Best compact camera 2013: 35 reviewed
30th Apr 2013 | 15:00
Get the best compact digital camera for your needs
Best advanced compact cameras
There are hundreds of digital compact cameras on the market, with advanced, superzoom and rugged camera options all being available, which makes finding the right one quite tricky.
The right choice, of course, depends on what you want from your compact digital camera. Maybe you're looking for a high-end compact camera to take the place of your SLR, or perhaps you want something more basic to get a few snaps on holiday.
Whichever type you are looking for, we've pulled together a selection of what we believe are the best compact cameras on the market now.
Best compact cameras: Advanced
Price: £999/$US1,300 (around AU$1,680)
Specs: 16.3MP APS-C format CMOS II sensor, EXR Processor II, Full HD video
Fuji's replacement to its popular FinePix X100 compact camera draws on user feedback to make improvements. The Fuji FinePix X100S uses the same APS-C format sensor, but with a 16.3 megapixel resolution and a new EXR Processor II and 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern.
We liked the retro design and control arrangement of the Fuji X100. Its image quality is also good, but it is surpassed by that of the Fuji X-Pro1, which is capable of producing pictures that aren't far off those from some full-frame cameras.
Read our Fuji X100S review
Price: £479/$US600 (around AU$760)
Specs: 12MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor, 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, 7.1-28.4mm f/2-2.8 lens
Fuji says it's made 50 improvements on the X10 for the X20, including a new 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor with 12 million effective pixels and a 6 x 6 RGGB filter array pattern, which combines with an EXR Processor II. The Fuji X20 also boasts a hybrid AF system and a Digital Trans Panel in the viewfinder.
Read our Fuji X20 review
Canon Powershot G1 X
Specs: Large 14.3MP CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, swivel LCD screen
Although the zoom range is limited when compared to other Canon G-series cameras, the trump card of the Canon G1 X is its unusually large sensor. A larger sensor has more surface area to receive light, improving image quality at high sensitivities and boosting dynamic range. Interestingly, Canon has opted to stick with the 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than 3:2 as most APS-C sensors are, even though the sensor in the G1 X is roughly the same height as APS-C format.
In order to make the most of what the sensor can offer, Canon has equipped the G1 X with the latest Digic 5 processor, which promises better control over noise at high ISO sensitivities, faster operation and smoother 1080p video recording.
The 4x zoom lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 28-122mm lens on a 35mm camera, and the usual array of direct controls found on G-series cameras should make manual operation a pleasure.
Read our Canon G1 X review
Canon PowerShot G15
Specs: 12.1MP CMOS sensor, 5x zoom lens, f/1.8 aperture
At first glance, the Canon G15 looks pretty similar to the Canon G12, but there are a few significant differences. The most notable of these is the stacked or overlapping mode dial and exposure compensation dials on the top, and a new f/1.8 lens with 5x zoom.
Canon has manufactured a high quality compact camera in the shape of the Canon G15. It is capable of producing great images with bags of detail, good punchy colours and pleasing shallow depth of field effects.
Read our Canon G15 review
Nikon Coolpix A
Specs: 16.2Mp APS-C format CMOS sensor, 28mm (equivalent) f/2.8 lens, 3-inch 921,000-dot LCD
Nikon has given the Coolpix A the same 16.2-million-pixel sensor as the Nikon D7000, but it has left off the anti-aliasing (low-pass) filter to allow it to record sharper details in-camera.
Aimed at serious photographers, the Coolpix A has advanced exposure modes such as aperture priority, shutter priority and manual as well as fully automatic and scene options.
Our tests reveal that the Coolpix A can capture lots of sharp detail, on a par with an SLR, but the file write times are a little longer than we'd like and vignetting is apparent in images shot with apertures down to f/8 and in some cases f/16.
Read our Nikon Coolpix A review
Nikon Coolpix P7700
Specs: 12.2MP, 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, 7.1x zoom, 1080p video, 3-inch 921,000-dot variangle LCD
The Coolpix P7700 replaces the Nikon P7100 and sits at the top of Nikon's compact camera line-up. It's aimed at experienced photographers who want a smaller alternative to an SLR.
