These Are the 5 Best Premium Compact Cameras in 2019

Aimed at sophisticated shooters who don't mind spending a bit more on a small camera (instead of using their smart phone), the five best premium compact cameras in this buying guide have large sensors and robust feature sets that deliver outstanding performance and superior image control.

All five full-featured, one-lens compact cameras included here have distinctive personalities that inspire pride of possession among their owners. Indeed, a few may qualify as “cult cameras” because of their fiercely loyal group of followers. All five cameras are capable of impressive real-world performance, have a full complement of the latest features including cutting edge AF and image processing systems, and all incorporate relatively large sensors, 1-inch, APS-C, or full-frame format. 

For any given megapixel rating, the larger the sensor, the bigger its individual pixels. Sensors with larger pixels deliver less noise at high ISOs (ISO 1600 and above), enhanced dynamic range (the ability to accurately capture and output extreme highlights and shadows), a wider color gamut, better color differentiation within a given hue, and increased color saturation, especially at high ISOs. In addition, larger sensors require lenses with proportionally longer focal lengths to cover any given coverage angle due to their lower crop factors—only 1.5x for an APS-C-format camera versus 5.0-6.0x for a typical point-and-shoot. And since longer lenses provide shallower depth of field at any given aperture, large-sensor compact cameras with fast lenses in the f/1.8 to f/2.8 range enable users to create striking pictorial effects with the creative use of depth of field and bokeh.

It’s also worth noting that these large-sensor fixed-lens compact cameras not only sport fast, high-performance lenses but also full feature sets including Raw capture, Auto HDR, Noise Reduction full HD 1080p or 4K video capture, state-of-the-art image-stabilization and AF systems, and blazing full-res burst rates, along with impressive responsiveness and minimal shutter lag times. In short, each of the five cameras listed below offers a distinctive personality, plus an enticing blend of authenticity and style, along with its real-world performance capabilities.

The five best premium compact cameras might be more expensive than point-and-shoots of days of old, but they boast a compelling list of assets you can bank on to elevate and diversify your shooting experience.


#1 Fujifilm X100F

With a retro look reminiscent of a classic rangefinder camera, the upgraded Fujifilm X100F incorporates a unique 24.3MP APS-C-format X-Trans CMOS III Sensor designed with a randomized pixel pattern to reduce moiré patterns and aliasing without requiring a low-pass filter, an advanced X-Processor Pro, and a fast, sharp 35mm-equivalent f/2 lens. The Fujifilm X100F combines high style with high tech, offering an innovative Optical and Electronic Hybrid Viewfinder that lets users choose between OVF and EVF viewing, a unique parallax-compensating electronic rangefinder, and a 91-point Hybrid AF system with 49 phase-detection points that delivers impressive AF speed and precision. Other features: a 3.0-inch 1.04M-dot LCD, integrated ISO dial and Rear Focus Lever, Raw capture with in-camera conversion and file processing, sensitivity settings to ISO 51200, Full HD 1080p recording video at up to 60 fps, a maximum full-res burst rate of 8 fps, Film Simulation and Advanced Filters including a 3-stop ND filter, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and a robust die-cast aluminum body with a die-cast magnesium alloy top.

Who’s it for?: Street shooters, fashion forward retro fans, travelers looking for a versatile, compact, high performance camera

Why I like it: The Fujifilm X100F reminds me of my old rangefinder Canons and Leicas and I love its distinctive viewfinder that lets you choose between classic OVF and EVF.

Price: $1,099
Buy it on Amazon here.


#2 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II

The successor to the world’s first full-frame (24x36mm format) non-interchangeable-lens compact, Sony’s exquisitely crafted high-performance RX1R II sports a higher-res full-frame 42.4MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, a Variable Optical Low-Pass Filter to deliver optimum resolution and artifact suppression, and a fast, sharp 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* standard wide-angle lens that incorporates three aspheric elements to minimize chromatic aberrations and a 9-bladed diaphragm for artistic bokeh. Other high-end features include a hi-res 3.0-inch, 1,228k-dot Tilting LCD monitor, a 2.36 M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF, and a BIONZ X Image Processor that delivers 14-bit RAW image data, a maximum full-res burst rate of 5 fps, sensitivity settings to ISO 102400, and high-speed AF, Full HD 1080p video capture at up to 60 fps and XAVC S Format. The Sony RX1R II’s fast, precise Hybrid AF system provides 399 phase-detection points, its 120-zone auto-exposure system offers a multi-zone metering option, and it has built-in Wi-Fi with NFC and SteadyShot image stabilization.

Who’s it for?: Pros and connoisseurs who demand (and can afford) the ultimate in performance, features, and understated style in a full frame one lens compact (and can live without 4K video capture).

