I know a lot of us have bought compacts that easily fit in your pocket. These were great, but they are being replaced with the rapidly improving cameras on cell phones. Personally, I don't see any reason to carry both.
The question is what to get for more serious photo opportunities. You're going on a vacation. Your kid is playing soccer or acting in a play. You scored tickets to a big sporting event. In these cases, you want something that can:
- Work well in low light
- Zoom in on distant subjects and still give a clean picture
- Take a rapid series of photos
- Record movies in HD
A possible solution: the Superzoom. Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and Nikon all make decent cameras in this category, but I was just blown away by Panasonic's newest: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. It does everything well in a nice, tight package. Some people will get caught up in the fact that it "only" does 12M pixels. The mega-pixel war is one of the biggest mistakes of "more = better" that I have seen. The DSLR I have been using for the past few years (Nikon D300s) is a 12MP camera and is completely sufficient for printing pictures up to 18 inches.
I won't duplicate all the marketing detail, but here are the things I care most about:
- 24x optical zoom
- f/2.8 lens throughout the entire zoom range. This is extremely unusual and very valuable for both low light (school play) and portraits (soft, faded background)
- Up to 12 frames per second
- Shoots both RAW and JPG format pictures. RAW is what advanced photographers use to capture more color depth and detail from each photo.This is normally only found on DSLRs.
- Excellent movie capabilites
You can read the details about the FZ200 (and even order it) from here.
I you want to compare some of the better competitors, you can check out the Canon PowerShot SX50 and the Sony DSC-HX200V. I think the Panasonic is the hands down winner, with the Sony in second place.
I like to pass along good solutions when I find them. Feel free to post questions if you have them.