Well... in summary... It's just a plain good digicam! Not perfect, but as close as you can probably expect for the price. They've packed an awful lot into a compact (if not exactly slimline - for reference it's roughly as bulky as the £10 35mm point-and-shoots Argos used to sell) and not excessively expensive frame, and even given it some ability to be extended through extra lenses and more powerful flashes, etc.
Though, it of course has some downsides, and you do still pay a little more for said quality. I'd have put it as 4.5 stars if I could because of this, but am erring on the positive side - because I like it enough that I've kind of lost track of time on a couple occasions going out and getting nice shots whilst supposedly "testing" it, and it's still the cheapest camera I've actually ever bought, so the features-per-£ ratio is definitely on the climb.
Downsides to start with:
* Chunky handgrip (also where the batteries reside) can make it difficult to fit into (or retrieve from) a jeans pocket.
* No MPG4 encoding (or compressed sound), and the existing movie mode could do with more flexible options - 320 rez at 15fps with stronger compression would be a favourite, as the current ones tend to be quite data-heavy without much quality benefit for being mjpg/30fps.
* No distinct "voice record" mode, other than movie, or adding time-limited voice notes to pictures (got some good use out of the rec function on my old Samsung - I'll have to carry a £5 gumstick MP3 player for that from now on, or something)
* No internal memory... not a huge problem, but I'm now coming to realise how much I must have relied on this with my old camera just to get the odd low-rez shot after forgetting to put the card back in (e.g. after having it in a PC card reader)! Have gone out a couple times and been faced with the dread "no memory card" error... luckily nothing important... so far.
* Interface can take some getting used to - just because of the sheer wealth of stuff you can do quickly from a number of shortcut buttons...
* Comparitively pricey next to the current £100-ish level of a typical digicam.... still, if I'd waited but a couple days, I'd have only paid £150 for it (instead of £170) due to it being near to the end of it's life now, which is the least I've ever paid for a digital camera (usually ~£200 before). Getting its successors for ~£200 would still be good value.
* Picture quality can sometimes not be 100% for reasons I've not yet figured out. Easily beats the Fuji it replaced, however, and is at least as good as my old Samsung, which I couldn't make any real non-whiney complaints about.
* Long exposures kick in a post-processing delay which can be upto ~10 sec, again for reasons I'm not sure about, though it's mentioned in the manual this is for "reduction of CCD noise". Odd. The sammy did 15 sec exposures as well and the shots looked perfectly fine without any in-cam NR...
*Wide angle could be slightly wider, but it is still roughly 35mm equivalent, and converters are available.
* No actual timelapse mode, though apparently there's programs you can get to control this via USB with a laptop.
* Response time is a little slower than the Fuji... not much, but some.
* Plastic body makes it lightweight, but by that measure also a bit unstable, flimsy-seeming, and damage prone. The silver spraypaint on the body is already wearing thru to the off-white skeleton in places and I haven't been mistreating it. Makes the buttons seem a bit loose and tacky as well. Really deserved to be Magnesium instead.
* No remote trigger (or infinite-length shutter opening) possibility that I can see that isn't by USB, and it's add-on flash is some thingy that must sense the main one firing by induction, as it has no actual connection to the camera and has to be placed within about an inch of it in order to work. Still, I wouldn't even have considered these until seeing about the usb control software or the limited add-on flash in the manual :)
* Though I would have thought it something a digital camera would be able to do easily, it can't manage long exposures in bright light, such as to have a moving water effect on a stream at mid-day (in January!)... it badly overexposes at ~1/4 sec even with minimum ISO and narrowest aperture. Had to hold a sunglasses lens in front to make it work. Could have sworn I'd done this before successfully with another camera, but could be dreaming it.
* Size reduction/cropping options are a bit limited (2mp, VGA, QVGA), but if you're desperate enough for space to need to do that, you're probably past caring...
* Bizzarely, it has a "Widescreen" (16:9) mode, but no 3:2 mode - instead you can get a 3:2 overlay so that you can keep things far enough within the frame, vertically, that they're not chopped off if you choose to have them auto-printed somewhere (with a presumably centred cropping frame). Makes them better for display on a widescreen TV (even though it's still 3264x1824, not 1920x1080), but really I'd prefer to print them, and without defaulting to APS 7x4 sized paper.
