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Digital Camera Buyer's Guide:
Back to School 2010

by Allison Johnson -  8/4/2010

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There's no use denying it, summer's on its way out and school will be back in session soon. There's no shortage of feature-packed digital cameras lining store shelves this year, so we've compiled a list of our top picks for students. And we didn't forget the parents either - everyone needs a little picture-taking power.

 

We've picked 20 of our favorite cameras and grouped them into four categories that will suit any student or parent's needs. Looking for the most zoom range for your dollar? Want a camera with head-turning features like a front-facing LCD or built-in projector? We've got those covered. Browse our top picks below and you'll be sure to find something for the upcoming school year.

Not finding the camera you're looking for on this list? Our "What Camera Should I Buy?" forum is the place to ask questions and consider the pros and cons of the latest models.

Big Zoom | Unleash Your Creativity | Unique Features | Budget-Friendly

Big Zoom



Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7

The Panasonic Lumix ZS7 boasts in impressive 12x optical zoom lens in a slim camera body. That sharp lens and the high quality images the ZS7 put out earned it an Editor's Choice award. It's versatile and easy enough for any student or parent to operate.



Canon PowerShot SX210 IS


The Canon SX210 is a sporty-looking 14x ultrazoom with a nice 3.0-inch wide-aspect LCD on the back panel. It's a fresh look for Canon's SX compact ultrazoom line, and it's a cinch to operate.


Fujifilm FinePix HS10


While the Fuji HS10 is by no means pocketable, it's a compressed version of a full-size DSLR with a fixed, 30x optical zoom lens. It's a good start for the budding photo enthusiast or anyone who wants the equivalent of a 720mm telephoto lens at his or her disposal.


Nikon Coolpix S8000


The slim S8000 offers a 10x optical zoom lens. It's one of Nikon's "S for Style" Coolpix cameras, but it's not just about good looks. We liked the natural colors and good image quality we saw in our review of the camera.


Pentax X90


The X90 is another large ultrazoom like the HS10, this one offering a 26x optical zoom lens. A student (or parent, of course) not yet ready to commit to an interchangeable lens system might like the look, feel and versatility of the X90.

 

arrow Taking Better Candid Portraits

Once you're armed with the right photographic equipment, you might be tempted to start snapping photos of friends and family like paparazzi. Before you start clicking, take a look at our DCR Workshop: Taking Better Candid Portraits.

We've outlined some tips that will help photographers at any skill level snap better off-the-cuff portraits of friends and family. So whether you're investing in your first DSLR kit or you're bringing out the point-and-shoot at a gathering, you'll have a couple of tricks up your sleeve to ensure better portaits.


Unleash Your Creativity



Olympus E-PL1

The E-PL1 offers the flexibility of interchangeable lenses with the ease-of-use of a point-and-shoot. With beginner-friendly guide modes, creative processing filters, and HD video capture it's a versatile tool for someone starting to learn the ins and outs of photography.



Pentax K-x


The K-x is Pentax's entry-level DSLR. We liked its quick AF system, good image quality and most of all, its small price tag. A good performer for someone ready to take on a full DSLR system.


Sony alpha NEX-5


Interchangeable lens cameras don't come any smaller than this. It features a 14.2 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor and Sony's Sweep Panorama system for creating seamless horizontal or vertical panoramic shots.



Canon Rebel T1i


The T1i scored an Editor's Choice for an excellent selection of high-end features like a 15.1 megapixel CMOS sensor in an affordable, user-friendly package.


Nikon D3000

 

The D3000 is Nikon's lowest-cost DSLR option, but it doesn't skimp on quality. It offers a 10.2 megapixel sensor and extensive shooting tips for beginners.

arrow Best & Worst Photo Hosting Websites

 

Whether you're a photography student or photo enthusiast, you'll want to pick the right place to show off your stuff. If you're interested in launching a career in photography, it's extremely important to take care in how your photos are displayed.

We've rounded up some of the most popular photo hosting websites and sorted out the best from the rest. Sorting through each site's security policies and pay systems can be a headache, so we went ahead and did some of the dirty work for you. Take a look at our Best and Worst Photo Hosting Websites so you can get your photos on to the website that best matches your needs.


Unique Features



Nikon Coolpix S1000pj


The Nikon S1000pj lays claim to a truly unique feature in the digital imaging world - a built-in projector. This standout feature is a surefire attention grabber and though the camera itself is pretty average, the projector takes center stage at any party or gathering.



Samsung TL225


The TL225 was one of Samsung's first DualView cameras, named for the front-facing LCD that complements a large 3.5-inch touch screen on the back panel. Lining up self-portraits and your next Facebook profile photo is a no-brainer.


Canon PowerShot SD980 IS


The PowerShot SD980 houses a wide-aspect 3.0-inch touch screen, a first for a Canon Digital ELPH. The interface is intuitive and the touch screen is easy to use. Flicking through photos with the swipe of your finger is sure to inspire some "oohing" and "aahing" from a group of onlookers.



Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX7


The TX7 is a good option for the fashion-conscious shopper. Behind those good looks it packs a 3.5-inch touch screen and Sony's popular Sweep Panorama mode for super-easy, in-camera panorama stitching.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2


The second generation of Panasonic's Tough cameras is the Lumix TS2. Shockproof, waterproof, and dustproof, it's a good performer in any environment from poolside to dorm room.

 


Budget-Friendly



Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S2100

The Cyber-shot S2100 has a modest feature set including a 3x optical zoom and a 3.0-inch LCD. It's a better buy for someone who wants little control over image quality at a low price.


 

Canon PowerShot A3100


The PowerShot A3100 is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery unlike Canon's previous budget-oriented A series cameras. It's a slim, dependable shooter with a 4x optical zoom lens and optical image stabilization.


Casio Exilim EX-S7


The Exilim S7 covers all of the basics with a 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.7-inch LCD. It stands out in the budget compact category in bold shades like pink with a slender profile.



Nikon Coolpix S230


The S230 is one of few touch screen cameras priced under $200. It offers quality picture taking and great Nikon optics.


Canon PowerShot SD1200


The very popular SD1200 is another solid point-and-shoot from Canon with a 3x lens and optical image stabilization. It's available in an array of striking colors.