To pick out what I think the best cameras are in each one of these categories, I spent a lot of time researching different websites gathering just as much information as possible to find the best camera in each classification. My research includes considering customer evaluations on Amazon, Adorama and BH Photo Video, reading professional evaluations from DPreview, Imaging-Source and Steve’s Digicams, and reading several online web forums and discussion boards. Of course I’ll add my OWN personal opinion in the mixture, also. Oh, a quick note… if there’s a very important factor to remember when shopping for new a cameras, it’s that megapixels USUALLY DO NOT MATTER. These big camera organizations boast about getting the most megapixels, trying to use it as a selling point, when they really do not matter. Multiple resources on the internet will say exactly the same. Let’s start, shall we?

Best Compact Budget Point-and-Shoot

Canon SD1400IS

Staying beneath the $200 mark, and from the study I did so, this little gem may take one heck of a picture, alongside HD video, too! That’s right, this tiny guy has 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) HI-DEF video. A thing that is rarely observed in a camera this low cost. From what I read while researching, this camera calls for good quality photos for the price. The only real drawback on it I found online is a slightly more grainy photo due to the 14MP censor. Other than that, people love it for the simplicity, pocket-able size and excellent price-to-feature value. Other features include a large 2.7-inch LCD display screen, optical image stabilization, a wide 28mm equivalent lens (I really like wide angle lenses), HDMI productivity, and Smart AUTO. I head a lot of good things about smart Car. From what Canon says, it will “intelligently select between 22 distinct predefined settings.” Oh, and it comes in HOT PINK! Definitely not that I care… After studying this class of camera all night, the general consensus is that Canon would make awesome compact budget point-and-shoots. You will end up satisfied with any of their budget models, including the SD1400IS. I have yet to get an awful one.

Best Compact Enthusiast Point-and-Shoot

Canon S95

Okay, now in my own honest opinion, this is a no-brainer. Best clear lens filters The previous version, the Canon S90, was a massive strike. And the Canon S95 improves upon it. After all seriously! For a camera under $400, it has 720p HD videos (with stereo sound!), a super bright f/2.0 lens, Natural mode (the best), a wide 28mm equivalent zoom lens and HDMI output. Those are just a few features. The best part, and the part which makes the S95 the very best enthusiast point-and-shoot camera, is the control ring. This thing helps it be a breeze to regulate focus, exposure, ISO, white equilibrium, and pretty much all of the manual controls. It seriously has everything a video camera enthusiast would prefer in a point-and-shoot, and more! Let’s see… AUTO ISO, Coloring yRGB histograms, bracketing, a metallic body, and crap tons of gimmicks and useless modes. In addition, it comes with an HDR mode. I’d never use it, but I assume it works pretty good. It takes three consecutive pictures and merges them together for you. You can then edit them later on your personal computer. I, however, think it is rather lame because all the important functions are locked out, such as exposure and white stability. And HDR on a point-and-shoot? What has this world come to. Just buy this camera. Significantly. In all honesty I didn’t do much research on other cameras in its category, because once I realized Canon was producing the S95, it was going be a hit. Sure there are other good enthusiast cameras on the market, but none that are nearly as awesome as the Canon S95 for exactly the same price and size!

Canon G12? Large and bulky at a cost of around $500.
Panasonic Lumix LX5? Still larger, and still more expensive. Price? Around $450.
I believe I proved my point. Needless to say this is just my opinion. I’m sure others will disagree with me.

Best Entry-Level DSLR

Nikon D3100

The Nikon D3100 is another obvious buy if you are looking to get a Digital SLR. At near, or under, $700, you get one heck of a camcorder (with lens!) that’s jam-packed filled with features for the price. It’s also Nikon’s very first DSLR to feature full 1080p HD video. I want to explain why I picked it because the best entry-level DSLR. First off, it comes with a excellent kit lens, the 18-55mm AF-S VR, which is known to be an excellent all-around kit lens. It’s sharp, has VR (Vibration Reduction) can focus very close – nearly macro like – and contains Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor which gives it fast, quiet autofocus. Everything I read has been positive, except for the casual “bad duplicate.” The images the D3100 pumps out are so near the specialized Nikon D3 and D700 in good light, that you could never tell the difference in a side-by-side comparison! Large ISO on the D3100 is excellent, considering it isn’t a full-frame camera. I’d say it’s equally as good Nikon D300s I own regarding high ISO. In other words, don’t be afraid to shoot at ISO 1600. In-fact, make it your friend! The viewfinder in the D3100 is clean and distraction free. Why by that is it generally does not have as much clutter moving on in the viewfinder. This can make it easier to compose shots. Also, it’s a small, ultra-light in weight DSLR weighing in at 505 g (1lb 1.8 oz.) This can be a plus to some, a negative to others. For me personally, I could go in any event. Other features include a large rear 3-inch LCD, 11 Autofocus Points, Automobile Distortion Correction, and Nikon’s brand-new EXPEED 2 image processing motor. There are few (very few) things that the D3100 is lacking, though, compared to higher end cameras; You can only use lenses that have a built in motor such as Nikon’s AF-S lenses (other zoom lens makers have similar lenses) since the D3100 does not have any motor drive, there’s only one manual preset WB memory place, you do not get any depth-of-discipline preview, and there is no Kelvin White Balance setting. If you’re searching for an entry-level Digital SLR, now is the time to buy. And I recommend the Nikon D3100. And so do thousands of others.

Best Semi-Pro DSLR

Nikon D7000

Nikon’s newest DSLR, the D7000, can be one of the best in its class. Featuring a completely new and amazing User Definable Adjustments (U1, U2) directly on the method selector dial, these helpful shortcuts allow you to set, shop and change your cameras setting without needing to go deep in to the menu system! I’m envious. I want my D300S to have this. Actually, I’m considering getting the D7000 for this feature alone. You can find other features I, and others (from what I saw countless times) love about this camera, too, such as:

Full 1080p HI-DEF video
Light in weight, yet still ergonomically comfortable
Best-in-class high ISO photos
Quiet… Very quiet functioning…Shhh…
Ground-busting 2,016-Segment RGB Meter
Superior weather and dust sealing
Six frames per second continuous shooting around 100 shots
New EXPEED 2 image processing
39 autofocus details with nine cross-type sensors
So as you can see, this camera is really a bargain for its price, which is around $1200 (body only.) My exploration on the D7000 wasn’t as extensive as others in it’s course, simply because it just got released. And people are having a hard time finding it; it’s always sold out! I have yet to read ANYTHING bad on the video camera. All I possibly could find is that it can only bracket three exposures instead of the 5-9 that various other cameras can do. Folks are raving concerning the fast autofocus, and awesome metering due to the brand-new 2,016-Segment RGB Meter. The Nikon D7000 is already a smash hit at the time of this article. It’s all sold-out. Not surprising if you ask me, since it’s just as good, if not better than the Nikon D300s that is $300-$400 more. Now in the event that you excuse me, I must go buy this camera.

Best Full Frame DSLR – TIE

Canon 5D Tag II and Nikon D700

After hours of exploration, I was determined to choose either the 5D Mark II or the D700 because the best professional full body DSLR. One or another. Not really both. Well, after those hrs of research I did so, I failed. My ultimate verdict will be that you can’t fail with either of the stunning full framework DSLRs. They both provide breathtaking photos, even at high ISOs. Plus they both have excellent construction which will last you years upon years. But which are the differences