Perfect jersey-pocket digicam?

Lance Armstrong

For the last two years or so, I’ve carried a 3.1-megapixel ultracompact Casio Exilim digital camera almost everywhere I went. On rides, it got stuck into a baggy, then into a jersey pocket.

It’s really handy to always have a decent camera around. If the kids do something cute, “snap!” At a race, and the 6-time reigning Tour de France champ happens by? “Snap” – above.

I have a prosumer digital SLR, too (a Nikon D70), but it’s so big and bulky that I only use it on planned shoots – family outings, photo strolls, etc.

Recently, I had to hand off the Exilim to a coworker, and I’ve been jonesing for a replacement, so I’m looking for suggestions: What’s the current state-of-the-art for a jersey-pocket digital camera?

The three things I’ve found most frustrating about the Exilim: shutter lag, poor low-light performance, and only adequate optical zoom.

It looks like the nearest replacement for the one I’ve used is Casio’s Exilim EX-Z600, or its close sibling the Exilim EX-S600.

Reviews suggest they’re faster with better low-light performance than their 3-year-old cousin, but still only 3x zoom.

Also under consideration is the Fujifilm FinePix E900. It’s American Photo’s “Camera of the Year” among Digital Compacts, and it’s supposed to have great low-ISO performance, and 4x rather than class-standard 3x zoom.

Another candidate I’m considering is Canon’s PowerShot A620.

So does anyone have any advice, positive or negative, on compact digicams in the $250-$350 range?