My dad gave me a Kodak LS 443 digital camera that he never used. I took about 150 pictures with it, and then it completely froze after receiving an "E45" error message. Checking the Internet, I discovered that this is a very common hardware error with this camera model, and was warned that (a) Kodak will no longer fix it; and (b) that they will offer a newer camera model instead.
Sure enough, a call to Kodak resulted in the following email:
Currently we are no longer repairing the LS443. We would like to make you aware of our new camera repair by replacement program. To reduce the need to store replacement parts that often went unused, Kodak has recently established a corporate policy of replacing out-of-warranty cameras with models of equal or better quality.
At this time, for what may be less than the cost to repair your LS443, we are able to offer you a refurbished Kodak EasyShare Z730 zoom digital camera (with Kodak EasyShare camera dock) for $150.00. You are upgrading to newer digital imaging technology and receiving a full one-year warranty.
Gee, thanks. Your crappy camera gave out after 150 pictures, you won't fix it even though it's apparently a widespread flaw, and you're offering me the opportunity to buy a reconditioned Kodak camera for $50 less than a could get a brand new one.
The really bad news is that there is such a bewildering array of digital cameras out there, I have no idea which one to buy. I'd like one that's reasonably priced, takes nice shots, and assumes that I know nothing about photography, and don't want to learn. PCWorld seemed like a good place to start, but I'm a bit puzzled over whether it's worth spending $100 or so more to get more megapixels.
UPDATE: I decided to go with the Canon PowerShot A520 Digital Camera, because it was highly recommended by CNET, PCWorld, and Consumer Reports, the only entry-level camera that won such unanimous accolades. Bought it from Dell, using a series of coupon codes I found at slickdeals.net that brought the price to $204 including tax, shipping, and a 512 MB memory card.
[And here's another authority that recommends the A520.]