The best APS-C compact cameras in 2023: pocket cameras with top image quality

best APS-C compact cameras
(Image credit: Ricoh)

Camera phones have annihilated the conventional compact camera market, so for a standalone compact to really stand out these days, it needs to deliver clearly superior image quality. The best way to achieve this is to fit a big image sensor. Trouble is, the best camera phone (opens in new tab) manufacturers have had the same idea, and even the once-mighty APS-C compact camera has its work cut out to stay ahead of the latest crop of flagship phones in terms of image quality. This might explain why there are now so few APS-C compacts available. If you want one, don't hang around, as like so many compact cameras, APS-C compacts might not be with us for much longer.

That's a pity, as APS-C compact cameras are almost the perfect blend of performance and practicality - only a full-frame compact camera (opens in new tab) can produce better image quality from a pocket-sized camera. However, there are a couple of potential drawbacks to consider before you buy. A bigger sensor traditionally requires a larger lens, so to minimize bulk, most APS-C compacts have a fixed focal length lens, although Canon has managed to equip its APS-C G1 X Mark III with a 3x zoom lens. 

Assuming you can live without much/any optical zoom, the only other consideration with an APS-C compact is battery life. APS-C sensors are relatively thirsty, which isn't a problem when they're powered by a beefy DSLR battery, but a compact camera only has space for a compact battery, resulting in a short battery life of around 200-250 shots.

Read more:

The best full-frame compact camera (opens in new tab)
The 10 best compact cameras (opens in new tab)

The best APS-C compact cameras

Why you can trust Digital Camera World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

A classic design brought right up to date: a superb all-rounder

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 26.1MP
Lens: 23mm f/2
LCD: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Slim and pocketable
+
26.1MP APS-C sensor
+
New tilting touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed wide-angle lens
-
No optical stabilization
-
Luxury price

The X100V is the fifth version of Fujfilm's beloved APS-C fixed lens compact camera. It uses Fujifilm’s latest 26.1-megapixel X-Trans processor, and features a superior lens to the previous X100F, as well as a new tilting touchscreen. There are some ergonomic enhancements too, but fundamentally this is the same design that has developed a cult following among enthusiast and pro photographers. Improved autofocus and 4K video capabilities further bring this classic camera design right up to date.

The new 23mm f/2 lens is visibly sharper at close range and wide open than its predecessor, while the new 117-area hybrid phase/contrast autofocus system is faster than before. Image quality is also first class, with excellent color rendition, and great high ISO performance when shooting in low light.

If you like the look of the X100V but want to save a few bucks, then the older X100F (below) is still on sale and some deals are out there for the taking.

Read more: Fujifilm X100V review (opens in new tab)

The G1 X III offers loads for the money, including optical zoom

Specifications

Type: Compact
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: 24-72mm f/2.8-5.6 (equiv.)
LCD: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: Full HD
User level: Enthusiast/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Very compact for sensor size
+
Excellent image quality
+
Decent 3x zoom range

Reasons to avoid

-
'Only' 1080p video
-
Poor 200-shot battery life
-
Variable lens aperture and minimum focus distance 

The G1 X Mark III packs a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, but unlike the fixed focal length Fuji and Ricoh APS-C cameras on this list, Canon’s top-line compact stands out by sporting a 3x 24-72mm-equivalent zoom lens. The f/2.8 max aperture is also impressive, but that’s only at 24mm - by 72mm it’s shrunk to a more modest f/5.6. The lens is remarkably compact though, with minimal lens protrusion. There’s just room for a zoom ring around the lens, although this does operate electronically and with an annoying lag. 

Otherwise the camera handles well and build quality is solid. There’s a generous sculpted grip on the front and rear, while both the 2,360k-dot OLED EVF and 3-inch, 1,040k-dot vari-angle screen are a pleasure to use, with the latter being touch-sensitive.

Canon’s excellent 49-point Dual Pixel AF is DSLR-fast and accurate, and the speed continues with up to 9fps burst shooting. As you’d expect for an APS-C sensor, image quality is high, with great detail reproduction and dynamic range in good light. Low light shots are just as impressive due to well-controlled noise, while the lens is sharp and distortion-free.

Read more: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review (opens in new tab)

It's the latest in a classic line, but it's starting to show its age

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: 28mm f/2.8 (equiv)
Monitor: 3in fixed, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optional
Continuous shooting: N/A
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Small size
+
24MP APS-C sensor

Reasons to avoid

-
1080p video not 4K
-
Viewfinder optional

Despite its fairly large APS-C sensor, the GR III is impressively compact at only 109.4 x 61.9 x 33.2mm, and it’s also amazingly light at just 257g. The sculpted front grip makes it feel secure in the hand, and there’s a full complement of rear panel buttons, as well as multi-function front and rear control wheels.

The GR III’s 24.2MP sensor is a healthy upgrade on the 16.2MP resolution offered by the old GR II. The new sensor even manages to generate slightly cleaner images with less image noise when compared to the GR II throughout the sensitivity scale. Dynamic range is also very respectable right up to ISO 12,800 and is marginally superior to both the GR II and Canon's G1 X Mark III.

The 18.3mm (28mm-equivalent) f/2.8 lens now boasts three-axis image stabilisation with four-stop effectiveness, and low-light performance is further enhanced by the high ISO 102,400 max sensitivity - two stops more than the GR II could manage.

It’s a pity there’s no built-in viewfinder or flash though, and the all-plastic body, though very solid and in-keeping with the long-established GR aesthetic, lacks a premium feel.

Read more: Ricoh GR III review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Ricoh)
(opens in new tab)

4. Ricoh GR IIIx

A GR III, refined

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: 28mm f/2.8 (equiv)
Monitor: 3in fixed, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optional
Continuous shooting: N/A
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast/expert

Reasons to buy

+
24MP sensor
+
Improved response times
+
40mm lens equivariant 

Reasons to avoid

-
1080p video not 4K
-
Fixed LCD screen

This latest GR IIIx has the same design as the original GR III, but swaps that camera’s wide 28mm equivalent lens for a more natural 40mm angle of view. The new camera gives photographers a choice: the original Ricoh GR III is still ideal for wide-angle street shots, landscapes and tight spaces, but the GR IIIx offers a more normal, natural perspective, close to a ‘standard’ lens.

The new 26.1mm F2.8 GR lens incorporates two aspherical lens elements and a 2-stop ND filter which can be engaged for very bright conditions. Inside is a 9-bladed diaphragm for smooth bokeh, and this lens can focus down to 0.12m for close up shots.

The GR IIIx does share some limitations of its predecessor. There is no viewfinder, which we guess is the price of the super-compact design – though the rear touchscreen display does have an Outdoor View setting for bright light. The GR IIIx is also restricted to Full HD movies only. That’s probably no great drawback in a camera designed for shoot-from-the-hip street photography, but it does draw attention to the older tech used in this camera.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.