Shopping for a digital camera is intimidating. Models change by the month, online research is complex, and camera enthusiasts have so many opinions on brands and features that it can be tough to sift through the noise. To simplify things, we've read a number of great posts from magazines, hobbyists, and professionals and culled a list of four solid performers at three different budget points.
On a Budget: Samsung WB350F ($180) - At under $200, the lightweight Samsung is a perfect travel companion. The camera has a 21x optical zoom for solid close-ups, shoots full HD video, and image stabilization. It weighs less than eight ounces, and while you should buy it if you're looking for perfect image quality, it's a great upgrade over your iPhone for a beach vacation or family outings.
Small, but Powerful: Sony Alpha 6000 ($750) - This portable mirrorless camera boasts the fastest auto-focus in the world, and is targeted to upscale photo enthusiasts. Good low-light shooting, a tilt screen for unconventional angles, and superb image quality. Great for those who don't want to compromise on quality but don't wish to lug a DSLR around. A selection of lenses make it adaptable to a range of uses.
DSLR for Hobbyists: Nikon D5200 and D5300 ($850) - The D5300 is the choice of several tech magazines as "Best Entry Level DSLR." At just over a pound, the weight is reasonable, and the 3+ inch screen is beautiful. It gets high marks for speed, shoots HD video in 1080p, and has both GPS and Wi-Fi functionality. Nikon remains the gold standard for DSLR cameras, and this model is no exception.
Money is No Object: Nikon D800 ($2,990) - This is meant for professionals, and is priced accordingly. If you're starting a portrait or wedding business, this is the go-to equipment. The camera is a bit heavy, but is sturdy and easy to hold. The 36 megapixels, in-camera HDR, and USB outputs. The image quality is excellent, and digital images are vividly detailed. It's worth noting that the features here are advanced and will require some study for non-pros - but the work may be worth it if your budget is willing and you don't wish to compromise on image quality.