Canon shall be rehabilitated.
As I understand it, Canon's change to the EOS system and the EF mount was motivated by a desire to increase the speed and efficacy of the automatic systems in the cameras, with particular emphasis on auto-focus.
kintatsu: the string idea is one that I have known about but (stupidly?) never tried. It really does answer many of the questions with a simple comcept that is worth trying and very easy to implement. I wonder how many others reading this have tried this 'no frills' approach?
benjiboy: yes, another whole thread could be dedicated towards "what would have happened if digital had never been invented?". What really astounds me about digital cameras (I finally bought a used Canon IS S2 Powershot for $30 and do love it but see some deficiencies faults with regard to film cameras) is the fact that most indoor scenes do not require flash and can be handheld, both because of the IS (image stabilization) and the speed capability of the sensor. The lack of shadow in the back of the subject is very desirable.
All: At least I am not the first person who has posed this question. Thank you for the links. Informative, if not frustrating. - David Lyga
Here you go David, I've been using one of these - mine is a carbide tipped hiker's staff, the grip unscrews leaving a 1/4-20 stud for the camera.
As far as the string-pod, I found it helps to tie a little dowel or other item to the end of the string. It helps with gripping it to the floor. Also, if you make about 6" short of eye level, it will give more stability. I've tried this where I couldn't use a monopod or tripod in the Cologne Cathedral, and gotten some nice shots, being able to handhold at 1/4 second.
I wish I could be more help, though, as your question is one I know I've wondered about.
If you're doing the string trick, it works better if you attach a short (30cm) length of something rigid to the bottom of the camera, and then attach the string to the bottom of that. Without the rigid section, the string will prevent up/down motion but the string+stick constrains vertical rotation of the camera too.
Thanks for the info on adding an extra support to the string tip. I hadn't thought about that!