Step Up From Your Sad Smartphone Photos With These Digital Cameras

By on November 21, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for a new digital camera this year to upgrade from your smartphone? Do you want high quality images that can only be provided by a dSLR? Thanks to some assistance from our expert friends over at Steve’s Digicams, we have an entire lineup of expert picks for you to check out. Take a look at our top seven digital camera picks for the holidays this year.

Buy This for Someone Who Likes to Stay Out Until Last Call

Canon might have already released the S120, but the better bargain this holiday season is the Canon S110, which offers nearly all the same performance specs as the new model at a discounted price.

The Canon S110 is simply an amazing camera for low-light photography, ideal when shooting group shots at night and a huge upgrade from smartphone photos. In addition, Canon has included Wi-Fi connectivity for uploading pictures to social networks or connecting with the photo printer to transfer images for printing.

MSRP: $350  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $260

Canon S110

  • Pros: Smart Auto shooting mode is accurate, easy to use. f/2.0 lens is fantastic in low-light. Outstanding overall image quality. Excellent flash range and video recording quality.
  • Cons: Some inaccuracy with indoor white balance. Special shooting modes are no alternative to taking the time to capture them correctly. 

Check Amazon for the Canon S110

Buy This for Someone Who Goes on Epic Adventures

Definitely useful when traveling, the Olympus TG-2 iHS “tough” settings include its ability to descend to depths of up to 50 feet without having any additional housing, withstanding falls from up to 7 feet, handling pressure up to 220 lbs, temperatures down to 14° F and it’s completely dustproof once it has been closed up and locked.

In addition, the GPS feature is excellent for anyone who likes to travel, recording where you captured images as well as pointing out nearby landmarks with the digital compass. Pick this up if you are looking for the best consumer “tough” or “lifeproof” camera available.

MSRP: $380  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: n/a

tough-tg-2-ihs

  • Pros: Waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freezeproof. Very fast auto-focus, excellent image quality. Sensor-Shift optical image stabilization keeps images sharp. 3.0-inch OLED is high resolution and bright. Solid battery life.
  • Cons: No external battery charger to keep a spare battery ready. Buffer on the camera fills quickly. Overwhelming image noise at higher ISO settings. Screen can be hard to see when underwater. 

Check Amazon for the Olympus TG-2

Buy This for Someone Who’s Not Comfortable With dSLR Cameras Yet

Ideal for shooting events where you don’t have the best seat in the house, the Canon SX50 HS offers a 12.1-megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS image sensor, Canon’s DIGIC 5 image processor and a 50x optical zoom. It also records high definition video at 1080p at 24 frames per second and 720p at 30fps and shoots in RAW format if you need the uncompressed images.

Pick this up if you need a huge zoom lens in a camera, but don’t have the time to learn the intricacies of a dSLR. However, there’s plenty of controls that can be customized if you want to tweak your pictures.

MSRP: $400  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $300

canon-sx50-hs

  • Pros: 50x optical zoom is fantastic. Zoom motor works fast, going from wide angle to full telephoto. Popup flash provides good low light results. Strong performer in manual and advanced modes. Large right hand grip is comfortable to use. Separate battery charger included. Shoots full HD video.
  • Cons: SX50 has smaller image sensor than what’s expected in this price range. LCD screen is a little small. Sharpness and image quality in EVF could be better. Battery life isn’t fantastic. SX50′s response times are a bit choppy, depending on scene. 

Check Amazon for the Canon SX50 HS

Buy This for Someone Who Doesn’t Have a Smartphone Yet

The Samsung WB250F is a camera that’s a lot of fun to use and provides some very interesting advanced features, especially for a camera with an MSRP of $249.99 at launch. Few cameras around the desirable $200 price point can provide great features like a high-resolution touch-screen LCD and built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.

Throw in an 18x optical zoom lens, a popup flash unit, and smartly organized menus, all in a stylish looking solid-colored camera body that measures only about 1.25 inches at its thickest point, and there’s a lot to like about the WB250F.

