-- Gifts that inspire creativity are the ones that keep on giving. And looking at the price tags on some of this year's point-and-shoot digital cameras, those gifts don't need to bust any holiday shopping budgets.
Digital cameras used to be high-cost, big-ticket gift items. Now, there are plenty of pocket cameras that are affordable enough to buy on a whim at a holiday blowout or last-minute Christmas Eve run, ready to toss under the tree or into a stocking. These are great casual cameras for kids and adults alike, and might even stir up a family member's inner photo-bug before diving straight into a more serious and expensive rig.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS provides the best bang for the buck of any compact camera this holiday season. Despite its unassuming design, it offers better image quality and quicker, more accurate performance than any other camera in its price range. It shoots 1080p high-def video too, crisp enough to replace a shoot-and-share camcorder. The MSRP is $179, but street prices have dropped as low as $135.
If fun extra features are important, check out the Nikon Coolpix S4100 or Samsung PL120. The Nikon is a slim and sleek touchscreen shooter, and the Samsung features a front-facing screen (in addition to the typical display on the back), perfect for framing self-portraits. Both offer decent image quality for the price, which is usually around $100 or less.
The Kodak EasyShare Sport is a truly budget-friendly camera, usually selling for around $75, though the price could drop even further —Old Navy gave thousands of these away to Black Friday shoppers. Picture quality is rough and it has no optical zoom, but it's a fun gift for young children: cheap, easy to use, and waterproof.
For more holiday shopping tips, check out Reviewed.com's Black Friday Buying Guide on DigitalCameraInfo.com. Reviewed.com is a division of USA TODAY.