SLIDESHOW

Picture Perfect Point-and-Shoot Camera Gift Guide

Need a few ideas on what point-and-shoot camera to buy this holiday season? Check out our slideshow for a few suggestions.

Canon PowerShot SD780 IS

Quite possibly one of the more fashionable point-and-shoot cameras out right now, the sleek, solid-colored Canon PowerShot SD780 IS (available in black, gold, red, and silver) isn’t just a looker. It also performs very well, with great image quality, a powerful flash, nice high-ISO shots in low light, a great selection of scene modes, and excellent optical image stabilization. In our lab’s jury evaluations, the 12-megapixel SD780 IS netted an overall image quality score of Very Good, earning some of the highest marks we’ve seen for a point-and-shoot this year for its lack of distortion, its color accuracy, and its image sharpness. In hands-on informal tests, I was amazed at the color accuracy and lack of noise in low-light shots at high ISO levels. The manual ISO settings (ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 1600) are complemented by a special ISO 3200 scene mode. There is definitely some visible speckling at ISO 3200 and ISO 1600, but low-light images taken at these settings with the flash turned off are impressively bright, crisp, and colorful. Read the full review. [$250 (Compare latest prices); Canon]—TIM MOYNIHAN

Casio Exilim EX-FC100

As a point-and-shoot camera, the Casio Exilim EX-FC100 is fairly typical: it has a 9-megapixel sensor, allowing you to extract large prints from your images, a 5x optical zoom for extra telephoto reach, a stabilized sensor for sharper handheld shooting, and all of the expected point-and-shoot features-scene modes, face detection, good metering, and autofocus. What sets the EX-FC100 apart is its ability to shoot bursts of up to 30 full-resolution images per second, and video at up to 1,000 frames per second. While at first glance these features may not seem useful to the average shooter, the way Casio has implemented them will make them incredibly valuable to anyone who shoots moving subjects-children, action at a sporting event, wildlife, and more. Read the full review. [$350 (Compare latest prices); Casio]—BEN LONG

Fujifilm FinePix Z30

The Fujifilm FinePix Z30 may look like a toy, but this fashion-first point-and-shoot camera (available in black, orange, pink, purple, and white) takes excellent photos. In our lab jury evaluations, the 10-megapixel FinePix Z30 earned an overall Image Quality score of Very Good, with excellent sharpness and exposure levels. The rubber controls work fine, and the camera has 20 scene modes and can shoot standard-definition 640-by-480 video. Overall, the FinePix Z30 does offer good value for the price. Read the full review. [$180 (Compare latest prices); Fujiflim]—TIM MOYNIHAN

Kodak EasyShare Z915

Though the 10X optical zoom range is impressive, it’s only one of several features that make the Kodak EasyShare Z915 budget-friendly camera an outstanding bargain. The camera’s generous array of features should make it a big draw for anyone who wants to learn photography without dropping a ton of money on a megazoom camera or a digital SLR. The Z915 comes through with the best range of manual controls we’ve seen in a camera at this price, and it has features that usually appear only in more-advanced, more-expensive cameras, such as exposure bracketing. Read the full review. [$200 (Compare latest prices); Kodak]—TIM MOYNIHAN

Nikon Coolpix L20

The Nikon Coolpix L20 clocks in around $100, but it netted one of the best image quality scores of any point-and-shoot camera we’ve looked at so far in 2009—very impressive for a bargain-bin, AA-battery-powered camera. Although the 10-megapixel L20’s image stabilization system is software based, it did a great job of capturing clear, unblurred images. Along with 16 scene modes and an Easy Auto mode that automatically selects the ideal mode based on the shooting environment, the Coolpix L20 has a Blink Warning feature that scans photos immediately after you take them and alerts you if someone in the shot blinked. One nice option is the ability to zoom in and out in movie mode. The L20 captures 640-by-480 AVI clips at 30 frames per second. Read the full review. [$120 (Compare latest prices); Nikon]—TIM MOYNIHAN

Pentax X70

Pentax’s 12-megapixel X70 boasts an impressively wide and exceptionally long 26mm-to-624mm-equivalent lens (in other words, it has a 24X zoom). Pentax has also made the X70 very simple to use. For those who simply want to point and shoot, the X70’s mode dial also has a fully auto mode and a scene mode that offers access to the usual suspects, from the handy “night scene” to more-obscure options like “fireworks” and “museum”. With the X70’s manual and semimanual modes, you can easily adjust shutter speeds and aperture settings. The X70 can shoot 11 frames per second when set to continuous mode, though the images drop from 12 to 5 megapixels in size. Read the full review. [$400 (Compare latest prices); Pentax]—DANNY PALMERLEE

Samsung DualView TL225

Although it doesn’t have the best image quality (and it takes only MicroSD/MicroSDHC cards) this is the camera for scenesters. The Samsung DualView TL225 has two LCD screens: The one on the front is designed for taking self-portraits, performing self-timer shots, and capturing a baby’s attention. Adding to the camera's cool factor is its haptic-feedback, touchscreen interface, which makes operating the camera fun. You can draw an “X” on a photo to delete it, swipe through images to look at them, and even tilt the camera in various directions to toggle through shooting modes. Watch a Macworld video about the DualView TL225. [$350 (Compare latest prices); Samsung]—TIM MOYNIHAN

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX1

The holiday season is here, as are the accompanying parties and celebratory events. If you're all gussied up, you might as well bring a camera like Sony's fashion-conscious, 10.2-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-TX1, a touchscreen camera that lets you party instead of fussing with camera settings. Though the touchscreen isn’t best for anyone who like to quickly change settings, it works best for situations where you won't anticipate needing to adjust the camera. The DSC-TX1’s Intelligent Auto Adjustment mode automatically changes the settings based on what the lens is focused on. Sony's implementation of Sweep Panorama in the DSC-TX1 is so well done that other camera manufacturers should consider a similar method. And the DSC-TX1 is capable of shooting video at 1280-by-720 HD resolution. [$380 (Compare latest prices); Sony]—ROMAN LOYOLA