High-End Cameras for the Holidays

Cameras make great gifts for the holidays, especially if you’re looking for an upgrade. Consider our list of entry-level DSLRs, compact interchangeable-lens cameras, megazooms, and advanced point-and-shoots.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i

If you're looking for your first DSLR camera, an entry-level kit like the Canon EOS Rebel T2i with an included 18-55mm IS lens is a good choice. The 18-megapixel T2i features a 3-inch LCD TFT screen, has phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus, and shoots crisp, colorful photos even in auto mode. It has strong video capabilities, too: It can capture 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Since the lightweight T2i is not the most rugged camera, it's best suited for a first-time DSLR buyer or a professional in need of a backup camera.

$900 | More Info

Nikon D3100

Another good entry-level DSLR model is the 14-megapixel Nikon D3100.This newcomer sports continuous autofocus, 1080p video capture, and a wide selection of shooting modes. Plus, its in-camera guides make it a great teaching camera for photographers in training. The D3100 comes packaged with an image-stabilized AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens.

$700 | More Info

Pentax K2000

The stylish Pentax K2000 sets itself apart from the DSLR pack through price and design alone. It features body-based image stabilization, captures 10.2-megapixel photos, and works with any lens in the Pentax line. While it might not have the highest photo quality in comparison with other entry-level DSLRs, its intuitive controls and handy help button make it a standout camera for beginners.

$450 | More Info

Sony Alpha NEX-5

Sony’s first compact camera with interchangeable lenses is the Sony Alpha NEX-5, which looks like a point-and-shoot but captures DSLR-quality photos. This camera impressed us with its 14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, 25-point autofocus system, and 7-frames-per-second burst mode. Lens options include a stabilized 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens and a 16mm f/2.8 prime lens.

$650 | More Info

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

The newly released Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 is a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera with touchscreen controls. Making this interchangeable-lens camera even more impressive, Panasonic unveiled three new compatible lenses, including a 3D lens attachment. This model also features an improved dynamic range and high-ISO noise handling, a faster burst-shooting mode, and a very speedy autofocus in comparison with its predecessor.

$900 (body only) | More Info

Olympus Pen E-PL1

If you’re looking for a camera that’s less bulky than a DSLR but has more advanced features than your average point-and-shoot, then a compact interchangeable-lens camera might be something to consider. The 12.3-megapixel Olympus Pen E-PL1 comes bundled with an Olympus 14-42mm, f3.5/5.6mm zoom lens. It features a built-in flash, shoots 720p HD video, and offers an auto mode for beginners. Despite the subpar LCD screen, we like the Pen E-PL1’s art filters for in-camera editing.

$600 | More Info

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

The 14-megapixel Canon PowerShot SX30 IS has a 35X-optical-zoom lens that ranges from an ultra-wide-angle 24mm to an 840mm telephoto. Its 2.7-inch LCD screen can rotate and flip to help you get the angle you desire for your photo; the camera can also capture 720p HD video at 30 frames per second. Another new feature is the Zoom Framing Assist button--if a moving subject leaves the frame, holding down this button will temporarily adjust the lens to a wider-angle field of view.

$430 | More Info

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

Sporting a 25mm wide-angle lens with 24X optical zoom, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 is quite the megazoom competitor. It shoots 1080p HD video with a wide array of motion-capture features, including different video modes and the ability to grab still images from video footage. The 14.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-FZ100 also provides a 3-inch, movable LCD for reviewing your work.

$375 | More Info

Nikon Coolpix P100

The powerful Nikon Coolpix P100 makes taking photos a breeze, thanks to its 26X-optical-zoom lens and 11 different shooting modes, as well as its easy-to-use manual shooting options. It has solid telephoto and macro performance, and it can shoot 1080p HD video. Although using the 10.3-megapixel Coolpix P100 is fun and intuitive, the photos sometimes lack sharpness and distort to some extent, so you’ll have to play with the settings to get your desired effect.

$400 | More Info

Olympus SP-800UZ

The 14-megapixel Olympus SP-800UZ has the farthest-reaching telephoto end of any fixed-lens camera we’ve seen, extending from 28mm wide-angle to 840mm telephoto. It sports an impressive 30X-optical-zoom lens and offers a 3-inch LCD screen, 720p HD video capture, and a one-shot panorama mode--on top of dual image stabilization.

$350 | More Info

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 is a point-and-shoot camera designed with the manual user in mind: To make the most of this camera’s features, you have to be comfortable with manual controls for photo and video. The Lumix DMC-LX5 sports an ultra-wide-angle lens with f/2.0 aperture, a stunning macro mode that lets you get close to your subjects, and fast autofocus, all wrapped up in a compact design with a 3-inch LCD screen.

$500 | More Info

Canon PowerShot G12

With 5X optical zoom (28mm to 140mm), the ability to shoot 720p high-definition video at 24 frames per second, an HDMI-out port, and on-board stereo microphones for audio capture, the Canon PowerShot G12 is the most advanced PowerShot to date. It kept some of the main features of its predecessor, the G11 (such as the 2.8-inch flip-and-rotate LCD screen and quick access to ISO adjustments), but added some new features as well, such as a Smart Auto mode that brings out detail in shadowy areas.

$500 | More Info

Nikon Coolpix P7000

One of the last fixed-lens cameras to feature an eye-level optical viewfinder, the 10-megapixel Nikon Coolpix P7000 has a 7.1X-optical-zoom lens and offers RAW shooting, as well as a full stable of manual controls. If the viewfinder isn’t your style, you can use the sharp 3-inch LCD screen. The P7000 also lets you define and save custom settings.

$500 | More Info

Canon PowerShot S95

The top-rated PowerShot S90 recently got a little face-lift, becoming the Canon PowerShot S95. This 10-megapixel PowerShot model kept the f/2.0, 3.8X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 106mm), manual exposure controls, and bracketing modes of the S90, while adding 720p video recording, a new stabilization system for macro shots, and fun scene modes like Spotlight Mode for live performances.

$400 | More Info

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