Get ready for lots of innovation. Wireless capability is showing up on all types of cameras, from subcompacts to SLRs. That makes it easy to share images with friends and upload shots to social-media sites. Built-in zoom is getting longer, even on basic point-and-shoots, so you can capture long-range shots. More waterproof cameras are coming out, including one that accepts interchangeable lenses. Such bells and whistles haven’t come at the expense of image quality. Many cameras we’ve tested offer very good photos and video. More good news—prices are inching down, especially at the high end.
Every family has one—a shutterbug who wants to control every aspect of a photo but doesn’t want to lug around a heavy camera. The Canon EOS Rebel SL1, $750, a CR Best Buy, can do the trick. Small and very light for an SLR, it has very good image quality and performance across the board, and a very good through-the-lens viewfinder. It also shoots sharp photos (even in low light without a flash) and very good video. The swiveling touch-screen LCD is handy when taking hard-to-reach shots.
For something more powerful but heftier, consider a new SLR, the 20-megapixel Canon EOS 70D, $1,350 with lens (which we haven’t yet tested). There’s a lot of buzz about its auto-focus system, which Canon says will offer smooth, precise focusing for videos—a weakness for many SLRs—as well as for still photos. The EOS 70D will quickly refocus on a subject (as a camcorder does), such as a soccer player racing toward the camera, according to Canon. Built-in wireless technology allows easy photo sharing.
The connected traveler
Whether exotic landscapes or a little town on the prairie are on the itinerary, your globetrotter will appreciate a camera with Wi-Fi capability to access wireless hot spots or mobile devices, for quick uploads of photos and video to social networks. Also handy: built-in GPS that can geotag photos to keep track of all those travels. The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS, $300, has all that, plus a long zoom lens (20x optical zoom), and it’s portable and lightweight
If being able to zoom great distances is more important than wireless connectivity or light weight, consider a model such as the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70, $400 (which we have not yet tested). Its 60x zoom can photograph even craters on the moon.
The family historian
Here’s one for the memory-keeper who fills photo albums with shots of everyone and his uncle—literally. Some of those magic moments take place on a field or stage, so a superzoom such as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300, $450, with its extremely long, 50x optical zoom lens, is just the ticket. Unlike most basic cameras, it has an electronic viewfinder, which makes it easy to compose shots in bright light that would wash out an LCD. Plus, this Cyber-shot can capture 3D photos.
If something smaller and lighter would fit the bill, consider the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V, $450, which has a 30x optical zoom. A bonus: It can communicate wirelessly with a smart phone or tablet. By downloading an app to a mobile device, it’s also possible to wirelessly control the HX50V from afar—say, if it’s placed near the stage or finish line to capture a close-up.