Reviews

The Best Compact Zoom Cameras (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

The best compact zoom cameras to carry with you and capture every moment

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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON April 2, 2021

Cameras can be far more complicated than you’d expect. Whether you’re looking for a camera you can use to snap photos of your adventures, your car, or even projects you’re working on in your garage, you don’t need something complicated — unless you plan on becoming a professional photographer. You need something you can point at your subject and snap a photo in seconds, without complex lenses and extra accessories.

 

Fortunately, that’s exactly what compact zoom cameras were designed for. A compact zoom camera eliminates the need to use specialized lenses to capture scenery and subjects near and far. Incredibly easy to use and small enough to stash in your pocket, a compact zoom camera can be the perfect companion. Discover our choices for the best compact zoom cameras right here.

Best Overall
Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK
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Summary
Summary

A slim, compact digital camera that offers a wealth of photo options, settings, and features.

Pros
Pros
  • Very compact
  • Includes features found on pricier cameras
  • Great battery life
Cons
Cons
  • May experience battery issues
Best Overall
Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK
Best Value
Lecran Digital Camera
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Summary
Summary

A straightforward, easy-to-use compact zoom camera at an affordable price.

Pros
Pros
  • Ideal for first-time photographers
  • Small enough to fit anywhere
  • Simple, straightforward functions
Cons
Cons
  • Instructions are unclear and unhelpful
Best Value
Lecran Digital Camera
Honorable Mention
Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera
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Summary
Summary

A powerful compact camera with impressive photo quality and many features.

Pros
Pros
  • 40x optical zoom
  • Delivers great results even in poor lighting
  • Includes smartphone connectivity and an app
Cons
Cons
  • 4K resolution isn’t the best
  • Focus can be finicky
Honorable Mention
Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera
Compact Zoom Camera Close Up
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Benefits of Compact Zoom Camera

  • Excellent performance in a small package. Though these cameras are true to their name and are small in size, they offer impressive photo results. They deliver when it comes to performance, packing a host of complex features and capabilities into a single camera.
  • Great photo quality. If you’re used to snapping photos with your smartphone, you’ll notice an immediate difference in image quality when you switch to a compact zoom camera. With larger sensors, these cameras can capture better digital photos with higher resolution, blowing most smartphones out of the water.
  • Highly portable. Compact zoom cameras bundle all of the features, modes, and even lens options into a very small package. This makes these cameras highly portable — you can even fit them into your pocket — so you can bring them along anywhere. They’re even lightweight so you’ll barely notice you’re carrying a powerful camera.
  • No accessories needed. You don’t need to pack and prepare like a professional photographer when you’re using a compact zoom camera. These cameras eliminate the need for extra lenses and other accessories, as they bundle all of those features right into their small size. You can zoom, shoot from various angles, capture panoramas, and more.

Types of Compact Zoom Cameras

Compact Zoom Cameras

A compact zoom camera is a small handheld digital camera that eliminates the need to switch between lenses when you need to take photos with zoom, wide-angle, or panoramic lenses. These cameras put all of those extra capabilities right into the palm of your hand, offering automatic zoom adjustment as well as extra photography features to choose from so you can easily achieve the perfect photo. They aren’t complicated, but they can deliver great photo quality even with their point-and-shoot design.

Long Zoom Cameras

Long zoom cameras are essentially more powerful and more capable versions of compact zoom cameras. They work in the same way, condensing all of the extra features you’d get from swapping out lenses into a single convenient camera. However, long zoom cameras offer better optical zoom and typically feature larger sensors. Those bigger sensors can increase photo resolution and offer even better quality. However, long zoom cameras are worthwhile for experienced photographers.

Tough Compact Zoom Cameras

Tough compact zoom cameras are built for heavy-duty use or very rugged environments. Campers, hikers, backpackers, and anyone who plans on taking their camera out into dirt, dust, mud, and unpredictable weather can benefit from a tough compact zoom camera. Built with all of the features of a typical compact zoom model, these extra durable cameras can survive everything from submersion in water to rock climbing to serious impacts. They’re a great choice for any outdoorsman. 

