over 1140 dollars, in our view, it is simply too expensive.

 

Viewfinder and lens are the same as in the predecessor models. The sensor is now equipped with even more powerful autofocus with 315 autofocus points. It now also creates 24 continuous frames per second in full resolution and can retighten the sharpness. But above all, the picture quality has even improved a good deal during photography and even more during filming: slow-motion is possible at FullHD with a remarkable 1000 frames per second and that for a whole seven seconds, the predecessor managed only half as much.

 

All of these improvements can be royally paid by Sony. Who does not have to look at the money, gets with the RX100 V without question the currently best compact camera for normal mortals.

 

Panasonic Lumix TZ101

Do you value a wide zoom range with a strong telephoto zoom? Then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ101 is still a hot tip of ours.

 

Technically, it is closely related to the LX15, but its 10x zoom ranges from 25 to 250 millimetres. Attractions that you can not get close to on holiday are simply brought to you by the TZ101.

 

So you have at least in the picture, the opportunity to look at all the details. However, the lens is fainter than our Favoritin, in bad light, therefore, suffers the image quality something.

 

What else is there?

 

Sony RX100 IV 

If 4K video is as important to you as an electronic viewfinder, Sony’s RX100 IV is a good option. However, it costs around 220 dollars more than our favourite. But you get a super-slow-motion function and a few more shots per second more than our favourite. But that’s not worth the hefty extra charge from our point of view.

 

Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II

If you want a little more zoom, but do not want to smear the light intensity, the Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II might be worth a look. However, she did not make it to the list of recommendations because she lacks the ability to record videos in 4K resolution. In addition, since it is not significantly cheaper than our favourite from Panasonic, which is in our view the better choice.

 

Comments

Leave a Comment: