With a budget of about $400, you'll find a great mixture of strong, intermediate digital cameras. The best fixed lens cameras (or "DSLR-like cameras") in the sub-$400 price range contain large zoom lenses, high resolutions, large LCDs, and some speciality features. You'll find plenty of advanced point and shoot cameras in this price range.
Some older interchangeable lens cameras even have fallen into the sub-$400 price point.
The best sub-$400 cameras will not contain high-end specifications in every feature, but they nearly always have one feature that's well above average or one very unusual feature.
The SX30 IS also includes 14.1 megapixels of resolution, a 2.7-inch LCD (that's viewable from several angles), and 720p HD video capabilities.
Ultra-zoom cameras are extremely popular entering this holiday season, including the Panasonic FZ150, the Fujifilm HS20EXR, and the Nikon P500. Add another strong camera with a big zoom lens to the mix in the recently announced Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, which has a 35X optical zoom lens.
The SX40 HS also includes a 12.1MP CMOS image sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD that rotates away from the camera, and full 1080p HD video. The PowerShot SX40 HS, which is only available in black, carries a reasonable price.
Few fixed-lens cameras can match the 30X optical zoom lens that Canon has included with the SX500 IS.
Canon included 16MP of resolution, a 3.0-inch LCD, and 720p HD video options with the SX500 IS. This camera is a large model that's only available in black, so be sure that you can work with a camera that measures more than 3 inches in thickness before you purchase this one.
The P500 carries a 36X optical zoom lens. In addition, Nikon has given the P500 strong wide angle capabilities with a zoom range of 22.5mm to 810mm, and Nikon says the P500 is a strong macro performer, thanks to its powerful lens.
You'll find 12.1 megapixels of resolution in the P500's CMOS image sensor, a high-resolution 3-inch LCD screen, and 1080p HD video capabilities. The P500 carries a strong list of specifications ... and, not surprisingly, it carries a high price tag, too (MSRP $399.95). The Coolpix P500 is available in either red or black.
It has advanced Nikkor lens glass to go with a 7.1X optical zoom lens, a larger-than-usual CMOS image sensor with 12.2MP of resolution, a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD that can swivel away from the camera, and full 1080p video recording. The P7700 has a built-in flash, and it also has a hot shoe, allowing you to add an external flash, if desired.
Best of all, the P7700's image quality is outstanding.
With so many interesting features available in the Nikon Coolpix S800c, it's tough to know what to focus on first.
For starters, the S800c has a 10X optical zoom lens in a camera body that measures only 1.06 inches in thickness. The 3.5-inch OLED touch screen is very bright and sharp. This camera has 16MP of resolution, and it can shoot full HD video.
The Coolpix S800c's on-screen interface is based on the Android operating system for mobile devices, which should make it very easy to use to visit the Web with the built-in Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities.
Olympus has created what it calls the world's smallest and lightest PEN camera, which, considering the history of the PEN family of cameras, makes it one of the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens cameras from any manufacturer. The PEN E-PM1 is a fun camera, and it may be the most colorful DIL camera, too, as Olympus is offering it in brown, black, pink, purple, white, or silver camera bodies.
The PEN E-PM1 offers some really nice features, too, including 12.3 megapixels of resolution with a CMOS image sensor, full 1080p HD video, and a 3.0-inch LCD. It measures only 1.33 inches in thickness (before you attach the lens) and it weighs only 7.65 ounces for the camera body.
The Lumix DMC-FZ40 from Panasonic 14.1 features a 24X optical zoom lens. It has 14.1 megapixels of resolution, a lens with some wide angle options, and a 3.0-inch LCD. It has an AVCHD Lite HD video option (720p), and the FZ40 includes a fast start-up option, so you won't miss spontaneous photos waiting for the camera to be ready to shoot.
If you have a little more money to spend and want a similar camera, Panasonic has also introduced the Lumix DMC-FZ100, which also includes a 24X zoom lens with even more speed.
10. Samsung TL500
The TL500 includes a wide angle Schneider Kreuznach f/1.8 lens, which provides strong optics. With the f/1.8 lens, the TL500 should have better low-light performance, a wider aperture, and a more shallow depth of field than most consumer-level cameras. The TL500 also has a fast imaging processor and a highly sensitive, large CCD image sensor.
This model's specification list looks like it's lacking a bit, but, because of the high-end optics and processing system, it's difficult to compare its specs directly to other cameras. The TL500 offers 10 megapixels of resolution, a 3X optical zoom lens, and a high-end 3.0-inch AMOLED screen.
High-end point and shoot cameras have grown in popularity in 2012, with many more manufacturers showcasing these fixed-lens cameras. Sony's Cyber-shot HX30 might be the best of the lot, though.
The HX30 (also called the HX30V and HX30B) features 18.2 megapixels of resolution, a 20X optical zoom lens, 3D capabilities, a 3.0-inch LCD, full HD video options, and a 10 frames per second burst mode.
Two potential drawbacks may keep beginning photographers from picking up this model, which was announced in the spring. First, it's a pretty plain-looking camera, only available in black. Second, it carries a high price tag. Still, there are some very impressive features in the HX30.
Look for the TX10 to carry the ability to work underwater and to survive a fall from a short distance. In addition, Sony says the TX10 is freeze-proof and dust-proof.
It features a 3.0-inch touch-screen LCD and the ability to shoot 1080i HD video. With the TX10, you also can shoot in a 3D still image mode or a 3D sweep panorama mode. It's available in some interesting colors, including black, blue, green (shown here), pink, and silver.