The long range

The Minolta (01908 200400) Vectis 300, pounds 260, is a cute aluminium hulled APS zoom compact with a useful 24-70mm lens. It is user friendly - clear viewfinder, LCD indicators, neat pop-up flash - and delivers sharp colourful pictures with alarming regularity. And it is the compact of choice of the UK edition of `Stuff' magazine.

The versatile

The Nikon (0800 230220) Pronea S, pounds 299, an APS SLR that thinks it's a compact. Chic styling, virtually fool proof auto mode plus all the extra capabilities when you really want to stretch yourself or get arty. Its real talent lies in its close-up shots rather than the more difficult shots in poor light, or those involving moving targets.

The executive

The Nikon (0800 230220) Coolpix 300, pounds 400, a digital camera on which you can record memos and which makes written notes on the LCD screen. It can also be used as a TV plug-in for presentations but if you want it to be sayonara for your overhead projector, you'll have to buy this camera soon as the updated versions don't have these facilities.

The pricey

The reassuring old school Leica (01908 666663) brand comes with a reassuringly expensive price tag, pounds 659, for a 40mm fixed lens compact camera - the Minilux - which looks like it was made during the Cold War. Perfect for `Wallpaper' subscribers or the amateur photographer who puts quality before quirky features.

The professional

The Canon (0181 773 6000) EOS1N, pounds 1,690, is not the number one pro 35mm SLR for nothing. It is fast and the focusing system is excellent. The only thing that comes near it is Nikon's pounds 1,900 F5, which actually beats it for speed with a staggering capacity of eight frames per second but it is more bulky into the bargain.

The watertight

The Sea & Sea Explorer (01803 663012) MX-10 is bright yellow, has one of those great flash gun attachments on the side of it and can be used underwater to depths of 45 metres. If photographing eels in the murky waters of Blackpool are your interest, then this is the chunky 32mm wide- angled tool you can trust.

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