Smartphones may have replaced most traditional cameras, but some moments in your school career are too important to trust with a phone. Like meeting your roommate for the first time, going on the road trip of a lifetime and graduation.
Dedicated cameras offer functionality that smartphones still can't match. A fast lens and quick autofocus means you can capture the winning touchdown from your intramural football game. Zoom lenses bring you closer to the action from afar, and a xenon flash lets you capture brightly lit images without motion blur for your night on the town.
The larger sensor inside a dedicated camera – even a point-and-shoot – preserves more details, gets more light in your photo, even if you're in a dark bar and have clearer memories as your images won't have grain or noise.
Look out for features like waterproofing for ski and surf outings, swiveling screens for selfies and built-in Wi-Fi to quickly transfer snaps to your smartphone and instantly share. Whether you're a budding photographer or documenting your school life, these cameras will help take your photography to the next level.
Olympus OM-D E-M1
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A retro look with modern features
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 impresses with its retro good looks, selection of zoom and prime lenses, DSLR-like performance, excellent image stabilization and fast performance. The E-M1 should be a top consideration for enthusiasts given it comes packed with dials for easy manual control.
Plus, the camera's weather sealing means neither rain, snow nor sleet should keep you away from snapping. Just don't let its small size fool you – the compact size is the E-M1's best feature. The lightweight body means it's less of a hassle to always have a camera with you.
Read the full review: Olympus OM-D E-M1
DSLR power at half the size
You don't need the bulk and weight of a DSLR to enjoy a bunch of lenses with sharp image quality. You can trust the Sony a5000 to produce excellent shots, and it comes with a flip-up screen, so you can pose for your own selfies if you run out of willing models.
You'll also get fast auto-focus tracking for sports and action photos. Finally, the camera's large sensor means you can take some moody photos in low light without having to use the flash.
Read the full review: Sony a5000
A powerful zoom packed in your pocket
With a wide-angle lens and 20x optical zoom, the Nikon S7000 is a versatile camera for landscapes, street photography, sports, architecture and even bird photography – depending on your interest.
Despite its long zoom range, the Nikon S7000 is still compact and slim enough to slip into a pocket. Whether you're backpacking through Europe with your friends or enjoying a leisurely date at the zoo, the optical zoom lens brings you closer to the action, from a safe distance.
Read the full review: Nikon S7000
The best mountable camera around
Whether by sea, land or air, GoPro's Hero+ is a nature-loving, thrill-seeking enthusiasts' best friend.
From skydiving and screaming at the top of your lungs to landing a trick after catching the perfect wave, this is one versatile action cam. The mountable shooter captures priceless stills and HD videos of your adventures, thanks to various mounting accessories and a waterproof case.
Canon PowerShot ELPH 350 HS
One of the most potent point-and-shoots
This affordable shooter is both pocket-friendly and friendly on your pocketbook. While the camera doesn't come with a flip-up screen for selfies, Canon included Wi-Fi, a long 12x zoom and a 20-megapixel sensor to capture detailed photos.
The xenon flash means you'll be able to capture clear images whether you take this PowerShot with you out on the town or trying to photograph your s'more-stuffed evening by the campfire.
Pro-level photos for a pretty price
While Nikon and Canon get the the lion's share of the DSLR haul, Pentax makes affordable shooters with a rich ecosystem of K-mount lenses. With a more affordable price and quality to match its better known rivals, the Pentax K-S2 is an excellent choice for student photographers on a budget to explore the world of DSLR.
For enthusiasts who want greater manual control of their photography, the Pentax K-S2 comes with plenty of dials to access your camera's settings. The K-S2 is compact for a DSLR camera, and it's weather-sealed body means you can shoot in any weather.
Read the full review: Pentax K-S2
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