There's a liberal covering of control dials and buttons on the P7700's body giving quick access to features such as the shooting mode, sensitivity, white balance and exposure compensation to name just a few.
The lens offers an equivalent focal length range of 28-200mm in 35mm terms, and has a maximum aperture range of f/2.0-4.0.
Although the P7700 is capable of producing excellent images with lots of detail and nice colours, it is a little hampered by slow image processing making it unsuitable for shooting action.
Read our Nikon P7700 review
Specs: 12MP 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, i.Zuiko Digital lens, TruPic VI processor, Full HD video
The Olympus XZ-2 follows the popular high-end XZ-1, touting a 3-inch tilting touchscreen with 920,000 dots, 1080p Full HD movie capture and full manual and semi-manual exposure controls. It also boasts raw image capture and can share photos straight from the camera to social networks.
Its super-fast i.Zuiko Digital lens has to be this camera's standout feature, offering ultra-wide apertures and an impressive focal length range of 28-112mm, which sails past many of its hottest contenders, and produces sharpness straight out of the camera, which many of its peers fail to match.
Read our Olympus XZ-2 review
Ricoh GR Digital IV
Price: £435/$US550 (around AU$665)
Specs: 10MP CCD sensor, 28mm (equiv) f/1.9 lens, 1,230,000 dot 3-inch LCD screen
A pocketable camera with a high quality lens, equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, and a fast f/1.9 maximum aperture. The GR Digital IV follows in Ricoh's tradition of producing high quality compact cameras that are ideal for street photography.
Despite the compact dimensions, manual controls are easily accessible and a 3-inch LCD screen with an extremely high resolution of 1,230,000 dots has been squeezed onto the rear. Images can be shot in raw formats too.
Strangely Ricoh hasn't followed the trend of including HD video capability, the GRD IV will record video, but only at VGA resolution.
Read our Ricoh GR Digital IV review
Specs: 16.2MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, 28mm (equivalent) lens, 3-inch 1.2 million-dot LCD screen
With the GR Ricoh has done what everyone thought it should've done when it revealed the Ricoh GRX compact system camera and unveiled a small compact camera with an APS-C format sensor.
Like the Nikon Coolpix A, the GR has a sensor without an anti-aliasing filter. This should enable it to record sharper details in camera.
Although the Ricoh GR's focusing speed seems pretty good we have reservations about the write times of raw files, but we hope to be reassured when we get a full production sample in for testing.
Read our hands on Ricoh GR review
Specs: 12.4MP, 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, 3.3x optical zoom, 1080p video, 3-inch, 614,000 dot variangle screen
The Samsung EX2F improves on the Samsung EX1 by adding Wi-Fi capability for easy image sharing, boosting the pixel count from 10MP to 12MP and increasing the maximum aperture of the 24-80mm (equivalent) lens from f/1.8 to f/1.4.
Two dials on the top of the camera make selecting the shooting mode and changing key settings such as the drive mode very quick and easy. The function (Fn) provides a quick route to most other important features.
Our tests found that the Samsung EX2F is a very capable compact camera that delivers high-quality images with plenty of detail at the lower sensitivity settings, and natural colour. It's Wi-Fi connectivity is also well integrated so its easy to set up and use. You can share images on Facebook in next to no time.
Read our Samsung EX2F review
Specs: 24.3MP Xmor CMOS full-frame sensor, 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss T* coated lens, Full HD video
On the Sony RX1, the manufacturer has stashed a 35mm format full-frame sensor and a fixed length, 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss T* coated lens inside a compact body. It also features a new Bionz processor, which enables Full HD video recording and sensitivity capabilities from ISO 50 to ISO 102,400.
The Sony DSC-RX1 produces superb images, with a fantastic amount of detail, colour and dynamic range. It really is the best image quality you'll get in something of this size. Of course, you'll have to be prepared to pay a lot for this ultimate combination of quality and portability, not just in terms of asking price, but also in terms of inflexibility.
