Digital Camera Holiday Gift Guide - $600 - $2000 Cameras
2013 Holiday Gift Guide TOC
Canon EOS 70D
After almost three years, Canon has finally introduced the successor to the popular EOS 60D from 2010, with the all new EOS 70D dSLR. This new model offers several "incremental" upgrades, many of which you'd expect to find on a 2013 model dSLR. For starters, Canon has stuff an all new 20.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor into the 70D, which is mated to their DIGIC 5+ processor; this is their top of the line processing unit, as featured in their professional series 1D X and 5D Mark III models. This combination not only offers improved image quality over the 60D, but also improved performance with burst speeds up to 7fps at full resolution. To help speed up the AF system for standard still photography, Canon has taken their popular 19-point AF system that was introduced in their EOS 7D and stuffed it inside the 70D. This is a huge step-up from the 60D's 9-point system; which is no slouch either. While this upgrade will be much appreciated by potential 70D shooters who can't quite afford a 7D, yet still yearn for speed, the 70D's new Dual Pixel CMOS AF for Live View shooting is really going to get video buffs excited; as well as those who like to use Live View for stills, yet get frustrated with the slow response times in Live View mode seen previously in Canon EOS models. Pick this up if you want one of the best APS-C size image sensor cameras on the market.
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Canon EOS Rebel T5i
The overall performance level of the Rebel T5i/700D is outstanding. If this is your first advanced interchangeable lens camera, you're going to be very impressed with its capabilities over even an expensive point-n-shoot model. You can shoot at a burst mode up to 5 frames per second at full resolution. It has a fast start-up, fast autofocus, and minimal shutter lag and shot-to-shot delays ... as long as you're using Viewfinder mode that is. If you're using Live View mode with this camera, though, you're going to notice significant delays especially with shutter lag. The EOS Rebel T5i also features an APS-C sized 18.0-megapixel CMOS sensor, their DIGIC 5 Image Processor, an ISO range of 100-12800, Full HD 1080p video recording, a 3.0-inch vari-angle touch screen LCD display, and a few helpful Scene Modes, such as Handheld Night Scene, HDR Backlight Control, Multi-Shot Noise Reduction. There are also a ton of Creative Filters -- ArtBold, Water Painting, Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Fish-Eye and Miniature -- to spice up still photos and HD video. Pick up this camera if you don't already own the very similar Rebel T4i, you want a strong entry-level DSLR, and you're not looking for a smaller DSLR camera body, such as is found with the Rebel SL1.
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Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus is pushing the limits with its new ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera), the OM-D E-M1. This compact camera has been designed to provide professional quality features, performance and image quality without the size and price tag that is associated with a professional camera. Featuring the Micro 4/3 mount system, the same system found on the E-M5 and Digital PEN series mirrorless cameras, this camera will work with any of your other micro 4/3 from Olympus or Panasonic; as well as 4/3 lenses with an optional adapter. olympus_omd_em1_ice.jpg Giving the E-M1 the ability to work as a professional camera are a slew of new and improved components crammed into a light, yet strong Magnesium Alloy body. Starting with the new 16-Megapixel Live MOS imaging sensor with built-in phase detection provide excellent quality and an incredibly fast and accurate dual AF system, so you never miss a shot. The camera was built to go anywhere and survive situations that most other dSLR and ILCs cannot. Much like their "Tough" line, the camera body, is dust and splash proof as well as freeze proof in temperatures as low as low as -10°C (14°F). Olympus even had some m43 lenses that share these specifications. This allows you to wield the camera confidently in some extreme situations, knowing that there is little to no risk of hurting the camera.
Assisting the sensor with providing the outstanding image quality is the brand new TruePic VII processor. This sensor works to increase image quality, enhance camera performance and even controls the new 5-axis optical image stabilization system; which provides up to 4 stops of compensation. This sensor is able to differentiate between the type of lenses that you are using and even the aperture of the lens to provide the best image quality for each. It has better ISO performance and color reproduction than the TruePic VI, which leads to much better low-light performance that the E-M5. Pick this up if you are looking for a smaller alternative to carrying a dSLR or if you just want the absolute best quality and performance from an ILC.