* Sheer picture quality is generally very good; though it's less distinct at higher ISOs, it is sharp pretty much to single-pixel level in good light (ISO80 thru 200; good lens/etc, then) without too much distortion, and even 1600-ISO doesn't look absolutely horrendous - yes there is noticable noise, but it's reasonably well balanced (like a strongly push-processed APS or 110 film from a camera with a weak flash) and you could still get an acceptable 6x4 print out of it... so long as you didn't crop/zoom by much.
* Zoom range that will blow you away. Digital zoom is relegated pretty much to getting a little closer to something whilst taking videos, or scare-your-friends super zoom spy shots at VGA rez.
* Proper, mechanical Image Stabilisation is my new best friend. It's made twilight images go from a mess of motion blur when handholding to a lot more rock-solid; night-time ones are still largely "usable" if i'm careful, and daylight ones are pin-sharp. Excellent system. The chunky handgrip also helps, even though it makes the camera a bit of a lump (but not as bad as having a Superzoom)
* Movie mode is pretty good - even despite being MJPG with 11khz mono WAV sound. IS definitely helps for this also. Managed to take a (paved :) mountain-pass driving video with the camera stuck to my dashboard with blu-tack and it came out unexpectedly smooth.
* Auto mode is quite intelligent, and for the times that it isn't all that, the extensive and clever tweaks you can apply in Programme (colour/contrast adjust as well as typical ISO and EC) mean that i've hardly touched AS/TS/Manual mode except for some experimental shots.
* Good range of picture quality settings (rez, compression and sharpness all independent), though something in between VGA and 2MP would be nice, and "superfine" being slightly finer than it already is (files aren't appreciably larger than 5mp on samsung, and there's occasional slight compression artefacts when zoomed in. Still, nothing like the fuji 820's advanced picture wreckage engine.
* Impressive that all this has been fit into the size it is...
* Decent optical viewfinder for more stable (esp action) shots and battery saving. Rather extreme "crop ratio", but the resolution easily balances that out.
* Reasonably quick response time; could be better, but fires up in less than a second, typically focuses in a short fraction (including multi-area "AI-AF" and face rec), and shutter lag is something like a quarter second, which will do me fine (even if it's not a fuji-like 1/100th sec)
* DAMN good flash, with adjustable strength and timing! (for special effects, e.g. as given in the manual - a car passing by with it's light streaks going BEHIND it, rather than in front/both ways for a typical slow synchro)
* Looks pretty cool, though it might not for long (plastic body)
* Various Scene modes that actually make a bit of sense, though I still rarely use them.
* PROPER manual mode. You can tweak pretty much everything, and it gives a simplistic focus-time light meter indication (turns the screen text different colours for suspected under/over-exposure)
* Ability to use a Scuba-spec underwater case, additional flash and certain add-on lenses, though they're bespoke rather than standard issue SLR ones - teleconverter, wide angle, and supermacro. It really wants to be the Little Camera That Could, and I'm going to have to work hard to avoid the temptation to invest in all these options :-)
* Uses AAs. And manages to drag some surprising longevity out of them (particularly if you go in for turning it off, then back on again - the low-voltage shutdown is maybe over sensitive? I've got about as many shots again AFTER the first warning as prior to it, and easily filled a 512mb card twice in the process). Seriously. Your Lithium-Ion can go hang.
* Quite a nice screen even if it's not absolutely the brightest or highest resolution, and very good playback options (index screen & zoom, histogram & full info, transitions, full-featured movie playback with frame extraction and autoplay in slideshows, etc).
* Well laid out controls, even if I'm STILL getting used to the way some of them work in more advanced modes. (e.g. if you use EC, then hit the quick menu to change something, the EC adjust doesn't auto-cancel, and will still be there when you go back... though the quick menu button effectively works as an "Enter" key for the quick menu, it DOESNT for anything else. Not a dumb arrangement, just... different)
* Handy on-screen tools available i.e. 1/3rds grid, 3:2 shadow overlay...
* Funky additional auto-timer option which I've started thinking up clever uses for - you can set the amount of delay, (upto 30s) and the number of pictures it takes (upto 10). Handy perhaps for those clever-clever pics where you put yourself multiple times into the same shot, quickly hopping onto a bike/into a car to get an action shot when there's no-one else to help, or just having a couple of safety pics of a group self-shot to defuse the typical "oh no, they blinked!" effect.
* Autofocus is shockingly accurate. Only once or twice have I had a messed up shot, or it fail to lock on first time so far, and usually it's fairly quick.
* Macro is about the best I've ever used. Got some very good close-up pics of a bee I found lost in the garden a few days ago, for example. I think I measured it as having a maximum effective resolution of about 1000dpi at the closest focal length.
* It's just cool, ok :-D