Finding the best compact camera for your needs is never going to be easy, because the compact camera market is a very crowded place.
There are hundreds of digital compact cameras out there, waiting for you to ogle them, to scratch your heads over them, and eventually hand over your hard-earned cash for them.
Once the transaction is complete and you're unboxing your newest purchase, a nagging doubt enters your mind: did I make the right choice?

Whichever compact digital camera you might be looking for, we've pulled together a selection of what we believe are the best compact digital cameras on the market now.The right choice, of course, depends on what you want from your digital camera. Maybe you're looking for a high-end compact camera or perhaps you want something more basic to help someone else get started in photography.

Best compact cameras 2012: 

Fujifilm Finepix X100

Price: £695/$1,200
Specs: 12.3MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, 23mm f/2 lens, hybrid viewfinder

Best compact cameras

Fuji created a stir when it announced this retro-styled compact with an 12.3 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor. The fixed 23mm f/2 lens provides a bright aperture for low light shooting and an angle of view roughly equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera.
Its design is aimed to appeal to experienced photographers and enthusiasts, who like direct exposure control with an aperture ring, shutter-speed dial . It also sports a raw image mode and has a unique hybrid viewfinder that combines an electronic and optical finder in the same view.

Fujifilm Finepix X10

Price: £390/$600
Specs 12MP CMOS sensor, 4x f/2-2.8 optical zoom, Manual zoom ring, 1080p HD video

Best compact cameras

Manual controls are easily accessible and pictures can be recorded in a raw image format. Even the zoom ring is operated manually, which is unusual for a compact camera and a large bright optical viewfinder is provided for those who prefer this to using the screen for composing images.Another retro-styled camera from Fujifilm, although this one is quite different to the X100. A 4x zoom lens with a bright maximum aperture of f/2-2.8 is fitted to a metal camera body containing a 1 /2.3î EXR CMOS sensor.
Add in 1080p HD video recording and you have a highly specified camera that justifies the high price tag.

Canon Powershot G1 X

Price: £700/$800
Specs: Large 14.3MP CMOS sensor, 4x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, swivel LCD screen

Best compact cameras

Although the zoom range is limited when compared to other Canon G-series cameras, the trump card of the Canon G1 X is its unusually large sensor. A larger sensor has more surface area to receive light, improving image quality at high sensitivities and boosting dynamic range. Interestingly, Canon has opted to stick with the 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than 3:2 as most APS-C sensors are, even though the sensor in the G1 X is roughly the same height as APS-C format.
In order to make the most of what the sensor can offer, Canon has equipped the G1 X with the latest DIGIC 5 processor, which promises better control over noise at high ISO sensitivities, faster operation and smoother 1080p video recording.
The 4x zoom lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 28-122mm lens on a 35mm camera, and the usual array of direct controls found on G-series cameras should make manual operation a pleasure.

Canon PowerShot G12

Price: £400/$420
Specs: 10MP CMOS sensor, 5x stabilised optical zoom lens, 720p HD video, swivel screen

Best compact cameras

Canon's G-series cameras have been the benchmark by which other high-end compacts are judged ever since the G1 released at the turn of the century. The G12 continues this tradition with it's strong magnesium body, highly sensitive 10MP CMOS sensor, 720p video, 5x Image Stabilised zoom lens and DIGIC 4 image processor.
Experienced photographers will enjoy the direct exposure controls, HDR capability and raw image recording, whereas more casual photographers are catered for by a wide range of automatic scene programs and face detection.
Add to this multi-aspect shooting, and you can see why this compact camera gives interchangeable lens cameras a run for their money.

