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Cameras to take back to school

Start them out right with a step up in photo and video quality.

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Lori Grunin
DJI Spark
1 of 15 César Salza/CNET

DJI Spark

Help them break into drone photography with this tiny and light drone that shoots 1080p video, can fly up to 31mph, can be controlled by hand gestures and weighs under a pound -- and still costs under $500.

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2 of 15 Lori Grunin/CNET

Sony RX100 V

The Sony RX100 V finally makes my list now that it's less than $1,000 if you want to gift the most feature-packed camera available today.

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3 of 15 Fujifilm

Fujifilm Instax SQ10

If your student leans more towards 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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4 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Panasonic Lumix ZS100

One of my perennial general-purpose go-to recommendations, the ZS100 delivers the upgrade in image quality afforded by a 1-inch sensor with enough of a zoom lens for a lot of framing flexibility, and it's sufficiently fast to capture life in action. Plus, it supports 4K video for the sharpest capture possible.

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5 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Panasonic Lumix LX100

If your student's really into photography, this older compact is still one of the best you can get without breaking the bank.

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6 of 15 Lori Grunin/CNET

Sony A6000

Any newbie 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 couple of generations old, but that just means it's inexpensive enough to make an affordable yet terrific gift. If you can spend more, its latest successor, the A6500, is best, but it's also a budget-buster at over $1,200.

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7 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

The FZ1000 is a good fit for students who want the look and feel of a dSLR, better image quality than a point-and-shoot, and a long zoom lens they don't need to worry about changing whether they're shooting landscapes, portraits, birds or sports.

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8 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

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.

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9 of 15 Joshua Goldman/CNET

GoPro Hero5 Session

If you're looking for the best overall GoPro to get your student videographer, the Hero5 Black is what you want. However, the cube-shaped Session is a favorite, too, for its small size, waterproof body and single-button operation. Its $300 price helps as well.

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10 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Ricoh Theta S

This model is perfect for when they like to show the big picture. 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 takes video, too, if you want to really capture your surroundings for people to explore.

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11 of 15 Joshua Goldman/CNET

TomTom Bandit

If your student likes to spend more time capturing life and sharing it than sitting behind a computer editing, you'll want to get 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, make the camera stitch those moments into a video to share with friends and family instantly.

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Nikon D5600
12 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

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, with lens, for less than $700. 

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13 of 15 Sarah Tew/CNET

Canon EOS Rebel T7i

A nice general-purpose camera that's a step up from a phone or compact, not to mention much improved over its predecessor for the same price, the T7i is sure to please the dSLR newbie.

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14 of 15 Dave Cheng/CNET

Ehang Ghostdrone 2 VR

A great choice as a first camera drone, you can navigate it with your phone and take in the view with its VR goggles -- and it's not overly expensive for a 4K model.

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15 of 15 Joshua Goldman/CNET

DJI Mavic Pro

For the outdoorsy type who wants to do drone photography but needs it to fit in a backpack, the foldable Mavic Pro is the most travel-friendly of the more advanced bunch. It's not a cheap gift -- $999 is at the top of my usual gift-suggestion price range -- but it will surely be appreciated.

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