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.
A slim, compact digital camera that offers a wealth of photo options, settings, and features.
- Very compact
- Includes features found on pricier cameras
- Great battery life
- May experience battery issues
A straightforward, easy-to-use compact zoom camera at an affordable price.
- Ideal for first-time photographers
- Small enough to fit anywhere
- Simple, straightforward functions
- Instructions are unclear and unhelpful
A powerful compact camera with impressive photo quality and many features.
- 40x optical zoom
- Delivers great results even in poor lighting
- Includes smartphone connectivity and an app
- 4K resolution isn’t the best
- Focus can be finicky
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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?