Super Shooters

Forget what you know about photo technology: 2002 changes everything. The first 6-megapixel consumer digitals are here, as is the first Foveon-sensor camera. New printers offer double the resolution. Here's the skinny on the new photography gear.

1. Autofocus on People
Inexperienced photographers need smart cameras–particularly when shooting groups of objects. The autofocus in Minolta's 3.7X zoom Freedom Zoom 140 ($179, shown) and 4.3X zoom Freedom Zoom 160 ($199) 35mm cameras is as intelligent as they get, singling out human forms and making them the focal point–even if they move. www.minolta.com

2. A Film Camera Doubles as Digital
Can't decide between film and digital? There's no need to choose with Kodak's Advantix EasyShare APS camera. Take a shot, and the camera exposes APS film and stores a low-resolution image. The digital images are perfect for e-mailing. Price: $200. www.kodak.com

Bring on 6 Megapixels
Finally, high-end SLRs to go with your high-end lenses.

Digital choices for photographers who own high-quality SLR lenses have been limited-namely, the $2,500 3-megapixel Canon D30 or a $5,000 pro camera. But this summer the field widens with three new digital SLRs. All will cost around $3,000. Canon's D60 and Nikon's D100 bring 6 megapixels within reach of the average snapper. But the dark horse is Sigma's 3-megapixel SD-9, which uses a Foveon X3 sensor to capture full color at each pixel-traditional sensors need four pixels for color. The trick: Each pixel has three light detectors instead of one; they're placed on the sensor's silicon at the precise depths that red, green, and blue light are absorbed. The result: The SD-9, with half the pixels, could surpass the D60 and D100 in image quality. We'll test the much-hyped Foveon cameras in future issues.

3. NIKON D100
Price: $2,000
Sensor: CCD (charge coupled device)
Megapixels: 6.1
Compatible Lenses: AF Nikkor mounts

4. CANON D60
Price: $2,999
Sensor: CMOS (complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor)
Megapixels: 6.3
Compatible Lenses: EF mounts

5. SIGMA SD9
Price: $3,000
Sensor: Foveon X3 CMOS
Megapixels: 3.4
Compatible Lenses: SA mounts

Next: The World's Smallest

Little Snaps
They don't get any easier to pack than this: Each of these fits in the palm of your hand.

1. Canon Elph Z3 ($260)
The APS camera that established the mini-camera category gets a new look, a longer zoom lens (2.3X), and a three-point autofocus system. 3.9 by 2 by 1.3 inches.

2. SiPix StyleCam Blink ($40)
This keychain-size, 0.3-megapixel digital camera stores 100 VGA (640- by 480-pixel) images and doubles as a videoconferencing unit when hooked to a computer. 1.97 by 1.97 by 0.6 inches.

3. Fujifilm Nexia Q1 ($60)
Small, sleek (3.85 ounces), and colorful (blue, purple, pink, or dark blue), this APS camera is all about style. 3.78 by 2.95 by 1.34 inches. 3.78 by 2.95 by 1.34 inches.

4. Casio Exilim EX-S1 ($299)
This 1.24-megapixel digital camera comes with 14MB of internal memory, a SD card slot, and a 1.6-inch color display. Add just 0.04 inches of thickness and get an MP3 player (EX-M1 model, $349, shown). 3.46 by 2.17 by 0.49 inches.

Next: Online photo services

Finding a Digital Shoebox

Not all Web-based photo services are created equal-and none offers it all. Look for one with editing tools, especially red-eye fix and cropping. If you're into retouching, you'll want a site that offers editing software for download-online editing gets tedious. Some sites also permit family and friends to download and print photos. And don't base your decision on ancillary products-you can always upload a shot to a different site for a specific product. Here's what the most popular sites offer.

SHUTTERFLY

4-by-6 Print: $0.49

Editing: Online only. Red eye, print-shape cropping, color adjustment

Printing: No

Downloading: No

Crafts: Brag books, cards, announcements

Bottom Line: Easy to use, but not a lot of features

MSN PHOTOS

4-by-6 Print: $0.49

Editing: Online only. Red eye, print-shape cropping, color and contrast adjustment

Printing: Yes

Downloading: Yes

Crafts: Mugs, magnets, puzzles, clothing, more

Bottom Line: The most options

OFOTO

4-by-6 Print: $0.49

Editing: Software download. Red eye, print-shape cropping, color and contrast adjustment

Printing: Yes

Downloading: Yes

Crafts: Cards

Bottom Line: The best software for uploading and editing

PHOTOWORKS

4-by-6 Print: $0.45

Editing: Software download. Red eye, free-form cropping

Printing: No

Downloading: Yes

Crafts: Brag books, DVDs and VHS tapes, more

Bottom Line: Navigation is cumbersome, editing easy

AMERICA ONLINE

4-by-6 Print: $0.49

Editing: None

Printing: No

Downloading: Yes

Crafts: Cards, mugs, puzzles, mouse pads, clothing

Bottom Line: Just the basics

Next: How to pick your megapixels

Digital 101
Just jumping on the digital bandwagon? Here's how to pick your megapixels.

