Being a photography enthusiast and a gadget geek has its advantages. Simply put, I don't skimp out on gear because my photos and the photos I take for my clients are too precious.
However, not everyone can go out and afford a camera and lenses that equal to paying your mortgage for four months. Even so, there comes a time where the big gear is just too much to carry around. Believe me, I've done the Disney-type vacation with the pro gear and while the quality of the pictures are top notch, you're going to end up with a sore back even if you have comfortable traveling gear.
One of the questions I always get is what sort of camera should families invest in that are in the point and shoot category, won't break the bank, but take photos that are worthy of framing.
Here's the straight answer: the Canon GX (fill in X for one of any models from the 9, 10 or 11).
I happen to have the G9 and have recommended other models to friends and family. Once they got their hands on it, starting taking pics, they have always come back to me with thanks because this particular line of camera's simply deliver.
Here's what I like about the G series.
Most point and shoot cameras have poor builds -- at least the ones in the $200 range and some of the higher priced cameras. The Canon G series is extremely solid and feels like you have something of substance in your hands without being too heavy to lug around. It's quick the compact package with a big punch.
The functions on the G series are similar to those SLR type cameras (ones with interchangeable lenses). Yes, the G series have the typical consumer buttons ("green" shooting), but also have creative ones like aperature and shutter priority. These creative zones allow the shooter to manipulate depth of field and motion, for example. If you're really feeling adventurous, you can try the G series in the manual mode, which allows you to change both aperature and shutter speed. Without a flash, manual mode requires good lighting or a tripod so you can avoid camera shake, i.e. blurriness.
The sensor on the G series are fantastic. The quality of the photos (even those taken in dark situations with flash), are fantastic and worthy of printing, framing and creating photo books with. I've taken sports photos, portraits and pano-type landscapes with my G9 and I tell you, the quality of the prints rival the shots taken with my Canon 30D.
The G series, in my experience, deals with battery power pretty nicely. I would tell you, however, that you'll need a second battery as a back up for those times where you're going to be flash heavy. From a full charge, you can probably take a few hundred photos, where each of them used the flash -- if not more. Now, on a nice sunny day, where flash is used in backlight situations (where the sun is at the subject's back), you are shooting until the cows come home without any battery issues.
If you're looking for a good point and shoot camera and want to grab images that you'll cherish, grab yourself one of the G series. You will not be dissapointed. I pretty much put my personal approval behind these series and that's something I don't do with gear. Those recommondations are saved for items that really deserve it. This is one of those times.