General meaning ...
"Compact cameras" are cameras which have appropriate dimensions for putting them into the pocket of a jacket instead of a special camera bag. Compacts can be pocket cameras for 110 film, rollfilm folding cameras for the small roll film formats, and, in most cases, cameras for 35mm film or APS film. Many simple point-and-shoot cameras are compacts. The most digital cameras are compacts. Meep :D
... and what we talk about
|various good compact cameras (we talk about), image by Brian Cue|
When talking about compacts today people don't think of old compact folders but of handy cameras with several automatic features: automatic film advance, automatic exposure, automatic focusing, automatic closing of the lens cover after usage, and automatic flash. Several very compact viewfinder cameras like the Olympus XA which don't have all of these features are still mentioned as compact cameras too.
Since compactness is a common characteristic of modern digicams the term compact camera is not so common in that field. But meaning at least two types of film cameras the term does not make an own category for camerapedia.
| various compact cameras (general meaning), the Olympus camera in the middle|
matches the criteria for compact cameras in common speech, image by Tsutomu Otsuka
... older cameras which were designed and marketed as very compact models of their class may still impress thru their compactness. Considering folding bed cameras one might think the design goal of cameras like the Conley Improved Compact Camera(1908) was finally achieved by KW in Dresden with the legendary Patent Etui (1920), an extremly flat 9x12 format folder, still liked very much by those who still use such cameras.