I finally located that "can`t pass it up" deal after letting my Powershot A80 and housing go to a new home. I was in Circuit City and ran across an Olympus Evolt E-500 (SLR unit) body on clearance for $199. I managed to get the manager to lower the price to $159, so I picked it up. Almost peed myself (yes, I said it) when I found out that a 40-150mm lens would start at $479 and go up as lens size increased. Luckily I found that lens on eBay for $160.
After giving the manual a 1 day once-over I took it out today to truly work with the camera shooting some birds and the neighbor`s pups playing. Folks, believe me when I say there is a HUGE difference stepping up from the 4 megapixel world to 8mp+!!
This specific camera has roughly 12 features just in one mode. The "children" mode is by far the best mode for taking action shots of any type. The mode was designed for repetitive/continual shooting up to 15 shots (it empties the buffer) and keeps up fairly well. By far, getting the target to stay still is the best way to shoot because you do not need to mess with the shutter settings.
But, if the aperture settings are adjusted for a "fast" shutter then you almost absolutely eliminate any object blurring of your target. I proved this to my fiance by taking a fast shutter shot of the ceiling fan running on high and had no target blurring of any kind. The edges in just the on-board review were VERY crisp and clear with excellent shadow detail.
Positives: several different modes to chose from for your specific still shooting needs. Multiple focus modes can combine auto focus and manual focus for fine tuning shots. 8 megapixel with very high quality in the shots. Multiple lens options available from different manufacturers (some require a lens ring adapter such as using a Nikkon lens). Easy to operate provided you take the time to read the manual and truly learn the camera functions by practicing trial and error. Light weight unit even with the 40-150mm lens. Autofocus target memory. UW housing IS available. Most 58mm filters should fit. Olympus offers a "how to" website for tips on certain shooting modes. Shoots in HQ, SHQ, Tiff, Raw, Raw-Tiff, JPEG, BMP, and a few others. Several different size and quality options depending on your photo needs. Uses XD or CF cards, will also take the SD cards in the CF adapter (so I`m told). All of the Olympus lenses are wide angle (some more than others) except the fish eye or macro. Different f-stops available in the same lenses (lower numbers are better). Oh, did I mention, IT`S AN SLR!!
Negatives: Expensive lenses. No video...stills only. Manual zoom only. 2 handed or tripod operation is almost always a must. When shooting repetitively the autofocus can get WAY out of focus and require target reacquisition. Autofocus reticle is not illuminated and is difficult to see in low-light situations or against a dark target. Target reticle must be used because the image is not shown on the lcd unless in review mode. UW housing starts at $999 and goes up. On-board flash is tricky in low light if it senses a target is within 5 feet, especially if it is a dark target. Only takes 2.5 frames per second repetively. Only retains 15 repetitive shots before emptying the buffer (Canon takes nearly 100). Several of the functions of the camera are not explained in the manual (it would be 300+ pages if they were).
On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate the camera a 7-8 even though the technology is a few years old already. If you want in an SLR and can find one of the E-500 (8mp) or E-510 (10mp) for a fair price it is worth the money to find an eBay lens to get started in 8mp+ SLR shooting for less than $300-400. I am impressed already at what I have learned in just a few days that I neglected with a non-SLR unit. Manual, Shutter priority, and a few other modes may have drastically improved my digital shooting, but stepping up to an 8mp is the best step so far.
Check my photos around lunch time on Saturday, I`ll post up a few of the shots I took today as an SLR newbie.