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While most of the cameras in this category fall within the relatively narrow $500-$800 range (with a few exceptions), products in this roundup vary quite a bit in terms of sensor size, number and type of control points, zoom range, video capabilities and built-in electronic viewfinders (or lack thereof). All of the cameras here offer some sort of zoom range, in general, less than 8x. Many are small enough to put into a pocket. In general, we only included flagship compacts from each brand.

If you're looking at a zoom compact as your next camera, maybe you're a smartphone shooter looking to take more control. You might be the seasoned pro looking for a capable pocket cam. Or maybe you're upgrading from an aging DSLR to something newer, faster and more exciting.

Whatever brings you here, you'll find cameras that are both surprisingly powerful and compact by the standards of even a couple years ago. That's because smartphones have made somewhat irrelevant smaller sensor compacts that didn't offer much of an image quality benefit over the similar-sized sensors in most phones today. The cameras in this roundup all differ in design, operation and feel, but all should be far more capable than even the best smartphones on the market today. Here are the top zoom compacts on the market today that we think are worth a look:

The majority of offerings in this category utilize 1"-type sensor, however two cameras offer even larger sensors: the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is built around the largest sensor of the bunch at 1.5", while the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 use a slightly smaller Micro Four Thirds chip.

On the smaller side, the two Fujifilm options use significantly smaller 2/3" sensors, while the Canon PowerShot S120 features the smallest sensor, a 1/1.7" chip. This is important because sensor size can be a major indicator of potential - particularly low light - image quality. Also, cameras with larger sensors will generally allow for much more control over depth of field.

On the following pages, you'll find what we liked and didn't like about each camera, links to our test scenes for image quality comparisons, and real-world galleries to give you a sense of how each performs outside the lab.

To further help you pick the right camera in this class, we've also created the chart below, which breaks down the equivalent aperture for each camera, as you work your way through the zoom range. Our article here explains the concept of equivalence, but at a high level all you need to know is that the lower the line is on the graph below, the blurrier the backgrounds you'll be able to get and typically, though not always, the better the overall low-light performance.

This graph plots equivalent focal length against equivalent aperture - with both axes taking sensor size into account so that they can be compared on a common basis. Equivalent focal lengths offer the same field-of-view and equivalent apertures give the same depth-of-field and similar total light capture. For more information, click here.