Why I like it: With a 42.4 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and a 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens what’s not to like? It’s also, IMHO, drop-dead gorgeous!

Read our full review of the Sony RX1R II here

Price: $3,298
Buy it on Amazon here


#3 Ricoh GR III

The latest upgraded version of this ingeniously slim, high-performance magnesium alloy bodied compact, the Ricoh GR III now offers built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE connectivity, and wireless flash. The Ricoh GR III's new 24.2MP APS-C-format sensor and GR Engine 6 image processor combine to deliver high resolution images along with impressively fast response times, and the low-pass filter has been eliminated to enhance resolution and detail. Its 28mm f/2.8 lens is fast enough to allow low-light shooting, facilitates the creative use of shallow depth of field, complements its newly extended ISO 100-102400 sensitivity range, and can capture hi-res 14-bit DNG stills. The Ricoh GR III's new higher-res 3.0-inch 1.037m-dot LCD provides crisp, detailed viewing and playback, the camera supports Raw and JPEG formats, and it incorporates a new 3-axis SR anti-shake-effect system, the first in a GR. Other key features: Full HD 1080p video capture at 60p, 30p, and 24p, Macro mode, 9 image effects including Retro and Cross-Processing, a full range of auto modes including Face Detection, Hybrid AF, fast 0.8 sec startup time, crop modes to simulate 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, and a 9-bladed diaphragm for smooth, pleasing bokeh.

Who’s it for?: Street shooters and travelers seeking a pocket-sized, high performance camera that also delivers a dash of exclusivity and panache.

Why I like it: I’ve always been a fan of the GR’s cool understated form factor. The GR III adds a higher-res 24.2MP sensor and an upgraded image processor, making it the best Ricoh GR ever.

Read our full review of the Ricoh GR III here.

Price: $899
Buy it on Amazon here


#4 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII

This svelte, stylish, higher-tech follow-up to the RX 100 VI incorporates the same long-range 24-200mm-equivalent ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.8-4.5 lens and retains the ingenious pop-up 2.36 M-dot OLED True-Finder EVF to complement its 3.0-inch 921.6 k-dot Multi-angle Xtra Fine 180-degree-tilting touchscreen LCD. However, the RX100 VII now incorporates Sony’s latest revised version of its advanced BIONZ X Image Processor coupled to a redesigned 1-inch 20.1MP Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor with front end LSI to enable UHD 4K Video capture at 30/24 fps plus with HLG and S-Log3 Gamma for optimum contrast control. The Sony RX100 VII also provides HFR for Full HD slo-mo video at 960 fps, a clean HDMI out port, and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with Bluetooth. The RX100 VII employs a fast, precise Hybrid AF system with a 357-point hybrid AF system, can shoot full-res bursts at up to 20 fps, and provides sensitivity settings up to ISO 12800. It’s clearly aimed at serious enthusiasts that will appreciate its ergonomic function-assignable control ring and custom control buttons, and its outstanding still and video shooting flexibility.

Who’s it for?: Serious enthusiasts looking for a slim, sophisticated, high value compact with high-end 4K video capabilities and a superb 8.3X zoom lens.

Why I like it: The Sony RX100 VII delivers ultra-hi-res imaging performance and flexibility, and a passel of high-end features in an attractively compact form factor. I also love that pop-up OLED finder and the price is right.

Price: $1,298
Buy it on Amazon here


#5 Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

The latest, most advanced offering in Canon’s acclaimed enthusiast/pro-aimed G-series, this handsome, robust, ruggedly handsome machine has an upgraded 24.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced DIGIC 7 image processor that provides 9 fps continuous shooting, sensitivity settings up to ISO 25600, and Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 fps. In addition to a hi-res 3.0-inch Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III provides a 2.36M-Dot OLED EVF, and its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system delivers enhanced focusing speed and accuracy. The Canon G1 X Mark III’s 24-72mm-equivalent f/2.8-5.6 lens incorporates a Dual Sensing Image Stabilizer that provides a 4-stop anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting, and its EVF offers Touch and Drag AF point selection. Other key features: Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC and Bluetooth, robust dust- and moisture-resistant body construction, a wide range of additional manual and automatic shooting modes, and a slew of built-in creative effects.

Who’s it for?: The Canon G1 X Mark III appeals to seasoned and emerging enthusiasts, especially Canon fans, and anyone seeking a solid, proven high-performance compact with a great mid-range zoom and distinctive traditional styling.

Why I like it: I’ve always been a fan Canon’s G-series cameras, and this may well be the best ever, thanks to its upgraded sensor and performance parameters. It also looks as rugged as it is, and I love its traditional “mechanical” form factor.

Read our full review of the Canon G1 X Mark III here.

Price: $999
Buy it on Amazon here