Best Cameras for Grandparents - 2012 Edition

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One of the best parts of being a kid is going to spend the weekend with your grandmother and grandfather, eating sugary cereals, playing putt-putt, digging around in their garden and snuggling in the recliner until you fall asleep in grandpa's lap.  Grandparents love this time as much as kids do.  Give them the ability to brag about their grandbabies and the time they share by getting them a new camera.  Grandparents don't need all the bells and whistles younger generations require.  They either don't know how to use them or simply don't care.  As long as they can see what they are taking a picture of and easily see it again later, they will be happy with just that.

There are some specific features to keep in mind when buying a camera for your grandparents or friends who just became new grandparents.  An easy point-and-shoot digital camera accompanied with a comprehensive Auto setting will be a good starting off point.  That should keep it inexpensive or at least moderately priced; a lot of times, a grandparent's camera is only used when families visit so spending more than $450 is unnecessary.  A big LED screen that serves as both a viewfinder and a playback screen will mean they won't have to rely on tiny viewfinders working with poor vision or thick glasses.  A feature that allows pictures to be printed straight from the camera versus having to plug into a computer will keep it nice and simple to use; if your grandparent lacks a computer all together, this feature will be most appreciated. 


Panasonic DMC-ZS15

For the budget-conscious grandparents who love or hate technology.

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While some grandparents aren't known for their technological prowess (they're still trying to learn how to use a VCR and stare at you blankly when you mention Blu-ray), but sometimes there's a scenario where you have one gadget-lovin' grandparent and one gran-gadget-phobe.  Panasonic's Lumix ZS15 is perfect for such a scenario. This compact and incredibly versatile digicam sports a 12.1-Megapixel high sensitivity MOS imaging sensor, 16x Leica optical zoom lens, Power O.I.S., 1080p HD movie recording and Panasonic's iAuto (intelligent auto) shooting mode.  Think of this outstanding choice as the camera that a beginner can easily use the first time, while the experienced photographer can access the manual mode and other, more complicated features.  Regardless of the user, the ZS15 is about many things -- simple and small -- but above all else, it's known for its great image quality. With a MSRP of US $249.99 US, its quality, versatility and features are well worth the cost.

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Canon PowerShot ELPH 520 HS

For the grandparents who admire a well-built product.

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I've been a Digital ELPH fan for many years and your grandparents will love this compact, solidly constructed little camera. The ELPH 520 HS continues the traditions of Canon's historic camera line by offering powerful features and ease of use in a compact metal frame. This model continues the use of Canon's HS (High Sensitivity) system, which combines the camera's 10.1-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor with its newer DIGIC 5 processor and a f/3.4 lens to help the 520 HS produce better photos in lower lighting conditions without the flash.  It's stylish too, with a sleek, squared off body that is available in four colors; Red, Silver, Blue, and Black. With all these feature combined, the 520 HS looks to be yet another popular model in the PowerShot line up. 

While the 520 boasts some nice upgrades over the 510 HS from last year, namely the high performance DIGIC 5 image processor, its size and shape is different from its predecessor, with a square body that's about the size of a deck of playing cards. Thanks to its mostly metal construction, the camera has a rugged feel to it; along with a good amount of heft, weighing in at about 7.2oz with battery and card installed. It's taller profile helped the camera fit better in my large hands, and the controls are well placed. With a street price of $300 USD or less, the 520 offers great bang for your buck. Not to many models on the market can match the quality and features you are receiving from the 520; especially not in a camera of this size.

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Nikon Coolpix P510

For the grandparents who snap photos from afar.

Nikon P510

If your grandparents love grabbing photos of the grandkids in action -- whether it be sports, the school play, or even at the neighborhood park -- but they aren't quite ready for a professional "dSLR", the Nikon P510 may be the camera for them.  

The P510 is an "ultra zoom" class camera and features an astounding 42x optical zoom (24-1000mm equivalent). On top of the lens, your grandparents will love the 16.1 BSI CMOS image sensor, the EXPEED C2 image processor, the advanced optical VR (vibration reduction) image stabilization for crisp pictures at full zoom, the 3.0-inch vari-angle LCD display, and full HD 1080p video recording to capture the family in sparkling clarity.

The grandparents will be able to get close to all the action from the comfortable location of his or her choice.  And this is such a simple camera to use.  All the grandparents have to do is point, pick a zoom length, and take the picture. It even has built-in GPS and 3D photo mode and an in-camera Panorama feature, all with an MSRP of less than $430.

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Pentax Optio WG-2

For the grandparents on the go.

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If your grandparents love the great outdoors, or happen to treat electronics like they were still made out of rugged steal or solid wood, we have the perfect camera for them. Waterproof down to 40 feet, crushproof up to 220 pounds (100kgf kilogram-force), Coldproof to sub-freezing temps of 14°F (10° C), dustproof, and shockproof up to a 5 foot fall, the WG-2 is as tough as they come. 

While WG-2 shares a few features, such as the 5x optical zoom lens, with the previous generation WG-2, the WG-2 houses a number improvements, such as a larger 16 megapixel CMOS sensor capable of recording full HD 1080p movies (the previous camera could only do 720p thanks to its lesser equipped CCD sensor), a 3.0-inch LCD display, six LED lights on the front of the camera (up from five) to illuminate underwater photographs.

Add to all of these a super easy menu design (for all ages) and a terrific face detection program for accurate focus indoors and out.  Available in Red or Black with a suggested retail price of $299.95, the Pentax Optio WG-2 is a grandparents-(and grandkids)-proof camera at a wallet-friendly price. There's GPS model, available in White or Yellow, for $50 more, but unless your grandparents are addicted to geotagging, it's probably not worth it. And there's not much grandparents love more than saving money, giving them one more reason to love this present.


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Accessories  

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Eye-Fi has come up with two solutions in one: massive memory storage for your digital camera mixed with wi-fi technology for easy upload.  If the digital camera you purchased doesn't have built-in technology to streamline the process of getting pictures from camera to internet, Eye-Fi memory cards are the ticket.  After a simple software set-up, just plug the card into the camera and take as many pictures as the card allows (comes in 4GB and 8GB sizes).  Once you get back home, turn the camera and computer on.  Using a wireless internet connection, the card automatically uploads all the pictures and video to the computer and organizes them chronologically.  If you tell it to do so in the initial set-up, the upload process will also upload pictures online to any of 25 different photo hosting websites including Facebook.  The Eye-Fi card is a great addition to any camera, no matter who is using it.

Purchase Eye-Fi cards here

Digital picture frames are a no brainer for grandparents.  They are easy to use, reduce the number of picture frames around the house (what grandparent doesn't need help with that) and keep the laughs rotating with every picture.  Some allow you to place the SD card straight into the picture frame and others require pictures to be downloaded to the frame from the computer.  Take a look at these digital picture frames to find the one that works best for your favorite grandparent!