Digital Cameras

2014 Small Compact Camera Comparison Guide

2014 Small Compact Camera Comp...
Gizmag compares the feature and specifications of some of the best small compact cameras on the market
Gizmag compares the feature and specifications of some of the best small compact cameras on the market
View 39 Images
Gizmag compares the feature and specifications of some of the best small compact cameras on the market
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Gizmag compares the feature and specifications of some of the best small compact cameras on the market
All of these cameras are of a roughly comparable size and should be compact enough to fit into a small bag, if not your pocket
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All of these cameras are of a roughly comparable size and should be compact enough to fit into a small bag, if not your pocket
The Panasonic LF1 is the smallest camera in our selection, while the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the largest, and therefore potentially the most pocket-bulging
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The Panasonic LF1 is the smallest camera in our selection, while the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the largest, and therefore potentially the most pocket-bulging
The Canon Powershot G7 X is the heaviest camera in our line-up
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The Canon Powershot G7 X is the heaviest camera in our line-up
If you're really counting the weight and want to travel light, the Fujifilm XQ1 or Panasonic Lumix LF1 are the way to go.
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If you're really counting the weight and want to travel light, the Fujifilm XQ1 or Panasonic Lumix LF1 are the way to go.
The metal Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X are the most solid-feeling cameras of the bunch
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The metal Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X are the most solid-feeling cameras of the bunch
The Fujifilm XQ1 also features a considerable amount of metal in its construction
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The Fujifilm XQ1 also features a considerable amount of metal in its construction
The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X both have one-inch type sensors which are much larger than anything seen in a digital compact a few years ago
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The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X both have one-inch type sensors which are much larger than anything seen in a digital compact a few years ago
The Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 use 2/3-inch and 1/1.7-inch sensors which are still large by most compact camera standards
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The Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 use 2/3-inch and 1/1.7-inch sensors which are still large by most compact camera standards
Those bigger sensors in the Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X also boast a higher resolution (20-megapixel) for more detailed images
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Those bigger sensors in the Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X also boast a higher resolution (20-megapixel) for more detailed images
Even the 12-megapixel of the Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 should be enough for most people unless planning to crop heavily or produce very large prints
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Even the 12-megapixel of the Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 should be enough for most people unless planning to crop heavily or produce very large prints
The Olympus Stylus SH-1 features the longest zoom of our selection
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The Olympus Stylus SH-1 features the longest zoom of our selection
Because our selection of cameras use different size sensors, focal length figures are given in 35-mm-format equivalent
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Because our selection of cameras use different size sensors, focal length figures are given in 35-mm-format equivalent
The majority of the compact cameras in our selection use contrast-based autofocus systems
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The majority of the compact cameras in our selection use contrast-based autofocus systems
The Fujifilm XQ1 stands out for its hybrid system, which Fujifilm claim can can focus as quickly as 0.06 seconds
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The Fujifilm XQ1 stands out for its hybrid system, which Fujifilm claim can can focus as quickly as 0.06 seconds
The Sony RX100 III can shoot at 10 fps for 10 shots if shooting RAW, or 12 shots in JPEG
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The Sony RX100 III can shoot at 10 fps for 10 shots if shooting RAW, or 12 shots in JPEG
Despite being compacts, the manufacturer claimed top shooting speeds of some of these cameras are are up there with higher-end DSLRs
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Despite being compacts, the manufacturer claimed top shooting speeds of some of these cameras are are up there with higher-end DSLRs
Unsurprisingly, the cameras with bigger sensors have wider native ISO ranges, and are going to perform better in lower-light situations
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Unsurprisingly, the cameras with bigger sensors have wider native ISO ranges, and are going to perform better in lower-light situations
It's worth remembering that some of these ISO ranges can be expanded beyond their native advertised limits when the situation calls for it
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It's worth remembering that some of these ISO ranges can be expanded beyond their native advertised limits when the situation calls for it
Sony RX100 III offers the most comprehensive shooting options. In addition to Full HD 1080p recording at frame-rates including 60/50/24p, it can record at HD 720p video at 120/100 fps to produce smooth slow motion footage
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Sony RX100 III offers the most comprehensive shooting options. In addition to Full HD 1080p recording at frame-rates including 60/50/24p, it can record at HD 720p video at 120/100 fps to produce smooth slow motion footage
All of these cameras are capable of recording HD video, though at varying frame-rates and qualities
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All of these cameras are capable of recording HD video, though at varying frame-rates and qualities
The Olympus Stylus SH-1 uses sensor shift image stabilization while the other camera use optical stabilization
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The Olympus Stylus SH-1 uses sensor shift image stabilization while the other camera use optical stabilization
Wobbly-handed photographers, or those who are partial to shooting with slower shutter speeds, will be pleased to know that all of these compact feature image stabilization
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Wobbly-handed photographers, or those who are partial to shooting with slower shutter speeds, will be pleased to know that all of these compact feature image stabilization
The Sony RX100 III uses a clever pop-up design, which means its impressive 1,440k dot EVF only protrudes from the top of the camera when you want to use it
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The Sony RX100 III uses a clever pop-up design, which means its impressive 1,440k dot EVF only protrudes from the top of the camera when you want to use it
The Panasonic Lumix LF1 features a fixed EVF above the rear monitor.
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The Panasonic Lumix LF1 features a fixed EVF above the rear monitor.
The Sony RX100 III uses WhiteMagic technology (white subpixels) to increase brightness of its rear monitor
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The Sony RX100 III uses WhiteMagic technology (white subpixels) to increase brightness of its rear monitor
The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the true standout, because it's a monster 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 HD touchscreen
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The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the true standout, because it's a monster 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 HD touchscreen
Built-in flashes mean that any of these cameras can be used in situations where there isn't enough available light to shoot otherwise
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Built-in flashes mean that any of these cameras can be used in situations where there isn't enough available light to shoot otherwise
All of these cameras feature built-in flashes
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All of these cameras feature built-in flashes
SD cards are the most common storage media for these compact cameras, though the RX100 III can also use the likes of Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo cards
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SD cards are the most common storage media for these compact cameras, though the RX100 III can also use the likes of Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo cards
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 accepts microSD cards, and has 8 GB of internal memory
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The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 accepts microSD cards, and has 8 GB of internal memory
Most of these cameras are able to shoot both JPEG still files and the more post-processing friendly RAW
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Most of these cameras are able to shoot both JPEG still files and the more post-processing friendly RAW
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 can only shoot JPEG image files,
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The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 can only shoot JPEG image files,
Wireless capability across the board means that sharing images from these compacts will be quick and easy
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Wireless capability across the board means that sharing images from these compacts will be quick and easy
Cameras with NFC make the pairing process even easier with compatible devices
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Cameras with NFC make the pairing process even easier with compatible devices
If you're embarking on a busy day of shooting with any of these cameras, you might want to consider taking a spare battery
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If you're embarking on a busy day of shooting with any of these cameras, you might want to consider taking a spare battery
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 has the best rated battery life and should shooting for almost 400 shots
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The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 has the best rated battery life and should shooting for almost 400 shots
The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X stand out as being considerably more expensive than the other cameras in our comparison
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The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X stand out as being considerably more expensive than the other cameras in our comparison
The Panasonic LF1 is the cheapest camera in out comparison
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The Panasonic LF1 is the cheapest camera in out comparison

