Hi Gill, Although any camera can malfunction, you can decrease the odds by purchasing a camera from one of the many respected camera makers. Normally I wouldn't say that battery choice makes a difference, unless one is going to be away from electricity for a while. Since this might be your case, I would buy a camera that uses AA's, along with two sets of rechargeables and several sets of regular batteries to use as backup in case you run through your rechargeables and can't recharge them. There are several types of memory cards. "Memory sticks" are the ones by Sony. All digicams use some type of memory card, and you will want to buy a few high-capacity ones for your trip.
How many megapixels you need depends on how big a print you want to make. The amount of megapixels has no bearing on photo quality, it only means the size of the file on the computer. Two cameras that combine big zoom and AA's in a medium-sized package are the Canon S1 IS, and the Minolta Z3, both of which run about $399 here in the U.S.. They would make excellent vacation cameras, and are also good in the video dept. too, if that is something you might be interested in.
Two other cameras that have big zoom but lack IS that you should consider are the Minolta Z2 and the Fuji 5100. PhilR...
Thank you Phil I hadn't realised that memory stick was just the Sony name, and also now I know that a higher megapixel figure isn't going to affect the quality of my pictures, so that's two good things learned straight off. The battery thing was worrying me, as I'm not quite sure what the voltage and socket set up might be compared to home, I must check it out soon. I've looked on the net and confess that the cameras you suggest hadn't even figured in my search, as most of the ones I'd looked at were only 3 or 4x optical zoom. The IS sounds a really good feature too, so I shall be looking at the Canon and Minolta, which I've found here for 227 and 207 + delivery, respectively. I can get the Minolta in a package with 256 memory for 244. That's the next thing I have to work out, how much memory we'll need (how long is a piece of string hey?) Thanks again.
Hello again Gill, All of the digicam battery chargers I've ever seen are dual voltage, so as long as you have the right plug adaptor, they will work anywhere. Of course I haven't seen them all, so there might be exceptions. Just look at the charger and make sure it will accept input from 110v *to* 220v (or thereabouts), and not one or the other. A 256 card will not be enough for the entire vacation, so you will have to either take along some type of storage device that will hold many megabytes of info, and download your pics each and every day, or buy some 1 gig or higher cards. One shouldn't scrimp when taking a vacation such as yours... You can do a search and find charts that will give you approx.
Watch out for the mosquitos and the car-jackers.... PhilR...
I bought an Olympus mju400. It has a metal case which is weather proof. I got it for vacations etc. Its a bit slow when starting up but very easy to use with plenty of different settings for various situations, these are accessed at the press of a button.. The bigger the memory card the more pics you can hold. I found the 64mb adequate over 10 days in Disney! Before I bought my camera (on line at Pixmania)I went to Currys and got my hands on various models to get a feel of them.
I don't think batteries will be a big problem, especially if you go with a camera using AA batteries. Getting power will be what would concern me and for that you can can or should contact your hosts, travel company, etc. I'd have to think that this is getting to be old hat for them. (My dad dealt with keeping a battery charged for a video cam touring Africa 10-15 years or so ago and never spoke of it being an issue.) But they can tell you what to expect or adapters to find. The advantage to AAs is you will likely be able to find a broader variety of chargers, including car chargers. You may well be able to find solar chargers if you are truly wandering the bush but if dealing with camps or locations with power, 1 hour type chargers should allow you to stay ahead on it, 2 or 3 sets should easily be enough.
Your budget seems low for everything you want the camera to do but I'd agree there are a couple of the long zoom cameras which are getting good reviews and discussions, here and elsewhere. In addition to the ones mentioned, I'd think of the Panasonic FZ20 as well. I don't think I'd hold myself to too low abudget for the camera (when compared to the trip cost, is the camera a place to scrimp a little? It will keep on serving even after the trip.). I wouldn't consider getting two inexpensive cameras, that's almost certain to burden you with two cameras that don't come close to what you want. Although the little Olympus mentioned is handy, weatherproof (resistant?) and has gotten good reviews, so it might make a good camera for the second party and add a little redundancy (and complexity) as well.
Get and take plenty. I usually think 2 cards is better than one in case of an unusual incident like a lost or failed card. (2 1 gig cards versus 1 2 gig card, etc.). That would allow you to download and still use the camera if something comes up. How much memory would depend on camera you end up with, how often, if at all, you can download to a CD (again, check your hosts, maybe they are aware of offer download and CD burning facilkities).
What ever camera you decide on, try to get it well before your trip and use it a lot - find out how it works, how to transfer files, etc...
Thank you to everyone, will do some more looking round and research in a couple of days when I have time I'm currently arguing about it with my other half, who thinks that his colleague's Casio ultra compact 3x optical zoom, is the bees knees - he's brought it home and it just wont do for me, well not unless the animals are going to come and sit on the bonnet of the jeep, lol We're not camera enthusiasts (as you can tell) just want some reasonable memory shots The advice seems all good, but could anyone expand in simple terms on the resolution and compression issues please?.
I am trying to learn (fast) but there's so much to consider that I've never thought about before Thanks again.
Resolution and compression are usually selectable options on most digital cameras. The photo sensor is a rectangular array of light sensing elements, these receive and provide electronic data for each picture element or pixel. Ultimately these pixels are reproduced to make the print, in the same rectangular array, fed to a printer. Typically using all the available pixels will allow the largest print. But you save data for each pixel. So a "6 meg" camera has roughly 6 million pixels worth of data to process, move around and store.
So selecting an interpolated resolution of lower than the camera max can ease storage issues, maybe allow faster processing, etc. If you store the picture at these interpolated lower resolutions, the data absorbed/lost in the interpolation is discarded so while you may have enough to do an acceptable smaller print, you can't go larger without risking very poor quality. (Which would mean that you can no longer go back and make an 8x10 or 8x12 of your favorite shots that are just fine at 4x6.) Cameras also allow saving in a couple of compressions, some save in lossless formats which save essentially all the recorded data (big, slow files) or in different degrees of jpg (an international standard) compression. The compression also interpolates out data from the picture depending on how the pixels compare to each other, again allowing storage of less data, some compressionfactors lose very little data, others compress more, with more risk that reconstitution of the file may look blotchy or have other artifacts from the compression/decompression. Since these days camera procesors are faster and memory cards are comparatively much cheaper so it's questionable if there many benefits to using lower resolutions or high compression rates.
There have been folks who have saved their data in low res and high compression, pleased that they have all pictures on one card yet find later that while they may look ok on screen, they can't print larger than about 2x3 inches...