Once you look to pay between £300 and £500 for a digital camera you open up a choice between the most advanced compact digital cameras and lower priced Digital SLRs and Compact System Cameras.
In almost every case a camera in this price range will have a fairly complete range of advanced features. These cameras are aimed at you if you see photography as a serious hobby.
Often the more advanced digital cameras on this list are used as second cameras if you already own a Digital SLR, but find it is not always practical to carry one with you.
Perhaps the biggest question you face shopping in this price bracket is whether to go for a top of the range compact digital camera or buy an entry level Digital SLR or Compact System Camera. If you are trying to decide what is right for you it may be worth considering if you plan to invest further in your camera equipment at a later date or if this is more of a one off purchase. If it is a one off purchase then a top of the range compact may be the answer. If you feel future investment is likely then a Digital SLR or Compact System Camera will give you much greater flexibility and the chance to build on and enhance your equipment when you are ready to do so.
Canon have excelled themselves with the Powershot S100 when it comes to packing features into an extremely compact body. The specification makes very impressive reading, especially when you consider this camera will fit into a good sized pocket.
Features include a large maximum aperture (f2), Full High Definition movies, manual exposure controls, a wide angle lens, GPS picture tagging, a top shooting speed of 9.6 frames per second, RAW capture, image stabilisation for stills and movie footage, a range of different aspect ratios and a high dynamic range mode. It has a 3 inch LCD screen and the flash unit pops up on top of the camera away from the lens. This can help to reduce red eye.
The Powershot SX40 HS is a serious piece of kit. It offers extreme zoom power as well as the ability to photograph wide scenes such as landscapes and groups of people. It has an impressive set of manual controls too. The movie mode is one of the most advanced you are likely to find. Other features include a 2.7 inch LCD screen that pulls away from the body and can be twisted round at an angle to provide you with a comfortable shooting position.
The Powershot D10 is the first Canon digital camera to be waterproof (to 10m), freezeproof (to -10 degrees) and shockproof (to 1.22m). It is also dust proof. Aside from those features this is a relatively straightforward, point and shoot digital camera.
The D5100 has a vari angle, 3 inch LCD screen, the ability to shoot 1080p High Definition movies and an 11 point Auto Focus system. Other features include a High Dynamic Range setting and a series of in camera effects include low key and high key modes.
The Powershot SX260 HS packs a wide range of features into a relatively small body size. These include GPS tracking, a 20x wide angle lens, a 3 inch LCD screen and manual exposure controls (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority). It can shoot High Definition movies with stereo sound as well as slow motion movies. It has image stabilisation for both still photos and movies.
The Optio WG-1 GPS offers GEO tagging so that you know exactly where you were when a picture was taken. It is waterproof to depths of 10m, protected against falls of up to 1.5m, crushproof to weights of 100kg and freezeproof to temperatures down to -10 degrees centigrade. It has a 2.7 inch LCD screen and can shoot High Definition movies. It also has five lights around the lens. These are activated fro close up shots to ensure your subject is lit correctly.
The Lumix DMC FZ200 is one of the most advanced super zoom digital cameras. The 24x zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8. This aperture is available right across the zoom range. Other features include manual exposure controls, a 3 inch LCD screen that can be pulled out and twisted round to give you a more comfortable shooting position and an electronic viewfinder. It also has Image Stabilisation, Full HD movies with stereo sound, Image Stabilisation and a macro mode that can focus from 1 cm away from your subject.
The Cybershot DSC HX100V has a range of advanced features. These include 3D shooting capabilities and an advanced movie mode. It has a range of manual exposure controls as well as GPS positioning and a built in compass. You can shoot at up to 10 frames per second and there is also a background defocus mode to help produce photos where your subject stands out. The 30x wide angle lens offers wide angle capabilities.
