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Cameras that make great holiday gifts for 2018

Encourage someone's artistic streak with a new camera for the new year.

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Lori Grunin
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1 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Nikon D3400/D3500

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 phone. 

My top picks in this category are Nikon's entry-level models. They'll give you sharper photos thanks to a sensor that doesn't use a low-pass filter. The newer D3500 is almost identical to the D3400, but you may be able to find the latter at more attractive prices.

Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products in this guide.

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Canon EOS Rebel T6

While I give Nikon's D3400/D3500 a slight edge over the T6 for the newbie photographer, Canon and retailers' traditionally hard-sell pricing on its cheapest DSLRs this time of year frequently makes them too shiny to resist, especially as a gift.

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Sony A6000

Any newbie downsizing from a DSLR or upgrading from a compact will find this a great mirrorless interchangeable-lens model. 

With the image quality and performance of a DSLR, the A6000 is 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. 

If you can spend more, its latest successor, the A6500, is best, but it's also a budget-buster with a basic kit lens.

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Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

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 company recently rolled out the Mark III 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. 

Nikon D5600
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Nikon D5600

This model might be a little old on the inside -- it's 99 percent the same camera as the D5500 --  but that just means you can gift a great general-purpose camera and lens for a great price. 

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Fujifilm X-T3

Shooting sports is fun. Schlepping big, heavy gear, not so much. Lighten the load of your favorite action photographer with this fast APS-C mirrorless model that features continuous shooting at 11 frames per second. There's also 10-bit DCI 4K video in-camera. 

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Nikon D7500

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 is a terrific DSLR for the enthusiast action photographer. And at about $1,150 for the body, it's not even that expensive for its class anymore.

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Fujifilm X100F

The X100F is the best model yet of the popular series of fixed-lens cameras with APS-C-size sensors. It's got a wide-angle lens and a relatively compact design, and if you need a gift for a photographer who likes physical manual controls -- and who you're willing to spend the bucks on -- this is a great choice.

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Panasonic Lumix LX100

This older compact, with a large-ish Four Thirds size sensor, is still one of the best you can get without breaking the bank. If you want to gift the latest and greatest, it does have a successor, the LX100 II. But the newer model is significantly more expensive, making it a little less appealing when you've got a holiday gift budget to stick to.

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Sony RX100 V

The Sony RX100 V is a lot more approachable for gift giving now that its been knocked off the top of its line by the newer RX100 VI and its price has come down to a more competitive sub-$900 level. If you want to gift the most feature-packed compact available today, this is the one.

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Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10

If you know someone who leans more toward fun and immediacy in their photography, the Instax SQ10, with its ability to print on square instant film, makes a neat choice.

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Canon EOS 80D

You can find this excellent general-purpose DSLR reasonably priced for the body. That makes it a nice gift for anyone who's done with their cheap DSLR and looking for faster focus and continuous shooting.

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Sony A7

It's hard to believe this groundbreaking camera is almost five years old -- until you look at the price tag. At only $800 for the body, this is the cheapest way to give the gift of leveling up to full-frame photo quality. And its price will probably get even lower as we get closer to the wire. Its younger successor, the A7 II, is only a little more expensive, making it the second cheapest full-frame option. The newest model, the A7 III, is still about $2,000.

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Nikon D750

For the enthusiast photographer who's ready to move up to the quality only a full-frame camera can deliver, the Nikon D750 balances excellent photo quality with performance. And now that it's been around a while, its slowly dropping price makes it a great value.

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GoPro Hero 7 Black

If you like to move at high speeds, nothing beats an action camera for sharing the most breathless moments. It may look like the Hero 6, but the latest version of the most popular action camera adds automatic intelligent processing to increase tonal range and reduce noise. There's also amazingly effective stabilization to correct camera shake. And you get face and smile detection, the ability to shoot vertically and horizontally, livestreaming capability and a time-lapse function for speeded-up playback. 

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