Am planning a big road trip around the rocky mountains next July, and am beginning to look for something to shoot photos with in the ~$600 range. I'd like to get it a couple months before hand so I can get used to shooting, etc.
One recommendation I got from a friend was to consider a Camcorder with a 30 Gig HD as there are several models that have 32-34x optical (not digital) zoom. I'm wondering why camcorders can support that while most long range digital cameras I've seen go to 15-18x, and the ones above 12x all seem to have issues with image quality.
For my purposes, I know I'm looking a bit at extremes. I want something with a sharp auto focus that can handle a good macro mode as well as a long zoom. I currently have a Canon 2IS which does a decent long zoom, but auto focus in macro almost doesn't work.
I don't want a camera with interchangeable lenses because I'll be doing a lot of hiking, and don't want to spend a lot of time switching between two or three lenses.