Read our Sony RX1 review
Specs: 20.2MP Exmoor CMOS sensor, 3.6x zoom, 1080p video, Bionz processor, f/1.8-4.9 lens
Though it's a relative small compact camera, the Sony RX100 has a larger than average sensor. In fact its 20.2MP 1-inch CMOS device is the same physical size as the one in the Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1, which are compact system cameras.
We love the build quality of the RX100 and it provides all the controls that demanding enthusiasts expect, plus the ability to record raw files. We especially like the control ring around the 28-100mm (equivalent) f/1.8-4.9 lens that can be used to adjust a selection of features including aperture.
Our tests reveal that the RX100 performs well across the sensitivity range (ISO 125-6400) and it produces, bright punchy images that aren't excessively vibrant.
Read our Sony RX100 review
Best superzoom and bridge cameras
Sometimes you don't want to lug around a DSLR and an assortment of lenses - you want one camera and one lens that does it all.
This means a feature set that cherry picks the best that a typical DSLR has to offer, including manual control and preferably the ability to shoot in raw format as well as JPEG, along with a lens that offers a very broad focal range, so it won't matter that it can't be swapped.
Enter the superzoom camera, also known as an ultra zoom or bridge camera - so called because it bridges the gap between a point and shoot compact and an all bells and whistles DSLR, in terms of handling and feature set, at least.
Best DSLR: top cameras by price and brand
For this reason, superzooms tend to closely resemble DSLRs in terms of look, build and - to an extent - handling, but feature smaller image sensors and, partly because of this, afford physically smaller lenses.
While not a replacement for a DSLR then, the advantage here is that the cameras can offer a very broad focal range; one that, if you were to try and achieve similar with a DSLR, would make for a prohibitively expensive and awkwardly unwieldy combo.
The larger physical size of a bridge camera or superzoom when compared with a snapshot camera may deter some, but there's a lot more creative versatility here in terms of framing choices. A case in point: many models also offer tilt and swivel LCD screens as well as optical or electronic viewfinders. Again, with a bridge camera there is more choice and more options for the photo enthusiast.
So if you are after one jack-of-all-trades digital camera - either instead of a DSLR, or perhaps as a less expensive back up - and you value convenience and flexibility as much as image quality and pixel count, then a bridge or superzoom camera could be your ideal companion. So here we're shining the spotlight on the best of some recent releases.
Specs: 12MP CMOS sensor, 26x optical zoom,1080p video, 3-inch, 460k dot tilting screen
Looking for the ultimate overall bridge camera, and less bothered about just grabbing the longest lens? Separating this 26x optical zoom model from the herd - its focal range running from 24-624mm in 35mm terms - is a rock-solid build reminiscent of the semi-pro DSLR it resembles in shape and form, plus rubberised body armour that aids a firm grip.
Oddly it not only looks gorgeous, but smells great too, the zoom coming with a rubber surround to prevent slippage in the heat of the action. Given that this is a premium product in Fuji's pro/enthusiast photography range, the cost of the Fuji X-S1 is neither cheap nor prohibitively pricey, particularly when it's now being touted for £200 less than the original asking price.
The Fuji X-S1 wins our Best superzoom camera award.
Read our Fujifilm X-S1 review
Fuji FinePix HS30 EXR
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 30x optical zoom, 1080p video, 3-inch, 460k dot screen
Fuji's 16MP FinePix HS30 EXR, denoting both inclusion of a 30x optical zoom - which can be artificially extended to 60x - and a triple-use proprietary 'EXR' sensor, has a lot going for it. Its immediate appeal as you heft it from its box also owes something to a sturdy DSLR-like build, plus a lens barrel that can be extended and precisely adjusted by hand, as with a DSLR proper.
It's a jack-of-all-trades camera, and happily appears to have mastered many of them from the outset. A lithium ion battery, 920k dot resolution electronic viewfinder and tilting LCD screen are improvements. Add in the ability to shoot raw and JPEG, CMOS-shift image stabilisation, f/2.8 maximum aperture, a level gauge to ensure straight horizons without a tripod, plus the ability to manual focus during video - here Full HD - and there's not much to dislike.
