Last week, I helped an aunt of my wife pick a digital camera. She is a community activist, and used a wonderful Olympus OM-1 until it gave up the ghost, then a not-so-wonderful Kodak Advantix APS camera, but it is becoming hard to find film processing labs in India. The mere act of taking a photo tends to deter the kind of misbehavior she fights against. You would think she would be afraid of being assaulted for taking a photo, but this is a person who discusses death threats made against her as matter of fact.
I ended up recommending a Panasonic Lumix LZ8 as that was the model DPReview recommended in its budget camera group test and fit within her 5,000 to 6,000 rupees budget. It is a decent camera, if not particularly sexy, but it has far too many buttons and options, and I can see how a digital photography novice like her might be overwhelmed.
Pure Digital took 13% of the camcorder market with the Flip, a radically minimalist device that is simple to use. There doesn’t seem to be a similar equivalent for still cameras. Such a camera should really have auto-everything, only four buttons (on/off, shoot, play and delete) and a zoom rocker. Interestingly, digital SLRs come closer to this than most compact digicams because they do not have a record/play modal interface, and use shooting priority instead (the better compacts also offer this).