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 Canon Powershot SX600 HS gives you a lot of zoom power in a relatively small body. With a wide angle lens (minimum focal length 25mm) the Powershot SX600 HS has the flexibility to help you squeeze in wide landscape shots as well as being capable of zooming in on more distant subjects.
Owing to its smaller body size this type of camera has proved to be very popular with people travelling or taking a holiday. You get the scope to capture more or less any photo opportunity without the need to carry around a big and bulky camera. It is not just holiday makers who like this type of camera though. It is a good all rounder and suits most people looking for a smaller camera with a bit more oomph than more basic models.
In addition to the flexible lens you can shoot Full High Definition (1080p) movie clips. Although the Powershot SX600HS is not necessarily a replacement for a more advanced video camera it does the job if all you are after is capturing the moment.
It has a good sized and good quality, 3 inch LCD screen gives you WiFi connectivity options too. Canon have built in image stabilisation to help you get sharp shots when you are using full zoom power or when the light starts to fade.
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 Cybershot DSC TX55 is one of the slimmest digital cameras around at just over 13mm wide. It is touch controlled, with a large 3.3 inch LCD screen. It can produce 3D still images as well as 3D panoramas. The Cybershot DSC TX55 is able to shoot High Definition movies and is available in red, black, silver and violet.
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 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 A55V has a great range of features for a mid priced Digital SLR. These include 16 megapixels, shooting at 10 frames per second, Full High Definition movies, GPS tagging, a 3 inch vari angle LCD screen and a sweep panorama mode. The sweep panorama mode has a 3D option. There is also setting to increase the dynamic range of your photos. This brings out extra detail in the lightest and darkest areas of your photos.
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 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 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 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 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 D7000 is a mid range Digital SLR. Key features include the ability to capture still images at speeds of up to 6 frames per second for 100 images. The camera can also record Full High Definition movies with a maximum resolution of 1080p. You also have the option of adding a stereo microphone for recording sound. There is a 3 inch LCD screen in addition to the optical viewfinder. For focusing Nikon have equipped the D7000 with 39 Auto Focus points including 9 cross type points.
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 E-P2 has a 3 inch LCD screen, manual exposure modes, a 3 frames per second burst mode and can shoot High Definition movies. It can also capture photos in RAW, has an 11 point Auto Focus system and has a maximum ISO setting of 6400.
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 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 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 Lumix DMC GX1 offers manual exposure controls (Fully Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority), Full High Definition movies and the ability to store images in RAW format. There is a 3 inch LCD screen. The screen allows you to change some settings by touch. There is also the option to purchase a viewfinder. This is attached to the Lumix DMC GX1 via a hot shoe.
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 Canon Powershot G16 is an advanced digital camera with many features you would expect to find on a Digital SLR. These include a range of manual exposure controls, plus the ability to shoot in RAW mode. This set of features makes the Powershot G16 the ideal choice for an enthusiast who is looking for a camera that is much smaller and lighter than a Digital SLR.
Other features that stand out include the 5x, 28mm, wide angle lens. One of the main attractions of the lens is that it has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. This means that the lens lets in a lot of extra light when you are taking a picture. This comes into its own if you are taking pictures in lowlight situations such as indoors or at dusk. Your pictures should be noticeably sharper and brighter in these conditions.
If you are looking for more zoom power from the Powershot G16 it also offers a 10x zoom plus feature, allowing you to zoom in when needed.
High speed shooting is catered for with a burst speed of 9.3 frames per second at full resolution. This is a very handy feature if you are shooting any kind of action.
In addition to the features above the Powershot G16 has a high quality, 3 inch LCD screen. This gives you clear viewing for composing images as well as reviewing them. You also have access to Wi-Fi for sharing your photos and video clips.
When you want to shoot movie clips you can switch to movie mode. This produces HD quality movies with a capture speed for 60 frames per second. You can also record sound in stereo.
For a small digital camera the Canon Powershot S120 packs a punch. This makes it an ideal choice for someone who wants more than point and shoot simplicity.
Packed inside the camera body are an advanced set of manual controls giving you greater creative control over the way your photos will look. As well as being able to control shutter speeds and aperture size you also get access to enhanced white balance controls, plus manual focus and additional auto focus settings.
Other impressive features include Wi-Fi connectivity, a 3 inch, touch controlled LCD screen and the ability to capture full resolution images at a rate of 9.4 frames per second. You also get access to a RAW mode. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to post processing your photos.
Canon have equipped the Powershot S120 with Full High Definition movies. The ability to record at 60 frames per second gives you smoother 1080p movies.
Canon’s HS system helps to produce better quality photos in lowlight. A lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 is another key feature to help you with lowlight photography.
All in all the Powershot S120 offers a lot of power and control to someone who sees photography as a hobby or would like a convenient alternative to a larger Digital SLR.
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.