Gift Guide 2012 – Cameras

Though the convenience and acceptable quality of smartphones cameras have led them to be the only camera some users employ, dedicated cameras remain popular for their quality superiority and sometimes-exclusive feature sets.

Convergence devices, like smartphones, no doubt offer unparalleled levels of convenience and value, but devices that offer features separately, like cameras, are popular amongst users that want a quality device and have no need for cellular features.  Separate cameras are also good for travel and situations where breaking or misplacing your phone wouldn’t mean losing your lifeline.

If you’re buying a gift for a photography fan this holiday season, here are some options:

Point and shoot

Point and shoot cameras are generally smaller in form factor and have a non-changeable lens.  They take their name from the idea that all the user needs to do for a quality photo is “point and shoot.”

Though small in size, these cameras vary greatly in price. At the entry level (sub-$150), the Nikon Coolpix S9100, Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 will all shoot nice photos at a good price.  Putting the price ceiling at $300 yields the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 as solid options for your money.

The best in class compact camera is said to be the Sony Cyber-Shot RX100, which offers amazing optics in a small package. This DSLR-alternative is costly, though; the Cyber-Shot RX100 retails for around $650.

DSLR

Digital single-lens reflex cameras, or DSLR, are larger devices that pair a digital camera body with a removeable lens.  While most consumer DSLRs can be purchased in a kit with a lens, different lenses can be purchased separate to be used for specific shooting scenarios.  DSLRs can take amazing photos, but there is a learning curve for users not familiar with the principles of photography.

When purchasing a DSLR or lens for someone, find out if they have a preferred company or lens system.  Some components only work with a specific system, which camera enthusiasts tend to have strong preferences for.

Though there are alternatives, Canon and Nikon provide the better-value entry and midrange DSLR options.  Canon and Nikon’s latest entry-level DSLRs are the Digital Rebel T4i ($800) and Nikon D3200 ($600), though newer photographers can save money and retain high quality by going with previous-generation models like the Canon T3i ($600) or the Nikon D3100 ($475).

More expensive professional-grade DSLRs exist from a variety of manufacturers exist, but recommending them isn’t pertinent since whomever you might be purchasing them for probably already has a pretty good idea of what they want.  Do some sleuthing to find out what their dream camera body upgrade is.

Camera buffs are almost always have a wishlist of lenses that would improve their coverage range.  If the person you’re shopping for already has a solid camera body, find out what lens they’d love to add to their camera bag.  It’s important to note that DSLR lenses are expensive and can often exceed the cost of the camera itself, so manage pocketbook expectations accordingly.

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