The 50 Best cameras and camcorders
Struggling to stay focused? From smart superzooms to chic compacts, David Phelan shows you how to capture all the action
Compact System Cameras
Mirrorless or Compact System Cameras offer striking results from compact machines. Space is saved because there's no lens reflex mechanism (so they are not SLRs), but they have interchangeable lenses. This one has a huge 24.3-megapixel resolution and lots of user controls.
The 16MP X-Pro1 is styled to look retro (you adjust the exposure using an aperture ring on the lens) but is full of hi-tech extras such as a virtual horizon to help you keep your landscapes level. It's straightforward to use, though not for total novices, and takes tremendous photos.
Samsung's mirrorless cameras are consistently enjoyable to use and this brand new model is deeply impressive. It has a 20.3MP sensor and wifi to remotely save your photos to the cloud. Although accessible, the extra features and manual controls make it especially good for experienced photographers.
Olympus OMD E-M5
The OMD E-M5 has a 16MP sensor and a touch panel display that tilts outwards to help with tricky shots. Performance is fast and efficient, picture sharpness is outstanding.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5
Like many Compact System Cameras, the 12MP GF5 lacks a viewfinder, so it's smaller. It suits those moving up from a compact. Panasonic and Olympus use the Micro Four Thirds system, with a sensor smaller than APS-C but way bigger than a compact.
Although the 10MP CX sensor here is smaller than many around, it still gets great results. Its mechanical shutter is faster than the electronic shutter many digital cameras favour.
The NEX-5N sits comfortably in the hand whether shooting stills or HD video. The 3in screen is touch-sensitive, making it quick and accessible in use. It has a 16MP sensor.
Olympus PEN E-PL3
The Olympus PEN range, evoking a popular Fifties Olympus film camera, peaks with this stylish 12MP model. Smaller than most, it excels at fast autofocus.
The 16MP GX1 is full of features such as a fast continuous burst mode, speedy autofocus and excellent build quality. You can even set the focus by poking the touchscreen display.
The J1 is similar to the V1 above, though it lacks the mechanical shutter and electronic viewfinder. Fun extras include a mode which records a short clip and gives it musical backing.
Some single Lens Reflex cameras, like this one, are designed to appeal to beginners trading up from compacts – there's a guide mode for newbies. This is a spectacular entry-level camera.
This camera uses Sony's special translucent mirror that offers fast autofocus and high-speed shooting because the mirror doesn't need to move – the light goes through. The 16MP sensor excels at images with low noise.
This is a rangefinder camera, not a D-SLR, but is included here as it has exceptional components, lenses and build quality, plus a full-frame 18MP sensor. It's not simple but it takes outstanding photographs.
Canon EOS 650D
Canon's EOS range of D-SLRs is impressive. Its entry-level gems include this, the 650D, the latest model. It has an 18MP sensor, a 3in touchscreen display, is easy to use and even the automated settings create great shots.
15 Nikon D800
jessops.com, £2,599 (body)
Experienced photographers will appreciate the specs on this 36MP camera. It has a full-frame sensor (the biggest in an SLR) for exceptional resolution and boasts solid build quality.
The 16MP S3300 is super-slim, great to use and stuffed with features from auto settings to filter effects. It's especially strong for portraits thanks to extras like its Smile Timer.
Small but stylish, this 14MP camera has an unusually bright flash. Some images in lower light can be blighted by noise if you don't use it, but its both appealing and affordable.
Only Samsung has this dual view effect: a small LCD on the front of the screen shows you what the lens is seeing, so it's perfect for self-portraits. This 16MP camera has wifi built in.
Canon PowerShot A4000IS
This slim camera has a decent 8x zoom and a 16MP sensor. It is particularly strong when it comes to image sharpness and colour fidelity.
It's hard to imagine a camera costing much less than this. It may have a plastic case, but the 12MP L55 also has blink detection and smile shutter – and takes decent photographs.
Compacts are the perfect everyday camera.. The X10 is a stunning 12MP version with pleasing retro looks and an excellent lens. The price has dropped recently, too.
Olympus Tough TG-1
This all-metal-body camera, out next month, is safe underwater to a depth of 12 metres, shockproof so you can drop it from a height of six feet and crushproof to forces up to 100kg.
Leica V-Lux 40
This Leica compact matches the company’s trademark superb lens with decent 14MP sensor. It packs an impressive 20x zoom. Stunning design and great build quality.
nikon.co.uk; £299.99Nikon has a gift for compacts. The 16MP S9300 is good for stills and high-definition video, with GPS to tag shots. There's an 18x optical zoom and 19 scene modes to adjust the exposure.
The long zoom is 20x, doubling to 40x with digital optimisation, so ideal for zooming in on distant objects. Even so, the 18MP camera is still small enough to be a compact.