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Continuing with the great success that Sony has had with its NEX series of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, the NEX-6 is proving to be both very powerful and versatile. Its APS-C sized sensor and BIONZ image processor give you quality that will match most consumer dSLRs, with just a fraction of the body size. Also built into this compact body is a new WiFi system allowing you to connect to a Smartphone with various control options, and the ability to log into the PlayMemories store to download new apps and shooting modes for the camera. Sony has also included the same innovative new XGA OLED electronic viewfinder first introduced on the NEX-7. Rounding out the best of the major features is the 3.0-inch tiltable LCD screen, Hybrid AF system, Sweep Panorama, 1080p HD video capture and an anti-dust sensor to keep the images clear. The NEX-6's built-in WiFi will not connect you directly to the internet without an available wireless internet connection. It can however, put out a signal that will allow a Smartphone or tablet to connect to the camera. If one of these devices has internet capabilities, you can then use it to upload your images from the NEX-6 or just copy them to your phone. With an internet connection you may also access the PlayMemories store, much like the Android Play store or the Apple store, but strictly for apps for Sony digital cameras. Here you will find a collection of apps, ranging from free to $10, that can be downloaded and installed on your camera. There are apps for both creative shooting and editing as well as direct upload and others. New apps can be added any day. Pick this up if you are looking to upgrade from an older dSLR or a point-n-shoot and would like to keep the camera small. Its performance and quality will not disappoint.
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The interchangeable lens Fujifilm X-M1 is a stylish looking camera that combines a nice mix of advanced photography features with a large image sensor. The X-M1's price seems to be a little high versus some other interchangeable lens cameras, but this might be Fujifilm's best X series mirrorless ILC yet, joining the Fujifilm X-E1 and X-Pro1. The star of the Fujifilm X-M1 is its large CMOS image sensor. The APS-C sized image sensor is quite a bit larger than what you'd find with point-n-shoot cameras, and it's similar in size to what you may find in a DSLR camera. (The X-Pro1 also uses an APS-C sized image sensor.) The large sensor provides good image quality, and the CMOS technology allows the image sensor to work well in low light. To further showcase the X-M1's low light strengths, Fujifilm has included an ISO range of 100 to 25,600, although the extreme edges of that ISO range are not native. You won't notice many problems with noise until the ISO setting reaches 5000 or 6400. The popup flash extends upward and outward from the camera body, which helps to provide pleasing flash photos. If you want an even better flash performance, you can attach an external flash to the X-M1's hot shoe. To go along with its advanced image sensor, the X-M1 includes quite a few advanced shooting modes. You can shoot in full manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority. For those photographers who are a little leery of shooting in advanced modes, Fujifilm included quite a few automatic modes, too, making this a nice bridge camera for those looking to transition from a fully automatic camera to model with more manual controls. Pick this up if you want an ILC that performs very well and has a nice mix of entry-level and advanced features, but you don't mind a camera that costs a bit more than others in its category.
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Samsung's NX300 is another powerful and affordable ILC digital camera that is loaded with fantastic features. Sporting a 20.3-Megapixel APS-C imaging sensor, Hybrid Auto Focus, 3.31-inch Touch Screen, 1/6000th shutter speed, Built-in WiFi and the DRIMe IV image processor that produces up to 8.6fps at the full resolution, you may think this camera is out of your league or price range. This is not true as the NX300a is a very affordable ILC option. It is also incredibly easy to use, as the camera's automatic shooting modes produce excellent results. Full manual control is also available with some creative and easy camera controls involving Samsung's iFn mode on its lenses. Overall this is one of the most feature-packed camera's you will find today. The NX300 includes WiFi, allowing you to email or upload to social media sites, as long as a wireless internet connection is available. It also allows you to connect to another portable device to view and download the camera's images as soon as they are taken. Samsung recently combined its different apps for controlling the camera into the Samsung Smart Camera App, putting all the control into one place. Finally there is also the option of instant backup to a portable device, computer or SkyDrive. Very compact for an ILC, the NX300 is easy to carry and operate in most situations. The textured grip on the right side of the camera gives you ability to hold on tight, while its light weight allows you to wield it all day long. The mode dial sits on top of the camera, right on the edge. It is pretty sturdy, but with a good bump, the shooting mode could be changed by accident. If you are leaving the included flash unit attached, it does add a little more bulk to the camera. While you think you might not need it, it can come in handy when you least expect it. The controls on the back are small but well placed and separated for easy use. Using the controls in conjunction with the new 3.31-inch touch screen makes the menu navigation and setting selection faster and easier than ever. This new AMOLED display also tilts up to 135°, giving you the ability to remove reflections from the screen, or to accurately shoot above or below objects that may be in your way. Pick this up if you are looking to enter the ILC market with an affordable camera with all the bells and whistles. This very compact ILC is very easy to travel with and operate.
