continued from e-mail...
FYI, the Lumix currently in stock at:
I suggest Onecall.
You can also pick OneCall from the list of available Amazon
Note: All of the above links will benefit The Digital FAQ if you click them to make your purchase!
I looked at each of these, and my first instinct, given the price range, was to look at the Sigma P&S cameras equipped with a Foveon processor. However, I don't see anything with a zoom in that line yet. There is the Sigma DP14 dSLR, and the non-zoom P&S Sigma DP2, both of which use the same Foveon X3 sensor. The D2 has a fixed lens, at about 41mm in 35mm equivalency terms.
Foveon is a next-generation kind of sensor tech. A full article is at Wikipedia, if you want to crawl through the tech of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foveon_X3_sensor
So that's out...
Meaning I won't really find anything not already on your list.
The Panasonic Lumix
is very popular right now, because of its ability to capture full HD video. It's a pretty impressive little unit, because it also has an ISO up to 6400, f/2.0-2.8 apertures max apertures, and optical image stabilizers (better than digital ones). Manual exposure and fast shutter speeds don't hurt either.
is also highly regarded, but it compares almost spec for spec with the Lumix, but at a $300+ price difference. In fact, Luminous-Landscape.com came to the same conclusion
! (Scroll to bottom of that page.) He goes so far as to state it's the same camera with a different color scheme!
is going to have more noise, and slower ISO performance. The pixels are tighter compressed on its sensor. I'm not a fan of this Canon, or of Canon cameras in general (excluding the Elph P&S series, or the higher-end dSLR bodies and L lenses). This is a mediocre offering compared to the other two. It has a few consumer gimmicks like "face detection" and "more zoom", but the image quality isn't going to be as good as the others. The aperture is also not the best on the lens.
I'd buy yourself the Lumix.
In fact, buy me one too! It looks like a fun toy.