Moving on up....
Some time ago, on impulse, I decided to move on up to a semi-"prosumer" type of digital camera. "Prosumer-lite", if you will.
Actually I've been planning on the move for some time now, triggered by the apparent demise and resurrection of my old Canon PowerShot A300 (see earlier posts here, and here). Incidentally, that camera has itself moved on to my parents, who are just now discovering the technological (as well as economic) benefits of going digital after virtually a lifetime of reliance on conventional film-based cameras.
After my two-year relationship with the A300, I had a brief stint with a Canon PowerShot A410 (see earlier post here). While pretty good for basic entry-level picture taking, it had somewhat less features and flexibility than I was accustomed to, taking into account my rising interest in digital photography. My son made some pretty good use of it though (see the posts on his blog here and here).
Then, a few months back, I gave in to the urge and bought a more advanced model, supposedly the new flagship of the Canon PowerShot series, a PowerShot A700.
The PowerShot A700 is a pretty sophisticated yet easy to use point-and-shoot model with an extensive feature set, which includes a 6 megapixel sensor, 6x optical zoom, a 2.5" LCD screen, 20 shooting modes and high ISO settings. Strangely enough, it takes a few steps backward from the previous flagship, the A620, which has a 7.1 megapixel sensor and a Vari-angle LCD screen. The A700 uses less AA batteries though (two versus the A620's four), has a larger screen (albeit fixed), is smaller and lighter overall, and actually less expensive than the A620, which sealed the deal for me.
It makes up for the A410's minor deficiencies in that it gave me back sound recording capabilities when making video clips, and the satisfying "click" of the shutter, features which were standard on the A300, but mysteriously deleted from the A410.
While definitely a step up, the A700 isn't perfect. The awkward angle of the zoom ring and shutter take some getting used to, and the absence of image stabilization makes the 6x optical zoom all but useless without a tripod or a fixed resting place for the camera. Also, the camera/playback switch seems worryingly flimsy, raising doubts of long term durability. Image quality is typical Canon, which is to say, excellent, save for the high ISO settings under certain lighting conditions, which sometimes produce grainy results. All in all, I've had mine for some time now, and I've never had any real or major problems with it, which isn't really unusual for a Canon.
Overall, the A700 is a pretty good digital camera which covers most of the bases. It's no DSLR though, and you may be disappointed if you expect it to perform like one. You can treat it as one if you wish since with the use of an adapter, you can mount Canon's range of lenses on it. If you're bent on doing that however, you're probably better off getting a DSLR from the start.
In short, the A700 is definitely a more than competent "prosumer" model, and unless you have highly specialized needs, it will certainly serve you well at a price that's hard to beat among it's contemporaries.
Shortly after making this post, I read about Canon's new PowerShot A710 which addresses most of the A700's deficiencies. It has a 7.1 megapixel sensor, and image stabilization among others. This just goes to show you that whatever tech doodad you buy today will definitely be supplanted by a newer model in at least three months. Such is the way of things. It's probably better to enjoy what you have now, and only move on up when you really need the new features.
So what's next? I think I've had my fill of new digital cameras, at least for the next year or so. What I really would like is to move up to a DSLR, but given how expensive DSLRs can be, I would really have to save up for it. Something like a Canon EOS 350D would probably be up my alley, given it's relative low cost. Maybe in a year or two. For now, the A700 is tops, at least for my purposes.