Engadget's summer gear guide 2012: cameras

Sharif Sakr
S. Sakr|06.01.12

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Engadget's summer gear guide 2012: cameras

In the interest of keeping cool this summer, we've put together a list of the hottest products out right now. From smartphones to e-readers and everything in between, there's no time like the present to re-up that post-spring-cleaning stash. So grab a popsicle or a cold one and dive in -- the water's just right.

Of all the seasons when you could have bought a new camera, you had to pick summer? When the sun casts its harshest shadows, when thieves go wild over tourists with Lowepros, and when springtime puddles are still such a heavily neglected subject on Twitpic? Oh well, since you're here, our topic for today is cameras that cost a bit of money -- specifically, $199 and up -- but which murder camera-equipped phones on every spec that matters. Perhaps the only area in which the latest smartphones can still contend with our choices is wireless connectivity for the quick sharing of pictures, but as you'll see, dedicated cameras are catching up in that department too. Enough chatting, let's get to the picks that wait past the break.

Editors' Choice

Nikon D5100

Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 cameras

The D5100 is already old in tech terms, having celebrated its first birthday, but that doesn't change anything. In general, DSLRs still deliver the fastest focus, the best lenses and the most practical viewfinders on the market. The D5100 adds to that with a surprisingly useful flip-out LCD and a great price tag -- just $599 if you play it smart and go body-only. You can then pick up a good Sigma DC f/2.8 17-70mm lens for around $460, which will have you covered in most situations. The only catch is that we're expecting to see an update to this model pretty soon -- likely supporting Nikon's new $60 WU-1A dongle for wireless sharing.

Price: $547 at Amazon

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Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 cameras

Sony NEX-F3

Not everyone wants to look like paparazzi, so it's fortunate that the market for so-called mirrorless compact cameras with interchangeable lenses is exploding. A great lens system remains a priority in this category, which leads us to Sony's E-mount lineup and to the NEX-F3 as our preferred Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC). It builds on the solid reputation of last year's NEX-C3 with nice, new specs like an OLED EVF, up to 16,000 ISO and 1080p video recording. You can accumulate lenses safe in the knowledge that they'll work with a growing range of Sony ILCs, DSLRs, camcorders and even dedicated movie cameras like the NEX-FS100. That said, if we had more money at our disposal, it'd be the $1,000 Olympus OM-D E-M5 all the way, but there's no point in dwelling.

Price: $500 at Sony

Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 cameras

Panasonic ZS15

Even if you ignore us and opt for another manufacturer or model, we've picked the ZS15 because it represents the type of specs you ought to be looking for in this category. Despite the small form factor (just 1.3 inches wide and 200 grams in weight), it packs a hefty 16x zoom along with image stabilization, which will open up a whole world of intimate shots that smaller, wobblier zooms (not to mention those pesky smartphones) just won't match. No less importantly, the ZS15 also excels at wide scenes, with a 24mm-equivalent minimum focal length that is great for shooting landscapes and architecture. Panasonic's Lumix line has garnered a good reputation for build quality, battery life and intelligent auto exposure, so you're in good hands.

Price: $179 at Amazon

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