The 10MP G12 is a power compact with a 5x zoom. It uses Canon's HS system which offers stronger results in low-light situations – often a compact's Achilles' heel. An ideal back-up camera for a D-SLR user.
The 14MP Panasonic has an impressive 20x optical zoom. If it sounds similar to the LeicaV-Lux 40 above, it is. A tie-up between the companies means they have identical innards. Still has a Leica lens; cheaper, too.
Canon Ixus 510HS
The Ixus is Canon's style range and this 10MP model is suitably slim and cute. It has a big touch-sensitive display, making image playback easy. There's also wifi built in so you can send images wirelessly to compatible kit.
This is Sony's super-slim compact, though there's still room for plenty of features like shooting 3D images and HD video. It's also water-, dust-, freeze- and shockproof. An ideal holiday camera, then.
The 10MP LX5 is an impressive high-end compact. It's not cheap but it feels luxurious and is a great size. It has a bright 3in LCD screen and an excellent Q (for quick) menu interface.
Nikon Coolpix P510
Superzooms may look like SLRs but you can't change the lens. The high-performance P520 is so powerful that for many it will be as useful as an SLR. The lens manages a huge 42x zoom.
This 18MP model includes a 30x zoom, so it's easy to get right up close to the action. Also features Sweep Panorama which stitches images together immaculately as you pan across a landscape.
Fujifilm Finepix HS30EXR
Effective manual controls, a 30x zoom and an electronic viewfinder, so you won't be limited to using the LCD screen to frame shots. Features to please novices and enthusiasts alike.
This is a capable 24x zoom camera in a frankly tiny shell. It is fast and responsive and the 16MP sensor lets you shoot full HD video and full-resolution still images simultaneously.
Canon PowerShot SX40HS
The 12MP SX40 HS is the latest in a series of reliably effective superzooms from Canon. It has a 35x zoom and lots of settings to make the most of the extended capabilities.
Nokia 8080 PureView
europe.nokia.com, free with contract
It's only a mobile phone but it has a lens from Carl Zeiss and a 41MP photographic sensor. That's not a misprint. It's fun and effective.
Apple iPhone 4S
apple.com/uk, free with contract
The 8MP iPhone 4S succeeds on the basis of sublime ease of use, a highly effective sensor and a great lens structure. With High Dynamic Range options it's easy to achieve dramatic effects.
HTC One X
phones4u.co.uk, free with contract
At 4.7in the screen is bigger than you'll find on a dedicated snapper. You can shoot stills simultaneously with video or extract stills from video later.
Sony Xperia S
phones4u.co.uk, from free on contract
Pixel count isn't everything but the 12MP sensor on this phone is above average – as is the screen which is exceptionally high resolution. Easy to use, too.
Samsung Galaxy SIII
orange.co.uk, free with contract
Samsung's newest phone has the biggest screen – at 4.8in it even beats the HTC One X. The phone's voice controls mean you can trigger the shutter remotely by saying "Cheese".
The pistol-grip styling of this HD camcorder makes it easily pocketable and comfortable to hold. This model is waterproof, so ideal for beach or skiing holidays, and you can shoot stills as well.
Water- and dustproof, it can shoot at full HD, recording video to microSD cards. The 2.3in screen makes playback comfortable. The only downside is the lack of an optical zoom. Great value, mind.
For best results, a premium HD camcorder like this is ideal. Slim and comfy to use and also waterproof, its sensor is high-resolution (especially good in low light) and it has an excellent image stabilisation feature.
Toshiba Camileo X400
This budget camcorder offers a lot for the money, including an excellent sensor, a 23x optical zoom, a video light and a jack to attach a microphone. It doesn't match the picture quality of the Sony, left, but it's great value.
This nifty little camcorder comes in a neat white Olympic edition, though sadly not with tickets included. You can shoot 14MP still shots and full HD video. The 3in display folds flat.
This is a genuine innovation: a simple but versatile camera tripod you can use anywhere. Attach the adaptor to your camera and then quickly slot the Gorillapod into place.
Phottix Light Tent Cube Soft Box
Light-diffusing cube makes it much easier to take professional quality images of objects such as a mobile phone, losing reflections and shadows.
HP Envy 110 printer
You'll need a printer and this one works well, looks good and saves space. Has great reliability and print quality as well. It's wireless so you can print from your bedroom to the study.
Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly
This ingenious device has a light to help see any dirt on an SLR sensor, and a small motor creates a static charge which attracts the dust safely away.
Sandisk Extreme 16GB SDHC Card
Most cameras now take SD cards, and these have dropped in price. To avoid running out of space, opt for a high-capacity model like this one.
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