Some brands have a good reputation of having consistent, quality cameras... Canon, Nikon, Kodak and Fuji make some good ones. I still have my Canon 3.2MP camera I bought back in early 2002... when they were like $500. Takes great pics, but it's bulky and heavy compared to my current Kodak 6.0MP, which is really tiny and lightweight but takes good photos and decent video.
I'd like to get a nice SLR camera sometime, but for now I'll stick with my point & shoots.
do you want a point and shoot?
which is more important, best quality, or balance in cost?
do you want a small camera, or a full body camera?
do you want to shoot video?
what is your target output?
You have to set some boundries in what you are looking for. A canon digital elph is a great P&S camera if you want one in your pocket... but would be spat upon those who want full size sensors, interchangable lens, etc.
I'm about to go buy an Olympus E-520 from Circuit city for $600. I love the features it has on it, but I'm wondering about how hard it will be to get lenses for it, since they aren't standard...well thats what I've read.
I simply look for the features, and how I would use them. Not a professional, not a 10 year old. I may not buy any lenses for a long time, so thats not a huge concern.
When I was shopping for my point and shoot a few years ago I looked for somewhat high megapixels, decent zoom, uses SD cards and felt good in my hand. I settled on the Canon Powershot A530. After I bought it I found it to be durable (survived a fall onto concrete, snapped open, and still worked once snapped back together), decent battery life, and good video mode. I definitely recommend the Powershot A series for any person who just wants a really good point and shoot.
I love my Sony Cybershot. DSC-W70. I've had it a few years, all I really do is point and click, and it takes pretty good pictures for me. Any of my TR threads have pictures from it, and they're decent and it's small.
I do not like their new site design compared to the old one... but once you find the navigation (next/prev) and drop down menu at the top of each review you can avoid being distracted by the ads. The new layout is not nearly as easy to browse as the old.. but the level of information there and compariative photos is just impossible to match.
My photography camera is a dslr....I love it, but it has gotten to cumbersome to take everywhere (to many lenses) and it is rather large. I take it whenever I go somewhere knew or I really want nice pictures.
I recently bought a small digital camera that fits nicely in my purse. It goes everywhere with me. It is very light and covenant.