Great Simple Cameras for the Holidays

Cameras make for a fun, practical holiday gift--especially these basic and ruggedized point-and-shoots, pocket megazooms, and touchscreen cameras.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX5 stands apart from other basic point-and-shoots because of its 3D-shooting modes. Photos taken in the camera 's 3D sweep panorama mode are saved in MPO format and can be viewed properly on a compatible Sony 3D HDTV. The 12-megapixel DSC-WX5 has a 5X optical zoom, is easy to use, and offers convenient modes for shooting low-light and panoramic photos. Because it lacks manual controls, this camera will appeal most strongly to beginner and casual photographers.

$300 | More info

Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS

Good image quality, a wide-aperture lens, and aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes help make the Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS a top-quality point-and-shoot camera. Equipped with a 3.8X optical zoom, the 10-megapixel PowerShot SD4000 IS features an f2.0 lens that creates shallow depth-of-field effects and can capture noise-free images at high ISO levels. Though it omits the control buttons found on other Canon PowerShot cameras, the SD4000 IS doesn't sacrifice performance.

$350 | More info

Samsung DualView Series

The innovative cameras in the Samsung DualView series emphasize creating fun photos. These point-and-shoots come with two displays--a 1.8-inch LCD screen on the front next to the lens for framing self portraits and displaying self-timer countdowns, and a larger 3.5-inch LCD touch screen on the back. It has a smile-triggered shutter mode and Jump Shot mode, which prompts a subject to jump at a specific time so the camera can capture a midair shot. Even the touchscreen display is fun to use, thanks to Samsung's Smart Gesture UI interface.

The DualView series includes the Samsung ST600 (pictured here) and the Samsung ST100.

$330 | More info

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9

Don't let the slim, sleek design fool you--the compact Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 doesn't skimp on features or performance. This 12-megapixel point-and-shoot packs a 4X optical zoom (25mm to 100mm), 1080p HD video recording, and a stunning 3.5-inch touchscreen display. Like other cameras in Sony's DSC line, the TX9 offers 3D shooting modes, which enable the user to take 3D panoramic photos and view them on a compatible Sony 3D HDTV.

$350 | More info

Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR

For a low priced touchscreen point-and-shoot with an intuitive interface, fast autofocus, and stellar in-camera editing options, check out the Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR. The 12-megapixel Z800EXR has a huge 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen, a 5X optical zoom lens (35mm to 175mm), and unique scene modes, including the family favorite 'pet' mode for detecting dogs and cats in photos. One drawback of this camera is its slow time from start-up to first shot.

$200 | More info

Olympus Stylus Tough-8010

If you love outdoor photography or are accident prone, you might want to consider a rugged point-and-shoot like the Olympus Tough-8010. This resilient camera is shockproof against drops of 6.6 feet, waterproof to 33 feet underwater, crushproof to 220 pounds of pressure, freezeproof at temperatures to 14° Fahrenheit, and dustproof. On the photography side, the Tough-8010 carries a 14-megapixel sensor and a 5X optical zoom lens, and it can record 720p HD video.

$400 | More info

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5

The 10-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 is a rugged camera that doesn't compromise on style. It's waterproof to 10 feet underwater, shockproof against drops of 5 feet, and dustproof, and it can withstand temperatures ranging from 14° to 104° Fahrenheit. The DSC-TX5's rough exterior protects some excellent features, such as antimotion blur, Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode, and HD movie mode (which records in 720p). The TX5 also has a 3-inch touchscreen display.

$330 | More info

Pentax Optio W90

Serious outdoor enthusiasts should check out the 12-megapixel Pentax Optio W90 with attached carabineer strap for clipping the camera to hiking gear. This camera is waterproof to water-column depths of 20 feet, shockproof against drops of 4 feet, freezeproof, and dustproof. It can shoot 720p HD video, has a 5X optical zoom lens, and includes a 2.7-inch LCD screen. Three bright LED lamps surround the W90's lens to help illuminate macro subjects and underwater scenes.

$330 | More info

Canon PowerShot SX210 IS

Pocket megazooms make great backup cameras for advanced photographers, and they give novices something more powerful to work with than a basic point-and-shoot. The Canon PowerShot SX210 delivers a 14X optical zoom lens, a full set of manual controls, and the ability to shoot 720p HD video at 30 frames per second. Canon introduced a new scene mode for the SX210: Miniature Mode mimics the effects of a tilt-shift lens. A toggle on top of the camera controls the zoom--an arrangement that takes a bit of getting used to.

$350 | More info

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V

The 10-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V is loaded with so many extras that it's easy to forget the prime function of this camera--taking high-quality photos. Aside from a 10X optical zoom lens, the DSC-HX5V offers an on-board GPS for geotagging, wireless image and video sharing via TransferJet, an accelerometer-driven panorama mode, and 1080i HD video capture in AVCHD format. The camera excels at shooting in low light without a flash, creating panoramic images, and correcting backlit images.

$350 | More info

Samsung HZ35W

Its 15X optical zoom lens (24mm to 360mm) gives the Samsung HZ35W the largest optical-zoom range of any compact camera currently available. Jumping on the GPS bandwagon, this pocket megazoom provides in-camera GPS integration with Navteq map service already installed on the camera, so you can view your photos on a map displayed on the camera's sharp 3-inch AMOLED screen. Audio capture and video capture aren’t strong points, but the HZ35W captures stunning, high-quality still photos.

$350 | More info

Casio Exilim EX-FH100

The Casio Exilim EX-FH100 combines the capabilities of a good pocket megazoom with sharp image quality and long battery life, making it a good all-purpose camera as well. The 10X optical zoom EX-F100 has great color accuracy and exposure levels, plus a high-speed shooting mode for capturing up to 40 stills per second at a resolution of 9 megapixels--perfect for sporting events. Its few drawbacks include noisy zooming and a laggy autofocus, but the camera's image quality shines.

$350 | More info

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75

Its bright F2.2 lens, above-average video quality, and "touch to focus" controls set the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 apart from the growing crowd of touchscreen point-and-shoots. The 14.1-megapixel DMC-FX75 has a 5X optical zoom lens, 6.5X "intelligent zoom," and a bright and roomy 3-inch LCD touchscreen. Unfortunately, the touchscreen can be difficult to navigate by finger touch; the included plastic stylus is more precise. Reviewing your photos in playback mode via touchscreen can be tricky, too, so the camera does take a bit of getting used to.

$300 | More info

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