The 50 Best cameras and camcorders

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Struggling to stay focused? From smart superzooms to chic compacts, David Phelan shows you how to capture all the action

Compact System Cameras

Sony NEX-7

sony.co.uk, £1,129

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.

Fujifilm X-Prol

fujifilm.eu.uk, £1,299

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 NX20

jessops.com, £899.95

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

jessops.com, £1,149.95

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

johnlewis.com, £499.95

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.

Nikon V1

jacobsdigital.co.uk, £589.95

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.

Sony NEX-5N

argos.co.uk, £476.99

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

currys.co.uk, £379.99

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.

Panasonic DMC-GX1

jacobsdigital.co.uk, £499.95

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.

Nikon J1

comet.co.uk, £374.99

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.

 

D-SLRs:

Nikon D3200

europe-nikon.com, £649.99

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.

Sony SLT-A57

sony.co.uk, £679

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.

Leica M9

uk.leicacamera.com, £4,950

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.co.uk, £799.99

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.

 

Budget:

Nikon S3300

tesco.com, £92

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.

Olympus VG-170

argos.co.uk, £79.99

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.

Samsung DV300F

johnlewis.com; £169.95

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

jessops.com; £149.95

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.

Fujifilm L55

argos.co.uk; £43.94

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.

Fujifilm X10

johnlewis.com, £379.95

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

parkcameras.com, £359

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

leica-storemayfair.co.uk, £550

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 S9300

nikon.co.uk; £299.99

Nikon 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.

Sony DSC-HX20V

johnlewis.com; £339.95

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.

Canon G12

dixons.co.uk, £379.95

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.

Panasonic TZ30

shop.panasonic.co.uk, £349.99

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

store.canon-europe.com, £349.99

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.

Sony DSC-TX20

sony.co.uk, £329

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.

Panasonic DMC-LX5

argos.co.uk, £379.99

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.

 

Superzoom compacts:

Nikon Coolpix P510

johnlewis.com, £329.95

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.

Sony HX200V

sony.co.uk, £419

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

jessops.com, £359.95

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.

Olympus SZ-31MR

jacobsdigital.co.uk, £280.99

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

jessops.com, £334

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.    

 

Cameraphones:

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".

 

Camcorders:

Panasonic HX-WA2

pixmania.co.uk, £199

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.

Samsung W200

argos.co.uk, £74.99

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.

Sony HDR-GW55VE

parkcameras.com, £499.99

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

argos.co.uk, £199

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.

Panasonic HX-DC1

johnlewis.com, £149.99

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.

 

Accessories:

Joby GorillaPod

firebox.com, £10.79

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

parkcameras.com, £59.99

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

pixmania.co.uk, £154

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

firstcall-photographic.co.uk, £79.95

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

jessops.com; £59.95

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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