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Compact Cameras

The $400, 4-mega-pixel Canon PowerShot SD300 Digital Elph ( Canon ) (see Best Current Price ) offers a 3x optical zoom, a 2-inch LCD, and full manual exposure controls. Even more impressive is the fact that it can take full-frame video at 30 fps.

The sleek, lightweight Pentax OptioX ( Pentax ) (see Best Current Price ) has a 2-inch LCD that swivels 360 degrees. This $450, 5-megapixel camera records video and audio and has a 3x zoom. Its cradle recharges the battery, transfers data, and turns the camera into a Webcam.

The 7.2-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150 (   ; February 2005 ) (see Best Current Price ) proves that you don’t have to sacrifice image size to get a compact design. This $499 camera is very responsive and offers an impressive startup time.

Advanced Amatuer Cameras

The 7.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot G6 (   ; February 2005 ) (see Best Current Price ) excels at taking sharp, accurate photos. It’s also packed with useful features, including a vari-angle LCD, a hot-shoe, a RAW mode, and support for 60-second voice annotations. Its retail price is $699.

The 8-megapixel Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom (   ; September 2004 ) (see Best Current Price ) offers good print quality, durable construction, fast and accurate autofocusing, excellent manual controls, and long battery life. It also offers in-camera editing of RAW images—although you’ll have to wait between shots in RAW and TIFF mode. Its retail price is $999, but you can find it online for less than $700.

The incredibly responsive 5-megapixel Panasonic DMC-FZ20 ( Panasonic ) (see Best Current Price ) features a powerful 12x zoom and an optical image stabilizer to reduce jitter and ensure that your photos are sharp. It also comes with a full set of manual features—all for $600.

Digital SLRs

The 6.1-megapixel Canon Digital Rebel (   ; February 2004 ) (see Best Current Price ) is the most affordable digital SLR on the market. You can find one online for around $800—lens included. The camera produces excellent photos, even in low light. Although it doesn’t offer all the features of more-expensive SLRs, it’s significantly lighter and accepts any Canon EF lenses.

The 8.2-megapixel Canon EOS 20D (see Best Current Price ) builds upon the popularity of Canon’s 10D camera. The 20D has a full array of professional controls, excellent image quality, and top-notch performance (it captures 5 fps for up to 23 frames). And at $1,499, it’s still within range of advanced hobbyists.

A strong competitor to the Canon Rebel, the 6.1-megapixel Nikon D70 (   ; October 2004 ) (see Best Current Price ) is impressive and has better flash-exposure compensation than the Rebel. It’s also slightly more expensive—$999 without a lens—and we found its photos to be slightly noisier at low ISO settings.

Canon PowerShot SD300 Digital Elph, Pentax OptioX, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150 (from top to bottom)Canon PowerShot G6, Olmypus C-8080 Wide Zoom, and Panasonic DMC-FZ20 (from top to bottom)Canon Digital Rebel, Canon EOS 20D, and Nikon D70 (from top to bottom)
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