Digital Camera Holiday Gift Guide - $250 - $400 Cameras
2012 Holiday Gift Guide TOC
In part 2 of our 2012 digital camera holiday gift guide, we looked at a series of $150 to $250 cameras that currently offer a step up in features from our first round of sub $150 cameras. In part 3, we will dive into the best cameras in the $250 to $400 price range. These cameras will feature new aspects such as great low light performance, touch screens and higher quality lenses. This lineup of digital cameras are targeted at the upper end of the point & shoot crowd, ideally for those seeking cameras for outdoor use or cameras that offer more unique features than standard point & shoot models.
So jump into the third part of our 2012 Holiday gift guide, the $250 to $400 digital camera range. Our following recommendations are based on quality, features and the best value available on the digital camera marketplace between $250 to $400 dollars (MSRP).
Canon PowerShot S100
Canon's new PowerShot S100 follows in the line of the PowerShot S90 and S95 from the last two years. These slightly more advanced digicams were designed for people with a little more photography and camera knowledge, but with its Smart Auto mode, anyone can use it the first time they pick it up. This popular and powerful digicam has been blessed with some major internal upgrades: a new 12-Megapixel "High Sensitivity" CMOS imaging sensor, DIGIC 5 image processor, f/2.0 5x optical zoom lens, Neutral Density Filter, GPS and full 1080p HD video capture will really make you drool; especially if you own one of the previous models. All of this has been inserted into a very similar sized and shaped body that includes the pop-up flash unit and 3.0-inch 461,000 dot LCD screen. The new 12-Megapixel High Sensitivity CMOS imaging sensor and DIGIC 5 imaging processor produce sharp, well exposed images with less image noise that with a standard CCD sensor. This HS system is not only more sensitive when it comes to capturing light, but it also allows the camera to capture images at a much higher rate of up to 9.6fps. Canon's PowerShot S100 is a fantastic compact digicam that has been designed with the quality and features that a professional can enjoy, while still providing the ease of use for any first time photographer. With all of the above, and more, it's easy to see why Canon is a leader in the industry. Available in black or silver, pick up the S100 if you'd like to capture some of the highest quality images we have seen from a compact digicam.
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Olympus TG-1 iHS
Olympus's Tough TG-1 is the new standard for 'lifeproof" compact digicams. As one of the toughest cameras that we have seen -- waterproof down to 40 feet, shockproof up to a 6.6 foot fall, freezeproof down to 14F, and crushproof up to a weight of 220pounds -- the TG-1 also leads the way in external accessories and converters to add additional versatility. Basically, if those stats aren't enough, there's an optional underwater housing capable of depths down to 135 feet! Image quality is as good as we have seen in a "Lifeproof" camera, thanks to a 12-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor powered by Olympus' proprietary TruePic VI image processor, a 4x optical zoom lens, FAST AF system technology from the more expensive PEN series cameras, 10 frames-per-second high speed burst shooting, Full HD 1080p video recording, GPS, and various iAuto Modes. Shooting performance was also great, with the camera out performing most compact digicams. With an MSRP under $370, it falls right in line with the Panasonic Lumix TS-3 and the Canon PowerShot D20 in both price and features; while outdoing them in the performance department. Available in any color as long as that color is silver, pick up the TG-1 if you want 2012's toughest digicam.
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FujiFilm FinePix F770EXR
Fuji's FinePix F770 EXR is a compact and incredibly powerful digicam, featuring a backside illuminated 16-Megapixel EXR sensor and new EXR Auto shooting mode that boasts over 100 shooting patterns, along with new motion detection and face tracking software. All of these great features and many more are all controlled by the camera's dual core EXR processor, which is also what allows the camera to handle low light situations incredibly well. Some of the camera's other features include a 20x Fujinon optical zoom lens, sensor-shift image stabilization, Full 1080p HD video capture, 8fps high-speed shooting and built-in GPS for traveling. Our outdoor images show an excellent overall image with great exposure and accurate, natural colors. Both bright and shadow areas were handled well, not blowing out the image and keeping the noise in the shadow areas very low. Aberrations are controlled very well by the EXR system and, with a 35mm equivalent of 25-500mm, the F770EXR gives you the versatility that will suit you in any situation. Available in black, red, or white, pick up the F770EXR if you want the flexibility of a long zoom lens.
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The second model we've seen in Olympus' new SZ series of super-zoom models, the SZ-30MR is a powerful yet compact digital camera that is packed with new features. These include a fast16-megapixel CMOS image sensor, 24x wide view optical zoom lens, 3.0-inch LCD screen, and full 1080p HD video recording. Olympus has added some all new functionality to the SZ-30MR as well, with new their Multi-Recording (still/video) function, 3D Photo mode, and Eye-Fi compatibility. What's more is the SZ-30MR can shoot at up to 9fps at full resolution. Available in black or silver, pick up the SZ-30MR if you're in the market for an easy to use digital camera that offers a powerful zoom range, while still being somewhat compact.
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Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX66
It might be one of the smallest cameras we've tested to date (8/2012), but Sony has created yet another awesome little point-n-shoot. The Sony TX66 features an internal Carl Zeiss 5x optical zoom lens mated to an 18-megapixel Exmor R CMOS image sensor, a 3.3-inch OLED touch screen display, BIONZ processor, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, iAuto and Superior Auto exposure control, Sweep panorama, 3D modes, and Full HD video options (in both AVCHD and MP4 formats). All of this is packed into a metal shell that measures just 3 3/4" x 2 1/4" x 17/32 inches. The Cyber-shot DSC-TX66 performed better than expected in the shooting performance and image quality departments. It's extremely easy to use with iAuto and Superior Auto modes, and the touch screen interface was very responsive. We had a few annoyances, like the sliding lens cover, but overall the TX66 was a pleasure to use. Available in pink, silver, violet, and white, pick up a TX66 if you're looking for the smallest camera on the market that can still take some sweet snapshots.
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Samsung has positioned the WB850F as one of its top-end models in the point and shoot market. This camera includes a large collection of great features, including a built-in GPS unit, Wi-Fi capabilities, full HD video recording, and a few different high-speed burst modes. If you don't need those components, you can still appreciate the 21x optical zoom lens, the 3.0-inch high-resolution AMOLED screen, and the pop-up flash unit, as well as the 16-megapixels of resolution. The WB850F's basic photography features are pretty easy to use, thanks to some built-in help screens and the Smart Auto mode, but the more advanced features may not be useful for someone who doesn't have a lot of photography experience. For intermediate photographers, the WB850F has quite a few good options for gaining some manual control over the camera. For example, you can shoot in full manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes. Thanks to menus that contain quite a few graphics and icons, it's easy to put together the settings you want to use. It's rare to find a thin camera that has so many advanced features and components. Available in black, pick up the WB850F if you're looking to for a camera that's easy to use, yet offers the chance to learn and expand your photography capabilities.
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