Best Cameras 2012
After road-testing many competing models, we recommend the cameras on this page for their superior picture quality, ease of use, features, and value.
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Best Camera Under $200
Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ1 $179
The Panasonic SZ1 wins the Best Camera Award for cameras under $200 for one reason: it offers excellent image quality on a consistent basis. It's by no means a perfect camera, and it lacks some of the cooler features you'll see on our other contenders, but at the end of the day, what you really want is a camera you can count on, right.?
Best Waterproof Camera
Olympus TG-1 iHS $400
The TG-1 will appeal to almost everyone and its build quality is second to none. The center-mounted lens makes it easy to hold, as do the rubberized grips. The TG-1 has a fast f/2.0 lens perfect for the kind of low-light shooting you're likely to find underwater. And while we recommend the TG-1 for still photography, its video capabilities come up short, so the TG-1 shares the Best Camera title with the Panasonic TS4 in our Waterproof Camera shoot-out.
Best Pocket Camera
Canon PowerShot S100 $409
As you can see in our Best Pocket Cameras shootout, each of the contestants includes one feature or another that makes it stand out from the rivals, which made picking a clear cut champion difficult. But in the end, the 2 Camera Guys Award for Best Pocket Camera goes to the Canon PowerShot S100, which rises above the rest with a winning combination of good picture quality in a truly pocket-sized package.
Best Compact Superzoom Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS20 $414
Panasonic DMC-ZS20 beats out seven competitors as the best compact superzoom camera so far in 2012. For a look at how all eight cameras did in the shootout, see Best Compact Superzoom Cameras 2012.
Best Premium Compact
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 $473
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is a winner in just about every way in our RX100 vs Canon G1 X article. The RX100 is one of the best premium compact cameras I've seen. It is much more pocketable than the Canon PowerShot G1 X. It produces consistently excellent, DSLR-looking photos and it's very easy to use, making the RX100 an excellent pick for casual photographers who want to spice up their images, or for professionals who want a pocket-sized second camera.
Best Camera Under $300
Nikon COOLPIX S8200 $500
Packed with useful features, the Nikon S8200 is our pick for the best overall value for a pocket camera in the $200-$300 price category. It is not the most pocketable camera in the group, nor does it take the highest-quality images in the group. What it does is combine quality and compactness in a package that is reasonably priced and easy to use. Read more in our Best Camera under $300 shootout.
Best Mirrorless Camera
Sony Alpha NEX-5N $516
Not only did the sleek and sexy Sony NEX-5N produce excellent picture quality in our Best Mirrorless Cameras shootout, even in low light situations, but it also was just plain fun to shoot with. Sony has packed a lot of performance in the NEX-5N's small body and is one of the lowest priced models in the shootout.
Best Entry-level DSLR Camera
Sony Alpha SLT-A37 $522
The Sony A37 is the new camera to beat. 1080p HD Video, a microphone input port, and full-time live view make it a great video camera, while its 16 megapixel sensor produces high-quality still pictures. It ranked #1 in our Cheapest DSLR Cameras shootout. At only $600, it is also one of the more affordable DSLR cameras available.
Best Superzoom Camera under $500
Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ150 $549
The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 is an overall outstanding camera that is head and shoulders above the competition. Our Best Superzoom Cameras writeup showed that picture quality is superb and even at maximum zoom, the image is evenly exposed and sharp from edge to edge.
Best Bargain Mirrorless Camera
Olympus PEN E-PL1 $599
The E-PL1 was one of the first mirrorless cameras to reach the market and only the third from manufacturer Olympus. At the time, it was considered small, lightweight, and intuitive to use. While mirrorless cameras have come a long way since early 2010, the E-PL1 holds up well in the face of more modern competition -- especially at prices under $300. Check out the E-PL1 in our Best Bargain Mirrorless Cameras shootout.
Best Mid Price DSLR Camera
Sony Alpha SLT-A65V $1,098
The Sony a65 produces excellent picture quality with a camera that is fun to use. If you are a first time DSLR buyer, the a65 might be more camera than you need, but as you become more experienced, it might be exactly the camera that you want. The camera stands out from the other contestants in our Best Mid-range DSLR shootout. The winner of our 2 Camera Guys Award for Best Mid-range DSLR Camera goes to the Sony a65, hands-down.
Best Full Frame DSLR Camera
Nikon D800E $2,700
The Nikon D800, with its 36MP sensor and medium format image quality, leapfrogged over the competition in our DSLR Shootout. And the $3000 price tag, though not inconsequential, seems like a bargain when you consider its features and performance. With its huge image files and demands for disciplined technique, this Nikon is more camera than most need. But if you are ready to commit to the D800, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.