The ZS30 is our top camera gift pick because it offers excellent photos and videos for its class, a broad feature set, and fast shooting performance, all at a reasonable price. It's a great fit for anyone who's looking for a long zoom lens in a pocketable package that can be used for snapshots and movie clips. Plus, it has built-in Wi-Fi that connects to iOS or Android smartphones for easy on-the-go sharing, remote control of the camera, and more.
The F900EXR is a good compact megazoom choice for enthusiasts or anyone who likes to experiment with different settings to get the best results. And if your recipient has ever mentioned shooting in raw, this is the the only camera in its class that can do that.
The WX300 is very impressive for its size with a 20x, f3.5-6.5, 25-500mm lens tucked in a body that's an inch thick and weighs less than 6 ounces. Inside are a fast backside-illuminated CMOS sensor and image processor that give it the power to shoot excellent HD video, bursts of photos at 10 frames per second, and nice low-light pictures.
The SX160 IS is almost a niche camera. It's best used in daylight with still or slow-moving subjects. It has a good auto mode, but also has shutter speed and aperture controls. It runs on two, AA-size batteries, which is nice for travel or just occasional use since you don't have to worry about charging a battery before you go out to shoot. And, it's controls and body are larger than most point-and-shoots. So, it's definitely not for everyone. But if that stuff sounds good, keep an eye out for a price drop for the holidays to under $100.
Like the Canon SX160 IS, I wouldn't recommend the L820 for anyone who wants to regularly shoot indoors or in low light or with fast-moving subjects like kids and pets. It is, however, a good deal for those who want a 30x zoom lens, simple automatic shooting, and AA-size batteries for power, all at a reasonable price.
Our Editors' Choice for best compact, the RX100 II's high price nevertheless puts it out of reach for a lot of folks, and the lack of a big zoom lens makes it a little less flexible for general-purpose shooting. But if you're feeling generous this holiday season, this feature-packed, fast, well-designed model is the best choice for the family member or friend who likes to shoot in low light and is dissatisfied with the photos coming out of the cheaper, smaller-sensor compacts.
If you know someone who's ready to step up from a point-and-shoot, the F3 will feel familiar but will provide all the added speed and image quality they're looking for. Plus, it supports interchangeable lenses, so you've got more options for gifts in subsequent years. Although it's a bit over a year old now, that means the price has dropped and you can find it for less than $400.
As an inexpensive entry point into dSLRs, the D3200 is probably the best of the cheap models. As a gift, it makes a solid, safe choice.
Our top pick for interchangeable-lens models, the NEX-6 is a great alternative for folks who want almost everything you can get in a dSLR, but without the bulk.
Though it's just been replaced, the 60D remains a great camera -- perfect for anyone who wants to get a replacement for an old Rebel -- and now it's available at a more gift-friendly price.
The best dSLR for less than $1,000, the D5200, with its fast operation and excellent photo quality, makes a great gift for the family photographer who's responsible for capturing all those winning goals and school plays.