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.
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 SP-810UZ offers exceptional zoom power with a 36x zoom lens. It has a mode for shooting 3D still images and can also record High Definition movies. Image stabilisation is available and there is a 3 inch LCD screen for composing your photos. For close up shots there is a macro mode that can focus from 5 cm away form your subject. The SP-810UZ is available in silver and black.
The Lumix DMC 3D1 produces 3D images. It can also shoot 3D video clips as well as being able to shoot 2D High Definition movies. The camera uses two lenses to create the 3D images. When you are not shooting in 3D mode they can be used for dual shooting of 2D wide and zoom photos. Other features include a 3.5 inch LCD screen. The screen gives you touch control. The Lumix DMC 3D1 also has the capability to shoot 2D images at 8 frames per second.
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 Finepix X-Pro1 has a retro look and feel to it. Inside the camera is packed with a lot of the latest technology. This includes a new type of sensor that is closer in design to how film operates than a typical digital sensor. As you would expect this camera has a range of manual controls as well as a hot shoe for attaching an external flash unit. There is also a 3 inch LCD screen and a hybrid viewfinder that has both optical and electronic settings.
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.
This mid range Digital SLR is capable of capturing up to 5.3 frames per second for up to 58 jpegs. It has a 3 inch vari angle LCD screen and a 9 point cross type AF system. ISO can be set between 100 and 6400. This is expandable to 12,800. In camera RAW processing allows you to adjust settings such as white balance and to correct distortion or chromatic aberration.
The XZ-1 has plenty of advanced features. These include manual exposure controls, image stabilisation and High Definition movies. There are a number of optional extras available too. For example you can add an external flash unit, viewfinder and stereo microphone.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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 Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II is about as advanced as you can get without stepping up to a Digital SLR. Image quality is guaranteed through the large1.5 type 18.7 x 14mm CMOS sensor. This is a clear step up from other digital cameras, even models that are considered to be advanced.
The lens has a large maximum aperture of f/2, with a minimum focal length of 24mm. This combination gives you plenty of creative scope. You can shoot in lower light and squeeze in wider scenes.
As you might expect, Canon have equipped the Powershot G1 X Mark II with an array of manual controls. These include fully manual exposure, aperture priority and shutter priority. In addition to these settings there are extra options to fine tune white balance. You also get access to manual focusing, plus a 31 point AiAF. You can boost ISO up to 12,800.
For when you want to carry out post processing, the RAW mode provides you with far greater scope to get your pictures looking exactly the way you would like them too. With built in Wi-Fi images and movie clips can be shared easily. Wireless remote shooting is available too.
The LCD screen is touch controlled and is 3 inches in size. The tilt type screen makes your life easier when shooting at awkward angles.
You can capture Full HD movies with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Movies can be recorded at 30 frames per second.
Canon have packed a lot into the Powershot G1 X Mark II, making it an excellent choice for the more discerning photographer.
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.