All of the major brands have their fans, and I have no doubt that they are all good cameras. The only camera available at the moment that I would stay away from is the Fuji S9500. I bought one and the photos are just not sharp and clear.
Take your time looking, they are getting better and cheaper as time goes by.
Optical zoom is the most important thing, get the most you can for your money.
Digital zoom is a complete waste of time, do not consider this as a factor when buying a camera. Once you have bought a camera, turn digital zoom off.
Get the most megapixels you can for your money.
As a very rough rule of thumb when comparing your final choices in camera, take the number of megapixels and multiply that by the amount of optical zoom. Buy the camera with the highest number.
Try to avoid a camera that uses two 'AA' batteries (except perhaps the Kodaks that can use the CR3 Lithium ion Battery Pack). Get a camera that either uses four, or one with its own dedicated Lithium Ion battery pack. (If you want to keep it for a long time, check the price and availability of replacement batteries. perhaps ebay?)