If you're shopping for a digital camera, chances are it isn't your first. And if you're like many camera buyers, you're looking for a model that addresses the biggest gripes about your current digital camera.
Many new point-and-shoot cameras--compact models and the growing crop of pocket-sized subcompacts--have made progress on problems including sluggish shooting and excessive power consumption. SLRs, the digital descendants of single-lens-reflex film cameras, avoid those and other problems.
But despite those advances, don't join the SLR stampede too quickly. There's no escaping the convenience of pocket-sized subcompacts, the sports cars of cameras, or the value and versatility you'll find in mid-sized compacts--akin to the family sedans of photography.
If you already know the features you're looking for, you may want to skip ahead to our Ratings. If this is your first digital camera or you just want a refresher on what to look for, read on.
The leading brands are Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung, and Sony. Other brands come from electronics, computer, and traditional camera companies. General Electric is a recent entrant.
The smallest cameras we tested recently, subcompacts, weigh 5 to 8 ounces and can fit in a pocket. Price: $200 to $350.
Mainstream compacts are too big to pocket, but small enough for most handbags and glove boxes. The ones we tested recently weigh 7 to 14 ounces. Price: $150 to $300.
More serious cameras have the versatility and power to capture fast action or create photographic art under the most demanding light conditions. …