Honorable mention: Need a sturdier, more indestructible model that still takes nice photos? Then check out the Olympus Stylus 790SW, a $300, 7.1-megapixel subcompact digital camera that's shockproof (withstands drops from five feet), dustproof, waterproof to 10 feet and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
It comes in five fun colors and takes nice photos, but Olympus' press release highlights the really cool part: "When the camera gets dirty, just rinse it off in the sink!"
Lumix DMC-TZ3 Price: US$230-US$350
Summary: With its great lens, a powerful 10x optical zoom and small size, the Panasonic DMC-TZ3 is a great all-around subcompact digital camera choice.
Stylus 790SW Price: US$245-US$299
Summary: Waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof, the Olympus Stylus 790SW is just the camera to toss in your backpack for your next outdoor adventure.
Todd R. Weiss Camera for taking YouTube videos: Casio Exilim EX-Z77
For videographers, last year was all about hard drives and high-definition video. This year is all about convenience and instant gratification. Specifically, it's about quick-and-dirty shooting and simple, instant uploading to YouTube. A handful of companies have introduced cameras that let you shoot in the format best suited for YouTube and then use supplied software to simplify the posting process.
This new category of digital still/video cameras is being pushed primarily by Pure Digital, Casio and Sony. And because it's all about simplicity, Casio's Exilim EX-Z77 takes the prize as the gift of choice, mostly because Casio has an exclusive agreement -- at least through the holiday shopping season -- to market the "YouTube Capture Mode" in its cameras and to include bundled software that connects directly to YouTube. You don't even have to access the YouTube Web site with a browser.
The EX-Z77 is basically a 7.2-megapixel still digicam with enhanced video features. It features a 0.5-in. square pixel color CCD (charge-coupled device), 2.6-in. LCD and 3x optical zoom -- pretty much standard fare. But it's the "get it on the Web" features that make it stand out. Besides the YouTube optimization, it also caters to eBay sellers with an eBay Best Shot setting -- basically a setting preset tailored for optimum eBay presentation of still photos.
The EX-Z77 stores up to 10 minutes of video in the MPEG-4 H.264 format -- ideal for the Web -- at 30 frames per second and 640- by 480-pixel resolution. It also offers 848- by 480-pixel resolution for video to display on 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen TVs. The camera has about 11MB of internal storage, but it also accepts several different kinds of memory cards. For less than US$200, it puts the YouToo into YouTube.
Price: US$161-US$200 Summary: Casio's Exilim EX-Z77 is a digital still/video camera that simplifies shooting Web-optimized video and posting it on YouTube. David Ramel