I am not by any stretch a photographer and get bored fast when discussing exposure times, aperture settings, film speed.
Having said that, I've gone through more digital cameras than I though possible. At least seven in seven years.
My first was a $700 Ricoh RDC5300, 1999, 1.3MP. Ate batteries for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. Maybe ten shots per set of NiMH, without flash. I bought three sets (12) of NiMH and a fast charger and always kept eight batteries in the case.
It took quite good pictures, does date-stamping. Ridiculously hard to use though. And heavy. And serial cable transfer only with very balky transfer software, no industry std support and no tech supt. It was stolen in 2001.
I bought a replacement, a newer-model RDC5310 off eBay for $75
I kept it all this time, and only four months ago gave it to Maggie in Carlton, Ore and now she gives it a workout -- it's still a very good camera for a 1.3MP, very good for closeup work, not bad for larger stuff. But still hard to operate. Used SmartMedia (remember that?). The serial transfer junk would only work in Windoze, which irked me, since I had to use my W95c porn box to transfer pics to the server. Blech.
I've gone through several Olympus D-450 and D-550s, which I eventually sold (all of them) to my boss. They all took pics too blue, or had long startup/boot times, or overly sensitive shutoff switches, or no date-stamping (ROM differences, BION!). One
of them worked pretty well, the rest didn't. Used SD media, IIRC.
Had one cheap Canon in there that was very blue and also wouldn't focus under 4', which is 90%+ of what I do. It was with me only breifly, and that's the one I used for all those 720 SD viton lines pictures (and why they're so fuzzy & blue). They all use AA NiMH batteries and battery life is good.
Am now using an Olympus SP-350 (Costco, $230 in 2006), 8.0MP (you read that right). It will not date-stamp
It has two Macro settings, only one of which works and that one (Super Macro) is for under 8" and won't fire the flash, so I have to use separate lighting to use it. The std Macro setting is supposed to be for 3' down to 8" but will not auto-focus in that range in that setting no matter what. You can see the AF go right by the correct setting.
The MF is only accessible if you go off Auto on the mode selector, and then you have to adjust everything
manually, which I have not the patience for, so I just don't use that setting, even though I would sometimes kill for it.
Takes xD media, I have 1GiB in it, have never taken more than 50 pics with it, and it slows down considerably the more pics you take, beware!
Battery life is stellar: dozens of flash pics, no problem. Huge LCD monitor, 2" horizontal which doesn't sound like much but is huge, and bright. You could watch a movie on this monitor. Controls layout is not bad. AF spot likes to move on its own (though it will show you what it's focusing on) and that's somewhat annoying when you are trying for a macro shot down in a well of parts: it wants to focus on a vertical edge with high contrast, rather than where you want it, and keeps shifting it around. Annoying.
Batteries are weird and unavailable in my county, period: CR-V3, Walgrens in the next county has them for about $10 ea, in two packs. Last batch I bought online, for a bit less than that. I go through about one battery per month or so. I miss rechargeables in this camera. This is the first camera I've owned where I actually use the USB cable, as it works as well as a media reader finally. Transfer is plenty fast. However, it does not seem to use power from the USB cable when doing a transfer, which I found out unexpectedly and expensively when I left it doing a transfer for a couple of hours (it finished in minutes, but I had left the bldg.). Battery died prematurely after that. Flush $10.
I am going to buy a replacement for it soon, I think. The lack of working AF in Macro mode and no date stamping are the issues I'd like to resolve with a new camera. But of the bunch, this SP-350 has been the best.