MSRP: $250  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $138

Samsung-WB250F

  • Pros: 18x optical zoom is great for a thin camera. Touch Screen LCD is very bright and sharp. Lens fully retracts inside the camera, protecting the glass. Pop-up flash unit and built-in Wi-Fi are excellent features at this price range.
  • Cons: Must charge battery inside the camera, no separate battery charger included. Start-up is a bit slow. Image quality has slight softness. High ISO settings have a bit of noise. 

Check Amazon for Samsung WB250F

Buy This for Someone Who Wants to Get Started With dSLR Photography

Anyone looking for an entry-level dSLR camera will want to give the Canon Rebel T5i a close look as it’s a strong contender versus others in its price range. Image quality is extremely high and shooting in viewfinder mode is incredibly fast. In addition, the lens kit that comes with the standard model is solid.

The Rebel T5i is ideal for anyone who wants to learn about the basics of dSLR photography without breaking the bank. Deal Tip: Look also for deals on the previous model Canon T4i while shopping for this camera. The specs and performance are fairly identical and the price will be more competitive.

MSRP: $799 with 18-55mm kit, $649 body only  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $660 with 18-55mm kit, $599 body only

canon-eos-rebel-t5i

  • Pros: Image quality is very impressive. Touchscreen LCD makes it easy to control camera for beginners. Extremely fast performance in Viewfinder mode. Very fast start-up time. Ports included for both HDMI and microphone. RAW shooting option available. Noise is minimal in JPEG up to ISO levels as high as 3200.
  • Cons: Autofocus works too slowly in Live View mode, creating significant shutter lag. No Wi-Fi capability. Battery drains quickly in video mode. Large and heavy camera body may not appeal to everyone.

Check Amazon for Canon Rebel T5i

Buy This for Someone Who Grew Up With Cameras in the ’80s

Sporting the classic boxy design found on older film cameras a few decades ago, the Fujifilm X-M1 is the perfect gift for the lifetime photographer. The interchangeable lens X-M1 is smaller than Fujifilm’s other mirrorless X series cameras, but it still has a sturdy build.

The X-M1 compares favorably in terms of performance and image quality versus other entry-level ILCs, and it has a large image sensor. While it does cost a bit more than competitors, the classic retro design is delightful and has the same quality as an entry- to mid-level dSLR.

MSRP: $800  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: n/a

Fujifilm x-m1

  • Pros: Stylish and retro look. Large APS-C image sensor provides great images. Outside of shutter lag, X-M1 is a fast performer. Pop-up flash unit works well. Hot shoe provides option for adding an external flash.
  • Cons: Wi-Fi feature is limited and somewhat confusing to set up. LCD doesn’t fully rotate, has some glare problems. No option for adding a viewfinder. No USB cable included for downloading photos. 

Check Amazon for the Fujifilm X-M1

Buy This for Someone Who’s Serious About Professional Photography

Offering a good balance of price and performance, the Nikon D610 is a full frame, or FX-format, DSLR with a 24.3-megapixel CMOS image sensor and the EXPEED 3 image processing engine. Meaning, the D610 captures images with a large dynamic range, precise and vivid colors, and is a very fast, yet energy-efficient camera.

The D610 is also faster than its older sibling (D600). It can shoot at up to 6 frames-per-second at full resolution. And, for quiet moments where you want to avoid hearing the noisy shutter every time you take a shot, there is the Quiet Continuous Shutter Mode, which shoots up to 3 frames-per-second in full resolution without making a sound. This is an ideal camera for someone ready to make the jump to full-frame photography.

MSRP: $2,500 with 24-85mm kit, $2000 body-only  | Lowest Price on Ben’s: n/a

nikon-d610

  • Pros: Fantastic image quality and overall noise performance. Compact for a full-frame camera. Shutter mode is very quiet. Continuous shooting speed has been improved a bit over the D600.
  • Cons: Requires a Wi-Fi dongle (additional cost) for connectivity. Competitors are cheaper. 

Check Amazon for Nikon D610

About Mike Flacy

By day, I'm the Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut in addition to being the content manager for Steve's Digicams and High-Def Digest. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

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