The Lumix DMC GF5 can store images in RAW format. It gives you a choice of four different aspect ratios 4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 1:1. It has a set of manual exposure controls and can shoot Full High Definition Movies with stereo sound. The LCD screen is 3 inches in size and is made up of 920,000 dots. This camera is small and lightweight compared with other Compact System Cameras.
The IXUS 1100 HS has a wide angle lens. The lens also has plenty of scope for zooming in on more distant subjects. This means you have a great amount of flexibility from a camera that is small enough to slip into a larger pocket. There is an advanced movie mode with the IXUS 1100 HS able to shoot full format HD (1080) movies. Another movie option allows you to shoot slow motion movies. There is also a movie mode for shooting in Apple iFrame format.
The Cybershot DSC HX10V has Full High Definition Movies, GPS, a 3 inch LCD screen and a good quality G series lens. Other features include Image Stabilisation for still shots and movies, a macro mode that can focus from 5cm away from your subject and a 3D photo mode. There is a high speed burst mode that can capture shots at up to 10 frames per second, plus a feature that can defocus backgrounds to make your subject stand out more. There is an inbuilt guide and an Easy Shooting mode.
The Coolpix P7100 offers a range of advanced features if you are looking for a smaller digital camera as an alternative to a Digital SLR. Features include manual control settings – fully manual, aperture, priority and shutter priority, plus the ability to store images in RAW format. For composition you can use an optical viewfinder or a high resolution, 3 inch LCD screen. You also have access to a macro mode that can focus from 2cm away from the subject and a High Definition movie mode.
The EOS 1100D is aimed at anyone looking to buy their first Digital SLR. It includes an on screen help to guide you through all the main features. Features include 12 megapixels, a 2.7 inch LCD screen, a viewfinder and High Definition movies, plus Eye-Fi connected features to help you upload your photos to your computer and photo sharing websites.
The Nex-5n has quite an array of features. It offers manual exposure controls and can shoot at up to 10 frames per second. The LCD screen is 3 inches in size and is controlled through touch. There is an advanced movie mode with the Nex-5n being able to capture High Definition movie footage with stereo sound. Sony have also built in a number of tips and a help guide to make it easy for you to get started.
The Lumix DMC FZ62 has plenty of features to get your teeth into. As well as the 24x zoom lens there are a set of manual exposure controls (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority), Image Stabilisation and a 1cm macro mode. You can shoot High Definition Movies with stereo sound. The LCD screen is 3 inches in size and you also have the option of using an electronic viewfinder.
The big attraction of the Powershot S95 is likely to be the range of features packed into such a compact body size. There are plenty of advanced features to get your teeth into. These include a RAW mode, manual exposure controls, manual focusing and a maximum aperture of f/2. This large aperture is likely to come in handy when shooting in lowlight.
The EP-3 has a range of manual controls (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority). It is touch screen operated through a 3 inch OLED screen. Image stabilisation has been built in and the camera is capable of shooting High Definition movies with stereo sound. There is a 35 point Auto Focus system and images can be stored in RAW mode. The E-P3 has a metal finish and is available in white, black and silver.
Attractions of the Lumix DMC LX5 include a full set of manual exposure controls and manual focusing. The maximum aperture of f/2 is likely to make a difference to picture quality when shooting in lowlight. Panasonic have produced a number of options that allow you to customise the camera. These include optional extras such as an external flash unit and viewfinder. There is also a filter ring. A selection wheel or jog dial on the back of the camera makes it fast and easy to change settings.
The Coolpix P7700 has a range of advanced features. These include a burst mode that works at the rate of 8 frames per second, manual exposure controls (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority) and RAW capture. The Full High Definition Movie mode can record in surround sound. In addition there is a 3 inch LCD screen that pulls out away from the body so that you can find a more comfortable shooting position.
The SZ-31MR has a wide angle lens, a 3 inch LCD screen and a macro mode that can focus from 3cm away from your subject for close up photography. Other features include being able to shoot High Definition movies, image stabilisation and a special mode for creating panoramic shots. You can attach the camera to a USB port when the battery needs charging.
