My experience with trekking cameras is that the long zoom SLR-like cameras (I used the Nikon 8800 for a couple of years but the principle applies to newer cameras) look like what you want but aren't. They are still too big for a pocket and once the camera has to be in the back-pack it might as well be an SLR. If size and weight are truly critical considerations (eg, for bicycle touring) a true compact is less trouble (I now use a P5000 on the bike - small, light and very robust). The Oly E-410 or the D40 are not meaningfully bigger and heavier than the cameras you are looking at and will give you much more flexibility. The D40 has the advantage that it is easier to get a one-lens solution with the Nikon consumer zooms (18-135 or 18-200)...
FWIW, I've been using a SONY DSC-H2 for the past year. Lightweight (much more so than say, the D40), durable, has a Zeiss lens and it takes great images. I wrap it in a terrycloth towel and put it in the top-flap compartment of my pack. I'm usually with others, so if I want to take a shot, someone gets it out for me...no biggie. If I'm day-hiking I put it in a fanny pack and wear it backwards. The camera is right there when I want it..
Nice camera to learn on, and inexpensive if you can still find one. I have had a great time with mine, and learned a ton (with many more tons to go). This guy wrote a whole white paper on the camera, if you want to know the details:.
Thank you for such speedy responses. You make a good point about the SLR, but those are a little out of my price range. Also, I will never have a camera in my pocket on the kinds of trips we do. Falling, tripping and getting wet are things that happen daily. On previous trips I use a small waterproof pack to protect the camera. Inside the pack is some protection.
I looked into the cameras you recommended and some look like they would get the job done. I like the Sony H2, and the Nikon coolpix P500. I know I need something more than 4x zoom for the wildlife encountered. Too often are we able to see them but not get close enough to get a good shot with the camera due to the lack of zoom. My camera at the moment is a canon powershot A520.
Thank you again...
I've used a Canon S3 several times over the last year and a half for outdoors hiking and I found it worked quite well. I liked the wide-ranging zoom, it handled well, traveled well, and took good photos (as long as I was oudoors in decent light). I would recommend the S5 over the S3 though, simply for the former's larger and brighter LCD..
I never, ever have my camera in a pack while hiking, except when it gets wet out..
For myself, using my friend's S3 told me two things - it was a nice hiker, but if you need to shoot indoors or at night, best to save up and get a DSLR (which I did)..
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From the sound of things it looks like I will have to cough up a bit more cash to get something that will both work and last. I figure if I am going to spend this kind of money I may as well get something that will fit my needs now and give me room to learn more skills. I will continue looking for more options, and perhaps wait for the SLR's to drop a bit in price.... what do you guys think of the Pentax K100D, I think ive got some lenses that will work with it.... hmmmmm Thanks again for the input, really appreciate it...