For a casual photographer and non-technical person, who has some capacity and interest to learn but correctly recognizes she needs simplicity more than she needs a wealth of capabilities, for a person who's happy to pay for the device that will best suit her, what simple camera with these characteristics will qualify for her consideration?
Believe me when I tell you I tried to search for this myself. I found so much ambiguous, even conflicting information, I just gave up looking at the varying, sundry Google results and came here to ask.
She wants a good zoom length and a sharp image, so, that means a good CCD and good optics are important to her.
She wants a long battery life. When she picks the camera up, she wants it to be ready even if the last time she took a shot was months before.
The camera should be easy for her to handle. If only she could set it to "take a great photo that we'll all like". Short of that, she wants to not have to be consumed with multiple settings and a jungle of menu commands. It would be great for her to have on-screen directions.
Physically, the camera should allow her small hands to confidently hold, support and manipulate it. You may not be able to suggest the right sized camera, but please warn her away from those that are too large or too small, too light or too heavy.
She wants to be able to transfer the photos to her computer without complication. The last camera she had, years ago, was inexplicably and frustratingly difficult to download.
She wants to be able to capture video, too, as much and with as high a quality as possible. I reminded her she's researching a still camera, but she countered, what is the best video available to me?
Perhaps even the simplest DSLR would be more than she wants. Probably, she has to veer towards a point-and-shoot. Is there anything in between? Thanks a lot for sharing the benefit of your experience.