I'm in the market for a digital cam for a trip to South Africa
I need a decent zoom here and there but great shots...low noise...etc.
I've looked into this thoroughly on my own and with a friend who could be considered a pro--photographer...for this range and for versatility a suprising choice the Panasonic Lumix F-Z5 (I prefer the black over silver body, black is the F-Z5K)
12x optical zoom...WITH image stabilization, 5megapixels...really an oustanding camera...you'll still need an SD card and it is highly recommmened to get a high speed model
here i DPreview's look at it: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicfz5/
and here it the fatwallet thread on getting it for only $415 new at a reputable company and no mail in rebates: