A shiny new camera is the perfect holiday gift. So great that you should insist your lucky recipients unwrap their new cameras first—that way you can get 'em charged up and ready to capture the rest of the festivities, from caroling to pie (so much pie). It's also one of the best gifts for encouraging creativity, since a camera's main purpose is to make art. And 2013 was a great year for new cameras, at every price point, with a wide mix of features—our roundup has something for every shooter on your list.
Nikon D610 ($2000, body only)
If you're a a photo enthusiast aiming to step up to a full frame DSLR, the Nikon D610 has your name on it. It's targeted to advanced amateurs and semipros who seek a full-frame sensor for depth-of-field control, wide dynamic range, high image quality, low noise, color fidelity, and low-light performance.
Slated as Nikon's most affordable small-format full-frame shooter, this model replaces, updates, and drops the price from the previous D600. Improvements include continuous shooting at 6fps, a quiet continuous shutter-release mode, and upgraded auto white balance.
Nikon D610 specs: 24.3-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor (35.9 x 24mm); Expeed 3 image processor; full HD video; 3.2-inch LCD.
Olympus OM-D EM-1 ($1400, body only)
Meet the new Olympus flagship mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, which folds the technology of its traditional DSLR lineup into a new compact mirrorless model. A breakthrough for owners of previous Olympus digicams, the OM-D EM-1 integrates two different lens systems for compatibility with the entire collection of 43 Olympus four-thirds and micro-four-thirds lenses.
Adding to its versatility—not to mention portability—this professional-level camera measures 4.8×2.7×1.5 inches and weighs just under a pound.
Olympus OM-D EM-1 specs: 16.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor; ISO 200-25600; full HD video; interactive electronic viewfinder; image stabilization; Wi-Fi.
Nikon 1 AW1 (with lens kit, $800)
You wouldn't deliberately subject your camera to abuse—would you? But adventurous travelers, families, and sports enthusiasts often get caught in extreme weather and other camera-threatening conditions. That's where the Nikon 1 AW1 (AW for all-weather) comes in. It's the first compact interchangeable-lens camera that's waterproof, shockproof, and freezeproof, wrapped in a reinforced body.
Nikon says this model can dive underwater to 49 feet, freeze to 14 degrees Farenheit, and withstand a drop of about 6.6 feet. And it's all dresed up to travel with a choice of two lens kits and optional accessory silicone skins.
Nikon 1 AW1 specs: 14.2-megapixel CX CMOS sensor; Expeed 3A image processor; 73-point auto focus array; ISO 160-6400; full HD video.
Ricoh GR ($800)
The trend in cameras today is small and lightweight but still powerful, and that's the reality of the Ricoh GR, Pentax Ricoh's new compact, fixed-lens digicam, targeted to photography enthusiasts. But it's not just another point and shoot. This camera offers stellar low-light performance, shallow depth of field, and wide dynamic range without sacrificing the advantages of a petite, lightweight shooting machine.
Other interesting extras, like Full Press Snap, electronic level, and aperture preview make for an outstanding feature set.
Ricoh GR specs: 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor; 28 mm f/2.8 lens; 3-inch LCD; ISO 100-25600; full HD video; pop-up flash; hot shoe for accessory viewfinder or external flash.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II ($750)
Take a DSLR and subtract the bulk and weight, and what do you get? The Sony RX100 II. This little 10-ounce digicam offers a large sensor for well-focused and high-resolution pictures, comparable to a DSLR.
The Cyber-shot RX100 II conveniently works with Android smartphones or tablets to create a connection via Near Field Communication (NFC). The camera's multi-interface hot shoe facilitates a wide range of accessories, such as an electronic viewfinder, external flash unit, stereo microphone, and remote control.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II specs: 1-inch, back-illuminated 20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor; ISO 160-12800 (expandable up to 25600); Wi-Fi and NFC sharing; full HD video; 3-inch LCD.
Samsung NX300 ($650)
The Samsung NX300 is a social networker's dream, combining excellent image quality and multiple ways to easily share photos of your colorful umbrella cocktail from any angle. As one of Samsung's "smart" cameras, the NX300 works well under a range of conditions: ISO performance is outstanding, color is pleasing, and skin tones and foliage are a bit more saturated than the competition.
