The entry-level digital camera segment hasn’t changed drastically in the past few months, but it’s a lot different from what it used to be around a year ago. The good news is that you can now buy a travel-zoom for under Rs 10,000. While some models are introduced in the Rs 10,000 bracket, most others are older models that have now become a lot more affordable. Take for instance, the Nikon Coolpix S6300, which is one of the few budget-friendly travel-zoom cameras. It was launched around early 2012 at Rs 9,950 (MRP) and its current best price is Rs 8,800, which makes it a steal deal—you get a 16 megapixel shooter with a 10x zoom lens that starts from 25 mm, full HD video recording and fun-to-use special effects (such as Soft, Low key and Selective colour). Another great deal is the Fujifilm Finepix S2980, which had an initial price tag of Rs 12,499 (MRP) when it was launched in June 2012. It’s now available for Rs 9,200 and you can’t go wrong with it. It’s one of the very few super-zoom cameras you can get your hands on for under Rs 10,000. Its key features include 14 MP sensor, 18x zoom lens, full and semi-manual modes and not to mention a DSLR-like design.

Models such as the Coolpix S6300 and Finepix S2980 are rare to find in the under-Rs 10,000 segment. Most other models sport similar designs and offer more or less the same feature set, major differences being the resolution and optics. These cameras can be categorised into two groups—Under Rs 5,000 and Between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000. You have to make a smart decision whenselecting an entry-model digital camera. Compare the specifications and note which model has better optics, then note the shooting features (modes, presets, effects, etc.) and finally make a note of the freebies that come with the camera (memory card, carry pouch, screen guard, and so on). For instance, you may want to choose between the Nikon L26, Canon A810 and Sony S5000, which are the top selling models in the under Rs 5,000 segment. All the three models feature a 5x zoom lens, but the aperture and focal length differ. The lens in the Nikon L26 and Sony S5000 start from 26 mm, which is slightly wider than the one in Canon that starts from 28 mm. However, the A810 has the largest aperture f/2.8 at the wide end as compared to f/3.2 in the L26 and S5000. So, A810 should perform relatively better in low light. It’s also more fun to use with effect filters such as Minature, Toy Camera, Monochrome and Poster. Most digital cameras come with at least a 4GB memory card. Freebies such as carry pouch, AA batteries and charger and screen guard are available from most dealers—don’t hesitate to ask if you don’t get them.

More important than the features and freebies are performance, build quality and ergonomics. If possible, visit a nearby mall or ask the dealer to give you a demo unit to check out. Carefully assess the quality of the shell and buttons, and check out the menu navigation—it should be straightforward and easy to use without having to delve deep into sub-menus. Also, take some shots using various modes, with and without flash, and check out the reproduction of details and noise by zooming into the results.

We have listed around 20 entry-level digital cameras across all popular brands to help you pick the one that fits your need and budget. Should you want to settle for a camera by the top brands consider models by Nikon and Canon followed by Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm. We have also highlighted the best sellers in the market. Please keep in mind though, prices may vary depending on your location, dealer discounts etc.

Stay tuned for more of tech2’s Market Watch to get listings of all popular gadgets and gizmos currently available on the shelves.

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