My first digital camera was Canon G1. It was a great camera but it soon became outdated by new better cameras. Next I invested to Nikon 8400 because of wide angle zoom, but I never got used to that camera. It was just too clumsy, menus were difficult to use, and ISO values (ISO 400 at best) and lack of stabilization turned out just not enough for dark winter months. Then I bought Olympus E-450 because I had old Zuiko lenses and adapters for Olympus cameras. That is a very good camera, easy to use, and thanks to excellent design it gives sharp unshaken pictures in dim light even though it does not have stabilization.
But I still needed something smaller to carry with me for everyday bases. We had bought Olympus TG-810 to my wife at first, but she was not happy with it because it was too slow for fast situations and she found it difficult to use. I ended up to use it. For me the slowness didn't matter so much, since I shoot things that does not run away. I find Olympus TG-810 a quite good camera to carry in pocket all the time, but the quality still was not good enough for me.
Now I somewhat have decided to go back where I started, and I bought Canon G12, thanks to all recommendations by Wertti, Orlando and dbreview.com. G12 is quite heavy and big compared to Olympus TG-810 but all that is inside makes it far better for more advanced amateur photographer like me. Just the aperture priority (Av), time priority (Tv) and manual modes are must to have. The ISO values increased from 1600 to 3200, which is only one EV step, but the picture quality of Canon G12 is far more superior compared to Olympus TG-810. And compared to my earlier cameras, the stabilizer on Canon G12 finally makes it possible to get unshaken pictures even on dark winter days.
But what is most important is that I finally again have a pocket size camera with a rotating display! Some of you may know my trash season series and know that I like to take pictures from ground level. And that is where rotating display is just a must have feature.
Then there are small details like built in lens cover instead of lens cap. I simply hated that on Canon G1 and on Nikon 8400! A lens cap that hangs from a string is just always on way, or if you don't hang it from a string, then you just lose it. Canon G12 is also very fast to use, and thanks to that I now can consider shooting also fast going situations like street photography. On G12 there is this good old optical viewfinder, so one can really take quick pictures even without using LCD display.
Then something completely different… The example pictures above are not very good examples, because I have edited them a lot. But the pictures are more as a examples on my latest discoveries. First thing is a way how to combine multiple exposures creatively. At Google+ I have joined to circles with hundreds of other amateur (and maybe also professional) photographers. There I have bumped to guys who take amazing night photographs using even a hundred separate exposures combined into one picture.
Can't find an example right now, but I post it later, when I find one. EDIT: One of them is Don Komarechka.
Don has used 'lighten blend mode' to multiply lights against dark sky. Another option (what I used) is to use 'darken blend mode' on GIMP or PhotoShop, to multiply dark objects against light background. Just open pictures as multiple layers and change the layer mode of topmost layers to 'darken'. You can also try other layer modes but the whole idea is to get a pictures where you just get something "more".
Next trick is to use 'levels' tool to get "empty tails" removed. Here's one guide how to fix RGB levels, but you can also do it for for all levels at once. That alone often makes the picture good enough.
Finally, what I also did on those example pictures, was that I used Elsamuko's Lomo script for GIMP. I have mentioned this before, and there are actually a set of scripts by Elsamuko available at once. But I rediscovered this Lomo effect, and found out it works nicely with moody winter shots.