Best Cameras for Holiday Parties

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Holidays not only bring cheer, they bring a great excuse to break out the camera and take pictures of the family and friends you haven't seen since the holidays last year.  Think of it as Forced Family and Friend Fun.  We've all been on both the receiving and photographing end of things.  And with so many awesome new cameras out this season, why not step it up a notch and capture your F.F.F.F. pictures with a fancy new camera?  During the winter holidays, parties usually take place inside.  Whether you are at someone's house, at the office party or in a restaurant, the light is always your worst enemy.  Granted, there are some really cute ways to capture holiday light as discussed here, but when you want to take a picture of a group of people while navigating Christmas lights, overhead lights and candle lights, you'll be glad you snagged one of these new cameras that are expert in the way of low-light situations.

Canon Powershot S95

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Making the top of the shortlist is the confident little Canon Powershot S95.  Holding back nothing in terms of technological advancements in the realm of point-and-shoot, this mini-powerhouse comes with some of the best features in a camera of its class.  When taking pictures in low light situations, you main concern is going to be flash.  Well wouldn't you know that Canon put one of those smack on the top of the camera.  Reaching speeds of 1/1600 of a second, the flash will certainly get the job done.  Next on the list of concerns is the ISO setting.  In the Auto mode, the ISO will automatically detect the proper ISO setting from 80 to 3200; the lower the light, the higher the ISO needed.  In order to balance out the flash and the ISO settings, the camera also does an automatic White Balance for faces.  Now, if you don't want to have to think about any of the settings and are a serial mode user, the Powershot S95 comes with a staggering 28 of them.  For your holiday party, get creative.  There is a Fisheye mode that when viewed sober the morning after will show you everything you forgot in just the same way you saw it when you weren't sober.  Low-Light will obviously take care of all the problems surrounding your indoor situation but throw on the Self-Timer every once in a while to get in on the shot too.  One of the upgrades Canon threw into the S95 is the HD Video mode that now shoots in 1280x720 at 24 frames per second.  You can get every giggle, every present opened, every New Years kiss and every vomiting aunt captured in the best clarity your low light situations have to offer.  MSRP $399.99


Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

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For a camera that will truly make you say "sweet Mary and Joseph!", the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 will get you there.  This thing is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  It may look small but it packs a roundhouse kick to your face...when you hold it up to take a picture.  Loaded with every imaginable feature on a camera of this size plus some, the DMC-LX5 will show you what a picture taken in low light should really look like.  In a truly miraculous way, when set to ISO Auto it can reach settings up to 12800.  You could be standing in a dark closet making out with your ex-boyfriend and this camera would still pick up light from somewhere.  It comes with a trusty pop-up flash but also comes equipped with a hot-shoe ready for you to mount any external flashes that fit the model or an external viewfinder (the base camera only comes equipped with an LCD screen).  In terms of fun preset modes to use at your holiday party, this one has the most versatile in terms of low light situations.  The Night Portrait and Night Scenery mode will clear up any questions you had about which settings to use.  The Flash Burst and High-speed Burst will be best utilized when you mount the external flash you bought from Steve's Digicams.  And because you have more family than one holiday party can handle, the Panoramic Assist mode will ensure everyone gets ample space in the frame.  Recommending you always shoot in a RAW format, you can guarantee that JPEG won't squash out some of the finer details of your pictures especially in low light (other reviewers have found this to be a problem with this model).  Ring in the New Year in style by knocking off $100 from the MSRP $499.99.

 

Creative Vado HD 8GB

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Now for something you weren't quite expecting, the sweet little Creative Vado HD is a great pocket recorder that functions surprisingly well in low light situations.  With an 8GB memory, you can record up to two full hours of straight High Definition video footage without needing to unload the memory storage.  Uploading video to your computer is as easy as scrolling the dial out the reveal the built-in USB stick (as shown above).  Capable of playing back your videos right on the spot, thank goodness it comes with built-in speakers.  Otherwise you would not only be in the dark but a very quiet dark.  A cool feature not seen on every pocket recorder is the external microphone jack that when utilized eliminates the surrounding noise that often comes with mini-handhelds.  It doubles as a headphone jack so all your special moments can be played back on the train ride home in private.  If you aren't committed to recording an entire two hours worth of film, the Vado HD does also capture stills.  The handy switch makes it easy to go back and forth between the two modes.  The manufacturer is running some holiday specials this year and a quick peek at their website shows that the usual MSRP $229.99 has been chopped to a giftable $199.99.

Samsung DualView ST600

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The holidays wouldn't be the holidays without a 50/50 ratio between pictures of other people and self-portraits.  Sure there are a million people at the party who are more than capable of taking a picture of you and your thirty closest friends, but the law states that there has to be an ample number of pictures of yourself taken at arm's length.  Released this year and upgraded from its predecessors the TL220 and TL225, Samsung still carries the only dual screen camera on the market.  The DualView ST600 is a decent camera to begin with, touting an impressive 14.2 megapixel resolution and a 5x optical zoom Schneider-Kreuznack lens, both specifications upgraded from the TL255.  But when you start talking about aesthetics, this deck of cards comes with a monstrous full 3.5" LCD screen on the rear and a 1.8" screen on the front.  You can set this thing on top of a Christmas tree and call it decorated, that's how big the screen is.  And talk about helpful; it comes with a plethora of shooting modes to make you appear beautiful all season long.  Night Portrait, Backlight Portrait and Natural Portrait are guaranteed to keep you gorgeous while the color filters will keep things creative.  The camera comes with a number of cool in-camera image editing options making the post-production process instantaneous.  And yes holiday photogs, the ISO runs up to 3200 keepings your holiday cheer bright and detailed.  And when you use this thing for taking pictures of other people, you can manually detect 6 faces on the screen or it will automatically detect 14 people for you.  All in all, for MSRP $329.99 this can be Santa's Little Helper in the palm of your hand.

Accessories      

Take those holiday photos from ordinary to hairy in a matter of seconds.  Novelty company Accoutrements rocks an assortment of awesome gear to keep the stockings stuffed, the party started and your friend list growing.  A particularly awesome idea this season is to don an array of facial hair.  Their Stylish Mustaches adhere and come off painlessly making this fun for all ages.  Don't be surprised when people walk off with your lip warmers forgetting they are even there.  It won't be until they see the pictures will they realize they left them on all night!  Purchase your Stylish Mustaches here 

Instead of cooking up a new holiday tradition, build one!  Macworld.com has a super easy to-do guide as to how to build your very own photobooth.  Well, not quite a photobooth but a more user friendly version.  Lose the curtain and uncomfortable seating arrangements and gain some studio-quality portraits in a flash.  Literally.  With just a few pieces of equipment you can be on your way to rocking the holiday party with photographic style.  Check the easy how-to guide here



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Maggie OBriant
Maggie O'Briant  Personal Blog Flickr

Maggie O'Briant recently graduated from Florida State University with an English Literature degree.  She is currently a freelance writer and photographer.    She currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and giant baby. 

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