Feature: Camera Gift Guide

Black Friday is creeping up on us before the gang at Imaging Resource has had a chance to wrap up the reviews of some pretty compelling cameras. But we interrupted their feverish activity to get a list of this year's best cameras. And we've checked it twice.

When it comes time to buy and if you decide to buy online, please do us the favor of getting to your vendor via our Buy Now page. Thanks!

Digital Camera Gift Guide: POCKETABLE WONDERS

Canon PowerShot S95

Canon PowerShot S95 digital camera Among its premium-quality competitors, the Canon S95 is the smallest digicam with such a fast lens. Its understated, stealthy appearance will be popular with street photographers and its easy customization will gain everyone's admiration, period. The S95's hold on users becomes complete with the gorgeous, 420K-pixel, 3.0-inch LCD. ~ $396

Panasonic Lumix LX5

Panasonic Lumix LX5 digital camera There are few cameras most photo enthusiasts would agree upon. The Panasonic LX5 is one of them. No, not all photo enthusiasts will say it's the best but most would agree it's a contender, a heck of a good camera, with a classic design. It can be relied upon for high-quality images in most situations, even standing in reasonably well as a portrait camera. ~ $445

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: SUPERZOOMERS

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 digital camera The Sony HX1 is a 20x zoom digicam that can get in close while delivering good 11x14 prints. Other unique features include Handheld Twilight mode, which combines images in-camera for better low light performance and Sweep Panorama mode, which makes capturing panoramic images as easy as scanning the horizon with your eye. ~ $370

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 digital camera With a zoom range from 27 to 486mm, the FZ35 will meet just about every need on your next outing and do it in a small package weighing less than a pound. HD video captures 1280x720p complete with stereo sound. A stack of Scene modes, face detection and several intelligent exposure modes round out its features, but it's the speed and image quality that impressed us. ~ $307

Nikon Coolpix P100

Nikon Coolpix P100 digital camera Megazoom digicams don't get much longer than the P100, which has a 26x zoom ranging from a very wide 26mm to a very long 678mm. Its 10.3-megapixel backlit sensor allows it to perform a few cool tricks, too, including a frame rate of up to 10 shots per second at full resolution and an automatic HDR mode for difficult lighting situations. An articulated 3.0-inch LCD screen, light weight and a very fast full AF shutter lag round out the package. ~ $380

Canon PowerShot SX20 IS

Canon PowerShot SX20 IS digital camera Well built but awkward to handle, the Canon SX20 IS will nonetheless be popular with those already familiar with Canon long zoom cameras. There are certainly more external controls than most digicams offer and the one-touch activation of Movie mode is still quite inspired, even as it's adopted by the competition. ~ $430

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: TRAVEL COMPANIONS

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V digital camera With a 10-Mp back-illuminated sensor, a 10x zoom, built-in GPS and a very clever way of capturing stable images in low light, the Sony HX5V is perfect for travelers. It's one of the few digicams on the market to include Sony's Handheld Twilight mode, which takes six rapid images and combines them to form one low-light shot. The 10x zoom ranges from 25-250mm. Its unique grip provides a good hold while not protruding from the body, allowing the HX5V to slip easily into most pockets. It's also a competent HD video camera, recording up to 1080i at 60 fps with stereo audio. ~ $302

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 digital camera The ZS7 features a 12.1-Mp sensor and a 12x optical zoom, a high-res 3.0-inch LCD and GPS to record where you were when you took all those vacation shots. Capable of 720p HD video as well, it's indeed an excellent travel companion for stills and video and its 25-300mm equivalent zoom range frames subjects ranging from close-ups to landscapes. ~ $313

Canon PowerShot SX210 IS

Canon PowerShot SX210 IS digital camera The Canon SX210 takes pocket zoom a little longer, with a 14x zoom that ranges from 28-392mm. It also sports a 14-Mp sensor, exceeding the competition in both zoom range and resolution. It's surprising just how close you can get with a 14x zoom, especially with built-in image stabilization. With a pleasing shape and good heft, it was a joy to use and brought home great pictures. ~ $285

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Canon G12

Canon G12 digital camera The latest in Canon's renowned G Series, the G12 features a new control dial on the front of the camera body, mirroring those on Canon's EOS-series dSLRs and support for an optional lens filter adapter which extends along with the lens itself, accepting Canon 58mm-threaded filters. The top-panel ISO dial is also finer-grained, allowing adjustment in 1/3 stop increments and there's a new user-configurable Auto ISO function. Tracking autofocus is new as is an electronic level function to straighten horizons. And the G12 now offers a variety of new aspect ratios, including 4:3 (native), 3:2, 16:9, 1:1 and 4:5. ~ $492