The EOS 600D offers full High Definition movies. It has 9 point Auto Focus, an ISO range of 100 – 6400 (expandable to 128,000) and can reel off still images at a top speed of 3.7 frames per second. To help you compose photos from awkward shooting positions there is a 3 inch, vari angle LCD screen. If you are new to this level of camera then you are likely to find the on screen camera guide is very useful.
The Lumix DMC GF2 is remarkably small for a camera that offers you the ability to interchange lenses. The camera body itself is almost pocket sized. There are plenty of advanced features on offer for the more discerning photographer. These include manual exposure, Full High Definition movies, 3.2 frames per second and a 3 inch touch controlled LCD screen.
The Powershot G1 X has a number of advanced features. These include manual exposure settings (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority), custom modes, RAW, a 4.5 frames per second burst mode and image stabilisation for both still shots and movies. High Definition movies with stereo sound can be recorded. The LCD screen is 3 inches in size and can be pulled away from the body and twisted round to find a more comfortable shooting angle. There is also an optical viewfinder.
The Nikon D90 is a 12 megapixel Digital SLR. This SLR is aimed at serious photography enthusiasts. The D90 is compatible with Nikon’s NIKKOR range of lenses. It also includes a movie mode. For composing photos there is a Live View Mode.
The Finepix X-S1 is an advanced super zoom digital camera. The 26x zoom lens also has wide angle capabilities. Key features include High Definition movies with stereo sound, image stabilisation, a tilting 3 inch LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder. For close up work the Finepix X-S1 is able to focus from 1cm away from your subject.
The SLT A37 is an entry level Digital SLR. It can shoot High Definition Movies, has a set of manual exposure controls and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. Key features include Image Stabilisation and a burst mode that can capture images at a maximum speed of 7 frames per second. It also has a Handheld Twilight mode and a HDR mode for bringing out increased levels of detail in photos where there is a lot of contrast.
The Cybershot DSC HX200V is one of the most impressive digital cameras when it comes to the range of features on offer. As well as its 30x zoom lens it has a set of manual exposure controls. It can shoot High Definition Movies and you also have the option to take still photos when you are shooting a movie. For composing your shots you have a choice of a 3 inch, tilting LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder. In addition you can create 3D still images, defocus backgrounds and fire off bursts of photos at a rate of 10 frames per second. It also has GPS.
The Nikon 1 V1 has a wide range of more advanced features. These include manual exposure controls, a 73 point auto focus system and the ability to capture action at a rate of 10 frames per second. For composing images you can choose between a 3 inch LCD screen and an Electronic Viewfinder. The camera is also capable of recording where you are in the world when a picture was taken through its built in GPS tracking system. You will also find an advanced movie mode. The camera is capable of shooting Full High Definition movies, movies that can be played back in slow motion and capturing still images when you are shooting a movie.
The Nikon 1 J1 has a selection of manual exposure controls. If is capable of capturing the action at a rate of 10 frames per second. Focusing options include a 73 point Auto Focus system. Photos can be stored in RAW as well as Jpeg. For composing photos the LCD screen is 3 inches in size. Movies options include being able to shoot Full High Definition movies, shooting slow motion movies and being able to take still snaps when a movie is being recorded.
The E-PL3 offers manual exposure controls (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority), manual focusing, image stabilisation and the ability to store images in RAW format. It has a metal finish and is available in silver, black, red and white. It is able to record Full High Definition movies with stereo sound. The 3 inch LCD screen tilts away from the body for when you find yourself in tricky shooting conditions.
The E-PM1 has image stabilisation, manual exposure controls and manual focusing. It also has a 35 point Auto Focus system and AF tracking. It can store photos in RAW format and has a 3 inch LCD screen. Your movie needs are catered for by the ability to shoot Full High Definition movies with stereo sound. Olympus have included an in camera user guide.