Lets talk cameras!
Okay, feeling guilty about working 80 hour weeks and travelling alot so I want to buy my wife a camera. I would like something better then a point and shoot, but not so complicated that it takes me 5 min to take each photo.
You all seem to be taking awesome pictures so I though you might all know what to look for. I am camera stupid so any help would be greatly appreciated. (plus I should be able to use it to take pics of knives)
Looking to spend $300-$500.00
Check this site for good information, user opinions, and technical reviews:
Digital Photography Review
BTW, IMHO you can't really go wrong with Canon in any price range. And Amazon often has the best prices.
I would suggest the canon powershot sx30. I recommended an earlier version of this same camera to a coworker and he has been real happy with it taking pictures and videos for his blog. It is a step below an SLR but a step above point and shoots. Plus it has a super zoom on it and takes great video and is in your price range.
At the upper end of your range, a Canon PowerShot G12. I bought an earlier version (G10) for my wife ~2 years ago -- it consistantly takes better pics then I can on my Pentax SLR (with my limited lenses and limited skill). It takes great indoor pics, which is something my Pentax cannot due without dropping major $ on faster lenses and/ or a serious flash.
And what's really nice about the Canon is you can play in manual mode if you want more control, which is nice for some macro shots, etc.
I say get a point and shoot.
Technology for P&S cameras is fantastic these days, in in your price range, you can get a top-of-the-line point and shoot, or a bang-for-the-buck used DSLR. I always say it is better to buy the top of the bottom than the bottom of the top.
Take the Canon Powershot s95 for instance. It has the auto controls we know and love, and technology to back it up. But it also has a really interesting and intuitive interface(control ring) for the other controls if you want to take pictures in a dark room, people moving fast at night, or an aquarium.
My wife is a "natural light lifestyle photographer" and has a fancypants camera that, even on AUTO settings(which it takes forever to disable all the manual controls), I can only take blurry pictures with it. I borrowed a friend's Sony Cybershot when I went to Thailand and took the best photos of my life. And it fits in your pocket! I love point and shoots.
I have been reading quite a bit on photo forums in the previous months. While I went another way (micro 4/3 format), I think a good quality P&S really delivers excellent pictures these days. Unless you want one of the super zooms (which have a wider reach bit lower image quality) the top three contenders among the compact cameras are the Olympus XZ-1, Panasonic LX5, and Canon S95. In most tests that I take seriously, the Olympus comes out on top, especially for the quality of the jpg pictures. I have a small LX3 (predecessor of the LX5) and am very happy with it. The Olympus scratches on the upper level of your budget if you add a spare battery, but if I had the budget, that's the one I would go for.
If you want a DSLR, which is what I have and it is great, click this . Check out the T1i.
If you want P&S go with what Stefan mentioned above. DSLR is great because it is touch and shoot, instantly, which is what I wanted. It is however big and bulky, I got some incredible shots on my last vacation though.
I worked for a couple of years in retail selling cameras. Most often when someone was wanting to take good pictures rather than finding the smallest and prettiest camera, they would end up with a "prosumer" type digital camera or a DSLR if they had the budget and really wanted to learn. Now form factor also played a HUGE part in the final decision of which camera was suitable. If your wife will carry it in her purse for example, it needs to be compact. Image quality these days is pretty darn good at the price level you specified, so I wouldn't necessarily think of it as your primary focus. The big question is what will she want to take pictures of? Wildlife? Landscapes? People? Sports events (even for kids)? Depending on the situation you're in there are certain attributes that you'll want in the camera. If you want to shoot sports you'll need some zoom and that narrows it down, but if your wife wants compact for the purse that's hard to combine. If you can give us a little more info we may be able to steer you better (just like knives).
I'm a big fan of olympus/panasonic imaging equipment and I'll second Stefan's recommendations in general. Both cameras are not compact, but they're not large either and they would fit into a (moderate sized) purse or bag fine. From what I have read the olympus wins out since the panasonic has a few minor issues that could be an annoyance to someone unfamiliar with digital imaging, like inconsistent white balance.
I'm a Sony guy and have had 2 p&s and now a dslr A330 all have been great shooters . I do like the NEX that they came out with. I want the A55 replacement that I hear will being outed soon
Let us know what you get, my 2 cents is still with sx30 if you are still wanting something in between a point and shoot and a DSLR. It is a little bigger than the point and shoots that fit in your pocket but should fit in a purse.