We started off by buying a Minolta Dimage S304, reasonably priced and with glass optics. It was a 3Mpixel, 6x optical zoom camera driven off 4 AA cells. We always needed to carry around a good supply of these cells because of the camera's thirst for power. Movies could be captured, with 'noisy' sound, at 320x240 for one minute at a time. The single big annoyance with the S304 was its ability to turn on in the camera bag, due to a too-easy-to-turn control dial.
When it was stolen in Italy in 2003, we considered the alternatives, as the S304 was discontinued. The S414, at 4Mpixels and 4x zoom, was the nearest, although the drop in zoom level was annoying. Ever tried taking pictures of guinea pigs? Anyway, we also looked at the Minolta Dimage Z1 but were dissuaded because it's not modelled like a compact. However, it captures 640x480 movies continuously and has 10x zoom. Retails nowadays (mid-2004) at only £220 or so.
Fortunately the S414 is not so easy to turn on as the S304, but it's still really thirsty and the movie quality is quite poor. So far we've had no need for the extra resolution, as the pictures mostly just end up on this website. It might come in handy when we print some out, though.