2009 Digital Camera Holiday Gift Guide - Part 1
2009 Holiday Gift Guide TOC
Every year, buying a digital camera becomes more and more complicated, as companies increase their offerings and features become more advanced. In the end, however, consumers win, since increased competition has dramatically lowered prices and improved overall picture quality. This guide will help you sort through the chaos that is the digital photography industry, highlighting some of the best choices for cameras in various price ranges. While it is still generally true that more money will get a nicer camera, even spending under $150 can get you a 10 megapixel camera that makes excellent images. Your needs, such as HD video, a wide zoom range, or image stabilization, will determine the right amount you need to spend.
Take a look at the first part of our 2009 Holiday gift guide, the sub $150 digital camera range. Our following recommendations are based on quality, features and the best value available on the digital camera marketplace for less than 150 dollars.
Top Pick: Canon Powershot A1100 IS
This offering from Canon is a 12.1 megapixel camera with a 4x optical zoom lens, and optical image stabilization. It also has a nice, speedy interfaced aided by Canon's Digic 4 processor. The 2.5" LCD is a good size, though not as large as the 3" screen offered by many cameras today. Menus are easy to navigate, lending to an excellent overall user experience. "Smart AUTO" technology calculates the best exposure for a variety of shooting scenarios. Another plus is the camera takes standard AA batteries, making it easy to obtain spares anywhere in the world. Canon "A" series cameras have always been reliable and fairly priced, and the A1100 IS is no exception. Canon is also offering a $20 rebate on this model through the end of the year, if you are upgrading from a previous Powershot model that you registered.
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Sony Cybershot DSC-W220
Boasting a 4x optical zoom with the branding of legendary lens maker Carl Zeiss, the W220 from Sony has 12.1 megapixels, optical image stabilization, and smile shutter technology. "Smite Shutter" from Sony automatically detects when the subject is smiling and takes the picture at just the right moment. The W220 also has Sony's D-Range Optimizer, which helps preserve detail from bright highlights and dark shadows. In-camera editing tools allow for sharpening, cropping, color adjusting, and many other fixes before the pictures even get to the computer. In addition to in-camera editing, Sony's built in Image Management software allows images to be sorted in-camera using a number of different categories, such as event or date.
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Nikon Coolpix L20
For Nikon fans, the Coolpix L20 is a great budget camera. It has a 3.6x optical zoom and a 10 megapixel sensor. Nikon's newest EXPEED processor makes this camera fast and responsive, and Motion Detection technology automatically controls settings to reduce the chance of blurry images. The L20 also has a large 3" LCD and an optical viewfinder, so you can shoot without relying on the battery-hungry screen. Belying the "deck of cards" shape of many compact cameras, it has a contoured shape to make handling and shooting a more comfortable experience.
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Casio Exilim EX-S5
A super-slim compact camera from Casio, the EX-S5 has 10.1 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom. It also has the unique ability to capture images in "widescreen" 16:9 format. YouTube capture mode records video that is optimized for uploading directly to YouTube. The Casio Exilim EX-S5 has a customizable menu screen for easy and speedy use. Although the zoom lens is a bit lacking on this camera, it's incredibly small size somewhat makes up for it. "Best Shot" mode on the camera assists in getting ideal images in any setting.
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Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS
The EasyShare M1093 IS Kodak is an ultra-compact camera, with 10.1 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom. It stands out among budget cameras due to its ability to shoot HD video, and its large, 3" LCD screen. Optical image stabilization is also a feature, allowing blur-free shots even at slower shutter speeds. "Smart Capture" mode automatically determines the type of scene being photographed and makes this camera extremely easy to use by just about anyone. The dedicated battery pack is great for longer battery life, but be sure to bring the charger when traveling. The camera can also be charged with a USB cable, rare for a camera in this class.
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