Pixel This!

The confident shopper's guide to digital cameras

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Ruggedly Handsome: Olympus 790 SW
When the going gets tough in the great outdoors, the smart grab this nearly bulletproof Olympus. Water doesn't faze the 790 SW—it can shoot to a 10-foot depth without leaks, and when you return topside, the water-repellent lens coating makes the transition to land-based snap-shooting seamlessly. Winter weather won't stop you either. You may turn blue at temperatures down to 14 degrees, but your photos will be correctly colorful. Finally, while most LCD displays wash out in harsh outdoor light, the Olympus screen uses a reflective layer to enhance the visible display.
7.1 megapixels, 3x zoom lens, 3.7" x 2.4" x 0.8", 4.8 oz., olympusamerica.com, $300
Manual Dexterity: Canon PowerShot G9
With the G9, Canon delivers the photographic flexibility prosumers crave in a portable, affordable package. You get full 12.1-megapixel resolution, a hotshoe for connecting an external flash (bouncing flash can make a huge difference in your photos), both an LCD screen and an optical viewfinder (great for bright days or saving battery power), a multitude of focus and metering options, optical image stabilization, RAW file capability, extremely high light-sensitivity settings (up to ISO 3200) and a premium-quality 6x zoom lens. Not bad for a camera that fits in your jacket pocket.
12.1 megapixels, 6x zoom lens, 4.2" x 2.8" x 1.7", 11.3 oz., $500
Touching Experience: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200
Switch on the T200 for the first time and experience big-screen bliss—that bright, colorful 3.5-inch screen feels mighty luxurious next to the typical 2.5-inch camera display. But where did all the buttons go? The secret's in the screen, a touch-sensitive display that eliminates confusion by showing only the controls you need, when you need them. When taking a picture, you can pick the spot in a scene where you want the camera to focus by tapping the screen. And during playback, even sophisticated in-camera editing features such as red-eye removal, image cropping, photo borders and filter effects are point-and-click easy.
8.1 megapixels, 5x zoom lens, 3.8" x 2.4" x 1.8", 6.6 oz., hp.com, $300
Pretty as a Picture: Fujifilm Z10fd
Just because the Z10fd is slim and gorgeous (perfectly pocketable at just more than four ounces, and decked out in seven blistering colors including Wasabi Green and Sunset Orange), don't write it off as a toy. The face detection system works like a charm with up to 10 folks in the frame, will automatically remove red-eye if you'd like and can even jump instantly between zoomed-in views of the faces in your photos during playback. Speaking of playback, the micro thumbnail mode is ingenious, displaying up to 100 tiny images (they enlarge when you move the cursor over them) for quickly showing off your favorite shots. Drop-dead good looks, innovative features and a bargain price—that's a lot to like.
7.2 megapixels, 3x zoom lens, 3.6" x 2.2" x 0.8", 3.9 oz., fujifilm.com, $200
Start Them Young: Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera
Want to turn bored, squirmy little kids instantly happy? Hand them a camera and let them start taking pictures. Of course, most cameras would last about 90 seconds in the hands of a three-year-old, but trust the folks at Fisher Price to develop a nearly indestructible solution. The Kid-Tough uses a two-handed grip, so even little fingers can hold it steady, and a two-eyed viewfinder so they don't have to squint. It's easy to use but still offers key grown-up features kids want, including built-in flash, a 1.3" color LCD, and the ability to hold hundreds of photos when you add an inexpensive SD memory card. Photo quality is cell phone grade at best, but if that's good enough for hordes of teenagers, it's going to be fine for your child or grandchild.
3 megapixel, 6"x 4" x 2.5" $70, fisher-price.com
Zoom With a View: Olympus E-510
Every digital SLR has an LCD screen, but ordinarily it's limited to reviewing photos you've taken—actually shooting requires one-eyed peering through an optical viewfinder. The E-510 is an exception, with a "Live View" system that lets you shoot at arm's length, lining up shots on the LCD. Frankly, I'm still more comfortable using the viewfinder (a matter of taste), but Olympus included two additional features that won me over. A supersonic vibration system automatically cleans the image sensor every time you turn on the E-510—manually cleaning is a royal pain in theÉum, camera. And an effective image stabilization system is built right into the camera body, so any lens (even inexpensive ones) reaps the benefit.
10 megapixels, 5.35" x 3.6" x 2.7", 16.6 oz. (body only), olympusamerica.com, $799 (body only), $899 with 14—42mm lens
Nikon on a Budget: Nikon D40x
The baby of the extensive Nikon digital SLR family, the D40x still boasts a wealth of grown-up features, including the ability to shoot at a blistering three frames per second, light sensitivity up to 1600 ISO and extensive in-camera image editing. And, of course, compatibility with a wide range of excellent Nikon lenses is a major draw for image-conscious shooters. In fact, the only truly pint-sized feature is the bargain price—I've found the D40x selling online, with lens, for around $700.
10.2 megapixels, 5.0" x 3.7" x 2.5", 17 oz. (body only), nikonusa.com, $730 (body only), $800 (with 18-55mm lens)
Sensor-y Pleasures: Canon EOS 5D
If you're the type who likes making really big prints, or dreams of having your images published in National Geographic, this relatively hefty camera delivers unsurpassed image quality. The secret? An image sensor much larger than other digital SLRs. In fact, the sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film, which delivers two profound benefits. First, a big sensor means each individual light-sensitive dot can be larger, allowing for noise-free images. Second, the standard lenses designed for 35mm cameras work just as they were designed to work, while other digital SLRs artificially boost the lens magnification, effectively cutting down on their wide-angle capabilities. For gorgeous panoramas or group shots where everybody fits in the frame, you can't beat it.
12.8 megapixels, 6.0" x 4.4" x 3.0", 28.6 oz. (body only), canonusa.com, $3,299 (body only)
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