I have a Panasonic LX3 and use it a lot. The reason I didn't mention a Panasonic is because of the Jpeg output. I don't like the standard Jpeg output and automatic white balance, therefore I post process every LX3 image I shoot. The lens is great though. That's the reason I suggested a Canon, the out of camera Jpegs are nicer although the reds and greens are a bit too much to my taste. The problem with (semi)professionals advising beginners on cameras is we (the (semi)professionals) tend to push our own dream list of specs while most beginners are interested in other things like ease of operation, durability, out of camera Jpeg quality and yes! zoom range.
I gave my daughter an LX-5 which I sometimes borrow. Though this camera has a good lens, shooting RAW is the only way to get good results from this camera. As the camera-recipient has no plans to go this route and after considering other options, I will likely suggest the Olympus TG-1, a "tough" camera which outputs good JPEG, fast AF, has an f/2.0 lens, is water-proof, has GPS, fast power-on, good fps, HD-video, good 3" OLED screen, etc. The downside is its $400 price. Perhaps this could be his present for his 21st birthday and his Christmas present rolled into one?
Edited by Larry, 21 August 2012 - 08:59 .