After looking like they'd be consigned to history by smartphones and their increasingly able cameras, compact cameras are making a comeback. With bigger sensors, vastly improved image quality, and an array of new user-friendly features, they're once more able to justify their place in your pocket or bag. But which is right for you? Gizmag compares the features and specifications of some of the best small compact cameras available in 2014.

It's impossible to single out any one small compact camera as being the best, because users will each prioritize different things. For some users it's all about size, while others want the best possible image quality or connectivity for speedy image sharing. As such we've decided to compare a selection of devices which each offer users a different compact camera experience.

The cameras we will be looking at are:

Size

All of these cameras are of a roughly comparable size and should be compact enough to fit into a small bag, if not your pocket
All of these cameras are of a roughly comparable size and should be compact enough to fit into a small bag, if not your pocket

The Panasonic LF1 is the smallest camera in our selection, while the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the largest, and therefore potentially the most pocket-bulging
The Panasonic LF1 is the smallest camera in our selection, while the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the largest, and therefore potentially the most pocket-bulging

All of these cameras are of a roughly comparable size and should be compact enough to fit into a small bag, if not your pocket. The Panasonic LF1 is the smallest, while the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the largest, and therefore potentially the most pocket-bulging.

While you'll notice the added bulk of carrying any of these cameras around in addition to your smartphone, it's still going to be a lot easier on your back than lugging around an interchangeable lens system.

Weight

The Canon Powershot G7 X is the heaviest camera in our line-up
The Canon Powershot G7 X is the heaviest camera in our line-up

If you're really counting the weight and want to travel light, the Fujifilm XQ1 or Panasonic Lumix LF1 are the way to go.
If you're really counting the weight and want to travel light, the Fujifilm XQ1 or Panasonic Lumix LF1 are the way to go.

