Everywhere you look, people are snapping pictures. With the popularity of Instagram and Facebook photo apps, more and more people are turning to their smartphones as their primary camera.
But what are you to do when your phone's camera can't meet your image quality needs? What are you to do when you need a more rugged or responsive camera? It's time to turn back your focus to a dedicated camera. Here are our top pics for the best cameras this holiday season.
Looking for a full-featured camera, but don't want to go all the way up to a DSLR camera? The Sony DSC-RX100 could be just the ticket. This camera is packed with a massive 20.2-megapixel sensor and 10-frames-per-second burst mode, all in a pocketable, durable aluminum body. It is also equipped with a Carl Zeiss lens with a 3.6x optical zoom (28-100 mm equivalent). Most important, though, this camera has the best low light performance of any point-and-shoot camera to date. With all these futures, this camera doesn't come cheap. ($648, B&H)
If size isn't an issue, Canon's T3i will certainly satisfy your photographic needs. Equipped with an 18-megapixel sensor and a large-inch articulating LCD screen, this entry-level DSLR is perfect for someone transitioning from point-and-shoot cameras or looking for their first serious camera.
As with all DSLR cameras, this one has a wide array of lenses available. Whether you are looking to shoot kids, landscapes or pictures of your travels, there are different lenses to suit your needs. If you have the itch to try your hand at making videos, the T3i can also record full 1080p video.
The T3i (with 18-55 mm lens) is available for $599 at bhphotovideo.com. There is also a newer T4i version of this camera available for $150 more that adds slightly faster shooting, a touch screen and slightly better low light performance. ($599, B&H)
Don't worry, we have you covered on the lower end too. If you're looking for a point-and-shoot camera that can produce good quality images, but on a budget, the Canon ELPH 320 HS should do the trick. At just $199, the ELPH 320 contains a 16.8-megapixel sensor and an equivalent 24-120 mm zoom. The camera has a 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD and can record 1080p movies. At less than 4 inches wide, you should have no problem fitting the ELPH 320 in your pocket. ($199, Amazon)
The problem with all those others? Or even your iPhone? You can't take 'em underwater - or accidentally drop them in the water. For that there's the rugged and waterproof Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS . According to Olympus specs, this camera is shockproof up to 6.6 feet, crushproof up to 220 lbs and waterproof up to 40 feet. If the durability of this camera isn't enough to sell you on it, it also has a 12-megapixel sensor and a 25-100 mm zoom lens. ($349, Amazon)
Are you into adventuring or extreme sports? Are you looking to make videos of your adventures? Then this is the perfect video camera for you. The GoPro HERO3 is a favorite among professionals and amateurs alike. It can record full HD video and even shoot 11-megapixel photos.The HERO3 is waterproof up to 197' and can even be controlled over Wi-Fi. Mounts and harnesses to mount the camera to your helmet or other gear are also available. ($299.99, Best Buy)
Don't you miss just being able to develop a photo on the spot? For those who miss shooting film or hate having to wait for your film to be processed, there is a solution - the Fujifilm Instax 210. The Instax 210 utilizes a special instant film (similar to Polaroid film from days gone by). Whether you're throwing a party or you just want to send a photo to your friends or family in the mail, this is a fun one to have around. And the best part? It takes less of a hit on the wallet than the others. The camera body will run you $60.56 at bhphotovideo.com and packages of 20 sheets of film will run $14.50.
Now that you hopefully have a good idea what camera you might want to buy, you'll need a memory card to store all your pictures! You're in luck. Prices of digital media have dropped significantly in the past few years. A SanDisk Extreme 16GB SDHC (which can be used in all the digital cameras mentioned except the GoPro HERO3) will run you only $18.84 at bhphotovideo.com. For the GoPro HERO3, go with the SanDisk Ultra microSDHC 16GB for $20.85 at bhphotovideo.com.