Still scrambling to figure out what to get your favorite mom for Sunday? A little help: Here are my top picks for the perfect Mother's Day gift (hint, hint).
Best Budget Camera: Canon PowerShotA470 This 7.1-megapixel camera is a steal, especially if you snap it up for $109.50 at Beach Camera (with free shipping). It's bulkier than my favorite Canon point-and-shoot, the PowerShot SD870 IS, but for less than half the price, the A470 is a great option if your mom is a digital camera newbie. It takes two AA batteries, which is nice in a pinch for those who aren't used to recharging their cameras. The camera sports a 38- to 132mm equivalent f/3.0-5.8 lens, a 2.5-inch LCD, and 14 automatic shooting modes. And if mom wants to get a little creative, there are manual overrides for ISO speed, exposure compensation, and white balance--nice touches in an entry-level shooter. Oh, and you can pick from models with blue, orange, red, or gray color accents.
Best Vacation Camera: Olympus Stylus 1030 SW The Olympus Stylus 1030 SW isn't just waterproof to 33 feet, it's also designed to withstand a 6.6-foot drop or 220-pounds of pressure (not to mention 14-degree temperatures), so it can pretty much take whatever abuse a family vacation can throw at it. Add to that some fine camera specs like the relatively wide 28- to 102mm, f/3.5-5.1 zoom lens and a 2.7-inch LCD; 29 shooting modes, including underwater still and movie modes; and an in-camera Panorama mode that captures three images and stitches them together automatically (perfect for those Grand Canyon shots on the family road-trip). You can buy one for about $350 at Amazon.com.
Best Soccer-Mom Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 The 10.1-megapixel DMC-FX35's extra-wide zoom lens (25- to 100mm equivalent, f/2.8-5.6) means you can squeeze the whole team in your shot without having to back up across the entire field. A High-speed Burst setting lets you shoot about 6 frames per second to capture your kids in motion--or better yet, try the 1280x720 HD resolution video capture at 30 frames per second (and play the video back on your HDTV with an optional component cable). Optical image stabilization saves your images from hand-shake blur while Intelligent ISO Control helps reduce motion blur. A cute touch is the slideshow with soundtrack capabilities--a fun way to share your shots with the team. You can find the camera selling for as low as $278 (at Buydig.com).
Best Digital SLR for Mom: Olympus Evolt E410 No, I didn't mean the new Olympus Evolt E420. Now that its successor is out, you can get a sweet deal on the E410 ($450 at Amazon.com with kit lens, for example). I like the 10-megapixel DSLR for mom because of its super-compact size and the Live View mode, which is increasingly common in DSLRs, but a bonus in such a low-priced camera. Since most moms have enough stuff to lug around, you might even think about getting a body-only model and waiting for the 25mm F2.8 Zuiko pancake lens (0.9 inch thick!) that was announced along with the E420 and should be shipping May 20.
Best On-the-go Camcorder: Flip Video Ultra Everyone I know who has one of these loves the thing. The beauty of this little gizmo is in its simplicity and since most mothers I know need a little simplicity in their lives, I had to add it to my list. You might have the fanciest HD camcorder out there, but it won't capture those priceless moments if you don't have it with you. The Flip is so easy to use, cheap ($149.99 for 1GB version and $179.99 for 2GB), and durable that moms won't hesitate to leave it rattling around with their keys in a purse or pocket, so it can always be at the ready when the occasion arises.