1.1 MP
Top Print Size: 3 by 5
Consider: Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 120, $149

1. 2 MP
Top Print Size: 4 by 6
Consider: Nikon Coolpix 2500, $380

3. 3 MP
Top Print Size: 5 by 7
Consider: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P71, $400

4. 4 MP
Top Print Size: 8 by 10
Consider: Panasonic DMC-LC5, $899

5. 5 MP
Top Print Size: Cropped 8-by-10 prints and anything larger
Consider: Olympus Camedia E-20N, $1,999

Next: The latest crop of photo printers

The Digital Darkroom Reinvented
The latest crop of photo printers raises the bar yet again.

1. Lexmark Z65
It's the first 4,800-dpi photo printer, double the resolution of others. That's enough dots for every pixel in a 5.8-megapixel image. Its two trays automatically detect paper type.

Price: $199. www.lexmark.com

2. Epson Stylus Photo 2200
New pigment-based archival inks deliver great color and last up to 44 years. There's also an extra ink cartridge: The seventh color is low-density black.
Price: $699. www.epson.com

3. Canon S900
This printer has 3,072 nozzles, double the usual number, which shoot 74 million dots per second to complete an 8-by-10 image in 1 minute.
Price: $399. www.canonusa.com

Sport Cameras: Two for the Beach
Kodak's Max Water (below left, top: $14) works at depths of 35 feet, deeper than any other one-time-use camera. Digital more your speed? The 1.23-megapixel Casio GV-10 ($350) shrugs off sand and can withstand water for 30 minutes. www.kodak.com and www.casio.com.

Kevin Rose

Founder of Digg.com Geek gift: Amazon's Kindle is an amazing device. Because e-paper reflects light like traditional paper, there is no eyestrain. It also comes with built-in, free high-speed Internet access so you can download books from anywhere on the go. It's a bit pricey, but for a bookworm it's a pretty cool device. Ultimate invention: Wireless power. I read about a recent experiment at MIT that transferred power over a two-meter distance, powering a 60-watt lightbulb. Imagine a city blanketed in wireless power--I'd be the first to toss my laptop's brick power adapter.

Ray Kurzweil

Author, inventor and philosopher Geek gift: A Nokia N82 phone, which has just about everything from GPS to a five-megapixel camera with good lenses and a real xenon flash. **Ultimate invention: **Virtual displays using devices in our eyeglasses that beam images directly to the retina. Prototypes of these already exist. So my vision of computing and communicating in the future includes retina-mounted devices that can create stationary virtual displays even as we move our heads, and full-immersion visual-auditory virtual reality and augmented real reality. We'll be online all the time with very high-bandwidth wireless communication. Computing and communication will be a self-organizing mesh of nodes, so if you need a million computers for a second, it will be available to you. We'll live in a blend of real and virtual reality, and it won't always be clear where one stops and the other begins.

Phil Torrone

Senior editor, MAKE**** magazine; contributing editor, Popular Science Geek gift: A Spectrum Z510, the top-end 3-D printer from Z Corp. It takes 3-D CAD models and turns them into 24-bit color 3-D objects. It can crank out 10x14x8-inch objects. Ultimate invention: A home-based CERN Large Hadron Collider. You can do a lot in science, but anything besides physics seems like stamp collecting to me. I'd like to have this at home so I can find the Higgs boson from the comfort of my small New York City apartment.

Matt Harding

Internet filmmaker and star of wherethehellismatt.com Geek gift: Rock Band [by Harmonix for Xbox 360 or PS3]. I've never been very good at playing music, but I've always been good at playing videogames. Rock Band gives me the thrill of performing with other people in front of an audience. Ultimate invention: A pocket device with voice recognition that will instantly translate the words it hears in any language. I'm not asking for a flawless universal translator. I just want to know what the cab driver is saying about me.

Nolan Bushnell

Founder of Atari (and Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza) Geek gift: A subscription to Audible.com. I love books on tape, and my iPod Nano makes it so easy. Ultimate invention: A plasma laser cutter, so I can quickly build prototypes and be the mad scientist that I am.