Interestingly, it's not the largest camera which is also the heaviest, that dubious accolade instead goes to the Canon Powershot G7 X. If you're really counting the weight and want to travel light, the Fujifilm XQ1 or Panasonic Lumix LF1 are the way to go.

Build

The metal Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X are the most solid-feeling cameras of the bunch
The metal Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X are the most solid-feeling cameras of the bunch

The Fujifilm XQ1 also features a considerable amount of metal in its construction
The Fujifilm XQ1 also features a considerable amount of metal in its construction

In terms of build-quality, the metal Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X are the most solid-feeling cameras in this bunch. You're not going to want to use them to hammer a nail into a wall, but they feel like they've been built to withstand heavy use.

That said, the Olympus Stylus SH-1 and Fujifilm XQ1 aren't too far behind, and also use a considerable amount of metal in their construction. While still being well-made compacts, the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 and Panasonic LF1 feel predominantly plastic.

Sensor size

The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X both have one-inch type sensors which are much larger than anything seen in a digital compact a few years ago
The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X both have one-inch type sensors which are much larger than anything seen in a digital compact a few years ago

The Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 use 2/3-inch and 1/1.7-inch sensors which are still large by most compact camera standards
The Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 use 2/3-inch and 1/1.7-inch sensors which are still large by most compact camera standards

Sensor size is the area in which compact cameras have moved on the most in recent years. The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X both have one-inch type sensors which are much larger than anything seen in a digital compact a few years ago. This means they're able to deliver image quality close to some interchangeable lens cameras.

The Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 use 2/3-inch and 1/1.7-inch sensors which are still large by most compact camera standards. However, while the smaller 1/2.3-inch sensors of the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 and Olympus Stylus SH-1 limits image quality, it also allows them to pack much bigger optical zooms into a small package.

Megapixel count

Those bigger sensors in the Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X also boast a higher resolution (20-megapixel) for more detailed images
Those bigger sensors in the Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X also boast a higher resolution (20-megapixel) for more detailed images

Even the 12-megapixel of the Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 should be enough for most people unless planning to crop heavily or produce very large prints
Even the 12-megapixel of the Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 should be enough for most people unless planning to crop heavily or produce very large prints

Those bigger sensors in the Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X also boast a higher resolution (20-megapixel) for more detailed images. But even the 12-megapixel of the Fujifilm XQ1 and Panasonic LF1 should be enough for most people unless planning to crop heavily or produce very large prints.

Lens

The Olympus Stylus SH-1 features the longest zoom of our selection
The Olympus Stylus SH-1 features the longest zoom of our selection

Because our selection of cameras use different size sensors, focal length figures are given in 35-mm-format equivalent
Because our selection of cameras use different size sensors, focal length figures are given in 35-mm-format equivalent

Zoom lenses make these compact cameras instantly more versatile than the majority of smartphone cameras. You're able to zoom in and focus on more distant subjects, or just offer a different perspective. Because our selection of cameras use different size sensors, focal length figures are given in 35-mm-format equivalent.

All of the cameras are capable of shooting wide-angle or telephoto, with big zooms on the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 and Olympus Stylus SH-1 combining with the smaller sensors to extend into the super-telephoto territory. Variable maximum apertures mean light-gathering potential is limited at the telephoto end of the zooms.

Autofocus

The majority of the compact cameras in our selection use contrast-based autofocus systems
The majority of the compact cameras in our selection use contrast-based autofocus systems

The Fujifilm XQ1 stands out for its hybrid system, which Fujifilm claim can can focus as quickly as 0.06 seconds
The Fujifilm XQ1 stands out for its hybrid system, which Fujifilm claim can can focus as quickly as 0.06 seconds

The majority of these compact cameras use contrast-based autofocus systems. These are typically slightly slower than the hybrid systems which combine contrast and phase detection and are found in higher-end interchangeable lens systems. Of this bunch, the Fujifilm XQ1 stands out for its hybrid system, which Fujifilm claims can focus in as quickly as 0.06 seconds.

Burst rate

The Sony RX100 III can shoot at 10 fps for 10 shots if shooting RAW, or 12 shots in JPEG
The Sony RX100 III can shoot at 10 fps for 10 shots if shooting RAW, or 12 shots in JPEG

Despite being compacts, the manufacturer claimed top shooting speeds of some of these cameras are are up there with higher-end DSLRs
Despite being compacts, the manufacturer claimed top shooting speeds of some of these cameras are are up there with higher-end DSLRs

Despite being compacts, the manufacturer claimed top shooting speeds of some of these cameras are up there with higher-end DSLRs. However, not all burst speeds are created equally, with manufacturers keen to paint their cameras in the best light.

