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Holiday Buyer's Guide: 5 Great Digital Cameras under $700

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Today's DSLR and smaller interchangeable lens cameras pack great features, the versatility to shoot awesome photos and stunning HD video plus a gamut of features to satisfy everyone from beginners to advanced users. Here are our picks for the most functional cameras of the season.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550D - $699 ( Body only- on sale at Best Buy)

The higher-end Rebel brings 18 Megapixel sensor, 6400 ISO capability and the option to shoot gorgeous 1080p video to the mid-prosumer range. Considered the 7D junior, this small yet capable DSLR is Canon at its very best bringing the Digic 4 processor and the ability to shoot 3.7 frames per second as well as superb low-light performance. We've used the T2i as our go-to camera for most of our product shots as well as for landscapes and portraits and we love its versatility.

Olympus EPL-1 Pen Micro Four Thirds Camera - $479

12 Megapixels, check. HD Video recording, check. Interchangeable lenses, check. Weighing in under $500 with a versatile 14-42mm lens, Olympus' cheapest Pen can also be considered its most versatile since it also is the only one with a built-in flash (which works as a controller for external flash units). Small, easy to carry and without the usual "pro" camera that gets DSLR's questioned or confiscated, the EPL-1 delivers great photos for amateurs adventurous enough to try its varied creative modes and settings. This truly is a quality camera that brings back the fun in photography.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Interchangeable lens camera - $675

Sony's Alpha NEX-5  14 Megapixel camera is an impressive piece of work. It is a small, ultra-lightweight interchangeable lens camera that gives you the versatility of a DSLR with about half the size and weight. Experience HD movies, astounding low-light pictures, continuous shooting up to 7 fps, incredible panorama shots and Live View on the tilting 3" LCD. Plus, it comes with an E-mount 18-55mm lens and has the best in-camera HDR (High Dynamic Range)  and Sony's sweep panorama feature generates stitched panoramas automatically.

Nikon D3100 14 Megapixel DLSR - $629


Packed into the compact and lightweight D3100 is a host of advanced Nikon technologies. The EXPEED 2 image processing engine, in conjunction with Nikon's new 14.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor, is the driving force behind the camera's enhanced performance and rich image quality. Plus, it can record Full HD movie clips, and includes the DX 18-55mm VR f.3.5-5.6 lens. Light in weight but not in features, the Nikon D3100 also opens us a whole world of stunning lens choices for varied types of photography.

Samsung EX1-$499

Made out of machined aluminum and steel, Samsung's handy EX1 includes a fast f/1.8 lens that gives photographers a wider range of aperture steps and shallow depth-of-field, giving them the ability to blur out the background of their images while maintaining focus on their subjects. The f/1.8 lens also allows users to take better photos in low-light environments as more light is passed through to the high-performance 1/1.7" CCD sensor. Larger than the sensors typically found in compact digital cameras, the EX1's 1/1.7" CCD offers unrivalled sensitivity (max ISO 3200/full-resolution). A wide angle adapter can also improve this awesome camera's already impressive versatility.

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