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Which compact camera brand?

Most reliable compact camera brands

By Ryan Shaw

Article 1 of 2

Thanks to our unique annual survey of camera owners, we can reveal the best and worst compact camera brands for reliability.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Our reliability survey is the only one of its kind. We surveyed more than 2,700 camera owners about their camera, from how long it stayed fault free to how happy they were with it. We've collated and analysed the data to highlight the best and worst compact camera brands.

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 ensures you can choose a camera that will stand the test of time.

Here, we report on seven compact camera brands, including big names such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic, plus others like Fujifilm and Olympus, so you can see how they stack up against each other. Below, we’ve collated all our unique reliability ratings for compacts over a lifespan of five years. Overall, compact cameras are pretty reliable, but there are some differences between brands.

If you're after the best compact camera for a specific price, check out our extensive compact camera reviews.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Brand name Reliability star rating Percentage reliability score
93%
93%
92%
88%
87%
86%
84%

Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 1,118 compact camera owners. Data correct at August 2017.
 

Key

Member Content

Which compact camera brand stays fault free for longest?

The graphic below shows how the brand that stays fault-free for longest compares with the worst brand and the average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table underneath.

Brand name % faults after one year % faults after five years
96% 91%
97% 90%
96% 90%
94% 85%
95% 82%
94% 81%
94% 80%

Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 1,092 compact camera owners. Data correct at August 2017.
 

Key

Member Content

How compact camera brands compare

There were some interesting results from our 2017 survey, with one big-name brand scoring significantly lower than expected over the five-year period - not what you would expect from this pedigree. Plus, a high-priced camera doesn't always equate to reliability over time.

Our survey collects data on products that Which? members have owned over the past five years, recording what faults occur and when. We also take the severity of faults into account. Similarly, older products becoming faulty are judged less harshly, as they’re likely to have been used for longer.

We ask our respondents to describe their camera's 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/video.

We think it’s vital to consider reliability alongside our product testing, and asking owners to tell us about their experiences is the best way of judging a product’s real-world performance. Because of this, we’ll strip products of Best Buy awards if they get below a three-star rating for reliability. The most reliable brand is often not the best overall – but buying a product from a good brand increases your chances of getting one that will serve you well for many years.

Common compact camera problems

As part of our survey, we ask Which? members to share any compact camera issues they've had over the past five years. And for most owners we spoke to, a problem with the camera zoom is the top gripe.

Of those that reported a fault, the issues that topped the list were:

  • 16% - problems with the zoom
  • 10% - problems with the shutter (ie unwanted delay before taking pictures)
  • 9% - control buttons stopped working

Issues with the zoom lens are the most common problem for compacts, with the lens sticking, jamming or malfunctioning. Typically, it's sand or grit interfering with the lens extension mechanism that caused it, or the camera has been dropped with the lens extended.

A stuck shutter typically means the camera takes completely black pictures or, if you are taking pictures with your camera outside, the pictures may be extremely bright and overexposed. This was the second-most common problem.

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

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