STOP PRESS: In May 2009, this camera developed a fault, whereby the images captured were corrupted with a "venetian blind" effect. All credit to Canon and their agents at Colchester Camera Repair Service, however, because this was confirmed to be due to a known manufacturing fault, and they repaired the camera at no charge (replacing the CCD sensor altogether), despite being several years out of warranty.
The Canon PowerShot A85 is our current digital camera. Canon's numbering is essentially meaningless in isolation, with this being a 4 megapixel model. It features a 3x optical zoom (the only zoom type that you should take much notice of), autofocus and lots of manual overrides including focus, so is a step up from our old camera in every way. Whether the images are four times better is questionable, but the quality is generally excellent, even with the JPEG compression not on the finest setting - in fact the finest setting typically doubles the JPEG file size for questionable image improvement. It's not a remarkably small camera, but it handles very well and takes four AA batteries which are available more or less anywhere and last for ages - we've fitted 2300mAh NiMH cells for best battery life and lowest running cost. Images are stored to a CompactFlash memory card, which whilst ironically perhaps the least compact of all flash card formats, is sturdy, good value for money (given that the 32MB card supplied obviously won't hold many pictures), and still the "professional's choice". We have a 256MB card, which is good for over 100 photographs even at the highest quality, and over 200 in practice. The camera's not perfect though: the anti-redeye is more or less useless, being just a bright LED rather than using the flash, and it struggles to autofocus in low light conditions, but for general use it's great and seems to expose better than some of its A-series predecessors - perhaps due to more sophisticated metering. It has also recently developed a "hot" red pixel on its sensor after only just over a year of light use, which is a bit disappointing, and there appears to be no way of telling the camera to ignore it, though in most daylit photographs you would only notice it if you were looking for it.
The Kodak DC215 was our first digital camera, a true one-megapixel device with the unusual combination of fixed focus and a 2x optical zoom lens. Compared with its predecessors it's reasonably sleek though is a little brick-shaped ultimately. Moving parts are kept to a minimum, with just a push-on lens cap rather than a motorised cover, though it does become loose over time. I chose the camera because it offered comparable facilities (apart from autofocus) to my 35mm compact camera, and I didn't want to take a backwards step when I "went digital". Kodak's JPEG compression is a little poor quality, making the images a touch on the fuzzy side, especially noticeable with landscapes etc, but for not too critical use (and when the subject is nice and big) it's fine. The only faults are that the battery compartment is badly designed, such that an important clip broke off the case itself, requiring the camera to be held together with cable ties (I have heard of others experiencing the same problem, so it's certainly a design fault) and it has finally developed a dead pixel on its sensor after many years of sterling service. Obviously it's not a patch on the current crop of big-name cameras, but we and others it has been loaned to have been very pleased with it over the years.