In part 3 of our 2009 digital camera holiday gift guide, we looked at a series of $250 to $400 cameras that currently offer a step up in unique features from our second round of 150 to $250 cameras. In part 4, we will dive into the best cameras in the $400 to $600 price range. These cameras vault into the "prosumer" category; ideally for those previously using a point and shoot, yet looking for something with the quality of the DSLR. This lineup of digital cameras feature RAW image capture, lenses with a wider range and self-cleaning sensors. There are also fewer color choices in this category, as color variety is more popular in the point & shoot market.
So take a look at the third part of our 2009 Holiday gift guide, the $400 to $600 digital camera range. Our following recommendations are based on quality, features and the best value available on the digital camera marketplace between $400 to $600 dollars (MSRP).
Top Pick: Canon PowerShot S90IS
The S90IS from Canon is possibly one of the most exciting offerings in the point and shoot market in a long time. It is small and slim, while still offering incredibly powerful shooting options. The 10 megapixel sensor is superb, and the 4x optical zoom is accompanied with a very fast F/2 lens. This means the camera excels in low-light shooting without having to rely on the flash. The Canon S90 features an innovative "control ring" on the front, which can be set to have easy and quick access to shooting features such as aperture or ISO. It also has RAW capture, meaning that for advanced users, far better image quality can be accessed than when relying on the camera to create JPEGs for you.
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Photographers love control, and that is what they'll get on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. While this camera has been on the market for over a year, it is still an incredible model that offers superb image quality and a huge feature set, such as RAW capture, a Leica-certified lens, and a 10.1 megapixel sensor. While only offering a 2.5x optical zoom, the lens has a very fast aperture, which is great for low-light shooting. The 3" LCD looks great under almost any light. Another unique feature is the ability to control the aspect ratio of the image, meaning the proportion of the width to the height. You are able to choose a mode that best suits your needs, perhaps display on an HDTV or making specifically sized prints.
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The Canon G11 is another excellent offering from Canon, featuring the same 10 megapixel sensor as the Canon S90. It also offers RAW image capture and many manual shooting controls, which would make any photographer used to the feature set of a digital SLR feel right at home. The wide-angle lens goes out to 28mm, and the 2.8 inch screen articulates, so that it can be viewed from almost any angle. The 5x optical zoom lens has Canon's latest image stabilization technology, and the camera also has HDMI output for viewing images on an HDTV. The Canon G11 represents the pinnacle of point and shoot camera technology, but has a price that reflects this feature set.
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Similar to the Canon EOS Rebel XS, the Nikon D3000 has the advantage of being able to use almost any Nikon lens ever made. This is great for the Nikon film camera shooter who wants to step up to digital without buying all new lenses. It has a 10.2 megapixel, self-cleaning sensor and a large, 3" LCD. A helpful Guide Mode assists in navigating the many menus the camera has to offer. There is even a Retouch menu that offers in-camera editing. The Nikon D3000 is small enough to avoid the traditionally intimidating heft of digital SLR cameras, but has the power and speed of any other digital SLR in its class.
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Canon EOS Rebel XS
Stepping up to a digital SLR used to mean a significant financial commitment, along with having a massive camera that could prove challenging to travel with. Now in 2009, a digital SLR can be had with a lens for under $600. The Canon EOS Rebel XS has a 10.1 megapixel sensor and a 2.5" LCD screen with Live View. Autofocus and image quality will easily out perform even the most expensive point and shoots, and the ability to use an accurate and bright optical viewfinder will take your photographs to the next level. With the massive array of Canon EF and EF-S lenses available, there is no limit to the potential of the Canon EOS system.
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