Watch CBS News

Essentials Shopping

The best compact cameras for your summer vacation mean great photos in a small package

Woman holding camera

Compact cameras are a great option if you're looking for something lightweight and portable. Despite their small size, compact cameras come with tons of impressive features, all in an efficient package. They have large sensors and fast lenses, which means you can get high-quality images anywhere. Their small size makes them easy to toss in your bag, luggage or even pocket, so you can take high-quality photos no matter where you travel. 

Many of these models offer manual controls and the ability to shoot in RAW, which can give you DSLR-like flexibility when you take photos. Some have wide-aperture lenses, which gives you better low-light performance.

If you want a simple, portable camera to capture life's moments, a compact camera is a great choice. Whether you want to snap  tons of photos of your kids, a compact camera has you covered. Below, find some of our favorite picks. 

The best compact cameras 

Best compact camera overall: Sony RX100 VII

Sony RX100 VII

The Sony RX100 VII packs a 1-inch, 20MP sensor into a shirt pocket-sized body, delivering image quality that rivals many of its interchangeable-lens-camera competitors. Its 24-200mm zoom lens offers a great range for shooting landscapes, portraits and other types of photography. 

This compact camera also has blazing fast autofocus and shooting speeds up to 20fps, so it can capture even fast action shots easily. It's capable of shooting 4K video with mic input as well. At the end of the day, no other compact camera matches the RX100 VII's combination of portability, image quality, and performance. If you want pro-level photos and videos from a camera you can take anywhere, the RX100 VII is the clear choice, but expect to pay for it.

Best compact camera for video: Sony ZV-1

Sony ZV-1

This camera is excellent for taking photos, but it's also your best bet for shooting video. It has a 1-inch sensor capable of capturing high-quality 4K footage, along with a fast Hybrid AF system that easily changes the focus of the lens when shooting for a more cinematic effect. Its vari-angle touch screen lets you monitor and adjust settings on the fly, too. 

But what makes the ZV-1 shine are features meant specifically for vlogging and livestreaming, like its directional three-capsule mic and Product Showcase mode. If you want high-quality video and audio in a compact form, the ZV-1 is a top-tier option that outshines many smartphones and standard point-and-shoots. There's plenty to love here in a reasonably priced package. 

Best premium compact camera: Leica Q3

Leica Q3

Be prepared to pay an eye-watering price for the best premium compact camera you can get. You may get sticker shock, but this is the best of the best you'll find. 

The Leica Q3 delivers the pinnacle of image quality and craftsmanship in a compact camera, so it's worth the money. With a full-frame sensor and super-sharp 28mm f/1.7 fixed lens, the Q3 can give you some of the most stunning results you'll see when compared to larger interchangeable lens cameras. While not as pocket-sized as other compacts, the Q3 is still surprisingly portable, especially with its large sensor and lens specs. 

The Q3's excellent build quality and manual control dials give you a luxe shooting experience, too. Unlike Leica's other rangefinder models, the Q3 can use autofocus to capture some of the most important moments you need to immortalize. It may not be as fast as some pro-level DSLRs, but the autofocusing makes this camera more versatile compared with manual focus-only Leica models. If you're looking for excellent image quality delivered in a model with a compact size, the Leica Q3 is a luxury option that you're not going to top.

Best budget compact camera: Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500

The Nikon D3500 is a capable, budget-friendly option for new photographers looking to upgrade from their smartphone or point-and-shoot. It has a 24MP APS-C sensor and a battery life of up to 1,550 shots per charge. It also has a user-friendly design, especially for novice users hoping to use longer lenses, too. 

There's a tough, sturdy grip and lighter body so you don't have to worry about the camera falling out of your hands. It's a bit beefier than some other compact cameras, but that's a fair trade, considering how useful it is and how accessible it can be for newbies. 

In most categories, the Nikon D3500 hits all the right notes with a combination of great image quality, battery life and an ergonomic design, all for under $500. 

Best instant compact camera: Polaroid Go

Polaroid Go

The Polaroid Go stands out as one of the smallest and most user-friendly options you'll find. While it's an instant camera used more for fun photos than serious photography, it's still worth grabbing if you end up taking a lot of candids, and it's the best one you'll find. 

Its retro design and compact shape make it super portable and convenient for taking quick snapshots that you can share. It prints out credit card-sized instant photos with rich colors and instant gratification. Its simple interface and point-and-shoot operation make it one of the best choices for kids for beginners looking for novel, hassle-free photography. It's obviously not as feature-rich as many of the other compact cameras, but it's so much fun, no one's going to balk at it. 

Plus, who gets to print fun little photos anymore?

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.