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: BUDGET BABIES

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS digital camera Though the Canon SD1300 is the first of the ELPH digicams to dip below the ~ $200 mark, it still has what you need to get good quality shots. It has a small, smooth, metal body, a 12-Mp sensor, a 4x zoom that starts at 28mm, optical image stabilization and a sharp 2.7-inch LCD. Even with a reduced feature set, it isn't missing anything important. Canon's done an extraordinary job pruning the SD1300 down to the essentials, while preserving good image quality. ~ $165

Canon PowerShot A3100 IS

Canon PowerShot A3100 IS digital camera If you're looking for a camera that just works and doesn't cost a lot, check out the Canon A3100. Its 4x zoom isn't wide, but does zoom from 35-140mm and its 2.7-inch LCD looks great in most lighting conditions. But the big story is the 12.1-Mp sensor, whose output exceeds the abilities of today's top-end Canon ELPHs, rather mysteriously. ~ $138

Panasonic Lumix ZS5

Panasonic Lumix ZS5 digital camera Built-in GPS isn't for everyone, so why pay extra for it when the ZS5 offers the same image quality as the ZS7? It has the same 12-Mp sensor, wide-angle 12x zoom and a 2.7-inch LCD in a sleek metal body. Ranging from 25-300mm, the 12x zoom is perfect for just about every situation you're likely to encounter and it maintains such high image quality that you can output 16x20 prints from most daylight images. ~ $265

Canon PowerShot SX120 IS

Canon PowerShot SX120 IS digital camera The Canon SX120 gives you a fast 10x zoom in a simple, well-designed camera. Its image quality competes with larger long-zoom cameras and its DIGIC 4 processor and 10-Mp sensor improves on its predecessor's 9-Mp design. A large 3.0-inch LCD shows your images clearly and it includes a wide range of exposure controls, from full Auto to full Manual and all modes in-between. ~ $218

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: MIRRORLESS DIVISION

Olympus PEN E-PL1

Olympus PEN E-PL1 digital camera Olympus took most of what was great about the first two Pen cameras and dropped it into the E-PL1 digicam. From the 12-Mp sensor to the high quality optics and excellent output quality, it loses almost nothing while shedding a couple hundred dollars from the price and getting a grip in the bargain. The built-in flash, also new, can remotely control Olympus strobes to boot, making this lower-priced digicam more versatile than the more expensive E-P1 and E-P2 digicams. A new video button allows you to start movie recording without leaving the mode you're in and the Olympus E-PL1 also allows Manual control over video exposure. It's a pretty complete package, one that can be expanded with the addition of different lenses and accessories. ~ $546

Sony Alpha NEX-5

Sony Alpha NEX-5 digital camera Mirrorless cameras have been big in Japan and Europe for a while now, but have gotten off to a slow start in the U.S. But with the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras, the game has changed significantly. These new models are not only the most compact interchangeable-lens cameras on the market but also bring features like Sweep Panorama and Hand-Held Twilight shooting modes up from Sony's digicam line, combining them with the dramatically higher image quality. In fact, the image quality from these new cameras is by far the best we've seen from the Sony Alpha line at the APS-C sensor size. But wait, there's more! Unlike most of their competition, the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 both offer truly effective live autofocus during movie recording. The Sony NEX-5 can record 1080i at 60 fps in the AVCHD format (plus options for MPEG-4 recording), while the NEX-3 offers 1280x720p recording in MP4 only. ~ $691

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: dSLR VALUES

Canon EOS T1i

Canon EOS T1i digital camera Our experience with the Canon T1i was excellent and shows Canon is taking its dSLR challengers quite seriously. Indeed, our test results show it is one of the best values on the market, offering Canon 50D quality in a significantly less expensive package. ~ $699

Canon EOS T2i (Rebel T2i, Canon 550D)

Canon EOS T2i digital camera Canon ignored the rest of the digicam industry when they limited resolution over the last few years, putting an 18-Mp sensor in their consumer flagship Rebel T2i and as a result the camera stands head and shoulders above any other offering under ~ $1,000. Where you'd expect more noise from this 18-Mp camera, the Canon T2i actually delivers less than its predecessor, while increasing detail at all ISO settings. Also upgraded on the Canon T2i is 1080p video at 24, 25 and 30 fps with video editing tools built right into the camera. Still shooting mode also gets a frame-rate increase to 3.7 fps. Both still and video quality from the Canon T2i are very impressive. ~ $854
Watch for our review of the Nikon D3100 offered at ~ $708 and the Canon EOS 60D at ~ $990.

