Next we have standard compact cameras. This a broad category, and covers everything from low-cost plastic cameras with strictly limited features and costing around £120, all the way up to expensive enthusiast models such as the Canon PowerShot G10 or Panasonic LX3 which cost nearly £400, more than the cost of a cheap digital SLR.
Compact cameras generally have medium-range powered zoom lenses, usually 3x but increasingly often 4x or 5x, and many of them now have wide-angle capability, with minimum focal lengths equivalent to 28mm or less.
There are still one or two manufacturers selling five megapixel compacts, but in most cases sensor resolution starts at seven or eight megapixels, with the average at around 10 megapixels. Currently the most powerful sensor in a compact camera is 14.7 megapixels. This may increase as new more powerful sensors are developed, although it seems that manufacturers are slowly coming to accept that simply adding more megapixels doesn't always result in better picture quality.
Most standard compact cameras have programmed auto exposure with advanced multi-zone metering, usually with a range of scene programs, but more advanced models include limited manual exposure controls, and some even have manual focusing. Most have LCD monitors up to 3in in size, with a typical resolution of 230,000 dots, and some also have small optical viewfinders.
A sub-set of the compact camera is the luxury or premium compact. These are usually ultra-compact, in other words less than 25mm thick and weighing under 130g, and typically starting at around £250. They normally have well-finished metal bodies and are available in a range of colours, usually including pink for reasons that defy both gender politics and common sense. There are dozens of models in this category to choose from, and which one suits you best is as much a matter of taste as specification.
Premium compacts usually have only easy-to-use automatic operation, although there are a few that have limited manual exposure control. They come in a range of megapixel sizes, currently from 10MP to 12MP. Most of them have a range of advanced automatic features such as optical or sensor-shift image stabilisation, and face detection or even face recognition technology.
They are primarily designed to go in your shirt pocket or handbag for a night out, for taking social snapshots. They normally have 3x, 4x or 5x zoom lenses that are either fully internally mounted or retract into the camera body, and normally have quite large LCD screens for sharing your photos with friends.