Welcome to the Engadget holiday gift guide! Picking presents for friends and loved ones is never a simple task, and with thousands of options for each category, buying technology can be an especially frustrating experience. We're here to help. Below you'll find today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season. We've also teamed up with AT&T to give away one hot smartphone with each and every guide, so scroll to the end for today's prize, then leave a comment to submit your entry!

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 digital cameras

For digital cameras, 2012 has been an interesting year indeed. IFA in Berlin brought the first compelling Android-powered model, the Samsung Galaxy Camera, while Photokina delivered a handful of full-frame DSLRs and Sony's jaw-dropping Cyber-shot RX1. As smartphone cameras have evolved, dedicated snappers have, too -- this year's models are far more powerful than any we've seen before, and if you've been holding out for a significant advancement, now's the time to buy. We've sorted the top models for every budget, which you'll find gathered in our guide just past the break.

Point-and-shoot

Sony Cyber-shot RX100

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 digital cameras

Sony has absolutely outdone itself with this 1-inch-sensor compact, offering stellar image quality, an awesome build and the best focusing performance we've seen in a point-and-shoot, bar none. Naturally, it's also one of the most expensive pocketable cameras on the market, but after using one for several weeks, we wouldn't hesitate to endorse this model as an excellent value. The Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, while excellent, isn't removable, but performance otherwise rivals the Olympus E-M5 -- our current focusing champ. Deep-pocketed gift givers may also want to consider Sony's RX1, which includes a full-frame sensor, and a sky-high $2,800 price tag.

Key specs: 20.2-megapixel 1-inch Exmor CMOS sensor, 3.6x optical zoom, f/1.8-4.9 lens, 1080/60p video.

Price: $648 on Amazon

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Samsung MV900F

Samsung's MultiView entrant from 2011 didn't offer fantastic image quality, but it scored points for its flip-up self-portrait display. Fortunately, this year's model adds a 16.3-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and 3.3-inch WVGA AMOLED panel, both of which should make this clever point-and-shoot a winner.

Price: $299 on Amazon

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Canon PowerShot SX160 IS

This brand-new 16-megapixel PowerShot is a bit too large to tuck away in a pocket, but reviewers claim it offers excellent image quality and functionality, making this a solid step-up pick for someone not quite ready to move to mirrorless. It also takes AA batteries, so you can refuel easily abroad.

Price: $169 on Amazon

Mirrorless

Olympus PEN E-PM2

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 digital cameras

We fell in love with the E-M5's insane focusing performance, but the camera's $1,100 kit price placed it out of reach for many consumers. Now, that same 16-megapixel CMOS sensor has made its way to a pair of PEN models, the E-PL5 and E-PM2, which both deliver super-fast focus, sensor-shift IS and nearly identical specs. Both of Olympus' new Micro Four Thirds ILCs pack serious punch, with form factor marking the primary difference. The touch-enabled LCDs offer the same 460k-dot resolution, but the E-PL5's articulating screen makes it the better pick for self-portraits. Better yet is the E-PM2's more compact design and lower price, however, making it our top mirrorless pick.

Key specs: 16-MP Live MOS sensor, 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, 25,600 top ISO, 8 fps stills, 1080/60i video.

Price: $600 on Amazon with 14-42mm lens

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Sony Alpha NEX-6

The NEX-6 combines the best features of Sony's recent APS-C compacts, with a 16.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, a fantastic LCD, a built-in OLED EVF, 1080/60p video, 10 fps stills, a top sensitivity of ISO 25,600 and improved autofocus. In other words, it's got it all, but a $1,000 price tag may be too much to swallow.

Price: $998 on Amazon with 16-50mm lens

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

The GX1 may not be the hottest Micro Four Thirds shooter from Panasonic this year, but it's a very solid entrant nonetheless, and one of our favorite mirrorless ILCs in this price range. The 16-megapixel CMOS sensor captures excellent images, and plenty of dedicated controls make it a great fit for advanced users. And we love the price.

Price: $460 on Amazon with 14-42mm lens

Digital SLR

Sony Alpha A99

DNP Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 digital cameras

Sony's new full-frame flagship is top-of-the-line in every way, except when it comes to price. A $2,800 sticker undercuts Canon's $3,500 5D Mark III and Nikon's $3,000 D800, and the camera's compact footprint and lighter weight make it feel more akin to the two less-capable models you'll find below. This more comfortable design is compliments of Sony's Translucent Mirror technology, which also enables faster autofocus. While it's still not cheap, we feel that a full-frame sensor is the key component that should make you consider a full-size DSLR -- for most consumers, the mirrorless models above will absolutely suffice, saving your wallet, and your neck, in the process.

Key specs: Full-frame 24-MP sensor, 25,600 top ISO, 10 fps stills, 1080/60p video with uncompressed output.

Price: $2,798 on Amazon

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Canon EOS 6D

Canon and Nikon had full-frame DSLRs on offer at Photokina, with identical pricing and similar feature sets. Both are excellent, lightweight options, with Canon's 6D offering a 20.2-megapixel sensor, sensitivity through ISO 102,400, 1080p video and a design that's smaller than the APS-C 7D. Current Canon shooters will want to look closely here.

Price: $2,099 on Amazon

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Nikon D600

Nikon's flavor boosts the megapixels from 20.2 to 24.3, but its sensitivity tops out at 25,600 (Hi-2). There's also 5.5 fps continuous stills shooting (compared to 4.5 on the Canon 6D), 1080p video and a similarly compact form-factor. Both models are very solid options overall, so if you've already invested in Nikon glass, you'll probably want the D600.

Price: $2,097 on Amazon

Giveaway

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2012 digital cameras

LG Optimus G

Ready to take home one of AT&T's hottest smartphones? Today's offering is the LG Optimus G, which packs a beautiful 4.7-inch True HD display and remains one of our top picks on the US carrier's LTE network. To enter for your chance to win, be sure to review our full guidelines, then leave a comment below.

The rules:

  • Leave a comment below. Any comment will do. Duplicate entries will be filtered out and discarded, so adding additional comments won't increase your likelihood of winning.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) LG Optimus G.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. AT&T, LG and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!