Whether a budding enthusiast or full-auto fan, the ZS100 delivers the upgrade in image quality a 1-inch sensor affords with enough of a zoom lens for a lot of framing flexibility and sufficiently fast to capture life in action. Plus it supports 4K video for the sharpest capture possible.
If your student's really into photography, this compact is one of the best you can get without breaking the bank.
Any student downsizing from a dSLR or upgrading from a compact will find this a great interchangeable-lens model. With the image quality and performance of a dSLR, the A6000 is a generation old, but that just means it's inexpensive enough to make an affordable yet terrific gift.
A small dSLR alternative, one of the best things about the Micro Four Thirds interchangeable-lens cameras 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.
This one's a few years old, but it's still a solid general-purpose smaller-than-usual dSLR and now a much more affordable gift for a student who wants to step up.
Nikon's current just-above-entry dSLR is great for everything the family photographer wants; the only significant downside is that it's got a smaller grip than many other dSLRs. But where kids are concerned, that may be a plus.
A mash-up between a small-format instant printer and a digital camera, the Snap works pretty much like an old-school Polaroid camera. Pop-up the viewfinder, take a shot and out comes a 2x3-inch print to share with friends and family. Unlike the instant cameras of yore, though, you also get a digital version of your photos stored on a microSD card.
It's the snapshot camera of the future, but available right now. With a single button press the Theta S instantly captures a spherical photo that you can send to your phone and upload to Facebook or Twitter to for the ultimate 360-degree selfie. Oh, and it captures video, too, if you want to really capture your surrounding for people to explore.
Like the Theta S, the 360 Cam takes 360-degree photos and videos just by pushing the shutter release. The image quality isn't quite as good as the Ricoh, but it is smaller and cheaper by $150.
If you're looking for the best overall GoPro to get your grad, the Hero4 Silver is what you want. However, the cube-shaped Session is a favorite, too, for its small size, waterproof body and single-button operation. Its $200 price helps as well.
Students who like to spend more time capturing life and sharing it than sitting behind a computer editing, will love the Bandit. Sensors built into the camera are able to sense when something exciting is recorded and tag those sections of video. You can then wirelessly connect the camera to a smartphone and, simply by shaking your phone, the camera will stitch those moments into a video to share with friends and family instantly.
DJI has several great flying cameras in its lineup, starting with the Phantom 3 Standard. It was a good deal when DJI first released it, but then it dropped the price and now it's the best beginner ready-to-fly quadcopter you're going to find for the money.
The family-friendly Bebop 2 is a compact and sturdy camera drone. It easily slides into a backpack and can be completely controlled with an iOS or Android phone or tablet. Plus, it's safer than most quadcopters since its propellers stop the moment they come in contact with anything. If image quality is your top priority, check out one from DJI. But for those new to the hobby looking for a smaller, safer option the Bebop 2 hits the spot.