There’s nothing like having the complete performance of a fully-featured DSLR or mirrorless camera paired with a bunch of high-end lenses. But, there’s also the case for owning a straightforward camera solution that has minimal features.
The best minimalist cameras should be a happy balance between a wealth of features and straightforward workings. This is usually a fine balancing act as the more expensive a camera becomes, the more features it usually contains.
However, as technology continues to progress, minimalist cameras can now offer excellent image resolution without being overwhelming. The minimalist factor can also mean different things to different people. Minimal can mean small dimensions, while in other cases a simple feature set, which is simply plug and play.
All the offerings below in the minimalist camera camp offer small dimensions, a straightforward feature set, and in most cases an included lens. Applications for such cameras can include everything from discrete street photography to straightforward portrait shooting. Prices obviously can range from the inexpensive to costly, with all the offerings below providing broad functionality and good optics for the money.
1. Fujifilm X100F (Overall Winner)
The Fujifilm X100F along with other cameras in the Fujifilm range have managed to strike a happy balance between retro looks and modern functionality. This offering features a 24.3MP X Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor with no low pass filter, an X-Processor 4, and 4K video capabilities.
The ISO sensitivity ranges from 160-12,800, with a continuous shooting mode of 11 fps and a healthy 425 phase-detection points. For the optics, a redesigned FUJINON 23mm f/2 lens is included, with an equivalent focal length of 35mm. This is an ideal focal length for general purpose usage.
The 1.62m-dot LCD rear touchscreen can be used for visual feedback or full camera operation, depending on your individual ways of working. In use, the camera has just enough external dials and buttons to feel hands-on and tactile, while not being overwhelming in features. The 23mm f/2 lens provides excellent image quality and with the full range of Fujifilm simulation modes, final images can be produced in camera.
While the Fujifilm X100F has quite a high price tag for a seemingly minimalist camera, it ticks every box for compact quality. It’s also equally capable for both still images and video applications.
2. Ricoh GR III
For a minimalist camera, the Ricoh GR III ticks the boxes of being small in size with a straightforward feature set. The self-contained camera features a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, along with a 28mm f/2.8 lens (35mm equivalent), 3-axis Shake Reduction System. It’s also capable of 1080p video.
The integrated 3-inch 1.037m-dot LCD touchscreen is large and bright enough for general menu navigation. Shooting modes include fully automatic to semi-automatic shooting modes: aperture, shutter speed priority, and fully automatic. The 18.3mm lens (28mm equivalent) has a wide and bright f/2.8 aperture, with two focusing modes for general use or a macro mode for close-up subjects.
The Ricoh GR III is extremely lightweight at only 257g. It provides wonderful image quality and is extremely discreet for carrying around all day. The hybrid autofocus is quick to lock onto subjects and the shake reduction system ensures more keeper images than ever.
In total, the Ricoh GR III is a well-formed compact camera with extremely straightforward workings.
Although the Sony RX100 VI is minimalist in size, it’s packed full of features. This Sony offering can be used very easily as a point-and-shoot solution, with built-in scene modes or as a fully manual camera.
The Sony RX100 VI is wrapped around a 20.1 megapixel 1-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor and an IONZ X image processor, with the ability to shoot full HD video through its equivalent 24-70mm lens. Image stabilization has also been included, along with a built-in three-stop ND filter, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a highly capable autofocus system.
Focusing modes such as face detection and Eye AF are an excellent way to capture sharp portraits, along with Smile Shutter technology, which automatically releases the shutter when a subject’s smile is detected.
Along with the wonderful image quality and color rendition provided by this minimalist camera, there are a plethora of creative styles and picture effects. Which means professional results are easily achievable in-camera.
The Sony RX100 VI may have a minimal form factor, but it’s also chock full of features and definitely worth the asking price.
Just like Sony’s range of compact cameras, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II packs in a lot of features for the price, along with great image quality. Small and lightweight in form, the Canon features a 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor, a 4.2x zoom lens (24-100mm equivalent focal length), an f/1.8-f/2.8 maximum aperture, and the ability to shoot full HD 1080p video.
Image stabilization is included with an amazing seven modes of operation. These modes include Normal IS for general use, Panning IS for tracking shots, Macro (Hybrid) mode for close-up photography, a tripod mode, Dynamic IS for wide-angle video use, Powered IS for telephoto videos, and Active Tripod IS for video-specific tripod use.
The rear of this minimalist camera features a three-inch touchscreen LCD which is fully tilting, while a snapshot of the other features includes built-in Wi-Fi, various picture styles, in-camera RAW conversion, and timelapse movies.
The Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II is definitely not short of features and just like the Sony above, can also be used as a point-and-shoot solution, while still providing excellent image quality.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II is another highly regarded minimalist camera with just the right amount of external features. Although it may only have a 17-megapixel 4/3 sensor, the Leica DC Vario-Summilux f/1.7-2.8 lens performs a fine job of extracting as much detail as possible from both still images and video.
The Panasonic tips the scales providing 4K video, with the additional ability to grab individual frames which can be rendered as JPEG images. A three-inch touchscreen and electronic viewfinder provide all the visual feedback needed, with external dials to control shutter speed and exposure compensation.
The autofocus system comes from Panasonic’s higher-end cameras and is wonderfully quick in operation. This works equally well in both image and video modes, while video at 4K does experience slight cropping.
With the combination of the Leica lens, image quality, and compact form, the Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II would be equal to the Canon and Sony above, if it wasn’t for its slightly higher price point.
6. Polaroid Mint (Budget Winner)
The Polaroid Mint won our top spot in our 7 Best Polaroid Cameras and is about as minimalist as you can get for a point-and-shoot camera. The Polaroid Mint features a 16-megapixel image sensor, built-in automatic LED flash, and rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
The camera prints images directly onto 2”x3” ZINK paper, without the need for an external printer setup. This makes the camera an ideal solution for social events or anywhere instant prints will make the most impact.
The internal controls may be limited, but there are options for various picture modes, which include color, black and white, and sepia options.
This compact camera is extremely affordable and although it may not have the ultimate optical quality of the offerings above, it’s one of the most fun to use.
Choosing the Best Minimalist Cameras
Which minimalist camera setup you choose from the list above will largely depend on your budget and which features you need the most. All the options above can be used as a straightforward point-and-shoot solution, with the most expensive options having the most features.
Although an extended feature set may initially seem complicated, it will provide you with the most scope for creativity. In other words, a camera that you can grow into as your camera skills expand. In all other respects, the minimalist cameras listed above all provide fine image quality, while also allowing you to focus on capturing those special moments.