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2003 is arguably the most important year in digital photography, as it’s the first time sales of digital cameras have actually outsold traditional film models. It’s not hard to see why either, as today’s digital cameras offer an unbeatable combination of quality and unique features at an affordable price. And once you’ve got used to instantly viewing your images and retaking those which didn’t quite work, along with making TV slide shows and capturing short video clips, you’ll wonder how you ever coped with film.

While exciting developments are still taking place at the high-end, the reason for the massive growth in digital photography is that affordable models are now actually worth having. In the past, budget digital cameras often meant compromising on features, quality, looks and brand. Today the golden price range of £229 to £299 will buy you a decent three megapixel camera, with a 3X optical zoom lens and solid features from any of the major photographic manufacturers. Their quality is good enough to make 5 x 7in prints from a lab or 10 x 8in prints on a home inkjet, which is sufficient for the vast majority of people.

Photographic enthusiasts who demand greater quality still with additional features are increasingly better-served by the digital market. A budget of £549 to £649 will buy you five megapixel resolution, longer zoom lenses and a range of manual control which will satisfy all but the most demanding professional users.

At TrustedReviews.com, we’ve identified these two price ranges as the most important in today’s digital camera market. Certainly there are many cameras costing less than £200 available, but we don’t believe they yet offer a useful level of quality and features. Similarly there are models costing well in excess of £700, but their quality and features are targeted at a smaller market of very serious enthusiasts.

Consequently for this group test we’ve selected two cameras from each of the major photographic brands: one in the lower mid-range of £229 to £299 and the second from the higher-end range of £549 to £679. To discover which are the best we’ve employed a huge suite of tests from the most advanced optical targets to simply using cameras in a multitude of typical indoor and outdoor environments – you can see for yourself how they compare on our comprehensive results pages.

Over the following pages of detailed reviews, tables, results and analysis, you’ll discover exactly what these models are made of, but if you just want to know which camera’s best in each price range, jump straight to our conclusion. Either way you’ll soon find the camera of your dreams and be taking the photos you always wanted.

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