questionscan you help me pick out a compact camera?

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There used to be a site called CNet that had reviews on stuff like that. But it lost its credibility after being bought by CBS and imploded.

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@rayray8822: Haha yup, I've read tons of reviews on tons of websites. I have decided that I probably can't trust most of them. I was hoping to hear about someone's personal experience with a camera they use on vacations.

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What do you consider economical? Rather than rely on a single site for review, I generally go to several and look for commonality. As for personal experience, I have a palm sized Kodak Easyshare that I bought for <$50 a couple of years ago that is basically my "throwaway", I take it where I wouldn't want to risk my Canon. I bough an Olympus Tough camera for my friend for $125, it is drop proof, freeze proof and usable underwater. Again, perfectly servicable photos but not much zoom. My real camera is a Canon Powershot G11, and very well-regarded camera that I researched extensively before buying. Easy to use, takes great shots, long zoom. It appears to still be selling for more than newer models and is running around $500 new but you can get one used for $200 on Amazon. It is on the heavy side but quite compact, and the very best thing about it (for me) is the articulating LCD, which allows me to take photos from all angles without killing myself.

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Some sample pics from the Canon from my trip to Costa Rica last summer:
From closeup using the zoom (this frog is only about an inch long)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/8007637055/in/set-72157631592745770/lightbox/
To scenery shots
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/8007641435/in/set-72157631592745770/lightbox/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/8007645424/in/set-72157631592745770/lightbox/
And mixed ranges and lighting
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/8007643302/in/set-72157631592745770/lightbox/
It's a very strong camera, even in the hands of an amateur like me. The shot of the lake was taken from the window of a moving car, btw.

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I guess I should post the types I looked at so far

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-WX50

Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS (Black)

I'm definetly willing to go with an older model as long as its good :-) I'd like to keep the purchase in the $150-250 range

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@moondrake: The olympus sounds interesting, not sure it's what we're looking for but I'll check it. I think that particular Cannon is out of our price range, new at least.

BTW hows your Mulberry tree?

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@nmchapma: After soliciting some local advice in light of our discussion here, the general consensus is that it is just dying of old age and there's nothing to be done for it. I have a line on some decent sized volunteer sproutlings that a friend of a friend is looking to rehome, so I may give one of them a shot. Here are a couple of sample pics from Bob's Olympus Tough. The main shortcoming of that very solid little camera is the poor zoom.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/6055553646/in/set-72157627461997428/lightbox/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/6055002557/in/set-72157627461997428/lightbox/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/20261001@N08/6055073083/in/set-72157627461997428/lightbox/
I'd have to call Bob if you want the model number, but I see them for about $120 in a quick search.

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I own the Canon 300 Elph. It's a decent point and shoot, I carried it everywhere and probably put it through more abuse than it was intended for. Takes great photos, zoom is good,battery life was excellent for me and I take a lot of pictures. Takes nice video.
I've replaced it with a 110 only because I ran into a zoom problem causing the camera to shut down. I attribute this to possible hard use by me.

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The Panasonic SZ7 is an great little camera for the price. Amazingly Fast auto focus, okay low light performance, 1920 x 1080 60i video mode. The one down side that people complain about is battery life. I have never had an issue with battery life, I suppose if you took several hundred pictures between charges it could be an issue.
http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-Sensitivity-Digital-Camera-Optical/dp/B00728Z9JA/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1366735671&sr=8-4&keywords=panasonic+lumix

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I did a lot of research at Christmas looking for one for my Dad. I know how overwhelming looking for a camera can be.
He wanted to have a lot of zoom for wildlife, and one with high frames per sec. I also looked for something easier for him to use and in a moderate price range.

This is what I got :
Canon Powershot SX260HS

Purchased at Target or Walmart . Was in Dec.I'm sure the best price may have changed. It was in the 189-199 range.

Second choice was Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS20

The site I link was handy to compare features. But I did not rely on their opinion alone. I tend to research stuff to death.

The Panasonic has a slight curved front for better grip & is said to have easier use controls @ $244.
The over all reviews Canon won the best bang for the buck. And yes, it takes nice pictures. Very clear zoom. He doesn't have any up to show.

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This is all great info, Thanks everyone!

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@ceagee: That powershot wasn't on the list but it is now :-)

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For my SLR I've always been and always will be a Canon guy. I just am.

That said, for my point and shoot, I've always been a Nikon guy. I've never had anything but great luck with Nikon point and shoots.

I've also had great luck picking them up off Craigslist. I picked up an S8100 for $80 a few months ago and love it. It's very small, extremely solid and has great zoom abilities. Plus I love how simple the controls are yet give a pretty solid range of flexibility in shooting.

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I've been looking at that Cannon myself. I'm looking for a camera too.

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The most important factor in choosing a camera is optical quality. Nikon, Cannon and possibly Panasonic qualify as the best cameras. Check the actual lens stats before buying. If the stats are hard to find then don't buy. In order to get a better lens you might have to buy an older model at a discounted price.