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Nikon's new flagship DX-format dSLR camera, the D7100, features a 24.1-Megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor that specially designed for this camera. Combining the sensor with Nikon's EXPEED 3 image processor gives it fantastic performance, excelling at both burst image capture and autofocus speeds. This combination also keeps noise levels down and allows the camera to provide several special effect shooting modes, including in-camera HDR. As one of the larger DX-format cameras, the D7100 features a very solid build with a magnesium frame and a moisture and dust resistant body. As with all Nikon dSLR cameras, you also have the full line of 80 DX and FX Nikkor lenses at your disposal. GPS and Wireless networking are also available with available adapters that can greatly increase what the camera is capable of. Much like the higher level dSLR cameras, the D7100 is a very powerful camera that not only sports the top of the line features and performance, but the ease of use of a point-n-shoot as well. Its Automatic shooting mode, scene modes, and effects modes all provide the ease and creativity that allow anyone to use the camera. Use of the 3.2-inch LCD in Live view and for video recording also gives you the feel of a point-n-shoot. On the high performance end of the camera's specs list, it features 51 focus points, including 15 cross-type sensors for both speed and accuracy. At the same time, a full color metering sensor detects brightness, color, contrast and distance to assure accuracy, as well as allowing for features like full-time auto focus during movie recording and face priority shooting. Pick this up if you are looking for one of the highest quality APS-C dSLRs on the market.
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In mid June of this year (2013), Pentax announced the K-50 DSLR, their latest mid-level DSLR compatible with K-mount lenses. A large 16.28-megapixel CMOS image sensor -- great for low light scenarios thanks to its ISO range of up to 51200 as well as the PRIME M imagining engine -- tops the feature list. Full 1080p HD Video recording is a must for modern DSLRs, but here you get your choices of 30, 25, or 24 fps frame rates. There's also their SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism built into the body, a "state of the art" SAFOX IXi+ AF (Auto Focus) sensor module, 19 Scene Modes, 11 Custom Image Modes, 19 Digital Image Filters, and a 6 frames-per-second High Speed Shooting capabilities.When you first pick up the Pentax K-50, you can feel that you're holding a well-built camera. The rugged, weather-sealed body feels sturdy, and its adequate yet not oversized handgrip lets you get a firm grasp. The front dial (which sits just below the shutter release button) falls right under the index finger and the rear thumb dial falls conveniently under your thumb for easy operation. Surrounding the four-way control are AF/AE-L, Info and Menu buttons; the live view/trash button sits on the other side of the back panel, left of the optical viewfinder. You can customize the AF/AE-L button, as well as the RAW/Fx button near the lens barrel. The green button that sits just behind the shutter button is not so versatile - it simply serves to cancel whatever parameters you're in the middle of adjusting. But you can adjust a lot of parameters, and you'd have to go quite hog-wild with your settings-adjustment requirements to miss the customizability of the green button. The K-50 offers four pages of custom settings, two user-selectable positions on the mode dial, and you can customize how auto exposure and auto focus operate, as well as customize the two e-dials dependent upon the shooting mode. Pick this up if you already have a collection of K-mount lenses, or otherwise need a rugged, weatherized SLR that's fast, highly customizable, performs well in low light, and allows you to dig deep into color settings and digital effects to fine-tune your images.
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