8 Best Buys for Essential Gear

Digital Camera

Digital SLRs are hot items in the camera category, with models such as the Canon EOS Digital Rebel Xsi leading the way. But in our increasingly photo-centric society, simpler digital camera models, such as those occupying our Top 10 Point-and-Shoot Cameras chart, have evolved into must-have products.

The 8-megapixel Canon PowerShot A590 IS is attractively priced at $150, and it gives you such features as 4X optical zoom, optical image stabilization, face detection (which recognizes faces in the frame and optimizes the autofocus accordingly), and a serviceable 2.5-inch LCD screen.

This model is a starter camera, with 19 shooting modes and limited manual controls (though you can program the shutter speed and aperture settings, Canon designed this PowerShot primarily for automatic use). The camera conveniently runs on two AA batteries, which makes it a great travel companion; it has an easy-to-hold hand grip, too, but that means the camera may be less pocketable for some owners.

The A590 IS scored significantly higher in our image-quality assessments than point-and-shoots that have higher megapixel counts and cost more than twice as much. In particular, our panel of judges noted superior colors and flash exposures in our subjective tests.

Bottom Line: For a beginner's camera, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS has excellent image quality and superb stabilization.

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