I have been considering buying a camera. Does anyone know of any decent, not-too-expensive, idiot-proof cameras that they would recommend?

Let me tell you what I bought and why I bought it, and see if there is a match with your criteria.

After years of lugging my Nikon F3s and Mamiya C330 around, I decided to get an inexpensive 35mm point-and-shoot to handle family events and the majority of vacations. I ended up getting an Olympus Stylus Epic. It is small and light, since it does not have a zoom lens. I stayed away from the zoom lens models because the Epic, although cheaper, had the better optics. Not needing all the zoom mechanism made it smaller and lighter as well. I can drop it in my shirt pocket and not have it drag down the material; I can stuff it into the saddle bag on my bike. I think the camera goes for something in the $110-120 range. I chose 35mm because I still shoot mostly slides, but it does have a “panorama” setting if you do prints. I’ve been very happy with what I’ve been able to do with it.

If you can’t live without a zoom lens, Olympus makes good ones as well, although they are larger, heavier (this is a relative term, of course, they are still featherweights compared to the F3 with the motor drive and monopod). My wife took an Olympus Stylus 140 Zoom to Africa and got some up close and personal shots of lions and hippos that I could not have gotten with the Epic.

Good luck on your search!

I just bought a Canon Rebel. It is insanely idiot proof. If you want to, you can set it so that you can set the aperature and shutter speed yourself, or you can set it so that it does everything automatically. It cost me around $200.

I just want to say; don’t get anything that’s too “idiot-proof”. If you can’t override the automatic features when you want to, it can be very fustrating.
Like, say, you wanted to take a bird poinantly silhoetted against the skyline. But your camera insists on uniform exposure, so the sky is dark, the bird is washed out…I’m saying make sure you have manual overide when you want it.

I’ve been an Olympus user for years, but when it came to a point and shoot I went for the Pentax IQ Zoom WR-90 (the latest one is a 105mm). It’s bigger and heavier than most of the Olympus point and shoots, but it’s waterproof and I get the comfortable feeling that if I needed to, I could drive tent spikes with it. The Olympus cameras are so miniaturized that they feel fragile.

The Pentax takes quite nice pictures.

Philip Greenspun’s site has tons of great advice on cameras and photography, including an excellent article on Point and Shoot Cameras. The upshot: he’s a big fan of the Yashica T4 (and having shot several rolls in one myself, I have to concur). The T4 is as simple to use as anyone could wish, but will let you control what happens with the flash and exposure enough to deal well with a wide range of conditions. No zoom, but (for reasons detailed in the link above), that’s not really a bad thing. You’ll see lots of cheaper cameras with zoom lenses and other nominally spiffy features (the T4 retails between $150 and $200), but you probably won’t find a better value.