Last Updated on 11/18/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
Compact cameras pack a ton of features into small bodies which makes them perfect for those who need, or like, to travel light.
If you like to travel light, or just prefer to use cameras small enough to fit in your coat or pant pockets, compact cameras are for you. These little powerhouses are lightweight, easy to use, offer great image quality, and are packed to the rafters with features and tech. Don’t be fooled though: while they might be small in size, compact cameras have big personalities and punch well above their weight. They pack as much power as their larger brothers and sisters do, yet they are small enough for you to be able to roam the streets to get incredibly candid shots, and are tough enough to be thrown in your vacation bag.
In this article we are going to look at three compact cameras suitable for those who are perhaps just starting out and want a fun, affordable camera to learn with, all the way through to those who make a career out of their photography, and need Full Frame power in a compact form factor.
Ricoh GR II
Yes, we know that the newer version of this camera is coming, but the GR II still should not be ignored. If you have been looking for a camera that will enable you to travel light, or that you can slip into your pocket, the affordable Ricoh GR II could be the camera for you. This small, feature rich camera is great for travel photography, and will serve the street photographer who doesn’t want to bring much attention to themselves well.
In our review we said:
“This camera is fantastic for the street photographer, travel photographer, or even for a blogger who doesn’t want or care to shoot a whole lot of video. Its compact size, great image quality, fairly reliable autofocus, and fantastic lens make it a must for many photographers. Even better, the JPEG image quality is so good that I’d probably never worry about doing a whole lot of editing to my RAW files.”
Inside this small, low profile camera body you’ll find a 16.9mp APS-C sensor which is capable of shooting continuously at four frames per second. The 18.3mm f2.8 lens is the equivalent of a 28mm lens on a Full Frame camera. The lens features seven elements in five groups, and has two aspherical elements which minimize distortion and chromatic aberration. The image quality from this small camera is really quite amazing. Images are sharp, and colors rendered are nice and saturated. JPEGS are so good you might find yourself just using them instead of shooting RAW. The lens is also capable of producing some nice bokeh in the right situations.
The autofocus system is fast (0.2 seconds) in good and lower light situations, and ISO performance is good too. The GR II has built in Wi-Fi and NFC for wireless image transfers, can shoot HD video, has a 3-inch LCD, is both JPEG and RAW image capable, and is good for roughly 320 shots on a full charge. Build quality is great, and the textured grip and body makes the camera feel nice in your hands.
Compact cameras like the Ricoh GR II bring the joy back to photography thanks to their ease of use and great image quality. You can head out with just this one item in your pocket and focus on just taking pictures; no extra gear to carry around, no switching out lenses. The Ricoh GR II is just fun to use. If you’re looking for your first camera, or want a compact camera that is lightweight and affordable to compliment your existing gear, the GR II shouldn’t be ignored.
Buy now ($496.95): Amazon
Ricoh GR II Image Samples
Pro Tip: The great thing with a lot of cameras these days is the fact that they can be charged via USB. The three cameras listed here all have that ability which is great. Carrying a small, yet powerful USB power bank will enable you to top off your batteries when you’re away from an electrical outlet. Pop one of these in your pocket or bag, and you’ll be good to go.
The Fujifilm X100F is one of the most powerful, feature packed compact cameras on the market right now. This camera is perfect for those who want the performance of a much larger APS-C based camera, with a lens that can produce razor sharp images, yet still retain the ability to easily slip into a jacket pocket.
In our review we said:
“It’s small, autofocuses quickly, has a low profile, delivers great image quality, has a hybrid EVF/OVF, some of the best battery life of any APS-C mirrorless camera out there, and is very reliable.”
The retro rangefinder design of the X100F is timeless, and the build quality is excellent. The Fujifilm X100F is capable of producing some really beautiful images thanks to the tried and tested 23mm f2 lens. There are 325 autofocus points, and the more than capable lens focuses fast in both good and low light situations. Good detailed shots up to ISO 6400 can be expected thanks to the excellent 24.3 Megapixel X-Trans APS-C sensor.
The camera is very easy to use thanks to the myriad of physical dials on top of the camera, and the well placed buttons on the back. The 3-inch LCD display, and the hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder are both high in quality, and they will enable you to see exactly how your images look before you even take the shot.
When you throw in Fujifilm’s film simulations, Wi-Fi, HD video, an eight frames per second burst mode, a built-in three stop ND filter, a digital teleconverter, and great battery life, you get a pocket sized powerhouse that is capable of doing great things.
There is no doubt about it, the Fujifilm X100F is one of the best compact cameras around right now. Yes it’s a little expensive, but for those who take their photography a little more on the serious side, and don’t want to compromise on image quality, the X100F should be on your radar. It’s overall size, weight, and performance make this a great option when you want to hit the streets, or for when you need to travel light. When it comes to compact cameras the X100F is in the sweet spot, and it’s hard to beat.
Buy now ($1,199): Amazon
Fujifilm X100F Image Samples
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re ready to keep on shooting by keeping extra SD cards in your camera bag or pocket. Files sizes are on the rise and you can fill up a card quickly without realizing. These Sandisk cards are cheap and reliable, and will enable you to keep on shooting and not miss any shots.
Sony RX1r II
The Sony RX1r II couldn’t be any further away from the Ricoh GR II that we listed above. Where the GR II is for those who want a fun affordable camera that is good for capturing moments, the Sony RX1r II is for those who demand the very best performance and image quality for professional use. Having the power of a Full Frame camera in a compact camera body is really quite amazing. But just be warned, this much power doesn’t come cheap.
In our review we said:
“The Sony Rx1r II is a camera that crams a lot into a small package. You’ve got a 35mm f2 lens, a 42MP full frame sensor, a beautiful EVF and WiFi built in. What more do you need?”
The RX1r II features the same 42.4 Megapixel sensor that can be found in the Sony A7R II, and is capable of shooting continuously at five frames per second. The autofocus system features 399 focus points and is blazing fast. You even have face and eye autofocus too. The Zeiss Sonnar 35mm fixed lens has a maximum aperture of f2. Wi-Fi and NFC make image transfers to your phone or tablet easy, and the 3-inch tilting LCD screen makes it easy to navigate menu systems and compose your images. The retractable OLED EVF is gorgeous, has a resolution of 2.4million dots, and is just a joy to use. The camera is capable of recording in full HD and it has a user optical variable low pass filter.
The images that are produced by this camera are nothing short of spectacular, which is what you would expect from such a Megapixel monster. Colors are beautiful and saturated, images are sharp from corner to corner, and bokeh produced by the lens is nice and creamy. The build quality is great overall, but the small size can make it a little awkward to use until you get used to it.
Everything about this camera screams top quality, and if you are in a position where you need the very best image quality available, but need to keep things small for travel or other reasons, the Sony RX1r II is the compact camera for you, if you can justify the price.
Buy now ($3,298): Amazon
Sony Rx1r II Image Samples