For the shutterbug in your life, how about a high-end digital SLR or a subcompact point-and-shoot? If he or she already has a great camera, our on-the-go storage pick may do the trick.
Digital SLR camera: Canon EOS 5D
It's not the newest digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera on the market and it's not the most expensive -- you can spend US$8,000 or more for a high-end professional model -- but if you're looking for a great camera to take beautiful photos and inspire confidence, take a good look at the Canon EOS 5D.
Around since late 2005, the 5D is a 12.8-megapixel camera with a full-frame CMOS sensor, meaning that every part of the original image received by the camera is taken into account for the best-possible exposure and reproduction.
The camera starts up quickly and has an ultralow shutter lag, giving users the ability to take photos faster instead of waiting for the camera to catch up. It also has a nine-point electronic autofocusing system and a manual override. The camera body also supports the use of earlier Canon EF, TS-E and MP-E film camera lenses.
Another great option is to buy a kit that includes a more useful 24mm-105mm zoom lens, rather than the 18mm-55mm lens typically packaged with a low-end digital SLR. The longer lens gives you more flexibility and creativity right out of the box.
Money-saving tip: This camera was originally priced at US$3,299 when it was introduced in August 2005, but Canon just cut the price to US$2,499 (for the body only), so be sure you're getting the right price when you buy.
If you don't want to spend this much, there are several good alternatives, including Canon's new-for-2007 10.1-megapixel EOS 40D (at US$1,499 with a 28mm-135mm zoom lens) or the very competent 6.1-megapixel Nikon D40 (at US$550). Both offer excellent photo quality and feature sets at a lower price without substantially sacrificing performance.
Price: US$2,050-US$3,000 (body only); US$2,800-US$3,200 (body with 24-105mm lens kit)
Summary: The latest model? No. Amazing image quality and performance? Yes. That's the reason for buying the Canon EOS 5D digital SLR.
Todd R. Weiss
Subcompact digital camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
There are lots of choices out there for affordable, thin, compact digital cameras that take nice photos. But if you're looking for a stellar lens, 10x optical zoom and great picture quality, look no further than the US$300 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3.
What sets this camera apart from the others is its marvelous lens, a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit zoom unit that provides great optics and a widely accommodating 4.6mm to 46mm focal length, which is equivalent to 28mm to 280mm on a 35mm camera. The lens -- backed with Panasonic's Mega optical image stabilization feature, which helps keep the images in clear focus -- produces photos with great clarity, colors and vibrancy.
One drawback, though not everyone will mind, is that it has no viewfinder to look through, leaving only a 3-in. LCD screen to compose photos, which can be tricky in bright sunlight. The Lumix DMC-TZ3 is a bit larger than some of the other subcompact cameras, but it's still small enough for easy storage.
It's even versatile enough to accept any of three styles of memory cards: SecureDigital, SDHC or MultiMedia Cards. Powered by a 1,000 mAh lithium-ion battery pack, the camera is good for 270 photos per charge (with a two-hour recharge time), according to Panasonic. It comes in silver, black or blue.