Compact camera buying guide

Compact cameras range from easy point and shoot to advanced models. With intuitive controls and automatic shooting modes these cameras make it easy for you, just point and shoot!

Advanced models are built with CMOS sensors, larger optical zooms, Full HD video and designer lenses. These cameras are more sensitive to light so images are more vibrant with natural colour tones.
View compact camera range

Image quality


The sensor quality and size determines the quality of a photo and not the megapixel count.

Compact system cameras and Digital SLRs use larger CMOS sensors. These sensors are of a higher quality than CCD sensors, producing higher quality photos regardless of the megapixels count.

Additionally, CMOS sensors are more sensitive, achieving improved photo quality, especially in low light conditions.

This CMOS technology can also be called, Live MOS, Exmoor R, APSC or MOS.



Megapixels are the number of pixels that make up a photograph. However, the number of megapixels only matters when you are enlarging a photo. A photo taken with a 12 megapixel camera can be enlarged to a 70cm x 45cm poster without sacrificing quality.

As you can see from the table below, even a basic 4 megapixel compact camera has the resolution for producing an 8x10” print. The type and size of the sensor determines the quality of the photo.


Low light performance:

One of the main attributes that determines camera quality is its performance in low light.

As highlighted in the sensor section, CMOS sensors are inherently more sensitive and will produce superior results in low light than a CCD sensor.

Additionally, each camera is given an ISO rating and the higher the ISO number the better the quality the camera will produce in low light. Often without the need for a flash which causes unnecessary whiteness.

Low light performance


The optical zoom capability of a camera is shown as a multiple such as 10x. This means the camera can bring a subject ten times closer to you without losing quality in the photo.

Even beginner cameras can offer 10x optical zoom while high performance and bridge cameras offer up to 30x zoom.



The quality and specification of a lens has a major impact on the photo quality. Some cameras have special wide-angle lenses such as 24mm or 28mm which capture wider landscapes. You don’t have to squeeze against a wall to capture a large group of people either. The lower the number the wider the angle and better the lens.

Most lenses are standard, but look out for lenses from manufacturers such as Leica, Schneider and Carl Zeiss as these are expert brands and produce great quality lenses.

An example of a photo captured with a wide-angle (24mm) lens and a standard lens (35mm).

Lens display

Image stabilization

Image stabilisation reduces blurring on pictures by keeping the sensor still even if your body is moving.

This is especially important to look for if you take photos at night or use a long zoom as these types of photo are more susceptible to blurring.

Image stabilization and non stabilization

GPS & WiFi

GPS tagging will automatically register where you take your photos, allowing you to view your photos by location.

Wi-Fi enabled cameras allow you to download and share your photos without the need to use a cable to connect to a computer. This is a great new feature to make taking and sharing photos easier than ever.

GPS & WiFi

HD Movie

Most cameras now have the added benefit of HD video capture. This is ideal for action memories, whether it be your children’s sports day, a music concert or family holiday moments.

Look out for Full HD (1080p) recording which is superior in quality than HD (720p) recording.

HD Movie quality

Other considerations


Larger screen sizes make it easier to view and frame a photo.

Most cameras use standard LCD screens, whilst higher performance cameras use premium OLED screens with clearer displays.

Additionally, some cameras have touch screen which enables you to tap the screen to select options, take a photo and zoom. Some cameras are even available with a versatile screen which allows easy capture at any angle.



In addition to the easy–to-use auto settings, compact system cameras and Digital SLRs have full manual modes for maximum creativity control.

Increasing the shutter speed is great for capturing fast moving subjects, whilst decreasing the shutter speed creates beautiful moving photos such as the one below.

Decreasing the aperture reduces the focal area of a photo, causing the surrounding areas to be defocused, as the photo below.

View compact camera range

Knowhow logo