One of the thoughts that's occupying my mind lately is the question of what kind of camera I should get before I go to Germany in October. This is something that I do when I know I'll be buying a new piece of technology sometime in the next year: I start researching early, pick out what I want, and then watch sales and start saving over the next six months to a year. I'd picked out this computer that I have a year before I bought it, and then knew when the cheapest time to buy was (for Dell laptops, it's the sale right BEFORE the back-to-school sales).
I'm going to be using a camera as much as possible when I do my archival research next winter. Whenever archives let me take photos of documents, rather than make me pay for photocopies, I'll take pictures and then use text recognition so that I can search for specific documents on my computer and keep track of them. My current (three-year-old 4.1 megapixel Sony point-and-shoot) can't handle that task: not only is it on the brink of dying, but also it can't handle the possible low-light situations (there's a good chance I'll have to do a bunch of this without a flash), nor can it do any sort of close-ups.
Originally, I thought I wanted a some sort of fancy Digital SLR. However, I'm re-thinking that for a couple of reasons:
1. Considering that it'll be a tight squeeze already to get enough funding/possible student loan to pay for this trip, for rent in two places, and for (hopefully) Chris to come and visit me at Christmas, I can't see how I will be able to come up with at least $500 for a DSLR.
2. More importantly than that, nearly all DSLRs are too big for me to be lugging around every day to archives, along with my laptop and my German dictionary. I need to think about keeping things light and portable with this trip.
3. Quite honestly, I'm useless with manual settings on cameras. I need a camera that has good automatic settings where I just have to choose where the camera focuses and make minor (pre-set) adjustments for lighting. That's pretty much my limit, and I'm not going to have time to learn more than that in the same time as I'm madly writing my dissertation and trying to learn a second language.
My main wish list looks like this: not too big, uses rechargeable AA batteries, uses a memory card that I can use in my computer's card reader (so, preferably SD or MMC), and a combination of being good with low-light settings and hopefully some kind of image stabilization.
I did a bunch of research on Imaging Resource, and I think this might be my answer: the Canon Powershot SX110 IS. The Imaging Resource review was ridiculously positive (it's one of the "Dave's Picks" cameras, and the reviewer talks about how he usually is a bit hesitant to recommend a point-and-shoot, but that this one is actually fantastic) and it seems to do absolutely everything I need it to do.
So, to anyone out there who knows anything about cameras: is this the right choice for me? What are your thoughts?