Published specs are typically for full res burst shooting, without autofocus, and are normally only for a limited number of shots. For example, the RX100 III can shoot at 10 fps for 10 shots if shooting RAW, or 12 shots in JPEG. Meanwhile, the Canon G7 X can keep going at 6.5 fps for 692 shots, but this speed is reduced to 4.4 fps with continuous autofocus.

ISO range

Unsurprisingly, the cameras with bigger sensors have wider native ISO ranges, and are going to perform better in lower-light situations
Unsurprisingly, the cameras with bigger sensors have wider native ISO ranges, and are going to perform better in lower-light situations

It's worth remembering that some of these ISO ranges can be expanded beyond their native advertised limits when the situation calls for it
It's worth remembering that some of these ISO ranges can be expanded beyond their native advertised limits when the situation calls for it

Unsurprisingly, the cameras with bigger sensors (the Sony RX100 III, Canon G7 X and Fujifilm XQ1) all have wider native ISO ranges, and are going to perform better in lower-light situations than their smaller-sensored competition.

It's worth remembering that some of these ISO ranges can be expanded beyond their native advertised limits when the situation calls for it. But dialing up the ISO too high will come at the cost of image quality, and there will be even more noise and loss of color than when shooting at the top of the native ISO range.

Video recording

Sony RX100 III offers the most comprehensive shooting options. In addition to Full HD 1080p recording at frame-rates including 60/50/24p, it can record at HD 720p video at 120/100 fps to produce smooth slow motion footage
Sony RX100 III offers the most comprehensive shooting options. In addition to Full HD 1080p recording at frame-rates including 60/50/24p, it can record at HD 720p video at 120/100 fps to produce smooth slow motion footage

All of these cameras are capable of recording HD video, though at varying frame-rates and qualities
All of these cameras are capable of recording HD video, though at varying frame-rates and qualities

As you would expect for 2014, all of these cameras are capable of recording HD video, though at varying frame-rates and qualities.

Of the selection, the Sony RX100 III offers the most comprehensive shooting options. In addition to Full HD 1080p recording at frame-rates including 60/50/24p, it can record at HD 720p video at 120/100 fps to produce smooth slow motion footage.

Image stabilization

The Olympus Stylus SH-1 uses sensor shift image stabilization while the other camera use optical stabilization
The Olympus Stylus SH-1 uses sensor shift image stabilization while the other camera use optical stabilization

Wobbly-handed photographers, or those who are partial to shooting with slower shutter speeds, will be pleased to know that all of these compact feature image stabilization
Wobbly-handed photographers, or those who are partial to shooting with slower shutter speeds, will be pleased to know that all of these compact feature image stabilization

Any wobbly-handed photographers, or those who are partial to shooting with slower shutter speeds, will be pleased to know that all of these compacts feature image stabilization. While this is mostly done optically, the Olympus Stylus SH-1 instead uses sensor shift stabilization.

Viewfinder

The Sony RX100 III uses a clever pop-up design, which means its impressive 1,440k dot EVF only protrudes from the top of the camera when you want to use it
The Sony RX100 III uses a clever pop-up design, which means its impressive 1,440k dot EVF only protrudes from the top of the camera when you want to use it

The Panasonic Lumix LF1 features a fixed EVF above the rear monitor.
The Panasonic Lumix LF1 features a fixed EVF above the rear monitor.

Pocketable compact digital cameras don't normally feature a dedicated viewfinder, but two of this selection do, giving users the chance to compose images in a more traditional manner, or when glare on the rear monitors might otherwise make it difficult.

The Sony RX100 III uses a clever pop-up design, which means its impressive 1,440k dot EVF only protrudes from the top of the camera when you want to use it. The Panasonic Lumix LF1 meanwhile features a more traditional fixed EVF above the rear monitor.

Monitor

The Sony RX100 III uses WhiteMagic technology (white subpixels) to increase brightness of its rear monitor
The Sony RX100 III uses WhiteMagic technology (white subpixels) to increase brightness of its rear monitor

The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the true standout, because it's a monster 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 HD touchscreen
The screen on the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is the true standout, because it's a monster 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 HD touchscreen

Most of these cameras feature three-inch rear LCD monitors for composing or reviewing shots. The main differences are typically resolution, whether they are a touchscreen, and if they're fixed or their angle can be changed for easier use in awkward positions or better selfie shooting. It's also worth noting the Sony and Samsung monitors use WhiteMagic technology (white subpixels) to increase brightness.