Sony Cyber-shot HX200V
Specs: 18.2MP CMOS sensor, 30x optical zoom, 1080p video, 3-inch, 921.6k dot screen
Resembling a downsized DSLR, dimensions in part dictated by a big and bold optically stabilised 30x zoom, here stretching to a 35mm equivalent 810mm at the telephoto end, the HX200 is Sony's flagship bridge camera. While in truth its audience is pretty broad, the included GPS facility - whereby images can be tagged with location data - will appeal to travellers as much as families and photo enthusiasts.
Build quality feels substantial, and thanks to a moulded handgrip the camera is reassuringly chunky. Plus, if you don't mind a painterly appearance to the end result - due to processing smoothing the usual blocky appearance of pixels - zoom capability can be digitally extended to 60x. The zoom is operated either via a lever or by twisting the lens ring, which prompts a mechanised response yet delivers more precise control.
Read our Sony Cyber-shot HX200V review
Nikon Coolpix P510
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 42x optical zoom, 1080p video, 3-inch, 921k dot tilting screen
Trumping its wimpy-by-comparison 36x optical zoom predecessor the Nikon P500 with its new improved 42x zoom, the Nikon P510 is an amateur paparazzi's dream, courtesy of an ultra-wide 24-1000mm equivalent focal length. For that, a £400/$US400 asking price doesn't feel too bad. Again, the build is 'DSLR lite', the zoom supported by lens-shift rather than sensor-shift image stabilisation, while a 16 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor lies at its core. Performance is enhanced by an Expeed C2 image processor.
Slightly more exciting is, once again, a tilting LCD screen - this time of the 3-inch, respectably high 921k-dot variety, which can be angled up or down but not swung out parallel to the body. Naturally Full HD video shooting is also included, while like its Canon SX40 HS rival the ISO range tops out at a modest ISO 3200, and, doing battle with the Sony HX200V, a GPS antenna sits over the lens barrel and pop-up flash. This means, unlike the Fuji X-S1, there's no space for a hotshoe. For sports fans, continuous burst shooting of up to 7fps is offered, which is better than most entry-level DSLRs at its price.
Read about the Nikon Coolpix P510
Canon Powershot SX50 HS
Specs: 12.1MP, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 50x optical zoom, 1080p video, 2.7-inch, 460,000-dot variangle screen
Although it has the same pixel count as the Canon SX40 HS that it replaces the Canon Powershot SX50 HS makes a huge leap forward with its focal length range as it features a 50x zoom lens. This optic has a focal length equivalent to a 24-1200mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f/3.4-65.
This lens means the camera is suitable for a huge range of photographic situations, from cramped interiors to distant wildlife, but if the telephoto range isn't quite enough it can be extended digitally to a100x zoom, giving the equivalent of a 2400mm lens.
As well as the ability to shoot in shutter priority, aperture priority and manual exposure mode the SX50 HS can record images in raw format, making it even more attractive to experienced photographers. Less experienced users are also catered for though as there is a host of automatic exposure modes as well as JPEG recording.
On the whole images from the Canon SX50 HS impress, having plenty of detail, good exposure and pleasantly vibrant colours.
Read our Canon SX50 HS review
Price: £110/$US165 (around AU$168)
Specs: 16.6MP CCD sensor, 21x optical zoom, 720p video, 3-inch, 230k dots screen
Want an ultra zoom but on a tight budget, and not bothered about too many manual features or enthusiast satiating bells and whistles? Although its styling gives a nod to a DSLR, this 16 megapixel Olympus compact is in fact one of the smallest cameras in its class, with dimensions when dormant that enable it to be squeezed into a roomier jacket pocket.
That said, its 21x optical zoom - a range that travel zoom pocket compacts can now match - does appear a tad weedy in the company of such colossus as Nikon's 42x zoom P510, with the Olympus's focal range stretching 25-525mm.
There are some interesting features here, if, arguably, they aren't essential ones. These include Olympus's Magic Filters digital effects - where the manufacturer has led and others have followed - a panorama mode that automatically stitches three images together - not as flash as Sony's machine gun-like burst of images in 3D or 2D Sweep Panorama mode - plus a software-enhanced 3D mode that overlaps two images taken at marginally different angles, with results viewable only on a 3D TV.
