We've tried them all and there's not a dud among them.
Let's start with a bold assertion: there are no bad cameras. Whatever camera you buy, it will take better pictures than most of us are capable of imagining.
This being the case, it is a waste of time and a cause of unnecessary anxiety to agonise over the pixel-level image quality of one camera, compared with another. Our advice is to shake off the FUD, buy the camera and start taking pictures.
FUD stands for fear, uncertainty and doubt. You know the feeling? Fear that this camera is not as good as that one, because some reviewer or salesperson says so. Uncertainty about the right time to buy: there will be a new, better, cheaper model next month. And doubt about your ability, with limited knowledge, to make an informed choice.
Well, we are here to help. We have tried them all and there is not a dud among them.
From time to time, just for reasons of ego and reassurance, we enter online photo competitions. From our best results - either first or second - we see that the photos were taken with Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus and Sony cameras (we don't own all these cameras - they were what we were testing at the time).
These include full frame, APS-C (the common DSLR sensor), micro four-thirds and compact cameras. One second place was taken with a low-priced Canon compact. Overall the price range of the winning cameras is from a few thousand to a few hundred dollars, with Canons at both ends of the price scale. And the picture that ranked 216th was also taken with a Canon, proving something or other.
A couple of pals who are outstanding photographers, both owning the best Nikon DSLR equipment, tell us that on recent travels they hardly ever used their heavy cameras, preferring instead to walk about with compacts - an Olympus in one instance and a Sony in the other. They are not about to abandon their DSLRs but they are acknowledging that it is more important to match the camera to the task at hand, than to agonise over the difference in pixel quality between models. They both took superb photographs with their little cameras because they are fine photographers.
Next week we will consider the various factors in the camera buying decision, including the vital matters of appearance, colour (some come in pink), price and brand prejudice.
CORRECTION: Two weeks ago we recommended Microsoft Digital Image photo editor as the bargain of a lifetime. It isn't. It is a 60-day trial version that self-destructs. We apologise for the misleading enthusiasm.