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2010 has been a game-changing year for digital cameras. It has seen a blurring of lines between previously long-established categories, and the rise of entirely new types of camera that offer greater portability, versatility and creative potential than ever before. Features such as HD video and stereo sound recording have become commonplace rather than rarities, and the headlong rush to ever higher sensor resolutions seems to have slowed and in some cases reversed as both manufacturers and the buying public come to realise there's more to image quality than just megapixels. Lens quality has at last become a major selling point, with several cameras now offering fast f/2 lenses, and 24mm wide-angle is fast becoming the standard for zoom lenses.
The most significant event of 2010 has been the explosive growth in the Compact System Camera market, with second-generation models from Panasonic and Olympus, as well as extremely impressive debut models from Ricoh, Samsung and especially Sony, and rumours of imminent launches in this category from Nikon and Canon, among others. The new Compact System Cameras have completely overshadowed traditional digital SLRs in the system camera category this year, and look set to do the same next year too.
2010 has been something of a slow year for digital SLRs. There have been a couple of significant new models, such as the Canon EOS 550D and several new additions to Sony's ever-growing Alpha range. Unfortunately some major new launches including the Nikon D3100, Sony A55 and Canon EOS 60D arrived too late in the year for our 2010 awards, but they're sure to be important models for the year ahead.
Another category that has seen a lot of activity this year is the long-zoom compact or “travel camera”. All of the main manufacturers now have models in this category, with some of the high-end ones sporting features such as full HD video, built-in GPS location and manual exposure controls. Highlights from the year include the Samsung WB650, Panasonic TZ10, Fuji F80 and Sony HX5, to name but a few. This is another area that is sure to see further developments over the next twelve months.
Meanwhile the rest of the digital camera market has seen slow but steady progress. There have been a lot of good mid-range and budget cameras launched this year, with stand-out models from Samsung, Casio and Panasonic, while the luxury compact market has seen impressive new models from big brands such as Nikon and Canon, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its market-leading IXUS line with some great new models. Again, these were launched too late to feature in this year's awards, but look out for reviews soon.
Anyway, enough with the introduction; let's move right along and take a look at the best digital cameras from 2010. With so much variety in the camera market at the moment we could probably have chosen six different categories, but in the end we narrowed it down to just three; budget compacts, advanced compacts, and system cameras.