Top Brands

Kodak

One of the biggest names in photography, Kodak is a storied brand that’s produced innovative cameras, film, and more since its founding in 1892. In recent years, Kodak has focused solely on digital cameras, creating excellent compact zoom options like the Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK and the Kodak 16 Friendly Zoom FZ152

Canon

Founded in Japan in 1934, Canon created the very first 35-millimeter camera with a focal-plane-based shutter ever produced in Japan. Today, Canon has gone completely digital, creating new and innovative cameras, printers, and more. When it comes to compact, quality cameras, options like the Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera and the Canon PowerShot SX620 Digital Camera are standouts. 

Panasonic

Founded in 1918 in Japan, Panasonic first started as a lightbulb company. Over the years, the company’s products expanded into cameras — including compact zoom cameras like the Panasonic Lumix ZS50 Camera and the Panasonic Lumix 4K Digital Camera that offer great functionality in small, highly portable devices. 

Compact Zoom Camera Pricing

  • Under $100: Budget-friendly compact zoom cameras can be found for less than $100. These cameras may not offer the best image quality, but they offer excellent functionality including automatic zoom.
  • $100 to $300: More upgraded options can be found in this price range. You can choose from tough compact cameras to impressive zoom options, as well as several other features and resolutions.
  • $300 and up: For the most advanced compact zoom cameras with the most features and capabilities, you’ll find premium options priced at $300 and up. These cameras also tend to offer the best photo quality.

Key Features

Long Optical Zoom Range

The optical zoom range determines just how well a compact zoom camera can capture subjects near and far. While many cameras typically offer an optical zoom of 5x or 7x, other compact zoom models will offer even more options. Some can offer an impressive 40x optical zoom. The larger and longer the range, the more you’ll be able to accomplish. With a long optical zoom range, you can take wide-angle shots, telephoto shots, panoramas, and more. 

Larger Sensor

The sensor may be a small component within a compact zoom camera, but it makes a big difference. Smaller sensors mean smaller resolution. A relatively large sensor will offer better resolution, a critical feature whether you’re downloading photos onto your computer or having them printed for display. While small sensors can work just fine, a larger sensor will result in impressive quality no matter how experienced (or inexperienced) you are.

Extra Shooting Modes

Whether you’re an experienced photographer or a beginner who just wants to point and shoot, having extra shooting modes can be especially handy. The best compact zoom cameras will offer you more than just versatile zoom options; they’ll also include extra shooting modes. Look for extras like high-contrast black and white, fisheye, interval timers, selfie modes, time-lapse footage, and more.

Other Considerations

  • A Camera’s Sensor Also Affects Lighting. Larger sensors tend to perform better in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. While smaller sensors can handle daylight just fine, low light and limited light can result in bad photo quality. Picking a compact zoom camera with a larger sensor can give you more versatility in any lighting — and better quality.
  • Don’t Forget About the Display. Digital cameras of all kinds have displays on the rear of the camera body so you can see what you’re snapping photos of and check out those photos once you’re finished. A larger display will help you see more clearly, so look for one with decent size and good resolution. It’ll make it easier to take photos in any environment.
  • Compact Zoom Cameras Can Benefit From Cases. Because compact zoom cameras are so small and easy to store anywhere, you might think you can get away with skipping a case. However, these cameras can easily be damaged if dropped or exposed to elements like rain, mud, and water. A case will keep your camera safe from potential harm without adding much bulk.

Best Compact Zoom Cameras Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK

The Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK compact zoom camera is very capable, and it’s an all-around powerhouse when it comes to snapping photos. You’ll be able to capture so many different subjects and scenes with this pocket-sized camera, never needing to change the lens or add accessories. It offers 5x optical zoom and a 28-millimeter wide-angle lens so you can simply point, zoom in as close as necessary, and snap photos. The camera is intuitive and easy to use, meaning you don’t need any prior photography experience. It even includes auto-detection settings like face, smile, and blink detection to ensure you’re getting the best results possible. A 2.7-inch LCD screen lets you see what you’re about to capture. You can even record in 720P HD video if you’d like. All of this capability fits right in your pocket too.