Read our Olympus SP-620UZ review
Best travel compacts
Nikon Coolpix S6400
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 12x optical zoom , Full HD video
The Nikon Coolpix S6400 appears to have just about everything you want from a digital compact camera of its class. With a 12x optical zoom, 3-inch 460,000-dot touchscreen, 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, Full HD video recording, a host of direct controls, 20 scene modes, small, lightweight body and a modest price tag, what more could you ask for?
The Nikon S6400 does a number of things pretty well and offers a lot of flexibility, from its wide range of creative filters to its responsive touchscreen, accurate AF system on down to the all-important thing: great image quality.
Read our Nikon Coolpix S6400 review
Samsung Galaxy Camera
Specs: 16MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 21x optical zoom, Full HD video, Wi-Fi and 3G
It's not really a surprise that Samsung, a company that makes both Android smartphones and dedicated cameras, should decide to merge the best aspects of these two devices to create the Samsung Galaxy Camera.
The combination of a compact camera-sized sensor and a 21x optical zoom lens in a relatively thin body with a huge (by camera standards) touchscreen is very enticing. And an Android operating system and Wi-Fi tools stand out from the crowd. The good news is that this isn't all window dressing - the Samsung Galaxy Camera delivers the goods.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Camera review
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
Specs: 12MP CMOS sensor, 20x image stabilised optical zoom, 1080p video, GPS
Sporting a 20x zoom lens offering an angle of view equivalent to a 25-500mm lens on a 35mm camera, the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS should be very well equipped for those who wish to travel light. A 12MP rear-illuminated CMOS sensor, coupled with the latest DIGIC 5 image processor, enables this camera to take great quality images, even in low light. The image stabiliser system will also help with taming camera shake when shooting at low shutter speeds.
Full HD video can be recorded and output via the built-in HDMI interface and global positioning information can be recorded for sharing on image and video sharing websites. Advanced photographers will also appreciate the inclusion of manual exposure options, whereas a wide range of automatic shooting options are also included for those who are less technically inclined.
The Canon Powershot SX260 HS sweeps our Best mid-range compact camera trophy.
Read the Canon SX260 HS review
Sony Cyber-shot HX20V
Price: £250/$US380 (around AU$382)
Specs: 18MP CMOS Sensor, 20x optical zoom, 1080p video at 50fps, GPS
An 18MP Exmor R sensor promises excellent quality low light images, despite the relatively high resolution. A 20x optical zoom lens providing an angle of view equivalent to a 35-500mm lens on a 35mm camera should cover most photographic situations when travelling.
High quality Full HD 50p videos can be recorded, and a GPS function is included for tagging images with your position. Plenty of artistic picture effects and easy creative options are also included to get your creativity flowing.
Read our Sony HX20V review
Specs: 16.2MP, 21x zoom, GPS and WiFi enabled
One of Samsung's Smart Camera range, the WB850F is aimed at travellers who want a versatile camera and as such it has a Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan lens with a 21x zoom giving an equivalent focal length range of 23-483mm.
In addition to being WiFi enabled so images can be shared via Facebook, Picasa and Photobucket or by emailing emailed direct from the camera, the WB850F also has GPS technology built-in. There's also a 3-in 614,000-dot AMOELD screen which provides a nice clear view of the image being composed in all but very bright light.
Generally the WB850F produces nice, vibrant images with plenty of punch, but it can struggle to reproduce the full tonal range of some reds, making them too intense and uniform.
Read the Samsung WB850F review
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 12.5x zoom, take still images while recording HD video, dual Image Stabilisation
Although a 12.5x zoom range may seem quite modest when compared to other travel compacts on offer, the 24mm wide angle will certainly be handy for shots in cramped conditions, or large buildings you may encounter on your travels.
Just like many other travel-orientated compact cameras, GPS tracking is included and a rear-illuminated 16MP CMOS sensor should provide decent quality in low light conditions.
Unique to this camera is the ability to take still images at the same time as recording video clips, enabling you to capture high quality stills to complement your high definition video.
