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Technology.

8 November 2021

Which compact camera brand to buy in 2021

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
Hollie Hennessy
How to buy the best digital camera 3

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, Fujifilm and Olympus – and have calculated a reliability rating for each.   

Difference between the best and worst compact camera brands

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.

BrandReliability ratingReliability scoreCustomer satisfaction score
95%74%
94%71%
89%71%
93%67%
90%77%
90%68%
93%75%

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?

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%

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.

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.