Best Value
Lecran Digital Camera

If you’re looking for a simple camera at a great price, you’ll love the Lecran Digital Camera. This straightforward and easy-to-use model is perfect for beginners and casual photographers who just want to snap photos on vacation, at home, or anywhere else. It offers great zoom for a basic camera too — you’ll enjoy 36 megapixels and 16x optical zoom. You can easily zoom in and out as needed. This compact zoom camera even offers extra features to ensure every photo turns out perfectly, like face detection, anti-shake, smile capture, and continuous shooting. You can also try out the timed shooting and selfie functions. Need a compact zoom camera that can do even more? You’ll get great value thanks to the video recording capability that this camera offers, with 1080P FHD video that also works with the optical zoom.

Best Premium
Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera

The Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera is one seriously powerful compact zoom camera, and it offers one of the best zoom functions you’ll find on such a small device. Equipped with 40x optical zoom plus optical image stabilization and zoom framing assist, this little camera can do some impressive work. You’ll have no problem zooming in from distances of any kind. But the perks of this premium camera don’t end there. It captures excellent-quality photos with its 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 image processor. A 3-inch tilt-type LCD shows you each shot plus all the photos you’ve taken. And beginner and casual photographers will have no problem mastering the art of the perfect photo with dual sensing IS, which eliminates shake even when you’re fully zoomed in. You will have to pay a higher price for all these features, though.

Honorable Mention
Panasonic Lumix 4K Digital Camera

Nothing makes snapping photos easier than automatic features that work behind the scenes while you point and shoot — and that’s exactly what the Panasonic Lumix 4K Digital Camera offers. This compact zoom camera eliminates the need for extra lenses, offering an excellent 30x optical zoom thanks to its Leica DC Vario Elmar lens. A great choice for everyday use, the 18-megapixel high-sensitivity sensor offers solid photo resolution with less distortion. You can choose how you’d like to snap photos, either with the eye-level electronic viewfinder or the touch-enabled LCD screen. It might be pocket-sized, but the photos you take with the automatic viewfinder adjust so you’re always capturing clear, crisp detail and the perfect balance of lighting. The camera also works automatically to provide five-axis optical image stabilization, eliminating blurriness and movement.

Honorable Mention
Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera

If you’re planning on taking your compact zoom camera on adventures outdoors, you’re going to want to choose the Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera. This lightweight and small camera is built to be extremely durable. It can survive everything from water to mud to dirt and dust, making it the best choice for camping, backpacking, hunting, and so much more. It’s waterproof up to 50 feet, dust-proof, crush-proof, freeze-proof, and shock-proof up to 7 feet. The camera features a high-resolution F2.0 lens and a maximum 8x optical zoom. A back-illuminated CMOS image sensor helps deliver great quality photos even in limited lighting. Four macro shooting modes allow for magnified shooting up to 1 centimeter from the end of the lens. Want to snap photos underwater? This camera can do it — there are even an underwater microscope and three underwater white balance photo modes.

Honorable Mention
Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 Digital Camera

The Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 Digital Camera is connected and convenient, making for an excellent compact zoom camera for casual photo takers. Even if you aren’t anything close to a professional, this camera will make you feel like one. Featuring 10x optical zoom and optical image stabilization, you’ll easily be able to capture images near and far. The results will be crisp and free of blurring or movement. A 20 megapixel CCD sensor and DIGIC 4+ image processor help every photo turn out excellent. You can rely on the Smart AUTO feature to intelligently select the right settings for your unique shooting situation, adapting to light, movement, and more. This compact camera also offers awesome connectivity; it includes built-in Wi-Fi and NFC so you can instantly share and transfer the photos you capture with the press of a button.

