Gone are the days when you needed a huge camera and a bazooka-like lens to get good pictures.
Sometimes even your cell phone will take an acceptable photo, but with a phone you are still limited if you are interested in blurry bokeh backgrounds or zooming in closer to your subject with an optical zoom.
As photographic technology develops, cameras get smaller and quality goes up. There is still the need for bigger cameras that professionals use for high-quality paper magazines and other professional uses, but for the person who just wants some decent photos from a sidekick camera in your pocket, there are plenty of other options that won’t break your bank or your back as you carry them around.
8 Small Pocket Cameras to Travel with (From smallest to biggest):
- Xiaomi Yi 2 4K Action Camera: 66 x 43 x 30mm
- LG G5 Friends 360 CAM LG-R105: 98.5 x 43.4 x 29.8mm
- Sony RX100 M5: 101 x 60 x 41mm
- Ricoh GR II: 117 x 63 x 35mm
- Canon PowerShot G7 X II: 106 x 61 x 42mm
- Panasonic Lumix ZS100: 111 x 65 x 44mm
- Panasonic LX100: 115 x 66 x 55mm
- Fujifilm X100T: 127 x 74 x 52mm
Winner: Panasonic Lumix ZS100, it’s small (although not the smallest on test), it has a 10x zoom, it has the 4K ability that Panasonic is famous for, its price is good, what more do you want?
Runner Up: The Sony RX100 M5: Despite being a bit of a battery eater and having no touch screen, the Sony still excels with its small form factor, awesome image quality and great 4K video capability.
If you are keen on capturing and creating VR videos of your adventures with the option of a point-and-shoot camera without breaking the bank, the LG 360 CAM is a good place to start.
The LG 360 has two sensors that capture 13 megapixels from its two fisheye lenses. Each lens on either side of the camera captures a 200-degree field of view and can stitch together 360-degree photos at 5,660 x 2,830 pixels in JPEG format or 360-degree video recording at 2,560 x 1,280 pixels in MP4 format with 3 microphones to capture sound. The camera can accept microSD cards of up to 32Gb. It is compact and no bigger than the average smartphone. The case can be used as an extra grip, which is a clever feature.
Unfortunately, if you want to get the most out of the LG 360 CAM, you must use it in conjunction with your smartphone and a host of apps that allow you to control the camera or to share your captures once the files are downloaded to your phone.
The Sony RX100 M5 has royal blood running in its veins. It comes from a family that has ruled the smaller compact camera market since 2012. Every year, new features are added in successive models, with this year’s model boasting a tweaked version of the stacked sensor that we saw in the mark IV.
The Sony RX100 M5 boasts an impressive set of features. You get a 20-megapixel sensor paired with a 24-70mm equivalent lens and an aperture rate of f/1.8 to f/2.8, making the RX100 M5 a versatile compact camera. There is a tiltable LCD lens (no touch screen; Sony’s not big on touch screens), a nifty pop-up little viewfinder and of course it has Wi-Fi. On top of this, you get some excellent video capabilities with 4K-quality at 24 frames per second (if your memory card is up to the task) as well as 1080 HD at an incredible 120 frames. This gives you great slow motion footage.
The downside is that this camera is expensive and struggles a bit with battery life. Although it is a great camera for photographers at different levels, it is a bit pricey, in the $800 to $900 range.
The Panasonic Lumix ZS100’s standout feature is the 10x zoom lens.
For a camera that falls into the $600-$700 range, you are getting a highly recommendable camera for families and travellers. You get a 1.0 inch CMOS sensor with 20.1 megapixels that covers a range of 25mm to 250mm that would make DSLR shooters jealous. This is at an aperture range of f/2.8-f/5.9. Image quality is largely dependent on how far you zoom; at 250mm the aperture shrinks down to f5.9 which means you get less light coming through the lens with decreased image quality in low light. Fortunately, the more than able optical stabilizer will still help you get the steady shots.
Panasonic was the pioneers of 4K video in a compact body and with this model you get 4K at 30 frames per second and Full HD at 60 frames. Autofocus is fast and a feature called Post Focus allows you to play through a 4K clip, pause at a frame, tap on a spot in the image to bring that area into focus and save it. Battery life comes in at a decent 240 to 300 shots per charge. The controls are grouped together on the right-hand side making the camera easy to operate with one hand.
