I'm a little scared about the A-series from Canon.
The A-series has represented a great Honda Civic (Or Toyota Corolla, which is the most recent car we've purchased) sort of experience. It's not excellent at anything in particular. It's not the smallest. It's not the most impressive. It's not the best in the darkness. But, at the very least, it gets you most of the way there. It takes decent pictures, has a decent user interface, and doesn't suck in any major way. And because it's utilitarian and not sexy, you don't pay tons of money for it.
In the very very early days of the digital revolution, before I really knew what features to get, we purchased my father-in-law an A400. And, while it doesn't have much zoom range or fancy features, it worked and took decent pictures, and such.
But cameras have gotten MUCH better since then. Sure, the megapixels are higher, but the processors are faster at focusing and having less shutter lag.
So we got my father-in-law an A590 IS. And it's great. It has all of the usual manual modes that haven't really changed since when I had the A95, a user interface that hasn't changed since they went to three digits, and it takes good pictures. The IS makes it better in less light than before. The response time is snappy.
And the best part? You can go into "M" exposure mode and use it to optically trigger studio strobes. This means you can often take BETTER pictures with flashes in low light that your friend with a APS-C dSLR can at 3200 ASA and no flash.