Compact zoom digital cameras (sometimes known as "travel zooms" or "compact megazooms") pack big zoom lenses (10x or higher) into pocket-sized bodies. Picture quality is generally solid, most offer some degree of manual control, and the higher-end models are often packed with extra features like full HD video, speedy burst shooting, built-in GPS geo-tagging capability, and sometimes RAW image capture.
These cameras are popular with a wide swath of camera buyers, from casual shooters looking for something stronger than a regular point-and-shoot up through enthusiasts looking for a versatile, carry-anywhere camera to complement their dSLR or mirrorless setups. They're especially desirable among travelers, since they're easy to tote and do a reasonably strong job capturing shots both near and far. So camera buyers who are looking for a convenient all-in-one shooter for a reasonable cost would do well to start with the models below.
This is an older model--which means you can find it for an excellent price. The SX280 is a feature-packed compact zoom, boasting GPS, wi-fi, full HD video and a nice 14 fps burst mode. Canon upgraded their image processor for this model, so consumers should expect faster processing times and improved low light performance. The SX280 is equipped with manual modes, plus plenty of scene and automatic modes for the novice user. It's predecessor, the SX260, was one of our favorites back in 2011, we expect no less from it's upgrade. Overall, this is a nice all around compact with plenty of features.
The Nikon Coolpix S9700 is a well-rounded compact zoom for the price. It sports a 30x zoom, a 5 fps burst mode, wi-fi and GPS. The S9700 is compact, yet still offers a lot of zoom. And as an extra benefit, it also includes manual modes, so images can be tweaked and customized.
The Canon PowerShot SX700 HS bests the Nikon S9700 in terms of speed with an 8.5 fps burst mode, while still offering some of the same great features like a 30x optical zoom, manual modes and wi-fi. And since it shoots HD video at 60 fps, the video quality from this compact shooter should be superb as well.
While the Sony WX350 may not have the longest zoom in its class, it is the fastest one of the bunch. The Sony WX350 can shoot up to 10 fps, making it a good compact option for sports or squirmy kids. It uses optical image stabilization, so the images should be crisp too. The WX350 has excellent video, shot at 60 fps so motion is smooth. Sony has a solid reputation for their compacts, we fully expect this model to live up to that standard.