The Canon PowerShot G7 X II is a great all-rounder compact camera but the downside is its video capability. The two cameras we looked at above give you gorgeous 4K videos. With the Canon the best you’ll get is 1080p at 60 frames per second.
What you are getting though is a 20.1MP 1 inch CMOS sensor and DIGIC 7 image processor that can shoot at 8 frames per second in burst mode. The built-in lens achieves a 4.2x zoom (24mm-100mm). Moreover, an aperture range of f/1.8-f/2.8 helps it perform well in low-light conditions, supported by an ISO sensitivity stretched to ISO 12800. This camera can shoot in RAW, and an in-camera file conversion will let you preview and adjust files without having to process the files on your computer.
The 3-inch touch sensitive screen can swivel 180 degrees up, 45 degrees down and provides a way to easily switch between settings. A novel feature is a time lapse function to condense some action. All in all, the PowerShot G7 X II is a great camera for a family vacation and simple enough for the whole family to use.
This is a great looking camera but is not as small as the cameras discussed above at 127 x 74x 52mm. It is one of the more expensive cameras on our list coming in at approximately $1,000.
The Fujifilm X100T comes with some great features. You get a 16-megapixel sensor coupled to a 35mm lens and an aperture from f/2 which is ideal for portrait and street photography. The camera lets you enjoy macro photography with a distance of 10 cm and comes with built-in Wi-Fi with remote control function. The ISO range is 100 to 51200 when boosted. You also have the option of shooting in both RAW and JPEG file formats.
Video is a bit of a letdown. No 4K video but you get 1080p movies at 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24fps plus exposure control for movies, a built-in intervalometer, and a stereo mic input (2.5mm-type). Also, no touchscreen.
One of the major features of the Fujifilm X100T is the hybrid viewfinder which is a both an optical viewfinder and an electronic viewfinder in one, giving you the best of both worlds. The hybrid viewfinder, 35mm wide aperture lens, and classic design mean that this camera is going to be considered one of the coolest cameras on the market for a long time to come.
Q: What camera fits in a pocket easier than an action camera? A: Nothing!
The GoPro revolution has caused a flood of high-specked action cameras, and if you want to compare it to the average compact system, it does not come off too bad. Sure it does not have optical zoom, but neither does the Fujifilm X100T we just looked at above.
We decided not to go for the GoPro Hero 5 when looking at action cams; we’d rather recommend the Xiaomi Yi 2 4K with its f/2.8, 7 layer glass. It comes in at half the price. A Sony IMX377 sensor gives it great 4K capabilities with an impressive dynamic range, as well as a frame rate that ranges from 30 in 4K to 120 frames per second in lower resolutions.
Sensor size is somewhat smaller at 1/2.3″, but that makes for an extremely small and light camera body. It shoots 12 Mp stills that look slightly warped through a 155 degree viewing angle, but it is still very good. Video of course where its strength lies. Colors are rich, detail is sharp, and as far as dynamic range is concerned, bright and dark co-exist in the same frame without detail in dark areas disappearing.
[Read our Full Review Here]
The Panasonic Lumix LX100 also falls into the $600-$900 range and is the second largest camera of our comparison.
It uses a 16.8-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor (a bigger sensor than the 1″ sensors above but smaller than the APS-C of the Fujifilm X100T), and when shooting at a standard aspect, you end up with 12.8-megapixel photos. The LX100 has a zoom range of between 24 and 70mm with a maximum aperture range of f/1.7 down to f/2.8 according to your zoom range. The f/1.7 aperture at the wide end lets in a lot of light for great blurry background shots (bokeh).
One issue is that the LX100 has a 2.36M-dot electronic eye viewfinder which can be misleading if you are paying attention to the way the viewfinder renders colors. In other words, the viewfinder is good for basic composition. On the other hand the LX100 does offer 4K video capture but is limited to the built-in stereo mic.
The Ricoh GRII is a great compact street and photography camera coming in at a smaller size than the Fujifilm X100T and Panasonic LX100
The GR II pairs a 16.2-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor with a total resolution of 16.93 megapixels and a maximum resolution of 4,928 x 3,264. You get an 18.3mm f/2.8 prime lens yielding a 35mm-equivalent focal length of approximately 28mm and an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/16 which means it is ideal for street and travel photography. With an extended ISO range of 100 – 25,600 and a shutter speed range of 1/4000 – 300 seconds the GRII is a very versatile camera for photographers at any level.