Buying a digital camera for the holiday season? Don’t be overwhelmed by the choice. Our nifty shortlist will tell you if you should get a Canon or a Nikon, a Sony or a Panasonic, a compact or an SLR.
Along the way, we’ll answer some of the questions that you will have asked yourself: How many megapixels do I need? What sort of lens should I get? Does it record movies? Does it have manual settings? What if I want to shoot RAW files? Will it work in low light? Does it have panorama mode? Is the preview screen big and bright?
Snap it up: The Canon EOS 550D.
To begin with, if you want something small to take with you to parties and on vacation, you basically want a compact at a great price. There are also plenty of mid-range prosumer cameras for those who want to learn a bit more and experiment with their photos. Once you’re confident, you can move on to a Canon or Nikon DSLR. But start with our suggestions in five budget ranges.
Sony Cybershot DSC-S930
Excellent-value, entry-level camera with 10.1 megapixels and 3x optical zoom
Includes face detection and shake reduction
Cheap price means a cheap lens and basic processor. Don’t expect very high-quality images
Settings are basic—for point and shoot only
Canon IXUS 95 IS
A 10-megapixel, entry-level camera with lots of features, including an image stabilizer
Slim and looks good. Will fit easily into your pocket
Image quality breaks up when using high ISO
Poor dynamic range; tends to overexpose
Panasonic Lumix DMC FS7 (silver)
Relatively inexpensive in its category
Fast performance and sturdy body
Pixel noise at low settings
Suffers from a bit of flat colour reproduction
Nikon Coolpix S8000
Impressive 14 megapixels and 10x optical zoom in an ultra slim body
Image stabilizer and HD Video recording
Video resolution is only 720 pixels
Lacks some features such as HDR and Panorama mode.
Ergonomics allows great hand-holding and excellent HD video quality
Solid build and extended ISO range at minimal noise
Camera shakes during video mode
The AA batteries give twice the battery life of most mid-range DSLRs
Fujifilm Finepix S200 EXR
12 megapixels with a great 14x optical lens for telephoto shooting.
Has RAW capability; works a lot like a small SLR, with all the easy-to-use features of a compact
The big lens makes the camera less convenient to carry and stow away
Functionality doesn’t compare with a full DSLR system
It’s fast and captures great photos with vivid colours
Bonus option to shoot videos
Small LCD display is problematic in sunlight
Slow and noisy video reproduction
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
Accurate colour rendering and seamless Live View experience
Faster auto focus and pop-up flash
Slow in shutting down
Records too much ambient noise because of a sensitive microphone
Built-in dust removal, in-camera HDR and 77 weather/dustproof seals (can operate at -10 degrees Celsius)
Records 30fps HD quality video at an excellent 1536x1024 pixels
Less intuitive focusing can lead to out-of-focus photos
Lacks one-button system to record video
Canon EOS 550D
Impressive 18 megapixels resolution and a faster camera (Digic 4 processor)
Compresses multiple RAW images and offers excellent dynamic range photos
You can make movies with this camera
Slow video autofocus speed There is no quick way to begin the video recording
Prices vary in different cities.
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