Welcome to Engadget's holiday gift guide! Head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the month.
With smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 offering outstanding photo performance, you may wonder why you'd want a standalone camera at all. Leave it to the professionals and photo enthusiasts here at Engadget to clarify why a devoted shooter is still your best bet if snapping stills and video is a serious hobby -- you won't find many of these specs in a phone any time soon.
ON THE CHEAP
If there's someone on your list who loves both photography and building things, then consider the Konstruktor from Lomography. This all-plastic construction kit comes with a detachable 50mm f/10 lens. It's like getting a scale model as a gift, but once you're done building it, you have a fully functional, film-based SLR to play around with. -- Philip Palermo, Copy Editor
Key specs: Detachable 50mm f/10 lens, all-plastic construction, top-down viewfinder.
Price: $35 from Lomography
It's compact, easy on the wallet and offers good picture (and video) quality. In short, Canon's ELPH 330 HS is a perfect choice for anyone looking for a solid, portable camera without having to break the bank. And don't let its less-than-$200 price tag fool you: This little shooter performs better than some that cost upwards of $400. -- Edgar Alvarez, Associate Editor
Key specs: 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor with DIGIC 5 Image Processor, 24mm wide-angle lens (10x optical zoom, 4X digital zoom), 1080p video (24fps), 3-inch LCD (461k dots).
Price: $149 on Amazon
Sony's latest QX cams are entirely unique -- there's no built-in display and controls are limited, so your smartphone plays a key role in the shooting process here. The two QX devices pair via WiFi, and while you might expect too much lag with a wireless connection, I found that the arrangement worked just fine for casual shooting. The QX10 is the more budget-friendly option, with a $248 price tag. It also sports a slimmer build and a 10x lens, making it the more practical model overall. -- Zach Honig, Deputy Managing Editor
Key specs: 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, 10x optical zoom lens, 1080p video, WiFi.
Price: $248 on Amazon
The latest action cam from GoPro touts a more compact build, improved HD video chops and additional capture options. While the Hero3+ isn't a huge leap over the previous model, it does build on the outfit's reputation for quality captures on the slopes and around the track. Of course, the wealth of available accessories to enhance those film sessions doesn't hurt, either. -- Billy Steele, Associate Editor
Key specs: 1080/60p or 4K (Black Edition), 10- and 12-megapixel stills, improved battery life, WiFi.
Price: $300 and up from various retailers
We've been fans of the NEX line for some time, and Sony's delivered the goods again with the NEX-3N. This shooter packs in 16.1 megapixels and an improved imager over previous models, delivering DSLR-like quality at an affordable price. It travels well, too, weighing in at 7.4 ounces and measuring slightly larger than a deck of cards -- sans the 16-50mm lens, of course. -- Jon Turi, Associate Editor
Key specs: 16.1MP Exmor APS-C sensor, AVCHD 1080/60i/24p video, 16-50mm retractable zoom lens, built-in flash, up to ISO 16,000 sensitivity, 180-degree tiltable LCD, intelligent autofocus.
Price: $448 on Amazon
Canon's premium S series was my go-to compact until Sony's pricier RX100 came around, and the S120 is the company's latest iteration in a long line of superior shooters. With a large 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, it's quite powerful for a camera that can fit in your pocket, and built-in WiFi speeds up the process of sharing shots online. -- Zach Honig
Key specs: 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom lens, 1080p video, WiFi.
Price: $449 on Amazon
I love the RX100 Mark II, and just about any photographer will, too. It's a spectacular full-featured compact, with a 20.2-megapixel 1-inch sensor, a flip-up LCD, attachable electronic viewfinder and WiFi for remote shooting and sharing. The pictures look fantastic, as I discovered during a one-week trial over the summer. If you're considering the Canon S120 and you have an extra 300 bucks to spare, pick up the RX100 Mark II instead. -- Zach Honig
Key specs: 20.2-megapixel 1-inch CMOS sensor, 3.6x optical zoom lens, 1080p video, WiFi.
Price: $730 and up on Amazon
MONEY IS NO OBJECT
An update to perhaps the best camera I've ever owned, Fuji's X100S may well be the best street photography camera on the market. Its solid construction, plentiful manual controls and old-school style make it as much a conversation piece as it is a photography tool. The fixed 23mm f/2 lens may seem limiting at first, but you'll be amazed at how capable the X100S is. -- Philip Palermo
Key specs: 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, fixed 23mm lens, 1080/60p video.
Price: $1,299 from B&H Photo
Sony's Alpha 7 is the interchangeable-lens camera that dreams are made of. There's a full-frame sensor on board, which allows for superior image quality despite the compact form factor. The 7 is compatible with Sony's existing lens lineup, but you'll need to add on some pricey full-frame lenses to take full advantage of that 35mm sensor. Regardless, this thing's a beaut, and if you have the cash to spare, you can't do better than this for any photographer in your life. -- Zach Honig
Key specs: 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, interchangeable lens mount, WiFi.
Price: $1,700 starting in December
Canon's 5D is among the company's most successful brands, and the Mark III offers more than enough features to keep that momentum going. The 22-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor is a beast on its own, and the DIGIC 5+ image chip, 102,400 max ISO and built-in HDR features make the 5D Mark III one of the best DSLRs on the market. Oh, and did we mention it takes incredibly stunning videos? It does -- so much so that many photographers use it solely for this purpose. -- Edgar Alvarez
Key specs: 22-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, DIGIC 5+ Image Processor, 6 fps continuous shooting, 61-point autofocus system, 50-102,400 ISO range, 1080p video (30 and 24 fps), HDR mode, external mic input, 3.2-inch LCD (1,040,000 dots), SD and CF card slots.
Price: $3,399 (body-only) on Amazon
GiveawaySony Cyber-shot RX100 II
We just told you how much we loved the RX100 II -- are you ready to try it out for yourself? Picture quality is excellent, and the generous feature set includes a flip-up LCD, a 1-inch CMOS sensor and WiFi. Enter the raffle below for a chance to win, and make sure to check out our giveaway rules.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
- Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
- 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) RX100 II camera.
- 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. Sony 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, 2013 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!