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I would recommend against super zoom cameras for your use and would tend more towards a P&S camera with larger sensors which usually gives better color reproduction / dynamic range.
A few P&S models for you to look at:
Canon Powershot G9 or G10
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
You can also take the leap into the DSLR world with Nikon, Canon, Sony but IMHO that is a bit overkill. With DSLR you don't buy a Camera, you buy a system :).
Pollyk--You were correct in bringing up the question of true color reproduction.
I have a Fuji S6000 fd which is a quality 6 meg p&s. It takes good pictures in
most cases but has a tendency to emphasize pinks or reds. Black iris come
out as dark plum. Blues and purples have a pink tint.
There is a Nikon DSLR D-40 which is a 6 meg slr starter camera for just under
$500. Any slr will reproduce circles around the best p&s when it comes to
color and clarity. I am waiting for the price to drop on the Canon XSi or Nikon
D-60. There are some ladies on this forum who have posted fantastic iris
pics with their ordinary cameras. Perhaps one of them can steer you right.
Very few digital cameras will have "correct" color rendering out of the box. For several reasons ... first and foremost, the camera sensor picks up more of the spectrum than our eyes, and so can exhibit shift by picking up some stray infra-red and UV range light.
Second, the color profiles built into cameras are not always optimized for web viewing (or catalogue printing).
Almost regardless of what camera you get, you will have to adjust the images on a well calibrated monitor, and apply the correct color profile to the output file.
That said - in my experience, the Pentax default settings, tends to oversaturate Reds. And the Nikon default settings tends to oversaturate yellow/greens. I know nothing about Canon's defaults.
Whatever you get. Get a good macro lens with it. Any "Kit" lens that comes with the camera will not do justice to your flowers.
My little Fugi Finepix takes great macros and is very easy to use. It has amazed me that it seems to get the colors correct every time. I also have a Canon DSLR and while I know how to get the correct color with it, the Fugi lens seems to do a better job on color! This one was right out of the camera.
One thing to keep in mind is that the P&S cameras do lots of in-camera processing so that the average consumer can get to shooting pics without much hassle right out the box. With so much in camera processing it leaves little room for any post processing so you'd want to get the exposure correct when you shoot. On the other hand, the DSLRs can do both - in camera processing (if you wish) but requires you to set the limits or no in camera processing so that you can do post processing of the pics.
Another thing to take into consideration is that what you see in your pictures is not what other will or may see. What I found is different monitors, depending on the individual calibrations, is way out of whack as far as the settings and no matter how good the picture looks on your monitor it may look terrible on others because their monitor is not calibrated. The average consumer just plug and play without any thought of calibrating the monitor. Plus different web browsers are color calibrated where others aren't. But with that said, and I'm sure you know this, make sure the pics are done right on your end.
What is your camera budget?
Just an FYI: Cosco has the Canon Rebel (older model) with the 18-55mm and 28-135mm lens for under $1,000. Or you can buy a Rebel camera body and get a macro lens which would be perfect for your task.
Methodical, not every P&S camera is the same and there are many higher end P&S cameras out there that give control over the settings as a DSLR camera does and some have even better control than lower end DSLR cameras.
If control over the picture processing is desired then they should be shot in RAW format which is kind of the Digital equivalent of a negative/slide and many better P&S cameras provide RAW functionality these days.
As I stated previously with a DSLR you don't buy a camera, you buy a system and costs can quickly add up especially when looking at quality lenses that can be multiple times the initial cost of the camera.
Yes Panamon you are correct. I have the Panasonic Lumix Z18 with the 18x zoom in addition to the DSLR and it does gives you the ability to shoot in the RAW, shutter and aperture priority as well as the other auto modes just like the DSLRs. So maybe the P&S is the best option here.
Polly here's a sample of the kind of picture quality I got with the Panasonic Lumix DMZ 18. It's a pretty nice camera. It has the features of a DSLR except you can't change the lens but I think they have some sort of extenders for the lens.
Again just a sample to show the quality type photos
All cameras have auto WB and probably several other preset WB settings too. Auto WB is often confused due to the light source such as indoor lighting, bright sun, cloudy days, etc. Therefore the other WB settings such as cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, shady, sunny, etc. is meant to help decipher what is white.
For the best WB you should shoot a white object or an 18% gray card under the same light as the scene you are shooting and set the custom WB in the camera to this picture. It makes a huge difference in color casts. If you shoot RAW then you are supposed to be able to adjust WB after the fact as well.
Here is a wreath I shot at my daughter's house using Auto WB.
I then shot an outlet in the same room and asked her if it was white which she said it was. I then shot another picture of the wreath after I set the custom WB to the outlet. Here is the same wreath using custom WB. Not sure if it changed the wreath color by much but the wall color sure changed. I shot these on a tripod at night using the dim light in the room.