Read the Olympus SH-25MR announcement
Panasonic Lumix TZ30/ZS20
Specs: 14.1MP CMOS sensor, 20x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, touchscreen interface, 3D still images
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 (or Panasonic Lumix ZS20 in the US) replaces the TZ20 (ZS10) as Panasonic's flagship TZ camera and pushes the zoom range from 16x to 20x, with a focal length equivalence of 24-480mm.
In other respects the TZ30 is very like the TZ20 having the same touchscreen LCD display, GPS technology and a raft of automated shooting modes as well as more advanced options for experienced photographers.
However, HD video can be shot in 1080p at 50 frames per second rather than the TZ20's 1080 interlaced. And, although the sensor is still a 14MP 1/2.33-inch device, it has been redesigned to produce cleaner images across the sensitivity range. There's a lot packed into this relatively small camera.
Read our Panasonic TZ30 review
Fujifilm FinePix F770 EXR
Specs: 16MP EXR CMOS sensor, 20x optical zoom, ISO 12,800, 1080p video, 8fps high speed continuous shooting
If you've ever struggled to capture the perfect shot of Minky The Whale jumping through a hoop at Sea World, then the Fuji F770 EXR has the solution. It is capable of taking full resolution shots at a blistering pace of eight frames per second, and if you wish to share where the image was taken via popular image sharing services, GPS information can be recorded too.
The rear-illuminated 16MP EXR CMOS sensor has a few tracks up its sleeve too. It can be optimised to take high resolution 16MP images, or images with improved dynamic range at reduced resolution.
By combining neighbouring pixels, sensitivities of up to ISO12,800 are also possible, making this camera ideal for shooting with in adverse conditions.
Read the Fujifilm FinePix F770 EXR review
Best waterproof and rugged cameras
Rugged or waterproof compact cameras allow you to take photographs in places that you wouldn't dare use a normal camera. They are a great choice for beach holidays and ideal for families with children that might want to have a go at taking a photograph. Here are some of the best around.
Canon PowerShot D20
Specs: 12.1MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
Canon's rough-and-ready PowerShot provides a good range of beginner-friendly photography features, as well as advanced camera technologies. Along with intuitive point-and-shoot modes, there's a selection of underwater shooting options to make aquatic photo capturing a stress-free experience. Some handling issues – both underwater and on dry land - take a bit of the shine off this camera's overall performance. But what this compact lacks in speed, it makes up for in image quality.
The build quality and ability of this camera to produce consistently well-exposed, detailed images can't be faulted, and additional features such as built-in GPS and Full HD video mode broaden the Canon D20's appeal. It's got a lot to offer, but if you're after an everyday rugged all-rounder, some similarly priced rivals may offer a more comprehensive package.
Specs: 12.1MP 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor, 4.6x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 2.7-inch screen
One of the higher-priced rugged compact cameras, the Panasonic FT4 is a feature-packed compact with a superb level of protective attributes. Waterproof to a depth of 12m, the Panasonic Lumix FT4 enables you to explore greater depths than with many if its competitors, plus it's shockproof if dropped from a height of up to 2m, and freeze-proof down to -10C (14F).
Built-in GPS, plus a compass, altimeter and barometer all add to the Panasonic Lumix FT4's appeal for adventure-bound photographers, while Full HD movie recording and a respectable all-round image performance makes this a decent choice for active families in search of a reliable camera, with the ability to take more punishment than your average compact.
Read our Panasonic FT4 review
Sony Cyber-Shot TX20
Specs: 16.2MP 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor, 8x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
This svelte little camera is worlds apart from many of its rivals in terms of looks. The Sony TX20's petite profile - being just 17.9mm thick – coupled with its sleek lines makes this camera perfectly pocketable. The sliding front cover is designed to offer some added protection for the lens when the camera's powered down, and has the added bonus of ensuring that the front panel remains perfectly flat when not in use.
The touchscreen interface may not be for everyone, and it limits this rugged camera's usefulness when trying to operate it with gloved hands, but its general responsiveness impresses, and the on-screen controls make the Sony Cyber-Shot TX20 simple to operate. It may not be as rugged as some of its beefier rivals, but the Sony TX20 is a solid choice for photographers who want extra peace of mind - and style - when out and about.
