more money not only adds megapixels, but resolution and sophistication as well. longer zoom range, pinpoint autofocus, movie mode, advanced automation functions and manual controls, built-in or off-camera flash capability, and larger or swiveling lcd preview screens are just some of the added benefits of bigger budgets. our sweet spot: 4-megapixel models that produce a honey of an image up to 11 x 14 and provide enough advanced features to keep those creative juices flowing.

if you're really a camera and digital fanatic, zoom in on a single lens reflex (slr) camera. these cameras are feature rich and built to use the manufacturers' complete system of lenses, lighting, and accessories to give ultimate control over your photographic achievement.

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industry leader canon introduced the first sub-$1,000 digital slr in late 2003. its digital rebel not only provides a substantial breakthrough in price, but in technical offerings as well. nikon responded this spring with its d70, a similarly priced 6-megapixel slr. other critically acclaimed slrs to consider are canon's 10d or pentax's ist d. also worth checking out in this category is the innovative olympus e-1, which brings to market an entirely new camera and lens system.

camera makers know a good thing when they see it, and what they see through their lens is you - buying one of their digital cameras - which makes competition among them oh-so-keen. takashi oshiyama, head of canon's digital imaging business group, says the company will deliver more than 20 new cameras to the marketplace over the course of the year. to keep pace, expect a wealth of offerings from epson, hp, kodak, nikon, minolta, pentax, olympus, sony, and others.