When it comes to digital cameras, we favor a variation on the old tequila ads: “Life is hard; your photographs shouldn’t be.” These snappy, affordable models deliver quality photos without putting too much strain on the cranium.

OLYMPUS D-550 ZOOM, $399
Three-megapixel unit offers several image-resolution options and scene modes; sleek case prevents snagging in briefcase or pocket. CONS: Ships without rechargeable batteries; 16MB SmartMedia card holds only about eight images at full resolution. BOTTOM LINE: An elegant entry-level camera at a surprisingly low price. MORE INFO:www.olympus.com
If you want to venture beyond automatic mode, this 2.0 megapixel unit features slow-sync flash mode, variable light sensitivity, sepia tone, and other wrinkles. CONS: As with most small digitals, the viewfinder doesn’t show your complete picture. BOTTOM LINE: Easy action for point-and-shoots at the company picnic, but it won’t bore the more ambitious shutterbug.
MORE INFO:www.canon.com
NIKON COOLPIX 2500, $300
Preset Scene modes (Fireworks, Beach, Snow) make for fast, no-worry shooting. The swivel lens is an eye-catcher in itself. CONS: Can lose details in low-light settings. BOTTOM LINE: With its sleek, outside-the-boxy build, this unit looks as good as the photos you’ll take. MORE INFO:www.nikon.com