The Best Compact Digital Cameras for EDC

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Whether you’re capturing your surroundings or your latest pocket dump, a dedicated camera can be a welcome addition to your EDC. There are hundreds of models of cameras out there from dozens of manufacturers, each one fitting into an individual’s lifestyle differently. By the end of this guide, we hope you’ll have a better grasp on these different types of cameras and how to fit them seamlessly into your EDC.

Why Carry a Dedicated Camera?

While most people find that their phone takes adequate photos, it is an entirely different experience to use a camera. The act of using a camera to take photos slows you down and makes you think about the shot rather than firing away from your smartphone and hoping for the best.

I like to think of it as a multitool versus a dedicated knife. While the multitool is good at a bunch of tasks, the dedicated knife is more focused, will be of higher quality, and in most cases will be a better tool for a cutting job. The same can be said for a smartphone vs. a dedicated camera.

What Makes a Camera EDC-friendly?

Digital SLRs and cameras with interchangeable lenses produce top-quality images, but they are a pain to carry on an everyday basis. Even the smallest DSLR will need significant bag space or a dedicated bag. Throw a few lenses into the mix and you’ve got a heavy, clunky rig on your hands. 

A camera that is well-suited for EDC mixes durability, compact size, and convenience for an overall manageable package. Typically they’ll have a fixed lens for simplicity, a smaller body for ease of carry, and rugged features for traveling/outdoors.

They say that the best camera you have is the one with you, and we believe that to be true. If you’re carrying a smaller camera that’s not a burden, you’re more likely to have it with you at all times to be able to capture that decisive moment. We’ve compiled a list of camera types for every scenario, check these out if you’ll be shooting…

Action & Sports

The action sports camera has made a huge splash in recent years. With ever-improving image and video quality, these wearable cameras can go anywhere and capture anything. It’s not uncommon to see a GoPro strapped to a motocross or BMX rider’s helmet to capture the action. Even if you’re not a professional daredevil, an action camera can be tied into your EDC thanks to their light weight, toughness, water resistance, and mounting options. They can be pocketed or tossed in a bag with minimal worry about damaging them.

GoPro HERO

GoPro has gone from small company to household name with their line of action cameras. These go-anywhere, do-anything cameras crank out full HD video and stills all within an incredibly tough package. Strap or clip the camera to whatever gear, car, bike frame, or helmet you want with the available mounting kits.

BUY ($130)


Outdoor Adventures

Action cameras have their place, but if you really want to take creative control of the scene you wish to capture, perhaps some more robust shooting features are needed. There is an entire class of cameras dedicated to withstanding the elements while capturing the best image possible. Common features in these rugged cameras include waterproofing, shock resistance, temperature resistance, and more traditional camera controls. One thing that these cameras have that most affordable action cams don't is an LCD screen to view the photos you’ve just taken.

Olympus Tough TG-860

Waterproof, shockproof, and adventure ready, the Olympus Tough TG-860 is an excellent option when considering a rugged camera. Integrated GPS can geotag the photos you just took, giving you GPS coordinates so you don’t have to remember exactly where that scenic overlook was. Built-in WiFi means you can share your photos from the trip on the way home, without needing a computer.

BUY ($279)


Street Photography

If the urban jungle is more of your environment, then a low-profile, high-quality shooter may be more suited to your style. Several camera manufacturers have managed to squeeze high-quality sensors into compact enclosures for the ultimate in incognito photography. Fast autofocus and large apertures are necessary to freeze the moment in front of you, and this class of cameras are up to the task. Check out our review of the Fuji X30 to see what an excellent street photography camera can do.

Fuji X100T

Few cameras have as loyal of a following as the Fuji X100T. This retro-inspired camera looks great and takes even better photos. Built-in film simulation results in excellent photos with minimal post processing. A silent mode feature turns off all sounds and the flash, allowing you to capture the scene without disturbing it. If you’re looking for something in a smaller package at a much lower price point, check out the Sony RX100 ($398).

BUY ($1299)


When Pocket Space Is a Premium

Many of the camera types we have gone over are better carried in a bag or large jacket pocket. If you’re looking to get the best image quality out of the smallest package, a compact point and shoot would be best. Around 1” in thickness with rounded sides, these small shooters fit into a pocket with ease. Simpler controls and no-fuss menus make compact point and shoots ideal for vacation photography.

Canon S110

When pocket-ability is a must, consider this tiny shooter. The Canon S110 provides excellent image quality and a zoom lens all in a small package. The rounded edges won’t poke your leg when pocketed, and you’ll be thankful for the 1” thickness when carrying it around. Just because a camera is small, doesn’t mean it can’t be big on features.

BUY ($249)


With Your Smartphone

While dedicated cameras are fun to use, they may not be for everyone. If you’re happy with the pictures from your phone, there are ways to improve them. Tons of clip-on lenses, cases to improve ergonomics, and applications can help you get the best out of your phone camera. These small, pocketable, and relatively affordable accessories can turn a good photo into a great one.

Olloclip, Moment Case, & VSCO Cam

If you don’t want to carry a dedicated camera, get the best out of what you already have. These lenses from Olloclip are capable of awesome macro shots, huge wide angles, and up close telephoto zoom. The convenient form factor is pocket-friendly and they’re easy to install and remove as needed. The Wizgear Tripod Smartphone Mount ($8) makes steady shots easy with two different mounting orientations. Once you’ve snapped some pics, there are few better editing apps than VSCO Cam. The app provides manual control over the camera settings and includes some awesome filters to personalize the look of each photo you take.

BUY ($85)


We hope that you now have a better idea of what makes the perfect EDC camera. Now all that’s left is to pick the right one for your carry and start capturing the shots you’ve always wanted. What gear do you carry to take your photos in your day-to-day? Let us know in the comments below!

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Discussion (9 total)

Aperture and shutter speed are two important factors affecting a photograph. Smartphones make those choices for you but they are not always what you want. If you want to make those decisions then a camera with appropriate controls is essential.

My EDC camera is a Canon Powershot SX260 HS: 12mp, 20x zoom and a load of other settings (although I only use AV/TV and flash on/off).
I got sony a6300 with 30mm f2.8 lens, pretty compact for everyday use.
Enjoyable and informative review, thanks, Ed.
I like your analogy 'twixt a multitool and a dedicated knife. Makes sense.
Your choices are naturally open to debate, but offer a wide selection depending on individual preference.
My smartphone (Note 4) takes decent snaps with a micro sensor, but for better photographs, as has been mentioned, a large sensor is desirable. Adding bulk is a fair trade-off for the results. Using my Sony Nex 6 http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony-alpha-nex-6 is a pleasure that focuses the mind as well as the image. For activities it's hard to beat my Hero Black 4, which minimises carry too.
My EDC camera is a Fuji X-Pro 1 with a 27mm (40.5 mm equivalent) pancake lens.
Sony A6000 is the future
My EDC camera is Pentaq Q, it's perhaps the smallest mirrorless camera on market. But small sensor come with small size, makes it hard to capture great picture on low light. For bright sunny day, it's a perfect camera.
The best EDC camera available in my opinion is one of the Sony RX100 versions. 1" sensor and full manual control plus RAW. How can that camera not make the list?
It's mentioned under Street Photography in the same paragraph as the Fuji!
in my bag i have the gopro hero3+ great for the quick action or heck even photos but my main cam is the canon sd1100 a bit older and i have a few extra rechargeable batts for it i think its 8 years old and still snapping away, I would like to upgrade it to a newer canon that can take hd video, I like the sony and the fuji that would be great to change lenses but then i have to have the lenses with me, Ill stick with the point and shoot canons.