Image By Janet Ramsden
Looking to buy a camera as a gift? Kudos—it's hard to put a price on being able to capture great memories. But buying a camera for someone else can be a little tricky. The camera features that are important to you might be not so essential for someone else. An enthusiast will look for different things than a new mom or a sports fan might. So where do you start?
To find a camera they'll love, try to answer this question: What will they take pictures of the most? A camera that's great for taking pictures of kids might not be the best camera for taking on a ski trip. Keep these things in mind, and it's much easier to find a camera they'll love. To help out, we've put together a camera buying guide to find the best camera for that special someone on your list.
Best Camera For Teens
The Pentax Q7 has the manual modes and interchangeable lenses a new photography enthusiast needs, but comes in at under $300. Plus, teens will love that it comes in a variety of different colors. It's also one of the lightest interchangeable lens cameras on the market. The specs aren't the best for the mirrorless category, but it has a lot to offer for the price. If you are buying for a teen that's already got a bit of shooting experience, check out our recommendations for enthusiasts instead (below).
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Best Camera For New Parents
If you're buying a camera for someone who frequently snaps pictures of their little ones, you'll want to look for a camera that is good in low light, yet fast. We like the Olympus TG-3 for the bright lens and its tough exterior that allows parents to take it anywhere without worrying so much the toddler might snatch it. The Nikon AW1 is a faster mirrorless option that's also waterproof—it takes pictures at a fast 15 fps, which is great for getting shots of busy toddlers and active kids. If you're willing to forgo the durability, the Nikon 1 J3 offers the same excellent speed.
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Best Camera For Grandparents
For those who find a lot of controls rather daunting, the Nikon 1 S2 has a lot to offer, with a no frills operation. It's similar to the 1J3 and 1 AW1 we recommend for new parents because of the fast performance, but it doesn't have quite as many controls and features. The 1 S2 is excellent for grandparents because it still offers fast shooting—a must for taking pictures of little kids. Actually, the S2 still includes manual modes, but with minimal physical controls, it's easier for someone without any experience to use. Plus, it is lightweight and travels well.
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Best Camera For the Outdoors Enthusiast
Got someone on your list who loves being outdoors? A waterproof, durable camera is a must. Our favorite rugged camera is the Olympus TG-3 because it has a bright lens and excellent image quality wrapped up in a durable package. The Nikon 1 AW1 is also worth noting here too—it's a mirrorless model, so it's a bit more flexible with different lens options than a compact camera. Rugged cameras are great for taking skiing, to the beach or shooting in any weather. Action lovers may also enjoy an all weather camcorder—you can find our top recommendations in that category at Camcorder HQ, or check out the Ricoh WG-4 that has similar mounting accessories.
See More: Best Waterproof Cameras
Best Camera For Travelers
Know someone who is always heading places? Compact cameras are a must for travel, but you'll still want a lot of versatility and high quality images. The Sony RX100 III packs a whole lot of capability into a compact camera. It uses a big one inch sensor and bright lens that makes for some excellent image quality—if the price is out of your range, the RX100 and RX100 II are still solid options and can often be found for a good deal. The one downside to the RX100 line is the lack of zoom. The Canon SX280 doesn't have the big sensor or bright lens, but offers an excellent zoom to bring those sight-seeing opportunities up close, or you could pair the Fujifilm X-M1 with a good zoom lens.
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Best Camera For The Sports Fan
If you have an avid sports fan on your list—whether it is little league or the majors—a fast camera with a good zoom can get them good shots of the game. Our favorite super zoom camera of 2014, the Fujifilm S1, is an excellent option with a 50x zoom and 10 fps burst speed as well as fast image processing. If you're looking for a bit more, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II offers an excellent speed for a DSLR that's perfect for sports action.
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Best Cameras For Tech Lovers
Got someone on your list who is always talking about the latest technology? They'd probably enjoy a camera that's among the most unusual, thanks to new technology. The Sony QX1 definitely fits the bill and is likely to make any avid smartphone photographer grin. The QX1 essentially turns any smartphone into a mirrorless camera—adding a bigger sensor and the capability to swap out lens, yet still using the phone to snap the images. There's a few more basic models with the lens built-in too, like the QX30 and QX100.
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Best Cameras For Enthusiast
Big photography enthusiasts probably already have at least one camera and are probably the most difficult group to buy a new camera for—but they'll also really appreciate a well researched gift of new gear. A lot of enthusiasts would be ecstatic to have a Nikon D750 or Sony a7s—but chances are you don't spend that much on gifts. But even photographers with fancy DSLRs like to have a smaller, yet capable camera to keep with them. The Sony RX100 III is our favorite advanced compact, full of enthusiast level features yet small enough to travel easily. Or to keep that big expensive camera from getting wrecked at beach trips, something like the Olympus TG-3 can safely head places you shouldn't take a DSLR, like the ski slopes or underwater.
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Cameras make great gifts any time of year—but it's essential to consider what type of pictures the recipient would take the most. A photography buff is going to be looking for different features than grandma or grandpa. But once you narrow down what type of camera would work best, it's much easier to choose a great gift.
Still not sure? Ask our camera experts by leaving a comment below or head over to our Q&A forums.