Best compact camera 2013: 36 reviewed
15th Aug 2013 | 13:46
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: £1,000/US$1,300 (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: £480/US$600 (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
Specs: 10.1MP sensor, 3.8x zoom, 24mm wide angle, full manual control
The Panasonic LX7 only has the same 10.1MP resolution of the preceding Panasonic LX5. However, the new model boasts a redesigned, high-sensitivity CMOS image sensor that claims better dynamic range and increased low-light performance.
Around the front there's direct control for aperture, thanks to a retro-style aperture ring on the lens. On-lens adjustments are also available for focusing modes and image aspect ratios. Up on top, there's a fully-featured shooting mode dial that includes 'intelligent' auto, access to scene modes, manual PASM controls and two custom shooting settings.
The f/1.4-2.3 zoom lens gives an effective 24mm wide-angle focal length. The downside is that it's only a 3.8x zoom and is lacking at the telephoto end, equivalent to just 90mm.
Read our Panasonic LX7 review
Ricoh GR Digital IV
Price: £435/US$550 (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
What is a bridge camera?
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.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX300
Specs: 20.4MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 50x zoom with 24-1200mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
With a 50x optical zoom encased within a large, DSLR-styled body, this sophisticated Sony bridge camera manages to deliver what most superzooms don't: namely consistently sharp results handheld at maximum telephoto setting.
Here it provides a 35mm equivalent focal range of an ultra-wide 24-1200mm if shooting in standard 4:3 digital photo aspect ratio, or 26-1300mm if opting for 16:9, as when shooting video. Maximum aperture is a reasonably bright f/2.8, and at the widest setting, close ups down to 1cm are achievable.
The Sony HX300 also holds its own among rivals with a tilting 3-inch 921k-dot resolution backplate LCD plus EVF above, while the manual zoom will please those wanting a DSLR-type handling experience. Add a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens to cut down flare and reflection and the only thing weedy about the Sony HX300 is the physically diminutive 1/2.3-inch sensor, though it is a 20.4 megapixel CMOS offering.
Surprisingly given the overall sophistication, the camera omits a raw shooting option, suggesting a family user rather than photo enthusiast.
Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR
Specs: 16MP 1/2-inch EXR CMOS II sensor, 42x optical zoom with 24-1000mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Though not inexpensive, this attractively sturdy DSLR-styled bridge camera backs up its rugged good looks with a 42x optical zoom.
The Fuji offers a focal range the equivalent of a broad 24-1000mm in 35mm terms, wedded to a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor, which, again, is physically larger than those found in most compact cameras.
Add a promised 0.05-second autofocus speed thanks to a hybrid AF system (phase detection plus contrast detection), articulated 3-inch 920K dot LCD screen, a respectable if modest f/2.8 maximum aperture plus a (slightly weedy) 0.26-inch eye level electronic viewfinder, and this is a camera that holds enthusiast appeal.
Full manual control, the ability to shoot raw as well as JPEG formats, 11fps burst shooting plus the expected inclusion of Fuji Film Simulation modes bolsters our impression of a serious, all-encompassing contender.
Kodak PixPro AZ521
Price: £250 (around US$390/AU$425)
Specs: 16.38MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 52x zoom with 24-1248mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
One of the first launches from new Kodak camera brand license holder JK Imaging hits the ground running by virtue of boasting a 52x optical zoom and requisite DSLR-styling for a budget price. This comes coupled to a 16.38 effective megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor.
Gone is the former 'EasyShare' series branding, so now in its place we have the more serious-sounding 'PixPro'.
OK, so we don't get a tilting LCD screen, Wi-Fi or built-in GPS here, but it's really all about that lens, in offering an ultra-broad focal range of 24-1248mm in 35mm terms and maximum f/2.8 aperture.
Like the Sony HX300, it's possible to get clear results very near maximum zoom when shooting handheld, though here it requires a couple of shots to be on the money. However, when shooting wide, detail and colours are as well refined and saturated as you'd expect of any device bearing a Kodak logo. It's a surprisingly good first effort.
Nikon Coolpix L820
Specs: 16.79MP 1/2.3-inch back illuminated CMOS sensor, 30x zoom with 22.5-675mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
The Nikon L820 steps up from the 26x reach of its Nikon L810 predecessor in offering a 30x optical zoom. This translates into a focal range that's the equivalent of an ultra wide angle 22.5-675mm in 35mm terms, and while a maximum lens aperture of f/3 might not set the world alight, it's adequate.
