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Which Camera Should I Buy?

Use This Digital Camera Gift Guide to Find the Best Cameras

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Which camera should I buy? If you're asking yourself this question, you can use the digital camera reviews, new camera products, best camera lists, and the camera information in this list. Use this digital camera gift guide to find the perfect camera-related gift for the holidays or any other time. This digital camera buying guide will give you the information you need, solving the question: Which camera should I buy?

Best DIL Cameras

Olympus

The "hot" cameras lately are in the DIL (digital interchangeable lens) camera category. DIL cameras are similar to DSLRs, in that they offer interchangeable lenses, but DIL cameras are smaller than DSLRs because they use a mirrorless design. You'll find the best DILs in the $500, $750, and $1,000 price ranges.

  • Best DIL camera. The Samsung NX2000 provides a tough-to-beat mix of performance, features, and image quality.
  • First runner-up. Olympus expanded its PEN family of DIL cameras again this year, and there's plenty of great options, but my favorite is the PEN E-PM2, which is pictured here. (To save a bit of money, consider the slightly older PEN Mini PM1 or the PEN Lite PL3.)
  • Second runner-up. Fujifilm's X series of DIL cameras are relatively new, but they're progressing quickly, and I really liked the Fujifilm X-M1, which has very nice image quality.
  • Third runner-up. It will be interesting to see how the Olympus OM-D E-M1 DIL camera will be received in the market. It has great features that rival DSLRs, but it also carries a bit of a higher price than most other DILs.

Best DSLR Cameras

Pentax K-50
Pentax

Even with the surge in DILs, DSLR cameras remain very popular, as shown in this DSLR camera buying guide. DSLR cameras provide amazing performance and interchangeable lenses, such as DSLR lenses from Canon. The best DSLRs can be found in the $750, $1,000, and $2,000 price ranges.

  • Best DSLR camera. I was very impressed with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 camera, which is the smallest DSLR currently on the market. Canon did not skimp on anything with this entry-level model, though, providing all of the must-have features at a great price.
  • First runner-up. Nikon also makes great DSLR cameras, and the D7100 is one of the latest and greatest intermediate Nikon models. To save a little money, consider the slightly older Nikon D7000 DSLR and the Nikon D600 DSLR. Honestly, Canon and Nikon DSLRs are so close in quality and features that, most of the time, your personal preference will be the deciding factor.
  • Second runner-up. If you like the latest and greatest features in a DSLR camera, it's impossible to go wrong with the Canon EOS Rebel T5i, which provides a great mix of photography features at a reasonable price. (To save a little money, though, the Rebel T3i and the Rebel T2i are strong predecessors.)
  • Third runner-up. Although colorful camera bodies typically aren't part of the DSLR marketplace, Pentax is offering 120 customizable colors with its K-50 DSLR model (pictured here), giving this camera some appeal for those new to DSLR photography.

Best Large Zoom Cameras

Nikon

These cameras offer a large optical zoom lens, making them good choices for nature and wildlife photography. You'll want to purchase a tripod to avoid camera shake with these cameras. Although I thought ultra-zoom cameras from a few years ago had several problems that made it tough for me to recommend them, the advancements in overall camera quality and power with the newer ultra-zoom cameras are very impressive, and these cameras now are well worth considering.

  • Best large zoom camera. Any discussion of the best ultra-zoom cameras needs to start with the very impressive Fujifilm X-S1. It's 26X zoom lens is a little smaller than some people might like, but its image quality and performance levels are outstanding.
  • First runner-up. The Nikon Coolpix P520 (pictured here) is a strong model versus other large zoom lens models, offering a 42X optical zoom lens. If you'd like to try to save a bit of money with a similar model, also consider the predecessors to the P520 -- the P510 and P500.
  • Second runner-up. A low price paired with a large zoom lens isn't all that common, so the GE X2600 is a nice surprise in this category.
  • Third runner-up. The Samsung WB850F is a very strong ultra-zoom camera, offering a 21X optical zoom lens and quite a few high-end features. It is smaller than the others listed here, which may appeal to some photographers. Its price is a little higher than I'd like, but you may find some good bargains on this model this holiday season.

