The camera market is more competitive than ever and features that were once the sole preserve of cameras aimed at professionals are now found on models that are priced within reach of enthusiastic amateurs.
Even point-and-shoot models now offer very impressive picture quality and with their advanced, automated-shooting modes help you capture great results even if you barely know which way you should be pointing the lens. To help you choose a camera that's right for you we've picked out five of the best models currently available with a range of features and prices.
Canon EOS 6D
Priced at nearly £1,500, the EOS 6D isn't what you'd call cheap, but it does put full-frame features within reach of the more ambitious enthusiast photographer. To put it in perspective, it offers a saving of around £600 on the EOS 5D Mk III -- enough to buy yourself a decent lens to get started. It's built around a 20.2-megapixel full-frame sensor putting out 5,472x3,648-pixel images. When paired with a decent lens, its image quality is excellent, and its well thought-out controls ensure a very shallow learning curve. You also get built-in GPS and Wi-Fi, which will be useful for some. All things considered then, the EOS 6D is a bit of a bargain.
The D5200 shares the same excellent autofocus and metering systems that debuted in the D600, and it also has an updated higher-end viewfinder. The result is that it provides a noticeably better shooting experience than its predecessor. In our review we also found that it had excellent photo and video quality for its class, a fluid shooting design and a solid feature set. The lack of an AF motor in the body means that the D5200 requires the company's AF-S lenses if you plan to use autofocus, but that's not a significant drawback for the typical consumer who doesn't buy a lot of lenses. Overall, we think it makes a great choice for family and vacation photographers.
Sony Alpha NEX-6
Even though its price is slightly high, the Sony Alpha NEX-6 delivers an unbeatable package of image quality, performance and style. The design facilitates fluid, streamlined shooting -- even single-handed -- and while the NEX-6 isn't as compact as the lower-end models, it's a great size for people who hate tiny controls. The colour and exposure are generally very good, so it produces great photos and good video quality. It's also a noticeably fast camera to use. Time to focus, expose and shoot in good light runs to just 0.2 seconds.
The NX300 looks and feels more stylish than its predecessor and it boasts a new sensor, articulated screen and faster response times. It consistently produces high-quality shots, is easy to use -- even if you're a novice -- and ships with a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, all of which helps it justify its price tag. We loved its large touchscreen, built-in Wi-Fi and APS-C sized sensor. The Wi-Fi feature has more options than most, as it supports not just regular emailing, but also remote shooting and social sharing. This camera's flaws are few and fairly far between, and they're minor ones at that, which makes the NX300 a great choice overall.
At its current price the WB250F is nothing short of a bargain. Samsung really does give you an unbelievable amount of kit for your money and it's all packed into an attractive, easy-to-use and conveniently sized body. Colour reproduction was strong throughout our tests, with the WB250F accurately reproducing a good balance of realistic tones in natural environments. There have inevitably been a few compromises, but for casual photography the impressive colours and decent resolution make it a winner. So if you're looking for a good-quality compact, this easy-to-use all-rounder is definitely worth considering.