The budget pricing is reflected slightly by the fact that four AA batteries provide up to 320 shots' worth of power, but this adds solidity to the build, which helps when shooting handheld towards the extremities of the telephoto end.
Otherwise we get a 16 megapixel effective resolution from a 16.79MP backlit 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. Like the 26x zoom Nikon L320, the Nikon L820 features a fixed 3-inch back screen and will only shoot JPEG format stills. But we do benefit from Full HD video here and the LCD offers a better 920k-dot resolution.
While it may not match the Sony HX300 for consistency, with the Nikon L820 it is possible to achieve sharp results at full zoom too - just not with the same regularity.
Read our Nikon Coolpix L820 review
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Specs: 12.1MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 50x zoom with 24-1200mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
The Canon SX50 HS naturally replaced its 40x zoom Canon SX40 forebear, and as the model number indicates it offers a 50x optical zoom - formerly one of the longest reaches on the market - for your photographic pleasure.
While that impresses, less startling is the f/3.4 maximum aperture. Still, as well as additional lens reach compared to its predecessor, it now records raw files as well as JPEGs. We also get familiar DSLR-type styling plus, helpfully, an articulated 2.8-inch LCD monitor offering a 461k-dot resolution.
As well as composition and review using the back screen, an electronic viewfinder enables eye-level shooting, though we missed the lack of an eye sensor. Despite the small sensor this Canon camera is capable of delivering bags of detail.
For low light work the images remain usable up to and including ISO 1600, only beginning to drop off in quality at ISO 3200, which is acceptable in the Canon's class. As with most superzooms, image stabilisation does a very good job of preventing image blur, but at the furthest reach of the optical telephoto end of the lens, you will need a steady hand.
Read our Canon PowerShot SX50 HS review
Specs: 14MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 40x zoom with 22.4-896mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Olympus' flagship AA battery-powered bridge/superzoom camera succeeds the SP-810UZ and delivers a 40x optical zoom (as opposed to its predecessor's 36x) with an equivalent focal range of 22.4mm to 896mm.
This ensures that it's the bridge model starting out the widest in the current market. Said zoom comes supported by dual image stabilisation, low light sensitivity up to ISO 6400, plus Olympus' Multi-Motion Movie IS for steady results even if walking while filming.
Like all the others here, we get a 3-inch LCD screen, offering up a 460k-dot resolution, plus a 1cm macro option. Sequential shooting is offered up to 10fps, though at three megapixels, but what makes this model stand out from the crowd is the 10 Magic Filters onboard, digital effects that include the less familiar day-glo 'pink' option along with Miniature and Pop Art.
Compatibility with wireless Eye-Fi media cards and 43MB internal memory round off the package, but really it's all about that zoom.
Fuji FinePix SL1000
Specs: 16MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 50x zoom with 24-1200mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Classic DSLR styling aside, the main talking point here is the Fuji SL1000's whopping 50x optical zoom. This offers the equivalent focal range of an ultra wide 24-1200mm on a 35mm film camera of old, with an f/2.9 maximum lens aperture for low light/shallow depth-of-field shots.
Add to this a tilting 3-inch, 920k dot LCD screen, back-illuminated 16 megapixel sensor - even if it's a small-ish 1/2.3 inches - plus ISO 12800 maximum light sensitivity and the ability to shoot raw as well as JPEG files.
There's also an EVF, activated via an ultra-responsive eye sensor. An enthusiasts' dream perhaps, yet one with budget pricing? We thought so, despite a few handling niggles.
Image quality was excellent overall (for a bridge model) even if, as expected, we see noise intruding into shots from ISO 800 upwards.
Nikon Coolpix L320
Specs: 16MP 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor, 26x zoom with 22.5-585mm (equivalent) focal length, 720p video
Baby brother to the Nikon L820, this 16 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CCD sensored camera doesn't field as broad a focal range as some superzooms - and in present company a 26x reach reads as modest. Nevertheless, this does provide a creatively comprehensive 22.5-585mm equivalent reach in 35mm terms.
Again the design hints at its maker's acclaimed DSLR range, and all for a relatively low asking price.
That budget buys us a camera with a top light sensitivity setting of ISO 1600 and fixed 3-inch LCD screen with 230k dot resolution, and while there's no Wi-Fi built in, the Nikon L320 is compatible with Eye-Fi X2 wireless cards.
In a nutshell this is an above par entry-level superzoom that should suit anyone on a small budget shooting JPEG-only files, who requires the power of a big lens reach.
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
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/US$380 (around AU$380)
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: 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 $379.95 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/US$80 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/US$190 (around AU$150)
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