Ricoh GR Digital IV

Price: £435/$600
Specs: 10MP CCD sensor, 28mm (equiv) f/1.9 lens, 1,230,000 dot 3-inch LCD screen

Best compact cameras

A pocketable camera with a high quality lens, equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, and a fast f/1.9 maximum aperture. The GR Digital IV follows in Ricoh's tradition of producing high quality compact cameras that are ideal for street photography.
Despite the compact dimensions, manual controls are easily accessible and a 3-inch LCD screen with an extremely high resolution of 1,230,000 dots has been squeezed onto the rear. Images can be shot in raw formats too.
Strangely Ricoh hasn't followed the trend of including HD video capability, the GRD IV will record video, but only at VGA resolution.

Nikon Coolpix P310

Price: £235/$315
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 4.2x zoom with a fast f/1.8 aperture, Full HD video, Optical VR

Best compact cameras

The Nikon Coolpix P310 builds on the features its popular predecessor sported with a higher resolution 16MP rear-illuminated CMOS sensor, which should enhance the camera's ability to take images in low light. Couple this with a bright f/1.8 lens and you have a formidable, pocketable camera for taking pictures in a wide range of conditions.
If tinkering with raw image files is a feature you desire, this camera may not be for you, since images can only be recorded in JPEG format. But given the bargain basement price, it still represents excellent value.

Olympus XZ-1

Price: £310/$500
Specs: 10MP CCD sensor, 4x optical zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, 720p HD video

Best compact cameras

As well as being one of the most stylish high-end compact cameras on the market, the Olympus XZ-1 sports a larger than normal CCD sensor and a 4x zoom Zuiko lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, which both enable this camera to take excellent pictures in low light conditions.
Full manual control is possible, but also a comprehensive range of automatic exposure programs and fun art effects that can be applied to images. Add in the 720p HD video mode and the Olympus XZ-1 is well worthy of consideration.

Canon PowerShot S100

Price: £360/$390
Specs: 12.1MP CMOS sensor, 5x image stabilised zoom lens with 24mm wide angle and f/2 maximum aperture, 1080p HD video

Best compact cameras

Canon's latest advanced compact raises the bar set by the S95 by including a 12.1MP high sensitivity CMOS sensor, manual control, and Full HD video.
The combination of a large 1/1.7-inch sensor with Canon's latest DIGIC 5 image processing chip and the bright f/2 lens delivers excellent quality at high sensitivities. The compact body also provides full manual control, with adjustments applied directly via the bezel around the lens and the ability to record raw images.
A strip of rubber on the front of the S100 gives it extra grip over the S95.

Nikon Coolpix P7100

Price: £349/$449.95Specs: 10.1MP 1/1.7-inch CCD sensor, 3-inch 921,000 dot LCD, 7.1x zoom

Best compact camera 2012

Nikon's P7100 is a close match for the Canon G12 in terms of specification, having the same size sensor with 10.1-million effective pixels and a f/2.8-5.6 7.1x zoom lens with a focal length equivalence of 35-200mm and Vibration Reduction (VR). The 3-inch 921,000 dot screen however, is a tilting unit rather than being fully articulated.
The solid-feeling body is liberally covered with buttons and dials, that give the user plenty of direct control over the most important shooting parameters.
Image quality is generally good, especially from raw files, but colours can be a little on the vivid-side.

Sony RX100

Price: £579/$648
Specs: 20.2MP 1 inch Exmoor CMOS sensor, 3.6x zoom, 1080p video, Bionz processor, f/1.8-4.9 lens

Best Compact camera 2012: 26 reviewed

Though it's a relative small compact camera, the Sony RX100 has a larger than average sensor. In fact its 20.2MP 1-inch CMOS device is the same physical size as the one in the Nikon 1 V1 and Nikon 1 J1, which arecompact system cameras.
We love the build quality of the RX100 and it provides all the controls that demanding enthusiasts expect, plus the ability to record raw files. We especially like the control ring around the 28-100mm (equivalent) f/1.8-4.9 lens that can be used to adjust a selection of features including aperture.
Our tests reveal that the RX100 performs well across the sensitivity range (ISO 125-6400) and it produces, bright punchy images that aren't excessively vibrant.