Enthusiast compact camera roundup (2014)
What camera should I buy?
Best long zoom camera - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
The DMC-FZ1000 is the largest camera in this roundup by a considerable margin but also has the longest zoom range. It's no bargain either, but the feature set, photo quality, fast 25-400mm lens, performance, and 4K video support really make it stand out from the crowd - even compared to the Sony RX10, which is no slouch either.
Aside from its bulk and price tag, the only other annoyances on the FZ1000 are single dial operation and the lack of a built-in ND filter. The FZ1000 makes a fantastic travel camera, and is a good choice for low light and portrait photographers, as well.
Honorable mention - Olympus Stylus 1
For those users on a more modest budget, or those needing a smaller camera, the Olympus Stylus 1 is well worth considering.
The Stylus 1 can't match the RX10 or FZ1000 for image quality but it's considerably smaller and provides a really engaging shooting experience. Its incredibly useful 28-300mm equiv. lens and high-res electronic viewfinder helps it offer more flexibility than the Canon G16 that we might otherwise recommend, and its combination of engaging controls, built-in Wi-Fi and image quality make it a compelling option if you're just looking to own one camera.
Best short zoom cameras - Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III and Canon PowerShot G1 X II
We have two recommendations if you're after a smaller camera and don't need a long zoom. We think the RX100 III is close enough in capability to the short zoom cameras in this group, that it's arguably the best camera in this class, too.
With its combination of class-leading image and video quality, a fast lens, and a clever pop-up EVF, the RX100 III should not be overlooked. It's a bit too large to be considered pocketable, and some may be put off by its user experience, but otherwise it's hard to find fault with the RX100 III. The camera can be your everyday camera, or serve as a 'second camera' for days when you don't want to lug around your ILC.
Where the G1X II shines is the inclusion of a slightly longer lens, which reaches into portrait territory, meaning it could be considered as an alternative to a DSLR or mirrorless camera if you're not interested in changing lenses. It's not the smallest camera - and certainly not the cheapest - but it offers strong image quality, responsive performance, solid build quality, and nice selection of manual controls (both outside and inside).
It's not a great camera for video, and one has to keep a close eye on the aperture when shooting in Program mode. If those items along with price and size don't bother you, then the G1 X II is a solid choice.