By Molly McHughProvided by
It's easy to get swept up in the holiday hoopla and ensuring shopping chaos, and cutting through all the coupons, discounts, and deals can make it difficult come decision time. Couple all that with the headache of foraging through electronics specifications, and some might admit defeat. We're here to help, and consider this your guide to picking out the perfect digital camera. Whether you're looking for a starter DSLR, need that first point-and-shoot, or want to branch out into the mirrorless realm, we've picked and pulled our favorites from among the bestselling and best-reviewed devices from the past year or so.
Sony Cyber-shot TX55 ($350)
Sony's Cybershot series have been popular point-and-shoots, with their sleek build and -- dare we say iconic -- sliding front panel. Fans of the lineup will approve of the Tx55‘s upgrades and incredibly small packaging (it's the thinnest Cyber-shot yet). It includes a host of features that point-and-shoot buyers are expecting more and more, including a touchscreen, face detection, and sweep panorama.
16.2 megapixels5x optical zoomISO 100-3200
Canon PowerShot ELPH 310 HS ($200)
When it comes to point-and-shoots, you can't really go wrong with a Canon. The ELPH series has become something of a legacy name within a legacy brand, and the ELPH 310 HS doesn't break tradition. This tiny device manages to fulfill all of your basic photography needs with impressive results, as well as boasts a nice bright LCD display and it can hold its own in low light.
12.1 megapixels8x zoom1080p HD video captureISO 100-3200
Canon PowerShot S95 ($319.95)
The Canon PowerShot S95 is not a new camera, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. The compact camera is over a year old but it remains a choice point-and-shoot for a variety of reasons, including it's affordable price and ease of use. It also performs above average in low lighting situations for a pocket cam.
10 megapixels3.8x optical zoomf/2 lens
Nikon Coolpix P500 ($400)
This superzoom camera from Nikon lives up to its category with a 36x zoom. But it packs a real punch with its adjustable LCD display and commendable image quality. With the P500, ultra-wide panoramas become a possibility, and impressive close-ups are guaranteed, all in a very ergonomically thought-out package.
Read our full Nikon Coolpix P500 Review.
12.1 megapixels1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor36x lens zoomf/3.5-5.7ISO 100-12800
Canon PowerShot S100 ($429)
The high-end point-and-shoot is becoming an increasingly popular device, and many users' first digital camera. Which makes sense for a few reasons, but primarily if you're going to learn to shoot even a little bit, don't limit the playing field by buying a below average product. That will just lead to years of incremental upgrading. The Canon PowerShot S100 means you have all the thin goodness of a pocket cam with the ability to step up your manual shooting cam at whatever pace you choose. The obvious caveat is the high price, but this thing has staying power.
12.1 megapixels1/1.7-inch CMOS sensorGPSISO 80-6400
Canon PowerShot G12 ($500)
The G12 has some bulk to it–to say the least. There's nothing streamlined about this device, but its machine-like exterior aptly represents its insides. This prosumer beast is a favorite shooter that continues to hold its own among new competition, with its HD video recording, adjustable screen, and 28-140mm focal range.
10 megapixels4x optical zoomISO 80-3200
Fujifilm Finepix X100 ($1,200)
The Fujifilm Finepix X100 was the belle of the digital camera ball last year, although it tends to deny further definition. The vintage body captivated consumers for its striking beauty, and features like the hybrid viewfinder and DSLR-comparable sensor mean it produces some of highest quality stills from a fixed-lens camera on the market. You'll have to put up with some hardware quirks and a bit of an isolating in-camera user interface, but those don't distract from the photo results. No matter its issues, it remains a top choice among photo enthusiasts.
Read our full Fujifilm FinePix X100 Review.
12.3 megapixels23.6mm x 15.8mm (APS-C) CMOS sensorf/2-f/16 aperture
Olympus E-P3 ($900)
The PEN series has become something of a legacy name within the MFT category, and Olympus' refresh of the line has been a significant upgrade for the series. The top of the line camera, the E-P3, has been earning rave reviews as the best MFT camera available. With features like a lightning fast AF system, OLED touchscreen, 3D shooting, serious attention toward manual customization, and near complete lack of shutter lag, the E-P3 is a worthwhile investment in the mirrorless market.
Read our full Olympus E-P3 Review.
12.3 megapixelsISO 200-128003-inch OLED touchscreen35-point AF system
Olympus PEN E-PM1 ($450)
If you can't bring yourself to drop nearly a grand on a camera but have tired of your point-and-shoot, allow us to introduce you to the E-PM1. This Olympus MFT camera is a tiny thing that still supports high image quality in a much smaller, more affordable package. You're sacrificing some of the processor power and a degree of user customization, but if a MFT camera is merely an addition to your collection or an experiment, you won't find a more affordable option that can produce such great results.
Read our full Olympus PEN E-PM1 Review.
12.3 megapixelsISO 200-12800Shutter speed: 60-1/4000 sec.
Sony Alpha NEX-7 ($1,400)
Sony struck gold with its mirrorless lineup, and the NEX-7 follows suit. Well, it's sort of the exception: Unlike the rest of the series, the NEX-7 sports a 24 megapixel sensor, the same as Sony's DSLRs. This sets it apart from MFT cameras without differentiating from some of the aspects that are making them so popular with consumers, i.e. their compact size and stylish build. Furthermore, it includes an OLED electronic viewfinder, which is another considerable upgrade for a mirrorless camera. The only hitch: Sony's had some issues with inventory as a result of the recent floods in Thailand.
24.3 megapixels10 fps shootingISO 100-1600023.5 x 15.6mm APS HD CMOS sensor
Nikon D5100 ($850)
Nikon is synonymous with powerful DSLRs, and the D5100 is no exception. Anyone looking to add to their collection or upgrade, can't go wrong with this camera. With an impressive ISO range (which actually yields useable results) this fast, responsive entry-level DSLR is both a satisfying stepping stone for learners and an entirely capable device for various skill levels.
Read our full Nikon D5100 Review.
16.2 megapixels23.6 x 15.6mm (DX) CMOS sensorISO 100-6400Vari-angle, tilt-out 3-inch LCD display
Sony a77 ($2,000)
Sony has been making a name for itself in the digital camera business in recent years, finding its cameras neck and neck with the likes of big names Canon and Nikon. And this is really saying something when it comes to DSLRs. But Sony clearly intends to be taken seriously with the a77, a refresh of the very well-received a55. The camera packs Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology for faster-than-fast focusing along with upgraded specs that serious photographers will appreciate.
24.3 megapixels23.5 x 15.6mm APS HD CMOS sensorf/2.8-f/22
Canon EOS 1D X ($6,800)
The new DSLR from Canon doesn't debut until March but it's already being heralded as a major step in digital imaging. It takes heavy cues from the extremely popular Canon 5D Mark II (which is a great choice if you're making a purchase now), with a similar, boxy build and processing system that action photographers will fall in love with. You'll be able to seriously push ISO levels with this camera, which can handle low lighting situations. In additional to professional level stills, you also have more serious movie-making capabilities with the 1D X continuous Full HD video recording and file compression system. Of course, all that will cost you–but if you're looking for one of the top DSLR choices on the market, you best be prepared to spend.
18.1 megapixels 61-point AF system ISO 100-51,200 (in standard range)Up to 12 fps RAW shooting
In Case You Missed It:
- Best Cameras Under $300- Best Premium and Luxury DSLR Cameras- Best Micro Four-Thirds Cameras- Digital Cameras and DSLR Cameras -- Ultimate Shopping Guide 2010