Welcome to the 2007 Edition of Photography Bay’s Cameras for Christmas Shopping Guide.
Chances are, you or someone you know has a digital camera on their Christmas Wish List. Which one do you really want or which one should you get for that special someone? I’m picking what I think are the top cameras in a variety of categories below. I’ll also try to give you some kind of sense of what kinds of people fit with these cameras.
Camera on a Budget – Under $200
The growth of technology has really prompted this catagory of cameras. Five years ago, finding a digital camera under $200 was practically impossible. Sure, you might have seen a few on ebay, but how well did they work – or better yet, did they work at all? There are several great cameras in this price range now.
The Canon PowerShot SD1000 Digital Elph is just one example. At about $172, it’s well within the budget-minded giver’s range. It’s a 7.1 megapixel cameral with a 3x optical zoom.
Another great camera is the Canon PowerShot A570IS. It’s a 7.1 megapixel and has a 4x optical zoom and runs in the neighborhood of $165. While it’s got built-in image stabilization, it’s also physically a larger camera. Still, on a budget, you can’t go wrong with this camera. You get a lot more than what you pay for here.
Small Camera, Big Picture
On the high side of the technology wave, there are tons of features and specs to consider. A lot of these considerations are making it into smaller and smaller packages. You can get a lot out of a camera that will fit in your pocket comfortably. That’s what this category is all about. Folks who want to have high technology accessible (in their purse or pants) but not in the way.
The Sony Cybershot DSC-T200 fits the bill nicely. It’s 8.1 megapixels, has a whopping 5x optical zoom, and has image stabilization. It also has a 3.5? LCD and only weighs in at 6.6 ounces. Price of admission? About $367.
Also, take a look at the Canon 950IS. 12.1 megapixels, 3.7x optical zoom, and image stabilization. It’s priced in the $400 range. You might also want to gander at the Fujifilm Finepix F50fd, which has 12 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom and is around $250.
If you or someone on your list wants a camera that can reach out and touch someone, this is the category you need to look at. These cameras typically have a zoom range equivalent to roughly 35mm-400mm+, which is huge! What’s more, is that the best of these have image stabilization built in, which is almost a necessity for such a long reach. With all these features, however, the camera is considerably bigger than the pocket cameras discussed above. You’re going to want to grab a dedicated camera case to tote these along in.
The Canon S5IS is probably the most popular in this category. It’s a 8 megapixel (up from 6MP on the previous S3IS), has a super long zoom and built in image stabilization. It runs about $340. Not a bad deal considering all you get in one camera.
I think the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 offers Canon some strong competition in this category. Also 8MP and image stabilized, the FZ8 is a pretty camera to look at and has received rave reviews. One big plus for the FZ8 is the ability to capture images in RAW format – a feature that is not a common find among point-and-shoot cameras. It’s also over $100 less than the S5IS at $225 from Amazon at the time of posting.
Olympus has stepped up the competition a notch with the Olympus 560UZ. The 560UZ has a whopping 18x optical zoom. The 18x zoom is the equivalent focal length of 27-486mm on a 35mm film camera, which beats out the Canon and Panasonic competitors. At $420ish, it’s also the priciest of the bunch.
I’ll mention one more Canon camera that doesn’t have quite the reach of the others in this category, but it’s still a great (maybe the best) point and shoot out there. The Canon PowerShot G9 12MP Digital Camera with 6x Image-Stabilized Optical Zoom is the newest of the G-Series line. I encourage you to investigate this camera further. It has a lot of advanced options that you don’t get on your run-of-the-mill point and shoot camera.
Still Not Convinced?
Here’s a link to the Top Selling Point & Shoot Cameras on Amazon.com. Check out the prices. Read the reviews. Decide for yourself.
There is a lot of hoopla and debate surrounding the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) question. If you’ve got someone that has a DSLR on their wishlist, you’d better think twice about making this decision on your own. Your best bet is to feel the person out for which particular camera that they want. Go with them to a camera or electronics store and observe their reaction to the cameras listed below. Chances are, after holding and shooting with one or the other, they’re going to form a bias about what “feels” best. Go with that one.
