Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011: digital cameras

Welcome to the Engadget Holiday Gift Guide! We're well aware of the heartbreaking difficulties surrounding the seasonal shopping experience, so we're here to help you sort out this year's tech treasures. Below is today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to the Gift Guide hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season.

With cameras popping up on tablets, smartphones and even Bluetooth headsets, there's a fairly good chance that there's already a device in your pocket capable of shooting high-res stills and HD video. But even with popular apps like Instagram on-board, mobile devices still can't match the versatility and image quality of a dedicated snapper. If you're looking to hide a new point-and-shoot under the tree this year, there are plenty of great options to consider, for any budget. So clear off the memory card and get ready to jump past the break for our top picks that will deliver -- and capture -- plenty of holiday cheer.

On the cheap

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH25

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

A 16.1 megapixel sensor, 28mm wide-angle 8x zoom lens, optical image stabilization and 720p video to boot for just a couple hard egg nogs above $100? Yeah, we'll take ten. With such a robust feature set and low price tag, it's no surprise that the DMC-FH25 is one of Panasonic's best-selling models so far this year -- and it's sure to be a hit through the holiday season as well. It won't blow you away with record performance, but it's an excellent choice for anyone on a budget -- and it comes in fun colors, too!

Key specs: 16.1 megapixel CCD sensor, 8x optical zoom, 720p / 24fps HD video.

Price: $119 on Amazon

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9

Budget shoppers don't need to compromise much with the Sony WX9. This compact cam packs a 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, 5x wide-angle zoom lens, 10fps full-res burst capture and 1080i HD video. And if you're super-quick with the unboxings, you may even be able to snap Santa's post-drop escape in glorious 3D.

Price: $155 from Amazon

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS

When friends ask which point-and-shoot to buy, we typically recommend a Canon PowerShot, regardless of their budget. And you can't go wrong with this sub-$200 snapper, which sports a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor, 1080p video and an impressive wide-angle 24mm 5x zoom lens with optical image stabiilization.

Price: $178 from Amazon


Canon PowerShot S100

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

The S100 is in good company -- its predecessor, the S95, sat in this exact spot in our Back to School guide, but if you didn't pull the trigger on Canon's top-of-the-line point-and-shoot at that point, you're in for a treat. This year's compact has a nearly identical footprint, but boosts the optical zoom from 3.8x to 5x, while maintaining an f/2.0 maximum aperture, for excellent snaps in terrible light with a fair amount of creamy bokeh to boot. You'll also find a full range of advanced shooting features, including a manual mode and RAW capture, along with a new 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3-inch display and GPS functionality.

Key specs: 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom, f/2.0 lens, 1080p HD video.

Price: $430 on Amazon

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

Samsung MV800

This clever hinged-screen cam has a 3-inch touchscreen that flips 180 degrees to face front, letting you take advantage of the full display for self-portraits and videos. Flipping it up halfway lets you frame shots from above, or turn the 16.1 megapixel camera upside-down for overhead shots.

Price: $229 on Amazon

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

Fujifilm X10

The Fujifilm X100 was a hit with reviewers, but its $1400 price tag and fixed lens made it impractical for those without deep pockets. Its new sibling, the X10, sports a 4x f/2-2.8 zoom lens and a cheaper price tag, but lacks the APS-C sensor of the older model. Still, its speedy lens and gorgeous rangefinder-like design make this hardy cam a win in our book.

Price: $600 on Amazon

Interchangeable lens

Sony Alpha NEX-C3 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

We're still just as smitten with Sony's entry-level mirrorless cam as we were during the review earlier this year, with the ILC earning a permanent spot in our trade show kit (and our hearts -- no, really). It serves us quite well when shooting hands-ons, but is also our top pick for personal travel and casual shooting. It's not powerful enough to use as a primary cam for pros, but for everyone else, the NEX-C3 is worthy of your consideration, even if you've saved up enough for a more expensive (and heavier) DSLR kit. We really can't say enough good things about this camera.

Key specs: 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, 720p video, 3-inch articulating LCD.

Price: $598 on Amazon

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

Nikon D7000 with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens

Its price has dropped just $70 since the fall, but the 16.2 megapixel D7000 is still our top DSLR pick from Nikon. There's also 1080p video capture, 39-point autofocus, a wide-view 3-inch LCD, and a top ISO sensitivity of ISO 25,600.

Price: $1,399 on Amazon

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 digital cameras

Canon EOS-1D X

It won't be available until next year, so you'll need to draw up an IOU if you want to gift a 1D X, but this 18 megapixel monster will likely be crowned king of the jungle come 2012. Canon's latest full-frame flagship will be worth the wait, if not the estimated $6,800 price tag.

Price: $6,729 on Amazon