I have been shopping for a digital camera for the past few weeks for my fiancee and I. It's been a lot of fun learning about the different options and trying to prioritize features to select the best camera for our needs, and one that fits our pocketbooks. We are taking a trip to Seattle over the 4th of July weekend and following week for a wedding for a college pal of Banana (my fiancee). We do both own APS 35mm cameras for when we want to use film.
My parameters for this search have been:
1) 4-6 Megapixels, no less than 4, 5-6 is preferred
2) 8x Optical Zoom. Optical Zoom is where it's at. Digital Zoom is a waste of money.
3) Photo Quality. After all, if the photos don't look good, what was the point?
4) Video Recording. This was one of Banana's requests. She uses this function on the Canon A95 she uses at school and wants this functionality. I could live without it, but I have no problems having it either.
5) Cost. If it doesn't fit the price range, it doesn't matter how good of a camera it is.
I have come up with a couple of good cameras. Two of them are pushing the amount we would like to spend. I had hoped to stay under $500 overall (including memory, bag, and batteries), and two of the ones I really like retail for $499 for only the camera.
My first choice is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20. This is at the top of the class for optics/photo quality. The body of the camera is small and light, but still sturdy. The drawback, only drawback I have found, is the video recording. It only records at 320X240, and apparently doesn't record sound with the video. But wow does it take nice pictures, and I really like the lithium ion rechargable battery system.
My second choice is the Canon Powershot S2. This is a new to market camera, so that concerns me a bit, as there are not as many reviews, but I've had great luck with the Canon digita camera line. The Powershot S2 seems to be a very small step down in optics/photo quality, but picks up the video options Banana wants. This is likely the camera I would buy if I was at the store today (actually I was earlier), but the problem is nobody has them. Only display models. Canon apparently hasn't shipped them yet to most places. We NEED our camera before July 1st when we head to Seattle. They quoted me a few weeks at the store I looked at this afternoon. I was offered the floor model, but I've never thought owning a floor model was a good idea, especially for electronics. Who know how many times it's been dropped, had goo spilt on it, been licked by a rouge child and so on.
My third choice is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5. This is the brother to the FZ20 listed above, with a few less user options, and a little less cost. If I'm not mistaken, the FZ20 is last year's model, and FZ5 is a 2005 model. FZ5 has the same pros and cons of the FZ20.
My fourth choice is one that probably best fits our price range, and that is the Olympus Camedia C-765. The price is right coming in at as low as $225. It is the only 4 megapixel camera in this bunch. It takes great pictures and has very nice optics. It is also the smallest camera of this bunch, so it'll fit into a purse, where the Canon above is pretty big. The Camedia also is very light, almost to the point I am concerned about durability. While I don't expect a camera to be childproof, I do want something that will last for years.
Others that are on the outside, but are still being considered are the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 and the Kodak EasyShare DX7590. Mr. Bill, Banana's father, has an older model of the DX7590, and it takes pretty nice pictures. They used it when they went to the Presidential Inaugaration earlier this year, and those photos turned out great.
I love buying electronics. Perhaps it's because I'm a man. Perhaps it's because I love having new toys to play with. No matter which camera we go with, I'm going to have a lot of fun with it!