Best Compact Cameras 2013
Looking to buy a new compact digital camera and want to know what the very best compact camera models we've tested so far this year are? Then you're in the right place. Here are our top five best compact cameras of the past year by review score. For added convenience, we've also indicated the type of user who might benefit most from each of the models listed.
All the cameras we've listed here have scored over 90%, which means they've earned a WhatDigitalCamera.com 'Gold' award - our equivalent of an Oscar award. Put simply they're the best compact cameras on the market today.
Best compact camera for: Outdoor and underwater photography enthusiasts looking for a camera that's built tough
If you're looking for a compact camera that can get wet and stand up to the kind of treatment that would be the ruin of any regular compact then look no further than the Olympus TG-2.
In terms of toughproofing, the TG-2 is waterproof to 15m, freezeproof to -10c, shockproof to 2.1m and crushproof to 100kg. Beneath all this external armour the TG-2 takes a pretty good picture too, with the 12MP CMOS sensor working with Olympus' TruePic VI image sensor to produce very good results, especially underwater where the TG-2 blows all of its nearest rivals away.
On the front of the camera the TG-2 gets a 4x optical zoom that offers the 35m focal range equivalent of 25-100mm, while on the back is a 610k-dot OLED display that's the brightest and sharpest in its class.
Stir in an Aperture-priority mode, a Super Macro mode that lets you get as close as 1cm away from your subject, plus the ability to record 1080p Full HD and 240fps high-speed movies and the TG-2 is an excellent choice for those looking for a ruggedised compact that can faithfully capture all the action and survive to tell the tale.
Review Score: 92%
Best compact camera for: Enthusiasts looking for an advanced compact that delivers exceptional image quality
Six hundred and fifty quid might seem like an awful lot of money to spend on a compact, but if there's a camera that warrants it, it's the RX100 II.
The RX100 II is the sucessor to the RX100, which featured in last year's round-up of the best compacts. As with the original it's built around a 1-inch sensor with an effective resolution of 20.2MP.
The newer model uses a backlit sensor though for enhanced low-light performance. In addtion, the newer model also benefits from built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and a new acessory port hotshoe.
Elsewhere, the RX100 II follows the same winning template of the original; on the front you'll find a Carl Zeiss 4x zoom that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 28-100mm, complete with a super fast maximum aperture of f/1.8 at 28mm.
Elsewhere, you get a 3in / 1.2m-dot LCD monitor, 1080p Full HD movie recording, full manual control and the ability to shoot Raw images. Suddenly that £650 price tag doesn't seem quite so high anymore...
Review Score: 93%
Best compact camera for: Travellers looking for a small camera with a big zoom, integrated GPS and built-in Wi-Fi
Thanks to their powerful zooms and pocketable size, ‘travel compacts' have been an increasingly popular choice in recent years - and not just with the jet set either.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ40 is a well-built and generously featured travel compact that comes equipped with a 20x optical zoom that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 24-480mm, neatly complemented by Panasonic's own Power O.I.S (Optical Image Stabilisation) sensor-shift technology to help keep your images sharp at extended telephoto settings and slower shutter speeds.
Behind the zoom is a more than capable 18.1MP MOS sensor that delivers excellent image quality, while the back is adorned with a super sharp 3-inch, 920k-dot LCD display.
The big new addition the TZ40 enjoys over its predecessors, however, is built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology that allows you to upload, share or even email you images direct from the camera without the need for a desktop computer or any cables.
Overall, the TZ40 is a serious contender for being the best travel compact currently on the market.
Review Score: 91%
Best compact camera for: Enthusiasts looking for a manually operated advanced compact with an optical viewfinder
The Fuji X20 succeeds the hugely popular X10 as Fuji's flagship advanced compact.
New additions for the latest model include an all-new 2/3-inch, 12MP X-Trans CMOS sensor that has enabled Fuji to remove the anti-aliasing filter, which in turn allows the camera to produce sharper images.
Also new is the introduction of phase-detection AF pixels on the sensor to speed up focusing times, while the latest generation of EXR sensor helps to tone down noise and enhance overall image quality in low-light.
As with its predecessor, the X20 is a wonderfully tactile camera that, thanks largely to its manuallly operated zoom and bright optical viewfinder, is an absolute joy to use.
If you're looking for a super stylish advanced compact that's big on retro charm, crammed with cutting edge technology and more than able to take a fantastic image, the X20 is the best there is.
Review Score: 91%
Best compact camera for: Lottery winners and those with bulging wallets who want the ultimate full-frame compact camera
Despite being priced well outside the reach of most people's wallets, the Sony RX1 is nonetheless a serious prospect for the well-heeled enthusiast.
Released at the start of the year the RX1 is, to date, the smallest camera in the world to employ a 35.8 x 23.9mm full-frame sensor.
Furthermore, the 24.3MP sensor is of the Exmor CMOS design, which means it is backside-wired for enhanced performance in low light. Using the latest generation of Sony BIONZ image processor the RX1 offers a sensitivity range of between ISO 100-25000, 14-bit Raw capture and a maximum continuous shooting speed of 5fps.
On the front the RX1 gets a fixed 35mm, f/2-f/22 lens Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens that's as sharp as a pin. While the RX1's lens is fixed at 35mm it's possible to use the camera's built-in digital zoom technology to magnify your images.
On the back the RX1 benefits from a 3in / 1.2m-dot Xtra Fine LCD display, while on the top there's a proprietary hotshoe to attach compatible accessories with.
Add 1080p Full HD movie recording, Raw shooting and full manual control and the RX1 has to be considered the ultimate compact.
Review Score: 93%