Best digital cameras at any price

By Terry SullivanLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

It’s hard to imagine enjoying the holidays without a camera, whether you’re taking the annual family portrait or snapping the kids unwrapping presents. To help you find the perfect camera for the task at hand, we've chosen the best cameras in various price ranges, from basic inexpensive compacts to advanced, high-end models.

Canon PowerShot N100, ($350)

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One complaint about cameras is that they’re “disconnected” devices. But this compact point-and-shoot uses Wi-Fi to transfer images to phones, tablets, and computers, and to upload photos directly to Facebook. It can connect to other PowerShot N-series cameras too. It has fun features: When set in Creative Shot mode, it can automatically alter photos using various filters and cropping techniques, and save five versions of a shot, mimicking many of the filters you would find on Instagram.

Olympus Stylus TG-3 ($350)

Waterproof point-and-shoots let you go where most smart phones dare not tread—namely underwater or in other settings where you’ll get wet, such as waterparks. This point-and-shoot is waterproof to a depth of 50 feet, and it’s also rugged, designed to survive a drop from 7 feet. lt shoots very good quality photos and has a good flash. And if you need a little assistance in finding your direction, you’ll appreciate this point-and-shoot’s built-in GPS feature (for geotagging photos) and built-in compass function.

Nikon Coolpix S9700 ($270)

This slim wireless superzoom has a long 30x optical zoom lens, shoots very good photos, and comes with a brilliant OLED display for playing back your photos and HD video. It’s also lighter than most in its class. Plus, it has fun features, like a built-in map (including points of interest for shooting scenic views and historic landmarks) and a compass.

Find the best model for your needs and budget: Check our camera buying guide and Ratings.

Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II ($800)

This 13-megapixel advanced point-and-shoot not only outscored all models in its category, but it also beat all SLRs and mirrorless models in our Ratings. At $800, it’s pricey, but it shoots excellent overall image quality as well as flash photos and video. Another upside is that it’s lighter and more portable than larger, interchangeable-lens cameras. And as you can see from the photo at the top of this blog post, it comes with a stunning swiveling touch-screen LCD, perfect for shooting hard-to-reach photos and selfies.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 ($2,330)

This wireless mirrorless camera has all the bells and whistles you could want. It captures stunning stills, even in low light, and it can even shoot 4K (ultra high definition) video at 30 frames per second. It has a fantastic, swiveling, touch-screen OLED display and an excellent electronic viewfinder. And if you’re looking to fire off a lot of frames, you'll be glad to know that this camera can capture 12 frames per second in burst mode. However, it’s very pricey (especially when paired with the 14-140mm lens), and heavier than most mirrorless models.

Canon EOS Rebel T5i ($700)

This versatile, entry-level SLR is packed with features, including a very good quality, touch-screen LCD that also swivels, which is rare for an SLR. It shoots very good photos and video. Like most SLRs, it has lots of manual controls, but it also includes easy-to-use scene modes, including some special ones, like HDR (high-dynamic range) backlight control mode, which lets the camera take three shots at different exposures and combine the best parts of each.

Sony a7R ($2,100)

Cameras like this one include a very large full-frame sensor (it's called that because the sensor is as large as one frame of 35mm film). However, what makes full-frame cameras so special, and pricey, is that, among other things, they can handle a wide variety of lighting situations  accurately, and they limit the amount of visual noise that can distort and degrade an image. In our tests, this mirrorless model, which captures excellent quality photos, had the highest resolution scores in its class. It also performs better than most in low light, allowing you to capture photos with good quality at a top ISO of 25,600, so you'll be good to go even in extremely dim lighting situations. Yet, we still found it easy to use. It shoots very good quality video too. It’s also thinner and lighter than most full-frame cameras.

—Terry Sullivan

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