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: MIDRANGE dSLRS

Nikon D300S

Nikon D300S digital camera While the Nikon D300S has the same 12.3-Mp sensor as its predecessor, it can now capture up to 7.1 fps (8 fps with the optional battery grip). The new SD/SDHC slot gives it greater versatility while retaining a Type I CompactFlash slot. But the big story is its HD movie mode, capturing 1280x720 videos at 24 fps. Though it has a built-in monaural microphone for audio recording, it also includes a stereo mic-in jack. You can frame images via the big, beautiful optical viewfinder or the large, high-resolution LCD in Live view mode and view your images and videos direct from the camera thanks to the HDMI-out port. ~ $1,527

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D digital camera The 7D stands alone. It's a dSLR camera that can capture 18-Mp images at 8 fps and 14-bit depth, with a quite usable ISO range from 100 to 12,800. It offers Live View, full manual exposure control while recording movies, Full HD movie recording, a new 19-point all-cross-type autofocus system, a near-100 percent optical viewfinder and built-in support for controlling up to three groups of Speedlite strobes. ~ $1,560
Watch for our review of the Canon EOS 60D offered at ~ $987, Nikon D7000 at ~ $1,500 and the Pentax K-5 at ~ $1,543.

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: TAX DEDUCTIONS

Nikon D3x

Nikon D3x digital camera The Nikon D3x produces the highest image quality of any camera we've tested. Its combination of resolution, color fidelity and noise performance puts it at the very top of its class. Not only does the Nikon D3x sport an amazing 24.5 megapixels of resolution, it manages to wring more detail out of those pixels than anything else out there. The D3x also offers surprising speed, capable of 5 fps at full resolution and up to 7.5 fps in its 10.5-Mp DX crop mode. Then there's build quality. It's built like a tank, capable of handling most anything. Calling it a five-star Dave's Pick is the highest praise we have to offer, but it seems hardly enough. ~ $6,863

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV digital camera The Canon 1D Mark IV is a remarkably capable camera, fit for news, sports and many other types of pro photography. Its fast frame rate of 10 fps makes it excellent for action, yet its higher resolution makes it great for portrait or other work. Printed results tell most of the story, outputting 16x24-inch prints at ISO 3,200. The Canon 1D Mark IV is solid as a rock, very well-sealed against the elements when used with the right lenses and its controls and menu system are very easy to use. The new tempered LCD glass also makes the 1D Mark IV more durable than ever. ~ $5,000

Canon EOS-5D Mark II

Canon EOS-5D Mark II digital camera Capable of capturing 1080p movies, the 5D opened up a whole world of video opportunities for those with a selection of Canon full-frame lenses. Of course, it also has the goods for still photographers, offering a 21.1-Mp sensor, a tuned version of the sensor in the Canon 1Ds Mark III. Now the 5D's sensor has significantly better high ISO performance, able to produce nearly noise-free images up to ISO 6,400. If you can handle a little noise, you can even reach out to 25,600. Its new high resolution LCD delivers a fine 640x480 image for better focus checking and a great image in Live View mode. ~ $2,416

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Digital Camera Gift Guide: WATERBUG DIVISION

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 digital camera Waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof, the TS2 is built to stand up to the elements and rigors of the real world and it takes a pretty good picture, too. New redundant locks on the Panasonic TS2's doors reduce the likelihood you'll open them accidentally and a new silicon jacket wraps around the camera for better scuff protection. ~ $315

Pentax Optio W90

Pentax Optio W90 digital camera With a 5x wide-angle zoom, a 12.1-Mp sensor and a 2.7-inch LCD, the W90 is a pretty good choice in a waterproof, coldproof, go-anywhere rugged digicam. We were pleased with the overall image quality, as the Pentax W90 even delivered good corner sharpness and almost no geometric distortion and full-AF shutter lag was right up there with dSLRs! It even includes three LEDs ringing the lens for illuminating subjects as close as one cm. ~ $264

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 digital camera With the TX5, you can have a slim stylish digicam that's also tough. As handsome as other Sony T-series digicams, the Sony TX5 is different: you can splash it, dunk it, swim with it, drop it, freeze it and even get it dirty and it will keep on taking pictures. Its touchscreen interface is fast and well-designed and image quality is very good. ~ $305


Casio EXILIM EX-G1 digital camera The Casio EX-G1 challenges typical waterproof digicams, offering futuristic lines and a slim profile that practically beg you to charge off on an adventure. Its 12-Mp sensor, 3x zoom and 2.5-inch LCD meet all the basic requirements and the Casio EX-G1's rugged build makes it waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freezeproof. ~ $202

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