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Which compact camera brand to buy in 2019

By Hollie Hennessy

Unique Which? reliability data can help you choose a compact camera brand that lasts, as we survey owners of Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony compact cameras to find out which develop the fewest faults over time

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In this article:

Issues with the zoom are the most common fault reported in compact cameras.

No one wants a camera that fails to turn on when you want to take a holiday snap, or jams up when you're trying to take that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Our reliability survey helps you choose a camera from a brand that will stand the test of time.

Every year in our unique reliability survey we ask more than 10,000 Which? members to tell us whether they are pleased with their tech products, or have experienced problems.

Our survey data takes into account the reported fault rates, severity of these faults and the how soon they occurred. In our latest analysis we've looked at the performance of the biggest compact camera manufacturers – including Canon, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, Fujifulm and Olympus – and have calculated a reliability rating for each.   

 Difference between the best and worst compact camera brands

Although there's quite a big difference between the highest scoring and lowest scoring compact brand in our tests, they are generally all pretty reliable. That said, there is a difference between the most reliable and the least. One fails to reach 90%, whereas the best is a high 95%. 

 The most reliable compact camera brands

The table below summarises this year’s reliability results. Customer score relates to whether their customers would recommend it. The more stars for reliability, the fewer the problems reported.

Only logged-in Which? members can view which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

 Common compact camera problems

By far, the most common fault with compact cameras is a problem with the zoom (16%), with the lens sticking, jamming or malfunctioning. Typically, it's sand or grit interfering with the lens extension mechanism, or the camera has been dropped with the lens extended.

The next two most common faults recorded were problems with the shutter or the control buttons, both at 9%. A stuck shutter typically means the camera takes completely black pictures. If you are taking pictures with your camera outside, the pictures may be extremely bright and overexposed. 

Lastly, a camera isn't much use when the buttons you use to control it stop working or only work intermittently.

 Which compact camera brand stays fault-free for longest?

The graph above shows how the brand that stays fault-free for longest compares with the worst brand, as well as the overall average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table below.

Only logged-in Which? members can view which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access. 

Brand name % fault-free after one year % fault-free after three years % fault-free after six years
98% 96% 94%
97% 95% 95%
93% 89% 87%
97% 94% 89%
95% 90% 88%
98% 90% 86%
96% 94% 92%
Table notes
Results based on feedback from more than 1,923 compact camera owners, surveyed in April-July 2019.

Key

Member Content

How we measure faults and reliability in compact cameras

Our reliability scores don't just take into account the number of faulty products. We also look at how severe these faults were and when they happened. We judge major or catastrophic faults more harshly than minor annoyances, and also penalise faults that occur when the product is new and hasn't had much use. We ask our respondents to describe their faults as minor, major or catastrophic based on the following guidelines:

  • Minor: a fault that doesn’t affect the product’s performance significantly or a fault that only occurs occasionally with minimal impact. This issue may be irritating or annoying but it isn’t frequently problematic and you can easily work around it. For example, not being able to record videos with sound.
  • Major: a fault that has a noticeable effect on the product’s performance. This fault affects how you use the product and can be problematic. For example, a fault with the lens.
  • Catastrophic: a fault that renders the product unusable, with the fault needing to be repaired or parts replaced before it can be used again. For example, problems with the shutter or failing to capture photos or video.

 Compact camera brands rated

Choose a brand from the list below to find out more detail about its performance in our survey.

Canon compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 8
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of  1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

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Member Content
  • Find out how well Canon cameras score for reliability in comparison with some of the other most popular compact brands, including Sony and Panasonic. 
  • Find out which problems are most common with Canon cameras, from the zoom not working or the shutter sticking. 
  • A camera can be reliable, but this doesn't mean the owner will be super happy. See how satisfied Canon owners are with their compact cameras.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Fujifilm compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of  1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

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Member Content
  • Fujifilm might be one of the smaller photography brands, but you can find out whether that means anything around how reliable its cameras are. 
  • We also asked owners how likely they were recommend Fujifilm cameras to a friend, and if they repurchased another camera by the brand. 
  • Even the most reliable brands can develop an issue – see which ones affected Fujifilm models.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Nikon compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of  1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

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Member Content
  • Nikon is quite a big name in the photography world, but that doesn't necessarily mean its cameras are reliable. Find out how they compare to other major brands such as Sony, Panasonic and Canon. 
  • We also ask members if they'd recommend each brand – see whether they said yes to Nikon.
  • Faults with cameras can range from the device being completely unusable to just an issue with the battery or a couple of pixels on the LCD screen. Our data shows which were the most common with Nikon cameras.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Olympus compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 2
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of  1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

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Member Content
  • Olympus makes a range of adventure cameras. See how tough they actually are by discovering their reliability score, and see which problems are most likely to occur, from broken LCD screens to the zoom malfunctioning. 
  • How happy are owners with their Olympus compact? Our customer score tells you whether they'd recommend the brand to their friends. 
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Panasonic compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 6
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of  1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • How reliable are Panasonic cameras? Although it's one of the biggest compact camera brands, that doesn't mean it's the most reliable. Read our results to find out whether this is the case. 
  • We find out which faults are the most common with Panasonic models – see whether it's things like the zoom breaking, or just a few buttons not working. 
  • Are Panasonic models popular? See how happy customers were with their Panasonic compact cameras.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Samsung compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 0
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Samsung left the UK camera market in 2015, but if you're looking to buy a second-hand or older models and want to find how reliable Samsung cameras are, see our results. 
  • We also find out how satisfied customers were with Samsung, and also the faults most likely to affect their compact cameras.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, Join Which? to get instant access.
Sony compact cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 8
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 15 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of  1,939 compact camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 15 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • See how Sony stands up to the other big names in photography, including Canon, Nikon and Panasonic. 
  • How satisfied are owners with their Sony compact cameras? Our customer score reveals all. 
  • You can also find out which faults commonly crop up with Sony compact cameras.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, Join Which? to get instant access.

Head to our compact camera reviews

Know which compact camera brand you want? Use the links to go straight to our reviews and find your ideal model:

 How we calculate the best and worst brands

Every year we survey thousands of compact camera owners, asking how satisfied they are with their camera and how likely they would be to recommend it to a friend. We also track faults, taking into account when these issues occurred and how severe they are. We use this data to create customer and reliability scores for the most popular compact camera brands.

Our reliability surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best compact you should buy.

This data is crucial for our testing too. If a brand falls far below the category average, we take away the manufacturer’s Best Buy awards and won’t recommend any of their products unless a marked improvement in reliability is shown.

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