Digital Camera Trends 2012: The Post-CES Onslaught

The past few weeks have been chock-full of new camera announcements. Here's a look at 10 cameras we're excited about, with special attention to the digital-imaging trends taking shape for the upcoming year.

Post-CES Cameras We're Excited About

CES 2012 was a big show for camera announcements, but the past two weeks have been just as eventful in the world of digital imaging. It hasn't all been good news: Kodak officially announced that it will be exiting the digital camera business, marking a mind-boggling turn for the worse in the company's 131-year history.

On the plus side, 2012 is shaping up to be a great year for anyone interested in buying a new camera. High-end DSLRs are becoming powerful weapons for both stills and video; mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras are maturing nicely; pocket cameras now offer zoom ranges that can reach 20X optical; and rugged cameras are delivering more in-camera goodies to accompany their everything-proof frames.

Here's a look at the most enticing announcements of the past few weeks. Examined in aggregate, these models provide a wide-angle view of 2012's most popular trends in digital cameras.

Nikon D800

The skinny: Full-frame DSLR with very high-resolution sensor and great video features

Price: $3000 (body only)

Release date: March 2012

Nikon's second full-frame DSLR announcement of the year, the D800 is built with wedding photography and fashion spreads in mind. The D800 can shoot 36-megapixel photos and 1080p videos, allows videographers to feed uncompressed video to a monitor or recording device via HDMI, and comes with a high-speed USB 3.0 connector for quick transfers of the camera's inevitably huge image files.

A second version of the D800, called the Nikon D800E ($3300), will arrive in April. The D800E will eliminate the D800's integrated low-pass filter, which Nikon says will boost image detail--albeit at the expense of a visible moiré effect in some images.

Pentax K-01

The skinny: Mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera that uses Pentax's K-mount DSLR lenses

Price: $750 (body only); $900 as a kit with 40mm/F2.8 lens.

Release date: March 2012

The Pentax K-01 may have fashion-first looks, but some serious specs distinguish it from anything in the mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera class. It uses the same K-mount lens mount employed by Pentax's DSLR lenses, meaning that it holds a lot of out-of-the-box appeal for anyone with a collection of Pentax glass. Other key features include a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, 1080p video recording, a 6-frames-per-second burst mode at full resolution, and a superslim kit lens that measures just 0.36 inch thick.

Olympus OM-D E-M5

The skinny: High-end mirrorless camera with EVF and wish-list features

Price: $1000 (body only); $1100 as a kit with 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 lens; $1300 as a kit with 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 lens

Release date: April 2012

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a "wish list" model--the company designed it after gathering feedback from photographers in Japan. The OM-D E-M5 has a rain- and dust-resistant body, a high-resolution eye-level viewfinder, and a 16-megapixel Four-Thirds sensor that has been designed for improved performance in low light and for very fast autofocus. Its throwback looks are modeled on the Olympus OM-4 SLR from the mid-1980s, a 35mm film camera.

Nikon Coolpix P510

The skinny: Megazoom camera with the longest optical-zoom reach (42X)

Price: $430

Release date: February 2012

The Nikon Coolpix 510 offers a stabilized 42X optical zoom (24mm to 1000mm)--about as much optical reach as you can find in a fixed-lens camera. The Coolpix 510 also offers full manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes; a 16-megapixel BSI backside-illuminated CMOS sensor; and built-in GPS features to complement its versatile lens.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20

The skinny: Slimmest 20X pocket megazoom

Price: $350

Release date: March 2012

For a 20X-optical-zoom camera (24mm to 480mm), the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 is super slim. In fact, at 1.1-inches thick, it's the slimmest 20X-optical-zoom camera ever, according to Panasonic. Behind the lens lurks a new 14-megapixel CMOS sensor with two types of noise reduction for crisper shots than its predecessor, the Lumix DMC-ZS10, could take. Full manual controls, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, a 10-fps burst mode at full resolution, 1080p video capture at 60 fps, and GPS with in-camera mapping round out the Lumix DMC-ZS20's versatile feature set.

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

The skinny: 20X-zoom follow-up to last year's excellent SX230 HS

Price: $350

Release date: March 2012

Canon capitalized on a few big trends with its post-CES announcements, unveiling a pair of Wi-Fi-enabled compact cameras, a new waterproof camera, and this 20X (25mm to 500mm) pocket megazoom, the PowerShot SX260 HS. This 12-megapixel follow-up to last year's highly rated PowerShot SX230 HS offers full manual exposure controls, aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes, a full-resolution burst mode of 10.3 frames per second, in-camera geotagging, and 1080p video capture.

Nikon Coolpix S9300

The skinny: Follow-up to last year's excellent S9100 adds GPS and in-camera mapping

Price: $350

Release date: February 2012

If you don't care much about manual controls or RAW shooting, the 18X-optical-zoom (25mm to 450mm) Nikon Coolpix S9300 capably replaces the fully automated Coolpix S9100, which shot some of the best-looking photos we saw last year. The new Coolpix S9300 is practically identical to the Coolpix S9100, but with a higher-resolution 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, in-camera GPS and mapping, and a revamped optical stabilization system.

Nikon Coolpix P310

The skinny: Follow-up to the well-priced, F1.8-aperture Coolpix P300

Price: $330

Release date: March 2012

Nikon again didn't change much with the Coolpix P310, a successor to a great little camera from 2011, the Coolpix P300. Like its predecessor, the Coolpix P310 has manual controls, a wide F1.8 maximum aperture that comes in handy for low-light shooting, and a 4.2X optical zoom (24mm to 100mm); it's built for wide-angle scenes and portrait photography. The Coolpix P310 also features a new higher-resolution 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, a custom function button, and built-in tools for editing 1080p/30-fps video clips.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4

The skinny: Rugged camera with a slew of built-in instruments and manual exposure controls

Price: $400

Release date: March 2012

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 is the company's new top-of-the-line rugged camera. In addition to pcking manual exposure controls, a 12-megapixel sensor, and 1080p video capture, the Lumix TS4 has a tanklike build and a slew of on-board instruments: a built-in barometer, an altimeter, a compass, and GPS features that include in-camera mapping and a real-name location database to help you identify (and geotag) points of interest.

Sony Cyber-shot TX200V

The skinny: Fashionable weatherproof camera designed for everyday use

Price: $500

Release date: March 2012

The 18-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot TX200V is not just waterproof, dustproof, and freezeproof--it's also fashionable, slim, and OLED-touchscreen-controlled. This stylish camera is almost everything-proof: It features a glass front, however, so you won't want to drop it. The camera's impressive specs include 1080p video recording at 60 fps, an autofocus system that Sony says can lock in on subjects under any lighting condition within 0.2 second, a 5X-optical-zoom lens (25mm to 125mm), and built-in geotagging.