Samsung includes Smart Mode and Smart Filter settings—not as gimmicks, of course, but as genuine creative options to help you get exactly the flattering portrait you're after.
Samsung NX300 specs: 20.3-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor; 3.31-inch tilting LCD; 18–55mm zoom lens; full HD video; Wi-Fi.
Canon EOS Rebel T5i ($650, body only)
Canon's Digital Rebel line is for the ages, and the T5i is the worthy successor to Canon's flagship crown. Reasonably priced and user friendly, it replaces the T4i in a lineup targeted directly to enthusiasts. Unlike mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, true DSLRs like the T5i are equipped with an optical viewfinder—and this one is bright and clear.
This camera is very similar to the previous model but differs from the T4i in four basic areas: lens choice, exterior coating, creative filters, and a revised mode dial. You can purchase this model in kit form with the 18-135mm IS (image-stabilized) STM (stepping motor) lens, which keeps things quiet when shooting video.
Canon EOS Rebel T5i specs: 18-megapixel CMOS sensor; 3-inch LCD; Digic 5 processor; 9-point all cross-type AF system; ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 25600); full HD video.
Fujifilm X20 ($549)
Looking for that creative edge? Check out the Fujifilm X20. This responsive camera is a fast performer, so you’re covered on the utilitarian side. But added options offer unique experimental opportunities with macros, advanced settings, film simulation, and special effects—you can actually choose different film emulsion looks in real time. Alongside its plethora of auto modes, the X20 is sleek and sophisticated to look at and use.
Fujifilm X20 specs: 12-megapixel, 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS II sensor; 28-112 mm, f/2-2.8 zoom lens; full HD video; 3-inch LCD; image stabilization.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 ($400)
Talk about taking the long view: the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 compact, fixed-lens digicam features a staggering 60x optical zoom, the widest and longest zoom of any consumer point-and-shoot.
Added to this craziness is a button on the top of the camera that lets you record video while shooting stills and a creative video mode that lets you adjust the shutter speed and aperture while shooting videos. Plus, that 60x optical zoom with power optical image stabilizer is also available for video recording.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 specs: 16.1-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor; custom built lens unit; full HD video; ultra-wide 20mm-1200mm f/2.8-f/5.9-lens.
Sony Alpha 3000 ($350)
Attention advanced shooters: You need a break, and the Sony Alpha 3000 aims to give you one. This mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (actually, a DSLT featuring a fixed translucent mirror) competes directly with classic DSLRs from Canon and Nikon for image quality and manual controls. But the Alpha 3000's smaller frame and lighter weight will relieve you of the burden of toting around a heavy photographic beast.
This camera is fast and easy to use without a learning curve. Using onscreen controls, you can change the menu system and see real-time effects applied via Live View.
Sony Alpha 3000 specs: 20.1-megapixels; Bionz processor; ISO 100-16000; area-specfic noise reduction; full HD video; 3-inch LCD.
Canon PowerShot N ($300)
Smartphones already outpaced the struggling point and shoot market when Canon emerged with the PowerShot N. This capable fixed-lens camera has everything a smartphone doesn't—except the small size. The PowerShot N is plenty diminutive, but with superior optical reach and a variety of sophisticated video options.
But its marquee feature is a 2.8-inch touchscreen LCD, which acts as the camera's command center and viewer. It's great for composing images at unique angles—overhead, on the ground, sideways, you name it.
Canon PowerShot N specs: 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor; Digic 5 processor; ISO 80-6400; 2.8-inch touch-screen LCD; 8x optical zoom.
Samsung WB250F ($230)
These days, sharing photos is almost as important as shooting them—almost. The Samsung WB250F, part of Samsung's Smart Camera lineup, lets users easily transfer images to a smartphone, computer, or social network. Beyond that, this sleek and light point and shoot won't weigh down your pocket or let you down visually.
Its easy-to-use touchscreen LCD is sure to relieve you of the button/menu habit. It has almost no shutter lag, and offers numerous creative options via its wide angle 24mm lens and 18x zoom. And if you're an Evernote user, there's a special treat: This camera will sync directly with the service so you don't need a computer to back up your photos. Sweet!
Samsung WB250F specs: 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor; 18x optical zoom; f/3.2-f/5.8 lens; 3-inch LCD; pop-up flash.
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