Xeni Jardin

Tech journalist, co-editor of BoingBoing.net Geek gift: I´m kind of slobbering over the new Marantz PMD-620, a flash-based audio recorder. I've been using the PMD-660 to record all of my segments for NPR News for a while and loved the quality and stability, but it's too bulky. This new one's lighter. Ultimate invention: Something I can wave at my laptop to shrink the number of e-mails in my inbox. I probably receive between 1,000 and 1,500 total e-mails a day.Portrait: COOP; Marantz: CC Licensed by Josh Bancroft

Jonathan Coulton Musician; contributing troubadour, Popular Science

Geek gift: I've been positively giddy about the Tenori-on [a digital musical instrument in handheld tablet form] since I saw the demo online. As a musician, I never get that deep into technique-I love learning to play instruments just a tiny little bit and then making music with them as best I can. This seems to be exactly what the Tenori-on is designed for, and it looks really fun. Just look at all those pretty lights! Ultimate invention: The iPhone-from a couple years in the future. I love the phone, but I need it to be on a decent 3G [high-speed data] network with seamless DUN [dial-up networking, for extending Internet access to a laptop]. I don't even care if there's still no copy-and-paste. I just want to get my PowerBook online without having to think about it and curse the names of certain evil corporations. Also, if it's not too much to ask, can it have a head-up display and flawless voice recognition, please?

Chris Burke

Musician and producer/director of This Spartan Life **Geek gift: **The Lemur control surface for audio and media applications. This device is a dream piece of gear for media artists longing for a customizable graphical user interface that affords loads of possibilities for live performance and composition. Gimme gimme gimme! Ultimate invention: A programmable USB Game Boy cartridge. Some might think it painfully retro, but believe me, to Chiptune musicians (people who make music using vintage game gear), this would be a godsend. It would allow musicians who use the Game Boy as a music workstation to make backup copies of their music. Jose Torres at 8bitcollective.org has developed a prototype and hopes to release it soon. Not soon enough!

Dave Prochnow

How 2.0 Blogger/Principal builder for Popular Science Geek gift: An Apple iPhone. Yes, I probably should wait until next year's souped-up 3G model, but I find that carrying one device instead of four is good economy for my sagging shoulder. Ultimate invention: Some sort of magic ray that would instantly, globally and pervasively eliminate all weapons from this planet. It is way too easy to hurt someone in this world but seemingly impossible to tolerate, respect, and love your fellow human. Merry Christmas.

Jimmy Wales

Founder of Wikipedia Geek gift: A hybrid electric Mini Cooper. I saw that a company built a prototype and that it's going to, or may already have, put them into production, though it'll be incredibly expensive. Each wheel is powered independently by an electric motor, and it has a lot of stuff to geek out about. Ultimate invention: A cellphone that actually works! I... [Editor's note: His call dropped mid-sentence, and he was unreachable afterward. No joke!]

Amanda Congdon

Videoblogger and founder of Oxmour Entertainment Inc. Geek gift: An Amazon Kindle. I waste a lot of paper reading hard copies of magazines, and I like the idea of instantly downloadable books. Mom, I hope this comes through in your Google Alerts-hint, hint... Ultimate invention: I would go ballistic over a Kindle that had every publication in the world available for download, as well as an easy way to share favorites with friends. Oh, and a Bicentennial Man. One of those, please.

Mark Frauenfelder

Editor in chief of MAKE**** magazine and co-editor of BoingBoing.net Geek gift: A Garmin nvi 350 3.5-inch portable GPS navigator. My wife's car has built-in navigation, and I have grown so dependent that when I get into my car, I feel lost without it (and often end up that way). Ultimate invention: The rumored flash-based portable Mac with an 8- or 10-inch screen. I like traveling as light as possible, and this thing would lighten my load considerably.Portrait: Bart Nagel; Mac mockup: Logan Lape

Wil Wheaton

Author of The Happiest Days of Our Lives ****and_ Just a Geek_ Geek gift: A top-of-the-line GPS navigation unit for my car. I've been a geocacher since 2001, and my whole life I've been the guy with the map when we take road trips or go hiking. Ultimate invention: Municipal Wi-Fi, an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device 04, and an eBook reader that's as convenient and unrestricted as the book it's replacing. I was hoping that Amazon would get the Kindle right, and they didn't come close.

Timothy Ferriss

Author of **The 4-Hour Workweek****** Geek gift: A Hypoxico Deluxe Bed Tent, which is an airtight tent put over your bed to simulate high altitude. By decreasing oxygen intake to mirror 12,000 feet, for example, one can increase red blood cell count and increase endurance for sports training. Fun. Ultimate invention: A small handheld device that samples blood and provides data like complete metabolic panel (insulin, cholesterol, etc.) and hormonal levels (free testosterone, estradiol, etc.). I'm a compulsive trender with blood results and find it invaluable observing real health changes and optimizing behavior and diet accordingly.

Daniel Lyons

a.k.a. Fake Steve Jobs Geek gift: A really high-end music server with a supercool touchscreen controller. I'm tired of using Squeezebox to pull music from a Mac. Also, I want an iPhone, but I want someone else to pay for it. Ultimate invention: One of those Microsoft Surface tables with the touch interface. If that could drive my music server, I'd be incredibly psyched.