With Mother’s Day coming up very soon, giving the gift of a new camera to your mother is a brilliant idea that will continue to give well past the time the chocolates get eaten and the flowers begin to wilt. There is a large variety of cameras available, ranging from simple point and shoots to more complex DSLRs. This roundup is meant to highlight a number of cameras that would be especially good for Mom—cameras that are intuitive to use, yet produce high-quality results.
Point-and-shoot cameras are designed to live up to their name: To function as a simple-to-use camera with which you can simply take photos without worrying about the settings. These cameras are very capable of producing great results with minimal effort; however, some cameras do let you override certain settings in order to provide more control and precision over your image-making.
Canon has a wealth of point and shoots to choose from, including extremely simple, basic models to more complex and controllable versions. Somewhere in the middle of Canon’s range is the PowerShot ELPH 320 HS (available in black, blue, red and silver). This very compact camera features a 16.1 megapixel CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 image processor. Together these two elements give this camera great low-light sensitivity (to ISO 3200) and provide low noise when shooting in darker environments. Its 5x optical zoom, 4x digital zoom, and Intelligent IS system allow you to take sharp images at a wide variety of effective focal lengths. The camera is also able to shoot 1080p HD videos and output your files directly to the Internet via a built-in Wi-Fi module.
A similar but even more compact option from Canon is the PowerShot A2300 ( also available in black, blue, red and silver). This camera features 16MP resolution, a 5x optical zoom lens and 720p HD video capabilities. Its simplicity and compact form factor truly make this camera ideal for carrying with you at all times or just when you don’t feel like carrying a larger camera. Additionally, it features a dedicated Help Button for learning the ins and outs of your camera in an efficient and straightforward manner.
Like other brands, Fujifilm has a vast line of point-and-shoot cameras, but one in particular that sticks out and would make your mother the envy of other moms is the Fujifilm X10. This camera distances itself from others by taking on a retro look and more of a manual approach to picture-taking. While the camera is still capable of a fully automated workflow for shooting, it affords you the opportunity to tinker with settings, manually control your zoom, and shoot RAW files. The X10 features 1080p HD capabilities; has a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor for high-resolution imaging, either moving or still; and a top ISO of 12800 for a great deal of low-light sensitivity. The appearance of this camera closely mimics that of rangefinder film cameras, and the X10 even incorporates an optical viewfinder to free you from the LCD while shooting. It is also constructed from die-cast magnesium alloy for additional durability and for maintaining the retro feeling throughout.
Compact and lightweight, Nikon’s Coolpix S9300 (available in black, red and silver) is an ideal camera for the mom on the go. Its thin profile and 16-megapixel resolution offer a terrific balance that’s enhanced by the addition of an 18x optical zoom lens and 1080p HD video abilities. What is especially notable about this camera is the inclusion of a built-in GPS module for in-camera geo-tagging. This function will automatically embed locational data into your image files so you can see the exact location of where your images were taken and plot them on a map to share with your friends.
Another compact option from Nikon is the Coolpix P310 (only available in black) which features Nikon’s fastest lens in the Coolpix line, at f/1.8. This 4.2x optical zoom lens is backed by a 16.1 megapixel sensor. Additionally, optical Vibration Reduction image stabilization is incorporated for sharp images at any focal length. Full HD 1080p video is supported as well as a maximum continuous still shooting rate of 7 fps, perfect for fast-paced events.
Panasonic’s Lumix digital cameras are much adored—and for the right reasons. They feature compact builds and terrific imaging performance. The Lumix DMC-SZ1 (in black, blue, red and silver) suits these qualifications neatly and introduces a Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens for excellent performance and minimal flare or distortions. In addition to the sharpness of the lens itself, 10x optical zoom is integrated in order to provide a wide range of effective focal lengths. The DMC-SZ1 is capable of recording video in 720p HD and features a 16.1MP CCD sensor for vivid detail in still images. All of this is bundled within a camera body that is less than an inch thick and less than four inches wide.
For rougher applications, Panasonic also features the Lumix DMC-TS20 (in black, blue, orange and red). This tough-application camera is waterproof to 16 ft, shockproof to heights up to 5 ft, dust proof to IPX8 and IP6X standards, and freeze proof to 14°F. All of this protection results in a camera that Mom can carry out and about without worrying about breaking it, under almost any circumstance. These features give necessary insurance to protect the 16.1MP sensor and 4x optical zoom lens. Its Mega Optical Image Stabilization system keeps images sharp at any focal length and supports the 720p HD video recording.
For spec sheet and comparison chart, click here.
Mirrorless cameras fit in between point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras, offering compact size and simple usage along with interchangeable lenses and generally larger-sized sensors than point and shoots have. These cameras can be perfect for the mom who has more of a desire to control the images she makes and not simply let the camera make all of the decisions, yet doesn’t want to carry the bulky DSLR around all of the time.
Olympus’ mirrorless cameras are based on a film camera that the company produced (the Pen) from the late 1950s until the 1980s. The film camera was unique in that it was a half-frame camera; it would record images half the normal size on 35mm film, allowing for twice as many images per roll. In 2009, Olympus introduced the PEN, a digital version of the original film camera. The PEN E-PL1 (in champagne or blue) is a 12.3-megapixel camera that comes bundled with a 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds lens (35mm equivalent of 28-84mm). This camera’s sensor is larger than most point-and-shoot sensors, which helps this camera achieve greater visual depth and separation of foreground and background. This results in imagery that’s more visually rich. Additionally, the E-PL1 is capable of recording HD video in 720p format and has Live Guide control, helping you to previsualize the exposure effects before making the image.
