While cameras come incorporated with many of our gadgets, some of us photography fans still like to have a stand-alone camera to call our own. As technology advances, knowing what device suits your needs can be tricky, but you don’t need a degree in photography just to buy a trusty old point-and-shoot – you just need our handy gift guide.
When it comes to compact cameras, I’ve always championed Fujifilm’s FinePix range. Not only are they user-friendly and well capable of meeting your point-and-shoot demands, they’re generally kinder to your pocket than other brands. Outside of the FinePix range, you’ll find pricier compact cameras aimed at enthusiasts, such as the Fujifilm XF1 (priced from €400 to €500).
I love the retro look of the XF1’s aluminium body wrapped in synthetic tan, black or red leather, and the camera features a 3-inch LCD, 12MP EXR-CMOS sensor, and an f1.8 25-100mm Fujinon lens with 4x optical zoom that’s operated manually – how vintage!
Canon has a wide selection of compact cameras to choose from, but, for me, the IXUS 500 HS (priced from €250 to €300) stood out. Not only does it look good (and it’s available in white, black, red or blue) but it packs a 12x zoom 28mm wide-angle lens, 10.1MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 processor into a small, genuinely pocket-sized body. It also features traditional button controls as opposed to the full touchscreen of the IXUS 510 HS – which, believe me, is a lot more manageable.
For a no-brainer compact camera, you can’t go wrong with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 (RRP €404) – one of my favourite compact cameras of 2012. This 14.1MP camera features a Leica DC 24mm ultra wide-angle lens, 20x optical zoom and a 3-inch LCD. But its best feature is Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto technology, which does a great job of taking care of the settings for you, so you can take great pictures with minimal fuss.
For the adventurer that likes to document their wet, muddy, cold and rambunctious activities, a rugged camera is a safe bet. The Fujifilm FinePix XP50 (priced in and around the €150 mark) is dustproof, waterproof up to 5m, and can withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m and temperatures down to -10°C. The 14.4MP camera is optimised for rapid response times and the 28mm lens offers 5x optical zoom.
Another option is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4 (RRP €419.99), which is available in blue, back, white or orange. This 12.1MP camera is dustproof, waterproof to 12m, shock and drop-proof up to 2m, and freezeproof to -10°C, and it has built-in GPS, compass, altimeter and barometer. An optional Marine Case makes the FT4 waterproof up to 40m, plus the camera offers users a new time lapse shooting mode.
Compact system cameras
Compact system cameras sit in a niche between point-and-shoots and DSLRs and are targeted at photographers and enthusiasts who might be seeking a second device that’s easier to transport than a full-frame camera.
For a compact system camera worth your while, you’re looking at a cost at or above €800. The 16.1MP Sony NEX-5R comes in at the lower end of this scale (RRP €799), with full-HD video features, fast shooting and a tiltable 180-degree LCD touchscreen.
For a step up in price, the Nikon 1 V2 costs €850 for the body only, or €1,000 for a kit with a 10-30mm 1 Nikkor lens. According to GfK market research, the Nikon 1 was the biggest selling compact camera system in Europe in 2012, and this second-generation device comes with wireless image transfer, a next-generatoin EXPEED 3A dual-image processor, Advanced Hybrid AF system, and increased 14.2MP resolution.
And at the pricier end of the scale, you have the Panasonic Lumix G5, costing €899 for the body only, €999 with a standard zoom lens, or €1,199 with a Powerzoom lens. This 16.05MP camera comes with a wide range of auto-focus modes, full-HD video recording with stereo sound, a high-resolution 3-inch free-angle LCD, touch control shooting (even if using the electronic viewfinder) and Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto Plus technology.
For enthusiasts ready to make the move into serious photography, the choice lies between Nikon and Canon. For affordability and an easy introduction to DSLRs, Canon’s EOS range wins out, and the new-ish Canon EOS 650D – with its 18MP APS-C Hybrid CMOS sensor, DIGIC 5 14-bit image processor, responsive touchscreen controls, vari-angle LCD, advanced auto-focus and in-camera video editing – is top of the class.
While advanced HD video shooting comes with most camera systems these days, there’s still room in some people’s lives for a camcorder. At an RRP of €859, the Panasonic HC-X800 HD camcorder is one of eight flagship models from Panasonic’s latest range, capable of full-HD and 3D recording with less noise in low light.
This lightweight and compact camcorder is easily transported anywhere and operation is so simple even my six-year-old niece had the run of it within seconds.
For your home-made action movies, there’s also the Sony HDR-AS15 Action Cam (€299 for Wi-Fi model). This wearable 90g full-HD camcorder features a 170-degree wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens, Exmor R CMOS sensor, SteadyShot image stabilisation to minimise blur, and five recording modes, including two for HD slow-motion.
The Action Cam comes with a case that makes the device waterproof up to 60m and the camera can be attached to all kinds of things using the adhesive mounts supplied.
Cash back with Canon
The prices for cameras and camcorders vary greatly from retailer to retailer, so my advice is to always shop around before you buy. If a Canon product takes your fancy, you’ll be happy to know that the brand is running a cashback scheme until 18 January 2013, offering savings of €35 on selected compact cameras (including the IXUS 500 HS) and up to €60 on selected DSLR cameras (including the EOS 650D).
Anyone purchasing selected Canon compact cameras at participating retailers will also receive a complimentary camera case and 4GB memory card until 31 December, while DSLR buyers will get a photographer’s kit worth €280.