Of course, the above assumes you are using 35mm film, still the recommended standard for high-quality photography. You may also want to consider APS, or the Advanced Photo System cartridges that consist of a slightly smaller film format that allows for panoramic and other cropping options. Unfortunately, the cameras that support this system don't allow for the manual manipulation required by creative photography or support the range of films you might want. APS is also being rendered obsolete by the increasing availability and affordability of digital cameras, a better option to consider if you're looking for a 35mm alternative.

Digital cameras are dropping precipi-tously in price, and are fast approaching the quality of professional 35mm film images. Better yet, you can view and e-mail your images immediately and avoid all the film and developing costs that go with 35mm. Digital cameras can run you anywhere from $200 to $12,000, but some good options exist at the lower end of the spectrum. Look for a resolution of at least three mega-pixels in today's market.

The bottom line? Invest a little money in a good camera (see sidebar on page 35 for our picks), pay attention to these tips, and you'll have the basics to create memorable shots for the family album. And it can't help but make your vacation slide show a lot more interesting.

the best cameras of 2001
despite what your bargain-hunter friends tell you, when it comes to cameras, you get what you pay for. invest in the right equipment and you'll see a difference. here are five top picks for serious amateur photographers.

canon eos elan 7e: a modern slr with top-quality auto- focus and a great selection of lenses. $800 - body only, no lens; www.canon.com