Nikon D80 -- Digital Camera

Heavy, man, heavy! Nikon bills this as a camera with which to unleash your creativity -- 10.2 mp, an 11-area autofocus system, capable of shooting three frames per second -- these are no-kidding photographer's features. Even the "kit" lens that comes with it is serious business: 18-135mm, a longer zoom than what you'd get with most other SLRs.

The strengths of an SLR are many. You have a lot more control over your pictures. You can change lenses -- everything from extreme wide angle to telephotos for nature or sports pictures. SLRs, with their larger light sensors, give much better pictures in room light; one writer joked that an SLR takes better pictures with the lens cap on than other cameras do in bright sunshine. And there's no "shutter lag," that brief but often maddening delay in smaller digital cameras between the time you press the button and the time the picture's actually taken.

In exchange, you end up with a bigger, heavier camera. And you pay more.

If you're a camera person, you'll lust after a machine like this. But it'll force you to ask yourself just what kind of photographer you are. Will you take an SLR with you wherever you go? Or would you be happier with something more portable, even if you give up the versatility of a camera this powerful? There's also the price: Expect to pay $800 to $900 for the body alone -- before you even add a lens ($300 for its 18-135mm kit lens) or a 2GB memory card ($25-40).