If you are totally out on a limb and you know that the person for whom you’re shopping is as clueless as you about the choice, get the Canon Rebel XTi. It’s the latest offering from Canon in the entry-level DSLR realm. I recommend this camera because of Canon’s sheer market power. While any of the choices below would be suitable, Canon offers a wider selection of lenses than any other brand. When you buy a DSLR, you are buying into a system. Canon lenses fit Canon cameras and likewise with other brands. Canon is the Microsoft of the DSLR world (without the security issues and blue screens of death).
Here’s a list of the DSLR’s that should be on a first-time buyer’s Christmas list:
- Canon Rebel XTi – 10MP – $660 with lens
- Canon Digital Rebel XT – 8MP – $500 with lens
- Canon 40D – 10MP – $1499 with lens
- Nikon D40 – 6MP – $477 with lens
- Nikon D40x – 10MP – $645 with lens
- Nikon D80 – 10MP – $1160 with lens
- Nikon D300 – 12MP – $1799 (at Adorama)
- Sony Alpha A100 – 10MP & built-in image stabilization – $670 with lens
Want a cheaper list? Consider these 5 DSLRs for under $500.
So, you’ve got a photographer (profession/amateur/enthusiast) in your family and you really want to please them? These guys are the tough ones. Hopefully, they’ve given you their wish list in writing and you can hop on Amazon or B&H, or go down to your local camera store, and get what they want. If not though, what do you do?
I think you’ve still got to know categories of what they like or want. If you can figure out the ballbark areas of interest, consider some of the below suggestions. Don’t forget to read some of the reviews on Amazon when you’re shopping online. Sometimes those can be your best indicator of whether you should get the product or not.
If they’re just starting out, consider Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It’s a rather cheap book but could very well be the best $16 anybody spends on photography. If they are into Photoshop and want some good references consider the Photoshop for Digital Photographers series by Scott Kelby. There are several versions of Photoshop out there, so make sure you buy the appropriate corresponding book (e.g., The Photoshop Elements 5 Book for Digital Photographers). Additionally, consider the How to Wow Photoshop series and the Photoshop Cookbook, The Camera, The Negative, or The Print.
A quality tripod is a necessity for every serious photographer. In this case it’s hard to go wrong with something from Bogen-Manfrotto. Consider your price range, what your photographer will use it for, and educate yourself on their great line of tripods and monopods.
An off-camera flash is another important item for the new SLR user that has yet to acquire one. Buy the right brand and a flash that has a bounce/swivel head. For Nikon users, get the SB-600 or the SB-800. For Canon users get the 430EX or the 580EX.
More memory please!
This is an easy item to pick up. Find your price range and buy the largest SanDisk Ultra II card or Extreme III card that is within that range. You’ll make a photographer very happy with this gift. To learn more about memory cards, take a look at this earlier post.
Is a camera bag on your list? Lowepro and Tamrac are two very popular and high quality brands. In most cases, I would recommend that you stick to these. However, if you’re on a tight budget, Amazon frequently has a real deal on the Canon 200EG backpack. I’ve got it and I love it. It was cheap and holds everything I need and expect it to hold. Like I said though, if you want to impress, you should probably get the Lowepro.
Finally, consider some other gifts like print albums or even a digital picture frame.
Where to Buy
If you’ve not clicked on any of the links in this post yet, please note that they all will take you to the relevant pages at Amazon.com. I trust Amazon and regularly shop with them for my own camera needs. That said, if you’re buying online, I recommend sticking with Amazon, B&H Photo or Adorama. These three vendors are reliable, trustworthy and generally have the best (legitimate) prices. Additionally, purchasing your camera through these links helps support this site.
You’ve got my two cents now. I hope this run down gives you a better idea of what to look for when shopping in the camera aisle this Christmas. Feel free to fire away with questions, offer additional advice, or even make derogatory comments. Merry Christmas!
[tags]christmas, shopping, wish list, cameras, where to buy, nikon, canon, sony, olympus[/tags]