Honorable Mention
Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera

The Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera might be pocket-friendly in size, but it packs some pretty impressive features. First and foremost is its awesome zoom — with 30x optical zoom and 60x clear image zoom thanks to its Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, this little camera delivers. With a single lens, you can truly capture it all from any angle or distance. The camera includes an 18.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, which ensures you’re getting crisp photos even in low light. And a built-in retractable OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder makes it easy to see what you’re capturing. Another area in which this compact camera shines is its versatile shooting modes. You can snap photos in selfie mode, P/A/S/M models, memory recall mode, or even via customizable settings. Ready to share your photos? The built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capability make it almost instantaneous.

Honorable Mention
Panasonic Lumix ZS50 Camera

If you’re hoping to get all the functionality of swapping lenses in a simpler, more streamlined package, the Panasonic Lumix ZS50 Camera is a great option. This pocket-sized compact zoom camera is designed for portability, but it still offers all of the flexibility and options of carrying multiple lenses and accessories. This handy camera puts you in control, with a lens-mounted control ring you can use to manually control the exposure, zoom, and focus for each shot. Don’t want to make these decisions? You also have the option to allow the 30x optical zoom and Leica DC lens to perform automatically as you point and shoot. The 12.1-megapixel sensor ensures you get high-resolution photos with fewer unwanted effects. It also offers enhanced low light sensitivity so your photos are sharp even without flash. You’ll also benefit from the Light Speed Auto Focus and High-Speed Burst Shooting options.

Honorable Mention
Canon PowerShot SX620 Digital Camera

If you need a camera that’ll stay stable no matter what, consider the Canon PowerShot SX620 Digital Camera. This compact zoom camera is perfect for adventures — or casual photographers who might need some extra stability while shooting. Featuring 25x optical zoom plus Intelligent IS, this little camera will give you optimized image stabilization so you’ll get shake-free images every time. Whether you’re capturing subjects near or far, this compact camera gives you the lens capability you need to get a clear, high-resolution shot. The 20 megapixel CMOS sensor can help you achieve stunning images, and it even works well in low light without the need for flash. Even the video produced by this camera is great in quality, with 1080p full HD resolution and solid stability as you capture what’s around you. 

Honorable Mention
Kodak 16 Friendly Zoom FZ152

The Kodak 16 Friendly Zoom FZ152 is a well-rounded choice for a compact zoom camera. It simplifies the shooting process, allowing you to easily capture great images without switching from lens to lens. It offers 15x optical zoom plus a 24-millimeter wide-angle option. Automatic optical image stabilization and a 16-megapixel sensor help every photo turn out better, and HDR (high dynamic range) helps adjust the lighting to capture the smallest details whether you’re snapping photos of landscapes or people. If you’re worried about shaking or movement, this camera will prevent as much as it can automatically. You can zoom, crop, adjust the lighting, and even cover more with this compact camera thanks to its versatile zoom and functionality. A 3-inch LCD lets you see what you’re capturing, both in the moment and later on for editing.

Tips

  • Always consider how a compact zoom camera syncs to offload the photos you’ve captured. Some require a USB connection, others use Wi-Fi or smartphone apps. 
  • Battery life is important — some compact zoom cameras will rely on replaceable AA or AAA batteries, some use rechargeable internal batteries. Decide which is most convenient for your needs to find the best fit.
  • It’s very common for compact zoom cameras to record video in addition to taking photos. If video is important to you, make sure to consider the resolution a camera records in.

FAQs

Q: Which compact camera has the best zoom?

Our top pick, the Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK, offers excellent zoom functionality. However, for the best optical zoom range, you’ll want to go with the Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera, which offers 40x optical zoom.

Q: What is the best ultra-zoom compact digital camera?

For the highest, largest amount of zoom, the Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera will give you the biggest range.

Q: What compact cameras do professionals use?

Professional photographers tend to rely on larger cameras for better resolution and image quality. However, all of the compact zoom cameras mentioned here will offer great photo resolution — just note the sensor size if you want the biggest and best.

Final Thoughts

The Kodak PixPro Friendly Zoom FZ53-BK is an all-around awesome option, with quality photo results and impressive functionality. If you’re looking for a good deal, the Lecran Digital Camera offers a great bang for your buck. Which compact zoom camera tops your list?