Just in case I have some people from camera companies reading this blog (heck, you never know, you'd be surprised at the kind of people who write to me), I thought I'd just mention the camera I want for next Christmas. (Hey, I'll even pay for it.)
There are many wonderful digital cameras now. The pictures quality is surpassing film already. And prices dropping year over year. But there is one camera we don't quite have yet: the super-quality street- or travel-camera. I want something with the mechanical quality of the Zeiss Ikon or the Leica M, or the Contax T2.
I want something with compromise-free mechanical quality. Something for lovers of excellent tools. I want it to be compact and leightweight like the original Ur-Leica seventy years ago, or Olympus OM-2, or maybe even Rollei 35. ... OK, so maybe making is as small as the last one would compromise the professional usability of it. Well, let's say I am talking about two different cameras then, a very compact and a super compact. :)
Unlike the Zeiss Ikon or the new Epson digital rangefinder camera, I want it to be modern. This means autofocus and no manual winder. These things should be obvious, but are not to all lovers of such cameras. They are stuck in the sixties. :)
I want it to be really fast. Top speed and reliability of the autofocus.
An excellent imaging chip, of course. And a great lens. It does not even have to be exchangable or a zoom lens. Just a really good one. And wideangle.
And a high-resolution LCD-screen, which flips out. I have found that a flip-out screen is heaven for street photography and many other applications. You can hold the camera over your head, by your hip, or at ground level, and still compose your pictures precisely.
We have cameras with all these things already, so we know it is possible. Somebody just needs to put it all in one camera. (I'll admit it won't be easy.) Anybody, please? I don't care who makes it, I was never the big brand-loyal guy. I just buy the best.
Update 2015: took about four years, but cameras like this finally started appearing. Chips good good enough that autofocus good speedy in compact cameras, especially in Micro Four Thirds cameras. My first top favorite there was the Olympus E-PL5, which is still a good choice, though the E-PL7 is the top dog now. (And the lenses can be used with bigger cameras in the same system, like the amazing current Olympus E-M5 II.)
[Panasonic also have good cameras in the M4/3 system, but the Olympus ones have stabilization built into the camera itself, a huge advantage.]
The current fan favorite, amazingly for a few years now, in the pocket-able category is the Sony RX100. It's amazing, has a much bigger sensor than was usual for compacts, and of course a great lens. It has been updated until now three times, but I still prefer version II, because in the next ones they limited the zoom to 70mm, a really bone-headed move in my taste. To me, 100 or 120mm is the minimum for it to function like a tele-lens, even a short one.
Fuji made a big splash with the X100. I had it, but it turned out that I was wrong when I wrote that it did not have to have a zoom, for me. After getting used to zooms, it just feels horribly limiting to be stuck with one focal length. (Two bodies with two different non-zooms may do it, I haven't really tried it yet.)