Explainer: Best digital cameras for every budget

  • Whether you're doing some self-indulgent shopping or finding the perfect gift, there are a lot of fancy new cameras this year. We at have dragged dozens of models through the wringer in our ultra-scientific testing labs to come up with the best picks for every budget. These cameras all have two things in common: They take great photos, and mere mortals can afford them. (Note: I've listed manufacturer's retail pricing; in most cases, the cameras are available for even less.)

  • Under $200: You just want a good, cheap camera

    Spending less than $200 on a camera? My guess is that you just want something that takes better pictures than your cell phone. It should be easy to use, easy to fit in your pocket, and easy to afford. Enter the Nikon S4000 (MSRP $179.95). The star of the show is the camera's quality 12-megapixel photos and beautiful 3-inch touchscreen LCD. There are virtually no manual controls on this thing — it's autopilot all the way — and for some people, that's a match made in heaven. - Read the full review

  • Under $300: Your camera goes in your pocket

    Just because you want something compact and stylish doesn't mean you have to sacrifice photo quality. King of the hill in compact cams this year was the Sony DSC-TX7 (MSRP $299.99). This camera has a slick design and touchscreen controls, plus some killer low light performance — perfect for a night out on the town or a quiet evening at home. - Read the full review

  • Under $800: You're hunting for a bargain

    For $800, you can get a great DSLR like the Canon T2i or the Sony SLT-A55 ... but you'll need to invest more to buy the lens that's made to go with it. If you're trying to stick to a budget, here's some advice ... Check out the Panasonic G2 (MSRP $799), an excellent camera that uses the Micro Four Thirds system to squish SLR-like quality into a compact form factor. Not only does the G2 come with a 14-42mm lens in its base configuration, but it has lots of manual controls, touch screen and a slick swivel LCD. It's great for beginners and advanced amateurs — and won't break the bank. - Read the full review

  • Under $1,200: You're like a pro, but poorer

    There are a lot of nice cameras to choose from if you're willing to spend over $1,000, but none of this year's models swept me off my feet quite like the Canon 60D (MSRP $1,099).

    This camera has it all: gorgeous colors, sharp photos and video, and manual controls for every occasion. Your ego will grow three sizes just from owning this camera. Your family will be impressed, your friends will drool, and you'll be able to document it all in vibrant detail. - Read the full review

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