I've been doing a bit of research to help a friend find a deal on a new camera for the summer. He is definitely a camera newbie and isn't sure if he wants to step up to a digital SLR or just upgrade his point-and-shoot. While he's excited for a new camera, he'd have no problem buying last year's model to save a few bucks. Since most camera models usually just seeing minor updates each year, getting a deal can be the bigger incentive for many people out there. So, I've decided to share some of my research giving a brief overview of the top 5 cameras of 2011. I've picked two popular entry-level DSLR's, one bridge camera, a nice point-and-shoot, and one rugged waterproof camera. Also, not only are they already discounted from last year's price, they are all currently on sale on Amazon!
The always popular Canon EOS Rebel series continued with the T3i model last year. Like with all previous Rebels, it received strong reviews, but considered by some to be overpriced at launch. The body was originally selling for $799 last year, but it can now be found for $699. It currently is discounted on top of that on Amazon, priced at $610, almost 25% from its price a year ago. The Rebel continues its tradition of excellent photo, plus a focus on strong video capabilities. It features an 18MP CMOS sensor, with DIGIC 4 image processor, for improved image speed and quality. Video recording goes up to 1080p resolution, with frame rates reaching up to 30 per second, giving it a full HD movie quality. Canon has expanded its video mode with a manual exposure control and new Movie Digital zoom. It also marked the first use of their new EOS Scene Detection System, with Scene Intelligent Auto mode and Picture Style Auto mode. Finally, the last new upgrade from the previous Rebel T2 is the articulated tri-angle 3-inch Clear View LCD monitor.
Buy from Amazon.com: Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP
Buy from Amazon.com: Nikon D5100 16.2MP
For anyone looking to make a step up from a point-and-shoot camera but still finding the first two cameras I've mentioned above a bit pricey, it may make sense to consider a bridge camera. Bridge cameras are typically smaller, and they offer a lot of controls found on a DSLR, but the lens cannot be changed. One of the popular bridge cameras of 2011 is Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150. It hasn't come down much in price, but at $439, it's still the cheaper alternative to even an entry level DSLR. The Lumix DMC-FZ150 model is 12.1MP with a CMOS sensor, and it comes with a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 24x zoom (superzoom) lens. It also uses a 3-inch screen with free-angle viewing but a lower resolution 460k dot LCD. Overall, Lumix DMC-FZ150 offers a good range of flexibility, performance, and features, but it lacks the processing power of more expensive DSLR's. Highlights include AVCHD format video recording at 1080p and the ability to take 3D photos (if you have a 3D TV).
Buy from Amazon.com: Panasonic DMC-FZ150K 12.1 MP
This Canon is definitely a top choice for any photographer looking for a point-and-shoot camera. When the tiny 7-ounce PowerShot S100 was released last year, it came with a big $529 price tag. It now retails $100 less at $429, but it can be found on sale right now for $373, which is a full 30% off its original price. Packed into the 3.9 x 2.3 x 1 inch body, is a 12.1MP camera, with 1080p HD video capabilities and a 5x optical zoom. This model was also the first to include Canon's new HS System with Digic 5 Image Processor, which together improves the digital noise reduction, white balance, and low-light/high-speed performance. Finally, the feature that will appeal to the DSLR user is the S100's ability to shoot and record in RAW mode.
Buy from Amazon.com: Canon PowerShot S100 12.1 MP
Surprisingly, the CoolPix AW100 is Nikon's first rugged point-and-shoot, with all other major brands already offering one. Originally priced similar to its competitors at $379, it can now be purchased for $297. Its rugged design lets it sink to 33-foot depths underwater, survive 5-foot drops, and handle freezing 14F temperatures. This model includes a GPS, geo-tagging, and e-Compass function, making it the perfect choice for any adventurer. Photo and video specs include a 16MP CMOS sensor, 5x Zoom-Nikkor Ed glass lens, full 1080p capability, and a range of action photo functions. It's also available in blue, black, or orange shown here, which is a good contrasting color if you actually plan to use it underwater.
Buy from Amazon.com: Nikon COOLPIX AW100 16 MP Waterproof (Orange)
From point-and-shoot to DLSR cameras, if you are looking to get the most bang for your buck, previous year camera models are always worth considering. Hopefully, this overview of 2011 units will help you to make up your mind about your next camera purchase.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.