Read our Sony TX20 review
Fujifilm FinePix XP170
Specs: 14MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 2.7-inch screen
In spite of its lower price point, the Fujifilm Finepix XP170 is brimming with impressive features, including a very good Full HD movie mode, built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. Distinctive, chunky styling ensures a firm grip on the camera, and added extras such as an LED light aid low-light shooting.
It's not perfect in every aspect, but the Fuji XP170 impresses with its ability to reproduce lifelike, faithfully coloured images – including seamless auto-stitched panoramas – and with its extensive battery life, despite some of the potentially power-sapping features it has to offer.
Specs: 12MP 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
This budget-busting rugged compact camera may stretch your resources, but with the technology and features the Olympus TG-1 has to offer, it more than earns its price tag. In addition to some seriously impressive rough specifications, the Olympus TG-1 boasts a fast f/2.0 lens, built-in GPS and little added extras such as a removable lens surround that enables you to attach optional accessories.
No-nonsense styling and an innovative Tap Control feature combine with artistic options such as Olympus's popular Magic Art filters to produce a camera that's as tough and practical as it is creative. A top-notch macro mode, great handling and decent image quality under a range of conditions sweeten the deal.
Read our Olympus TG-1 review
Nikon Coolpix AW100
Specs: 16MP 1/2.3-inch RGB CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, 3-inch screen
Nikon's first 'All-Weather' compact camera boasts a decent range of automated features that make it simple to pick up and start shooting with right away. Although its launch price of £329.99 in the UK and $US379.95 in the US puts it towards the top end of this sector of the market, you can currently pick up the Nikon Coolpix AW100 online for around £100/$US80 less, thanks to its having been around for a little while.
Nonetheless, Full HD movies, built-in GPS and a digital compass, plus useful 'Action Control', are all features that ensure the Nikon AW100 can hold its own among its contemporaries. Overall, it's an attractive prospect that strikes a good balance between rugged features and everyday performance.
Read our Nikon Coolpix AW100 review
Best all-rounder cameras
Nikon Coolpix S3300
Specs: 16MP CCD sensor, 6x optical zoom, 720p HD video, 2.7-inch screen
This slim, metal bodied camera has a 6x optical zoom lens squeezed into a body only 19.5mm thick, which makes it ideally pocketable. The 16MP CCD sensor should provide ample resolution for producing large prints, and the Vibration Reduction system will help to tame camera shake.
Plenty of automatic features are provided to aid creativity without oodles of technical know-how. A set of 18 scene modes cover camera settings for common picture taking scenarios, and the Smart Portrait System provides a plethora of automatic detection technologies to enable foolproof people pictures.
Canon IXUS 230 HS/Canon ELPH 310 HS
Price: £180/US$375 (around AU$275)
Specs 12.1MP CMOS sensor, 8x image stabilised zoom, 720p HD video
This slim, stylish, metal bodied camera sports an Image Stabilised 8x zoom lens and delivers excellent quality images, even at high ISO sensitivities thanks to the implementation of Canon's HS system. The same 12.1MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 processor found in other Canon HS cameras work together to produce cleaner, sharper images, fast response times and good dynamic range.
Being an IXUS, it is designed with point and shoot photographers in mind and is very simple to get to grips with. 720P HD videos can be recorded via the direct recording buttong on the rear and a selection of art filters expand creative opportunities.
The Canon IXUS 230 HS wins our Best entry-level compact camera award.
Read our Canon IXUS 230 HS review
Price: £100/$US190 (around AU$152)
Specs 14.2MP sensor, 5x optical zoom, 26mm wide angle, dual image display
This budget marvel has an extra 1.5-inch LCD screen on the front, to aid taking self portraits. This is a great feature for those travelling on their own, or as a couple who might be a little scared to trust a stranger with their gadgets when trying to take a picture with themselves in it. It can also show animations to keep little ones' attention when you switch on the Children mode
A comprehensive range of image effects, a video mode and an in-camera editing function all add to what is a very fun camera to use, for a very reasonable price.
Read our Samsung PL120 review