If any compact camera can put the smartphones in their place, it’s the Sony RX100 III. With a massive 1-inch image sensor—bigger than what’s found in any other pocketable camera—packed into a tiny body, both of the RX100’s two previous generations were arguably the pound-for-pound best compacts available. The new, 20-megapixel version holds onto that title by building on the line’s stunning lowlight performance, which it owes to a brighter 24-75mm, f/1.8-2.8 lens. The latest camera also adds a pop-up electronic viewfinder, or EVF, which is more than a would-be artiste’s tool for ultra-precise framing (though it is, in fact, great for that).
Viewfinders are indispensable during outdoor shooting, when bright sunlight turns the rear display into a blacked-out slab, and forces you to fire blindly in the general direction of subjects. This crisp EVF gives you more shot control than any phone and more than many standalone cams. Finally, the RX100 III’s new video capture codec makes it a surprisingly phenomenal mini-camcorder (another feature whose utility may sneak up on you). And while the price tag might seem steep, it’s a genuine bargain for a camera that does so many things so well—including everyone’s favorite “bokeh” shots, those portraits with the defocused backgrounds—and still fits in your back pocket. [$800; store.sony.com]