Best Advanced Fixed Lens Cameras

Fujifilm

If you have room in your budget for an advanced fixed lens camera, you'll be pleased. Advanced cameras typically include large image sensors, high-quality fast lenses, full HD video, high-resolution LCDs, and great response times. They even sometimes offer viewfinders. The best advanced cameras appear in the $300, $400, $500, and $750 price ranges.

  • Best advanced camera. Nikon's Coolpix P7700 is easily one of my favorite cameras on the market right now, regardless of price. It has very strong image quality, great response times, and an articulated LCD.
  • First runner-up. The Fujifilm XF1 camera produces great images, thanks to a high-quality lens. It also has a very interesting look, as pictured above.
  • Second runner-up. Even though the Panasonic LX7 is a slightly older model, it's still one of the better advanced fixed-lens cameras on the market.
  • Third runner-up. Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS10 is a slightly older camera that still contains plenty of high-end features, including a built-in GPS unit, a touch-screen LCD, and a 16X optical zoom lens.

Best Budget Point and Shoot Cameras

Canon

Budget-priced cameras don't have to feel like inexpensive, cheap digital cameras. Shop around, and you'll find some desirable features, such as are available in the models I've listed here. The best budget cameras appear in the $100, $150, $200, and $250 price ranges.

  • Best budget camera. It's tough to beat the Canon Powershot ELPH 520 HS in this category right now. The ELPH 520 (pictured here) looks great, has a 12X zoom in a thin camera, shoots high-quality photos, and has undergone a recent price drop.
  • First runner-up. The Sony Cyber-shot WX80 offers a good value and good performance in a small camera body.
  • Second runner-up. The Nikon Coolpix S9500 costs a little more than some of the others on this list, but it also has some more advanced features like built-in Wi-Fi and GPS.
  • Third runner-up. I was surprised by the photographic capabilities of the inexpensive Canon ELPH 330 point-and-shoot camera.

Best Children's Digital Cameras

Samsung

Children's cameras should be easy to use, fun to use, inexpensive, and safe. However, keep in mind that, for the most part, they don't take great photos. Children's cameras typically don't carry enough resolution to allow for large prints. If your child is more serious about photography, consider a budget point and shoot model, such as the "best" camera on this list, the DV300F (pictured here).

  • Best children's camera. I've always appreciated the design elements in the DualView line of Samsung cameras, and the latest one is the inexpensive and impressive DV300F, which includes LCD screens on both the front and back, making it easy to shoot self-portraits, which older children will love.
  • First runner-up. The V-Tech Kidizoom camera has some drawbacks in photographic features, but it's fun to use for really young children.
  • Second runner-up. The Olympus VG-160 is an inexpensive model that has some bright body colors that will appeal to kids, and it also has some nice photographic features versus similarly priced models.
  • Third runner-up. Kids will love the big 15X zoom in the inexpensive GE X550 camera. It's a slightly larger camera, but it should still fit well in an older child's hands.

Best Waterproof Cameras

Olympus

Tough cameras can handle a variety of shooting conditions, from fluctuating temperatures to harsh environmental conditions to shallow water. The following waterproof cameras will give you quite a bit of versatility.

  • Best waterproof camera. Nikon has introduced the first waterproof DIL camera, the Nikon 1 AW1, and this will be a model well worth considering.
  • First runner-up. Past Olympus "tough" cameras struggled with their performance levels, but the Olympus TG-830 iHS (pictured here) is a far stronger upgrade to those older cameras.
  • Second runner-up. Plenty of body color options and good waterproof features make the Fujifilm XP170 a really nice model.
  • Third runner-up. A 3.3-inch touchscreen LCD highlights the waterproof Sony Cyber-shot TX30.

Best Wi-Fi Cameras

Canon

Cameras that offer built-in wireless capabilities -- primarily Wi-Fi for now, although NFC is starting to appear in more and more models -- are becoming extremely popular. Just keep in mind that some Wi-Fi cameras are tough to set up and use. The following models have Wi-Fi that's pretty easy to use.