However, it's that screen on the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 which is the true standout, because it's a monster 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 HD touchscreen. This makes the compact camera look like a bit like a phone, but that's not really surprising given it runs Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) and can be used to do all the things you expect of an Android device, whether browsing the internet or running apps.

Flash

Built-in flashes mean that any of these cameras can be used in situations where there isn't enough available light to shoot otherwise
Built-in flashes mean that any of these cameras can be used in situations where there isn't enough available light to shoot otherwise

All of these cameras feature built-in flashes
All of these cameras feature built-in flashes

Built-in flashes mean that any of these cameras can be used in situations where there isn't enough available light to shoot otherwise.

Storage media

SD cards are the most common storage media for these compact cameras, though the RX100 III can also use the likes of Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo cards
SD cards are the most common storage media for these compact cameras, though the RX100 III can also use the likes of Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo cards

The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 accepts microSD cards, and has 8 GB of internal memory
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 accepts microSD cards, and has 8 GB of internal memory

SD cards are the most common storage media for these compact cameras, with a couple of exceptions. The RX100 III can also use the likes of Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, and the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 accepts microSD cards. The Android camera also has 8 GB of internal memory, but remember you'll probably be using that for apps and other files.

File types

Most of these cameras are able to shoot both JPEG still files and the more post-processing friendly RAW
Most of these cameras are able to shoot both JPEG still files and the more post-processing friendly RAW

The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 can only shoot JPEG image files,
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 can only shoot JPEG image files,

Most of these cameras are able to shoot both JPEG still files and the more post-processing friendly RAW. The exceptions are the Olympus Stylus SH-1 and Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 which can only shoot JPEG.

Wireless capabilities

Wireless capability across the board means that sharing images from these compacts will be quick and easy
Wireless capability across the board means that sharing images from these compacts will be quick and easy

Cameras with NFC make the pairing process even easier with compatible devices
Cameras with NFC make the pairing process even easier with compatible devices

Wireless capability across the board means that sharing images from these compacts will be quick and easy. Those with NFC make the pairing process even easier with compatible devices. Remote shooting using a smartphone or tablet is also possible from many of these cameras.

Battery life

If you're embarking on a busy day of shooting with any of these cameras, you might want to consider taking a spare battery
If you're embarking on a busy day of shooting with any of these cameras, you might want to consider taking a spare battery

The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 has the best rated battery life and should shooting for almost 400 shots
The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 has the best rated battery life and should shooting for almost 400 shots

The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 has the best rated battery life and should keep shooting for almost 400 shots. That's considerably more than the likes of the Canon G7 X which will only give you around 210 shots from a fully charged battery. If you're embarking on a busy day of shooting with any of these cameras, you might want to consider taking a spare battery.

Price

The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X stand out as being considerably more expensive than the other cameras in our comparison
The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X stand out as being considerably more expensive than the other cameras in our comparison

The Panasonic LF1 is the cheapest camera in out comparison
The Panasonic LF1 is the cheapest camera in out comparison

The Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X stand out as being considerably more expensive than the other cameras in our comparison. They cost around double the price of the other compacts, but as you've seen from the specification comparison, there's a reason for that.

Summing up...

If you're after a compact camera with the best image quality, you're probably going to be choosing between the Sony RX100 III and Canon Powershot G7 X. Your final decision will probably come down to whether you value the built-in EVF of the Sony, or the longer reach of the Canon more. For a more detailed comparison, you might want to check our Sony RX100 III vs. Canon G7 X head-to-head.

However, if reach and a bigger zoom are more your thing, you'll probably have been drawn towards the Olympus Stylus SH-1 or Samsung Galaxy Camera 2. While the Olympus is a traditionally styled camera with features more likely to appeal to purely photography-focused users, the Samsung has its massive screen and Android goodness.

Not to be forgotten, the Fujifilm XQ1 offers a balance of image quality, style and build-quality, while the Panasonic LF1 boasts a reasonably large sensor, a versatile zoom and also gives you the benefit of an EVF in a very pocketable camera.

What we're ultimately saying is that this guide isn't here to tell you which is the best compact camera, but instead help you recognize which features are most important to you, and which will best suit your needs.

2 comments
yawood
I know it is very difficult to choose which cameras in each manufacturer's range you will use in a comparison but I think these are mismatched. This Lumix is not the one I would have chosen. I have the Lumix DMC-TZ60 which would have been a better choice in this comparison. It is a closer price to the others, has a metal body and a super-zoom. It is a fantastic camera and a far better representative of the Lumix range in this comparison.
pmshah
I very strongly feel that you would have found something suitable in the range from Casio's offerings. By numbers - certainly not by value - they are in the top 3 sellers in Japan.