Holiday Gift Guide: The Perfect Camera for Any Photographer

Whether your favorite photographer is brand-new to photography, enjoys taking action shots, wants perfect portraits, or loves the outdoors--we've got you covered.

Top Picks for the Photographer on Your List

There's really no such thing as a "one size fits all" camera. If you're buying a camera as a gift, it's important to think about the recipient's personality before you dissect the camera's spec sheet. Are they looking for a camera to snap sports and other fast-action events? Or are they more interested in portraits or wide-angle landscape scenes? Do they want to learn how to use a camera's manual controls? Or are they just looking for an automated, ultraportable camera to tuck in their pocket or purse?

In any of those cases, we'll help you find the perfect fit.

Cameras to Grow With: Canon PowerShot G12

Folks who are new to digital photography need a digital camera with point-and-shoot simplicity, but plenty of features. The Canon PowerShot G12 is a 10-megapixel camera with a 5X optical zoom, an optical viewfinder (which helps extend battery life), a flip-out LCD viewfinder, and easy-to-learn controls.

Cameras to Grow With: Nikon Coolpix P7000

Growing photographers may need an easy-to-use camera, but they should have the option to switch to manual controls. Consider the Nikon Coolpix P7000. This camera has a 7X optical zoom and ready access to a rich set of manual controls that make it a solid camera for an aspiring Ansel Adams.

Cameras to Grow With: Canon PowerShot S95

Canon's PowerShot S95 was just about the best all-around pocket camera last year; it's a perfect camera to grow with, thanks to its small size and mix of automated and manual controls.

On-the-Go Snapshooters: Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS

If someone on your gift list likes to take lots of photos on a daily basis, they'd appreciate an ultracompact camera with fun features and good image quality--like the $250 Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS. An incredibly thin and compact camera, this Elph has a 12-megapixel sensor, a 5X optical zoom, and a slew of Smart Auto and Scene modes for shooting a wide variety of situations.

On-the-Go Snapshooters: Sony Cyber-shot TX10

Anyone who makes photography a routine part of their day would enjoy the Sony Cyber-shot TX10 (about $260). This camera has a 16-megapixel resolution, a 4X optical zoom, and the ability to shoot 3D photos. It also comes in fun colors like silver, blue, green, and pink, but this camera is more than just a fashion statement: Despite its fancy looks, the TX10 is waterproof, freezeproof, dustproof, and drop-proof, making it a great fit for anyone who likes to push their gadgets to the extreme.

Ready for Action: Casio Exilim EX-ZR100

If someone you know enjoys shooting sports or racing, they will appreciate a camera that offers features like a long zoom and fast burst modes. The Casio Exilim EX-ZR100 could be the ideal action camera. It's a pocket-sized 12-megapixel camera with a 12.5X optical zoom and shooting modes like High Speed Best Selection, in which it shoots a series of images and then selects the best one. It also has a high-speed mode that captures up to 40 frames per second.

Ready for Action: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V camera cranks out 10 frames per second using its 16-megapixel sensor and 16X optical zoom. It's loaded with fun extras, including 3D shooting, excellent video quality, in-camera GPS, and groundbreaking scene modes.

Portrait-Friendly Cameras: Nikon CoolPix P300

Photographers who like to take portraits need a camera that gets great image quality in ambient light, without needing a flash. In this regard, the Nikon CoolPix P300 would be a good choice. This 12-megapixel camera is super compact and boasts a very wide aperture of f/1.8 for strong natural light performance and great narrow depth of field that's ideal for portraiture. The P300 also offers a full set of manual controls.

Portrait-Friendly Cameras: Canon PowerShot S100

That portrait photographer on your list will also appreciate a camera with a zoom range that passes through 90 or 100mm. The PowerShot S100 ($430) is a lightweight and compact camera with a broad zoom range (24mm to 120mm), 1080p video recording, and 12-megapixel resolution. It shoots both RAW and JPEG images, and it has a useful control ring mounted around the lens.

Great for the Great Outdoors: Nikon CoolPix P500

If your favorite photo buff loves wildlife and landscapes, then they could use a camera with a very wide zoom range that lets them switch quickly between shooting wide-angle scenes and pulling in distant subjects. Check out the Nikon CoolPix P500 (about $400), a megazoom camera with a monster 36X optical zoom that starts at a super-wide 22.5mm and extends to 810mm The camera has a 12-megapixel sensor, image stabilization, and a full range of automatic and manual controls. Another great outdoors feature: a one-touch panorama shooting mode.

Great for the Great Outdoors: Sony Cyber-shot HX100V

Other features that a nature photographer would appreciate include a panoramic mode for capturing very large vistas and GPS for geotagging photo shoots. The Sony Cyber-shot HX100V offers both these features, plus 3D capture and a blazing fast 10-frames-per-second shooting mode. It has a 16-megapixel sensor and a 30X zoom lens that serves up focal lengths from 27mm to 810mm. Of course, it has both manual and automatic shooting modes.

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