Just a quick update, on the subject of compact cameras, ace mountain bike photographer Seb Rogers has some pretty damning things to say: http://sebrogers.typepad.com/seb_rogers_blog/2011/06/the-elusive-proper-compact-camera.html
Seb highlights some specific issues, including megapixel overload – he observes that image quality from the 10-megapixel cameras in his test is clearly better than form the 12 or 14-MP cameras. He also mentions the fact that response to the shutter button is still lamentably slow on most of the cameras.
I don't know if this shutter-lag can be blamed on the inflated megapixel numbers; probably not. But there's no doubt that other aspects of most cameras' operation are slower than they should be precisely because the camera is having to process excessively large image files. I'm talking about things like cameras taking a second or two to display a review image after you've taken a shot, about cameras locking up completely for many seconds after shooting a short burst of images, and so on.
The end result of all these is that not only may the camera take half a second or whatever to respond after you press the shutter button; there will be times when it doesn't respond at all and you lose the shot completely.
Does this feel like progress? It didn't happen with film. Cheaper cameras might take a second to wind the film on but the delay would be completely consistent, and shutter lag was rarely on the same levels as it is with many digital compacts even now. The only 'lockup' would be if the battery dies (and that's the same with digital) or at then end of the film.
Are compact camera buyers simply accepting these major failings as inevitable? Or is this why the compact camera is haemorrhaging market share? And why is there no (apparent) demand for what we really want, which is a 6-megapixel camera with rapid shutter response, excellent high ISO and dynamic range performance, and good continuous shooting abilities. Oh, and a decent lens going to 24mm equivalent.
Now I'd fork out for one of those.
Take a look at 6 Megapixel. It's not new but the basic arguments are still pretty valid.