  • Best wireless camera. Panasonic has released one of the first cameras to offer both Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities in the Lumix XF1, which makes it well worth considering.
  • First runner-up. The NX2000 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera from Samsung is a strong Wi-Fi camera that also has plenty of great advanced photographic features.
  • Second runner-up. You'll find Wi-Fi functions that are easy to use with the Nikon Coolpix S9500, along with a built-in GPS unit.
  • Third runner-up. The Canon PowerShot N (pictured here) has a lot of awkward photography features, but a dedicated Wi-Fi button isn't one of them.

Best Easy to Use Cameras

Sony

Most point and shoot cameras are pretty easy to use, but there are a few that take "ease of use" to a new level.

  • Best easy to use camera. The Canon ELPH 130 is an extremely easy to use camera with almost no manual control options.
  • First runner-up. You'll be surprised with the image quality and performance in this little, easy-to-use camera, the Sony Cyber-shot WX80 (pictured here).
  • Second runner-up. With LCD screens on the front and back of the Samsung DV300F, this model is both easy to use and fun to use.
  • Third runner-up. You'll find a nice mix of easy-to-use features in the Nikon Coolpix S6300.

Best Touchscreen Cameras

Samsung

Touchscreen LCD cameras also can be very easy to use, as well as a lot of fun.

  • Best touchscreen camera. The Samsung Galaxy Camera (pictured here) may not produce the greatest image quality, but its innovative touchscreen interface likely represents the future of touchscreen cameras.
  • First runner-up. The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR camera may be a small DSLR, but it has a lot of great features, including a touchscreen LCD.
  • Second runner-up. The Olympus PEN E-PM2 mirrorless DIL camera is a lot of fun to use, thanks to some nice photographic features and its touchscreen LCD.
  • Third runner-up. Samsung has been one of the best manufacturers of touchscreen cameras for a few years, and its WB250F is another great model.

Best Camera Related Gifts

Kodak

If you would like a camera-related gift, but you don't want to buy an actual camera, or you don't have a large budget, you can consider camera accessories. 

  • Backpack camera bags. The Lowepro Transit 350 AW backpack is a very comfortable option for carrying all of your gear as well as a laptop.
  • Standard camera bags. Finding the right mix of size, weight, and cushioning in a camera bag can be difficult. The Gura Gear Chobe 19-24L is one of the better options you're going to find (pictured here).
  • Digital photo frames. Several different types of digital photo frames are going to allow you to display as many images as you want.
  • Underwater accessories. Many companies make underwater camera accessories that are great for enhancing the versatility of your camera.
  • Memory cards. Every photographer can use an extra memory card, and Eye-Fi memory cards can transmit data wirelessly.
  • Batteries. Extra batteries can be a very practical gift. If your camera takes rechargeable proprietary batteries, you'll have to make sure the battery you pick is compatible with your camera. If your camera can take AA size batteries, consider batteries made specifically for cameras, such as Energizer Ultimate Lithium.
  • Books. Books about photography make great gifts, such as the DSLR Cameras for Dummies book and the Digital Photography FAQs book.

For more ideas, read the recently updated camera accessories buying guide and DSLR camera accessories buying guide.

Camera Buying and Warranty Tips

Olympus

Before you buy a digital camera, it's important to do your homework. By taking a little time to prepare before you buy, you'll greatly increase your chances of success.

  • Camera shopping checklist. Talk to friends, learn the digital camera jargon, and figure out how you want to use the camera, and you'll be prepared when you enter the store.
  • Set your budget. Figure out how much you can spend and look for the best camera in your price range. Then you won't be tempted to spend more than you should, no matter how cool the more expensive camera looks.
  • Read camera reviews. Once you've narrowed your list to a few different cameras, read some reviews to learn which is the best model for you, such as my review of the Olympus PEN Lite PL3 DIL (pictured here).
  • Manufacturer's warranties. Every new camera has a standard warranty to cover basic problems, typically for one year in length.
  • Extended warranties. These go beyond the standard manufacturer's warranty, offering longer and additional coverage.
  • Additional warranties. Other types of warranties may apply to your camera, too.
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