Similar to the E-PL1 but slightly more refined is the E-PL3 (available in black, silver, white and red) that also comes bundled with the same M.Zuiko 14-42mm lens. The most noticeable difference in the E-PL3 from the E-PL1 is the introduction of the tilting LCD for easier viewing from high and low angles. The E-PL3 is also a generally faster camera, providing incredibly quick autofocus capabilities and the ability to shoot up to 5.5 fps in continuous mode. 1080p video is supported as well as the ability to photograph in 3D in-camera, without the need of an auxiliary stereo lens. This camera is also wireless-compatible and allows you to send images directly from the camera with the use of the optional PENPAL Bluetooth Communication Unit or Eye-Fi memory cards.
For spec sheet and comparison chart, click here.
Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras
For the mother who desires the greatest quality a digital camera can offer, a DSLR is the best choice. While a DSLR is certainly larger than a point-and-shoot or mirrorless camera, it is this physical space that results in a larger imaging sensor, and thus, greater image quality. DSLRs also feature the most adaptability, with a large variety of lenses and other accessories; they are the best type of camera to grow with or build from.
Canon has a very extensive line of DSLRs, covering almost any skill level or price point you can imagine. Although the cameras vary drastically in terms of performance, this isn’t to say that the more entry-level cameras will produce anything short of beautiful results. A good basic camera to begin with is the EOS Rebel T2i, which is available as a kit with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens or with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. This camera features an 18MP APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, capable of recording 1080p HD video as well as RAW files up to 3.7 fps. The DIGIC 4 image processor supports the imaging sensor with quick performance and helps to provide a high level of low-light sensitivity to ISO 6400, expandable to 12800. Aside from these features, the size of this camera is still a relatively compact 5.1 x 3.8 x 3” and weighs just slightly over 1 pound.
Along similar lines as the T2i, the EOS Rebel T3i—also available with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens or an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens—features an articulating, vari-angled 3.0” LCD for composing shots from a multitude of angles. Aside from the difference in monitors, the T3i provides almost an exact replica in specs; an 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3.7fps continuous shooting, 1080p HD video and 63-zone metering capabilities. The dimensions of the T2i and T3i are almost identical, varying within 1/10th of an inch.
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i||Canon EOS D60|
Another slight bump in technology, the Canon EOS 60D (available with an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens or an 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens) is similar to the T3i with its inclusion of a vari-angle LCD monitor and 18MP sensor. However, it separates itself with faster performance. The 60D is capable of shooting at up to 5.3 fps and has a top shutter speed of 1/8000 (versus 1/4000 on the T3i). The 60D also features a somewhat refined design with the inclusion of a locking switch on top of the body, a rotating dial on the back, an additional LCD on the top for exposure info, and an overall larger body at 5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1” that weighs 1.7 pounds.
Just like Canon, Nikon’s DSLR offerings span an entire range from entry level to professional-level cameras. There are equally as many options in terms of lens and accessory configurations, so in the end it’s a fair split between the two brands.
Nikon’s newest release, the D3200, is available in black or red and comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens. The D3200 is the recent upgrade over the D3100 and it features significantly improved resolution up to 24.2 megapixels. The EXPEED 3 image processor enables quickened operation, extended low-light sensitivity and full HD 1080p capabilities. Among other notable qualities of this camera, it has the ability to remotely transfer images to a smart phone or tablet with use of the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter. This adapter also allows you to control the camera’s settings remotely from a smart phone via a dedicated app. For those who are unfamiliar with using a DSLR, the D3200 also integrates a dedicated Guide Mode for hands-on guidance through the camera’s features and how to most efficiently use the camera to suit your needs.
Along the same lines of the D3200 is the D5100 (available with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens). This camera features a 16.2MP CMOS sensor and is also able to capture full HD 1080p movies. Physically this camera differs from the D3200 with its inclusion of a vari-angle LCD for a greater range of viewing angles while shooting. The D5100 is also capable of in-camera HDR imaging, allowing you to contain a vivid range of tones and control shadows and highlights more easily.
Sony’s DSLR offerings feature a unique Translucent Mirror technology that allows them to constantly maintain autofocus and shoot at the same time. The Alpha SLT-A57 (available with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens) utilizes this simultaneity between shooting and focusing to keep everything moving quickly, improving both the 1080p HD video recording as well as shooting full-resolution stills at up to 12 frames per second. This camera features a 16.1MP CMOS sensor, a 15-point autofocus system, and a tiltable 3.0” LCD for shooting from high and low angles.
In addition to these technical aspects, the A57 also incorporates a number of features to help improve general picture-taking. Auto Portrait Framing will automatically recognize images with people in them and create a second image that utilizes face detection and the Rule of Thirds to create an ideally rendered and composed portrait. Clear Image Zoom is similarly impressive in how it allows you to zoom from the center of your image up to 2x with very little perceivable image degradation. The A57 also incorporates an electronic viewfinder, as opposed to an optical prism finder, for clearly displaying exposure information as well as providing the ability to previsualize any modifications you make to your image settings.
For spec sheet and comparison chart, click here.
No matter whether your mother is an avid photographer in need of a DSLR or a more casual picture-taker just looking for an easy-to-use point and shoot, there’s a wide variety of gift options for Mom.