I bought a Pentax Optio 550 just before going on a recent holiday. It has proven to be a great purchase.
Firstly, the important stats: 5 Megapixel (2592x1944), and 5x optical zoom. It comes with a 16Mb SD card, so you'll be wanting to upgrade that. The only other annoyance is the usual digital shutter delay, and the usual half-press, full-press workaround works a treat.
Having got the whinging over, it's time to tell you why it's so fantastic. The key point to any camera is the pictures, and you won't be disappointed. I've been extremely pleased with the results. But the whole camera is very pleasing - it's clear those who worked on it put a lot of thought into every detail.
Take the noise played when you press the shutter, which replaces what would be an uncomfortable silence. You have an option of three sounds, including "meow". The startup and operation sounds can also be kitties.
The menus are also clean, and cleverly designed. The most common options are placed on the top, for easy access. The four-way controller has a separate "OK" button in the centre. A small thing, you might think, unless you've used a camera where you're expected to push the four-way in.
The build quality extends to the rest of the camera, which feels reassuringly solid. Pentax haven't bulked the camera up to make it look more expensive, so it drops neatly in your pocket.
The range of shooting modes and adjustments is wide, too. Macro, super macro, manual focus, time and apeture variable, full manual, automatic/on/off flash with or without redeye reduction, rapid shoot, timer by trigger or remote control, choice of metering and white balance methods, choice of focusing area, and brightness adjust are all there, plus most likely more I forgot.
As well as the gimmicky filters, there are two more interesting special shooting modes. The panoramic one lets you pick a direction, and then take a panorama in it. A ghost of the previous picture helps you line it up.
The other is a 3D image mode. The viewer for this comes in the box. With a little practice, Viewmaster-like scenes can be arranged (but without the Star Wars).
The inclusion of a video mode is normal. Less normal is the timelapse feature. This allows a greater shooting length, up to half an hour and 100x speedup.
The speed of opening pictures in review is super-quick, too. I've used cameras that take several seconds to open a picture. Here, they're right up.
In conclusion, if you buy this you won't be disappointed. I'd certainly make the same choice if I was buying tomorrow.