The Best Advanced Compact Cameras of 2013
Advanced compacts have become especially popular in recent years, especially with experienced and enthusiast-level photographers that already own a DSLR but want something smaller and easier to carry around without losing the advanced feature set offered by their full-sized camera.
By their nature, the best advanced compact cameras will offer things such as Raw capture and full manual control over the image capture settings as standard. Menu systems will be more complex and offer much more in the way of user customisation too. Last but not least you can also expect the best advanced compacts to sport a hotshoe on the top of the camera in order to mount external flashguns and accesories with.
Broadly speaking the best advanced compact cameras fall into two distinct catagories: those with a zoom lens that offers some degree of optical magnification and those with a fixed prime lens that cannot be optically zoomed (alghough some manufacturers do offer digital zoom technology). For your convenience we've divided the two types of advanced compact into seperate sections within this round up.
A. The best advanced compact cameras of 2013 with a zoom lens
Following on from last year's impressive RX100 the all-new
RX100 II is equipped with a 1-inch Sony Exmor R chip that produces 20.2MP of
effective resolution. On the front of the camera you'll find a 3.6x optical
zoom that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 28-100mm with a maximum
aperture of f/1.8, while the back of the camera gets a pin-sharp
3-inch/1229k-dot LCD display. Add to this built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Raw
capture, full manual controls and 1080p Full HD movie recording and the RX100
II adds up to a lot of camera.
WDC score: 93%
The Lumix LF1 sits alongside the Lumix LX7 within Panasonic's Raw-shooting advanced compact range. The newer model differs from the LX7 in that it comes equipped with a slightly more powerful 7.1x optical zoom (28-200mm) as well as a built-in electronic viewfinder. The sensor is different too, with Panasonic opting to equip the LF1 with a 1/1.7-inch Live MOS sensor that offers 12.1MP of effective resolution (the LX7 chip is the same size but offers 10.1MP). Other highlights of the LF1 include Wi-Fi connectivity, 1080p Full HD video recording and a 3inch/920k-dot LCD display on the back.
WDC score: 91%
The Nikon P7700 succeeds the P7100 that was released in 2012, bringing with it a number of notable upgrades. The sensor has been upgraded from a 10.1MP CCD type to a 12.4MP CMOS type, while the 28-200mm optical zoom has had its maximum aperture increased to f/2-4 (from f/2.8-5.6 on the P7100). Continuous shooting speed has been boosted from a rather paltry 1.4fps on the P7100 to a much more respectable 8fps, while the P7700 can also shoot 1080p Full HD movies whereas the P7100 was limited to 720p HD. The newer model does, however, dispense with the optical viewfinder of its predecessor.
WDC score: 90%
The retro rangefinder-styled X20 is from Fuji's premium X-Series range and comes equipped a newly designed 2/3-inch X-Trans II CMOS sensor that offers 12MP of effective resolution. Owing to the unique design of the X-Trans sensor Fuji has been able to remove the anti-aliasing filter from the X20 which results in sharper images overall. While the X20 keeps the same manually operated 28-112mm optical zoom (f/2-2.8) of its predecessor, the optical viewfinder has been enhanced to display essential shooting information. Other highlights include 1080p Full HD movie recording at 60fps, 12fps continuous shooting, Raw capture and full manual control. Not only is the X20 stunning to look at and highly tactile to use, it also takes a great image.
WDC score: 90%
b. The best advanced compact cameras of 2013 with a fixed lens
Built around a 35.8 x 23.9mm Exmor CMOS sensor that delivers 24.3MP of effective resolution the RX1 is billed as the "world's smallest full-frame compact". On the front of the camera you'll find a 35mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T lens that's as sharp as any lens we've tested. Twin aperture and manual focus rings are located on the lens barrel for more tactile control while the back of the body is adorned with a 3-inch/1,222k-dot TruBlack LCD display. Other highlights include Raw capture, full manual control, 1080p Full HD movie recording at 50fps and even some built-in digital filters. While the four-figure price is likely to put the RX1 out of reach for many potential buyers, there's little doubt that it's one of the very best fixed-lens compact digital cameras currently on the market. Finally it's also worth noting the RX1 is also available as the Sony RX1R which is basically the same camera but with the anti-aliasing filter removed for increased sharpness.
WDC score: 92%
Launched in 2011 the original Fuji X100 kick-started the current trend for premium grade fixed-lens compacts. As with the original the X100S sports a 23mm f/2 prime lens that equates to 35mm in full-frame terms. Behind this things have changed somewhat from the original; while the X100S still employs an APS-C sized sensor, the architecture of the sensor has changed considerably. Whereas the old X100 used a 12MP CMOS sensor, the X100S uses one of Fuji's proprietary 12.3MP X-Trans II sensors. This has allowed Fuji to remove the anti-aliasing filter on the X100S in order to increase overall sharpness. In addition, the new sensor is also populated with phase detection pixels for faster focusing. In addition the electronic component of the X100S' hybrid viewfinder system has seen a boost in resolution from 1.44m-dots to 236m-dots. Overall, there's no doubt that the X100S feels like a big step forward.
WDC score: 91%
Developed as the successor to the GR Digital IV, the GR immediately distinguishes itself on account of is 16.2MP APS-C sensor (the Digital IV employed a 1/1.7-inch sensor). Better still from an enthusiast's point of view, Ricoh has also removed the anti-aliasing filter from the GR for increased image sharpness. The GR's new image processor is also designed to remove moire from images, which can be an unwanted by-product of losing the AA filter. Elsewhere you get an 18.3mm f/2 prime lens on the front (equivalent to 24mm in 35mm terms), which delivers excellent sharpness across the frame. Rounding things off is a 3-inch/1.2m-dot LCD display on the back.
WDC score: 93%
Employing the same 16.2MP APS-C sensor that was found in the Nikon D7000 DSLR, the Coolpix A is Nikon's first attempt at a premium fixed lens compact. In front of the sensor the Coolpix A is equipped with a fixed 18mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens that equates to 24mm in full-frame terms. Surprisingly for a new model the Coolpix A uses Nikon's older EXPEED 2 image processor rather than the latest EXPEED 3 chip. This allows it to reach a maximum continuous shooting speed of just 4fps, which isn't the highest. Still, speedy shooting isn't really the Coolpix A's main objective - the new model is all about delivering maximum image quality in the smallest possible package and to this effect the new model delivers on its promise delivering exceptional levels of detail along with great results at higher ISO settings.
WDC score: 88%