There are so many mid range cameras out there today, just googling them can cause a neural event equal to the eruption of Mount St. Helen.
Honestly the best thing you can do is go out there and put the camera in your hand. Get a feel of it, and ask a lot of questions to the person in front of you. Camera shops are great for this but are now a very rare thing to find. Keep in mind you don't need all those fancy doo-dads since you simply want to take pictures. The pixel size is for the pros unless you are wanting to do some major cropping or photo enlargements. The quality of the lens determines the quality of your photo.
As you found out those cell-phone sized cameras break real easy-I did too. I learned to put a neck strap on the camera and loop the strap around my neck. Hey, I use one for my DSLR so why not for my tiny camera? Putting a pocket camera in your pocket is a death sentence so use the neck strap, even if you are taking one photo-which should never happen. You turn on your camera-you should take LOTS of photos.
Whether you decide on Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, remember all cameras basically do the same thing. The differences in the price reflects the quality of the lens and the size of the sensor. You don't need all those special effects as many computer photo programs can do the same thing.
This photo was taken by a 12 year old Kodak Easy Share. Simply focus the subject in the green brackets and press the shutter. A super easy camera to use. Easy to grip. Keep your distance when using the flash.
Nikon D5100 with using a Nikkor 55-200mm lens. This camera works well in low light conditions. My blonde brain had little trouble figuring out the menu. While this camera is designed for the amateur photographer, it will grow with you until you want to move up to the super high priced DSLR. Nevertheless, get a quality lens on this camera and you can get high quality shots.
Canon Elph 100. This camera was dropped and no longer functions. However, I liked the way I could use this camera in this fashion. It was so small the chickens weren't scared of it. Canon cameras typically produce warmer colors than most digital cameras.
Nikon Cool Pix 5700-this antique digital cross-over can take amazingly clear shots-but the battery life is very short so you'll need several batteries. The flash is harsh in this camera so keep your distance when using it.
Edited by theoldchick - 10/12/12 at 5:22am