Here are the top end of the range for compact travel cameras. This class of cameras is characterized by a long zoom housed in a compact body, while maintaining good image quality. Naturally this comes with a big price tag. The success of this particular breed must be attributed to Panasonic's TZ ("travel zoom") range. Following Panasonic's success, the other manufacturers have followed suit with their own travel compacts. Here are the latest models worth comparing (prices quoted by Ted's Camera. All models released in Jan-Feb 2010):
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (DMC-TZ10), AUD$700, 12x zoom
Sony Cybershot DSC HX5, AUD$600, 10x
Nikon S8000, AUD$500, 10x
Canon SX210IS, AUD$550, 14x
I have yet to see professional reviews of the image quality of each camera. Based solely on published specs, my choice is in the sequence presented above, highest being the Panasonic Zs7. This camera has the best range of max lens aperture among the lot. Sony HX5 has the best video. Nikon has the best LCD screen. All things considered, I believe the ZS7 will give me the best satisfaction as a travel compact, while the Hx5 comes in as a very close second. The Lumix has brighter lens, longer flash, 460k LCD (Sony's is 230k). It has aperture priority and shutter priority. On the otherhand, Sony's full HD video is very alluring. The 10fps burst speed coupled with 60fps HD video makes it a good choice for action photography. While no aperture and shutter priority, it has manual focus which the Lumix doesn't.
Both Zs7 and HX5 have GPS, while the other two models don't. Likewise for 25mm wide angle.
My only gripe? None of them shoot RAW.
How about Canon G11 and the likes of it? Bah... same small sensor size. Might as well go for the above.