I have been reading reviews about digital cameras until I am ready to go blind, but I finally made a decision, as you can tell if you read below (and look to the right).
First of all, my constraints were that I could choose any digital camera that was $300 or less, and I could spend up to $50 on a memory card. So I spent weeks looking at cameras and reading about them, and fell in love with two different models; the FujiFilm FinePix S5000 3.1MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom and the Canon PowerShot SX100IS 8MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom. I finally decided on the Canon because it has image stabilization (which sounds almost necessary with a 10X zoom) and it is a newer model than the Fuji (Canon: 2007, Fuji: 2003), although I am still very curious about the Fuji camera; it sounds wonderful.
I also decided on the Sandisk SD 2GB memory card with a MicroMate Reader, some rechargeable NiMH batteries and an international recharger.
Now that I've FINALLY made a decision, I am incredibly excited.
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My wife just got Pentax k10d. But Canon is great!
Looking forward to photos next year!
the next camera i get will be a DSLR, but this sounds to be the best i can get right now.
I have the Fuji S5000 and it is a wonderful little camera. Really robust (from the number of times I've dropped it), takes great images. The low MP made me upgrade to the S9600 last Christmas which is a fine yet large camera, and quite heavy. I miss the petite frame of the S5000.
The canon looks grand as well - image stabilization really matters on the ultra zooms.
I hope your new camera is as much fun as mine have been!
I bought my Sanyo Xacti about 8 months ago. I love the camera for several reasons, first of which is it takes a bit less than two seconds for it to come out of standby and be ready to shoot pictures or video.
What I don't like is the shutter delay can only be a max of four seconds. But otherwise the camera is good, even if it does throw artifacts into the audio segment of videos.
I am in the market for a DSLR, and I'm seriously looking at the Canon Digitial Rebel XT. I can pick one up for a bit less than $400, it's the lenses that are killers.
But I'll do it since I want to do some astrophotography.
IMHO, 3.1MP is way not enough. That and image stabilization (especially optical) make that Canon a clear winner.
Then, Canon wins again with both standard AA batteries and standard SD cards.
Feature Search at http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare.asp confirms Canon SX100IS as the most recent camera that fits your requirements:
Price (street): US$ 300 or less
Release Status: Not discontinued (current or upcoming)
Sensor photo detectors: 8 million or more
Zoom tele (T): 200 mm or more
Image stabilization: Yes
I have a Canon Digital Rebel. One of the older versions without the EOS, etc. I still love dragging it out for photos. I am looking for a smaller point and shot though and want something small enough to fit easily into my purse or coat pocket. Maybe after the holidays when the price go down. You will get so much joy from your new gift to yourself. I wish I could see your face when you get it!!
I'm not sure why you would need a reader for the memory card, presuming that the camera has a USB interface.