If only the selection here in the US was better! Here are my desired specs:
- Price: ideally less than US$400
- Speed: shutter time of < 1 sec for still shots
- Still Resolution: 4 MP or above
- Video: up to 640x480 and 30 fps, with stereo sound
- Form-factor: one-handed, ultra-compact
- LCD preview: swivel-type with enough rotation to do discreet shots from my lap
- Media: tapeless, recording directly to solid-state (either Memory Stick Pro, Microdrive, or CF card)
- Optical Zoom: 3x minimum. I don't care about digital zoom since I can replicate that in post-processing myself.
Of course, I also want USB or Firewire connectivity to my PC, but that's essentially a given nowadays. One candidate is the Sony DSC-T1, which meets almost all my image specs, but not my physical specs. The audio recorded in video mode is monaural, a big drawback. The LCD screen is mounted on the back of the camera so you can't take discreet shots or flexible angles. The review at Steve's Digicams also mentions limited indoor flash quality and consistent red-eye effect, due to close proximity of the flash and the lens.
Another good candidate is the Panasonic SV-AV100, but this unit doesn't quite meet my minimum video or still resolution needs. It's unclear from the specs whether the audio is monaural, and the unit comes with MP3 playback capability that I don't need and thus don't want to pay for. The price is also way above my limit.
The best candidate so far is the Sanyo Xacti C1, which also seems to be co-branded as the Fisher FVD-C1. These units are unavailable in the US, though they can be bought in Canada. These units meet my specs quite well, but the sticking point remains price. Unless I've got a rich Candian benefactor who's in a remarkably good mood, I'm simply going to have to wait for prices to fall.
There are a number of very cheap MPEG-4 combo digicams out there for well within my price point - for example, the Gateway DVS20, which is only $199, or the lesser cousin of the AV100, the Panasonic AV50 which is a bit more pricey at $399. These are great little cameras and while they don't meet my more exacting specs, are still highly functional units that can really facilitate casual photos and videos.
In fact I might just buy the cheap Gateway before I leave, out of sheer desperation, since funds are unlikely to materialize magically and prices don't have much time to fall before I leave in May. But if that happens, I'll feel obligated to stick with it for a long time. I need to buy one camera - I don't need (nor can I afford) to buy two.