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Best camera gear and cameras to gift for the holidays 2019

Help your favorite shutterbug step up their photography game with this selection of best camera gear and cameras for the holiday season.

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Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season's best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET.

From entry-level DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses, electronic viewfinders and image stabilization, to full-frame DSLR or mirrorless cameras with optical viewfinders, the range of digital camera options on the market today is staggering. Add to that the stiff competition among smartphone cameras and it can be overwhelming to figure out just what the best camera or accessory is to add to your holiday shopping list for your favorite photographer.

Read more: Best action cameras of 2019: GoPro, DJI and Yi compared

The seasonal deals have started, so I've started adding models that are very attractive gift buys because their prices have dropped into a good range for their class: At the moment, that means full-frame mirrorless models like the Canon EOS RP and Sony A7 II. But this time of year the prices wax and wane, making this week's terrific choice a little too pricey next week. Black Friday through Christmas is one of the biggest discount seasons for cameras and camera gear, and so I really recommend waiting. This line-up has something suitable for beginners through to professional photographers, but check back as the deals start to trickle in.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

When moving at high speeds, nothing beats an action camera for sharing the most breathless moments. The latest version of this excellent little action cam got rid of the separate mounting frame, improved on its already-terrific image stabilization, and made it easier to create better-looking videos. It's a perfect gift for the outdoor enthusiast or traveler on your list. Read our GoPro Hero 8 Black preview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is a great camera choice for an experienced photographer who wants the photo quality that only a full-frame camera can produce. It's one generation old, but it's relatively small and for just under $1,000 you get a lens with it -- not a terrific lens, mind you, but there are lots of FE-mount lenses to choose from at a wide range of prices. Or that can be next year's gift. Read our Sony A7 II preview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To quote our Mavic Air review, this is "a folding 4K mini drone that's close to perfect." It's an amazingly capable quadcopter that can shoot lovely 4K video -- and it's actually small enough to fit into a pocket, albeit a big one and is great for travel. At about $850 it's a pretty generous gift, but look for deals around the end of November on if you want to get it a little cheaper. Read our DJI Mavic Air review.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Canon's entry-level full-frame mirrorless has dropped below $1,000 for the body -- not a cheap gift, but a nice price for a current full-frame camera. I recommend it as a gift for people who already own Canon EF lenses or who'll be OK buying new ones, because the camera line is relatively new and there aren't many affordable R-mount options. But there are tons of compatible lenses that they can use with an adapter. Read our Canon EOS RP preview.

Any newbie downsizing from a DSLR or upgrading from a phone will find this a great mirrorless interchangeable-lens model. Providing the image quality and performance you expect when graduating from a smartphone, the A6000 may be several generations old, but that just means it's inexpensive enough to make an affordable yet terrific gift, and there are usually plenty of bundle deals to choose from this time of year. 

Its current descendant, the A6400, has a much-upgraded autofocus system and improved image processing, but it's also $1,000 with a basic kit lens. And after all these years, people buying the A6000 still rave about it. Read our Sony Alpha A6000 review.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Mirrorless models are lighter and more convenient than their cheaper mirrored counterparts. One of the best things about this Micro Four Thirds interchangeable-lens camera as a DSLR alternative is that the lenses are tiny -- you can throw five in your bag and barely feel them. The E-M10 Mark II is fast, with solid photo quality and a useful feature set, plus Olympus' policy of adding features via firmware upgrades makes this one a long-term choice. The Mark III succeeded this one, but most of the changes were in the interface, so performance and photo quality should be identical if you feel compelled to give something newer. Read our Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's easy to go for the cheaper models when it comes to general photography, but shooting fast-moving subjects such as sports and wildlife still requires a little more outlay. The Nikon D7500 takes great shots and is a terrific DSLR for the enthusiast action photographer. And at about $1,200 for a dual-lens kit, it's not even that expensive for its class anymore, though still quite a generous gift. Read our Nikon D7500 preview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You can find this excellent general-purpose DSLR at a reasonable body-only price. That makes it a nice gift for anyone who's done with their cheap DSLR and looking for faster focus and continuous shooting or looking for a good video experience in a DSLR. It's been succeeded by the 90D, which brings with it 4K video support, but that kit will run you at least $1,300 -- you can get a dual-lens kit of the 80D for less than that -- and may not see big discounts this holiday season. Read our Canon EOS 80D review.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

For the streamer on your list, the C922 Pro delivers 720p at 60 frames per second with solid image quality and decent audio. It also comes with a three-month subscription to XSplit Broadcaster and Gamecaster to do more than simple broadcasts. See our favorite YouTube webcams.

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The Brio 4K has more features than the C922, like the option to use it to sign into a Windows 10 PC using facial recognition. The main attraction is the increased performance for streaming at full ultra HD 1080p resolution at up to 60 fps and recording in 4K resolution at 30 fps. It can also compensate for bad lighting with HDR. And don't you want your giftee to appear in the best light? See our favorite YouTube webcams.

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Nikon

Nikon and Canon's cheap DSLRs are usually offered in aggressively priced kit bundles this time of year, making them great gift choices for the newbie photographer who's ready to move beyond a smartphone. Nikon's entry-level models will deliver sharper photos, thanks to a sensor that doesn't use a low-pass filter. The current D3500 is essentially identical to the D3400 it replaced. Read our Nikon D3400 review.

Originally published earlier this month.