Laura, that's interesting cause I've had the exact opposite experience. My
Kodaks are very reliable (mine don't have the extruding lens specifically
because the students have a tendency to be rough on them - I purchased mine
with minimal features with student use in mind). I've had my Kodak cameras
for 2 years with no problems. I personally have a Canon Powershot A620 that
I purchased specifically based on Consumer Reports. I will never buy another
Canon product due to their awful customer service. The camera died on me
while still under warrenty. I sent the camera in and it cost me $80 for them
to fix it. So my less than one year old $300 camera which is now a $380
camera, and the people on the other end of a 2 hour hold for customer
service are rude. Still don't know what was wrong with it - nobody could
seem to tell me. I do have a Fiji camera that I love, but I'm not letting my
students touch my pricier cameras!
<snip>We have a Canon Power Shot A550 for each of our art rooms. I've been
very happy with them.
Personally, I have had problems with each Kodak camera I've owned. Lenses
sticking shut, battery doors that break then won't stay shut, lots of little
issues. My current home camera is a Sony that is 4 years old now, and still
working great, the only issues I have had are pure abuse from my kids, not a
defect with the camera.
The things I would NOT be concerned about are a big zoom lens. MOST pictures
do not need that, and it seems the more zoom you have, the more problems
with lenses, not to mention the size of the camera, my personal one has a
12x zoom lens, and the lens is FAR larger then the camera, actually making
it awkward to carry around. But you want ACTUAL zoom, not DIGITAL, all the
digital does is crops the picture, you don't get the quality of a physical
zoom lens. Also mega pixel size. Anything over a 6 is really not necessary,
keep costs down by this. Unless you plan on printing off prints that are
poster size, the size of the pictures is not that much of an issue. I had
digital portfolios of all my students' artwork for one year. Used up all my
state web space, because my pictures were such big files, even when I
re-sized them. Just something to keep in mind.
The card reader is a great idea, also a ton of rechargeable batteries if
you're getting a camera that uses "regular" batteries.