The long and the short of it is that when you're starting out it doesn't really matter. It is very hard to buy a poor camera from any of the major brands! When you're gardening do you care whether you're using a Spear and Jackson spade or a Draper spade? No it doesn't.
It's not until you get into the higher levels of camera that choosing the "right one" becomes important - and by then you should know anyway. It's a fools progress to spend a bajillion pounds or dollars on your first camera.
Here's a question. Which brand of camera took that picture at the top? Answer at the end of this artcle.
Top tips on choosing a first camera:
- Spend less on the body and more on the lens - you'll probably change the camera body within a year or two but the lens (the "glass") will last for years and years.. Buy the bare body and a separate lens - you might even get a better deal
- If you have a photographer friend who is willing to share, lend or swap gear, buy the same make as them - you can borrow from them, lend to them and generally learn together.
- More megapixels isn't necessarily better
- Read reviews on places like DPReview or the Digital Photography School
- Buying second hand IS an option - check this article for some good tips but be careful!
- Don't get sucked into the "more gear is better" syndrome. Buy a decent lens for your camera body and spend time learning how it works.
- Understand the difference between "WANT" and "NEED". Until you can say why you need something (and shiny shiny doesn't count) you are thinking of buy it because you want it not because you need it. Save the money until you know WHY you want it.
- Buy the best you can afford. Buying cheap is almost always a waste of money. You will, as your skills develop, learn that the $20 tripod is useless and you will be tossing it out and getting the $200 tripod pretty quickly. That $20 is called the Newbie Tax...
- RTFM. Read The F-f-f-f-fine Manual. Seriously. Read it all.
- Read it again.
- Take the lens cap off.
- Get out and shoot. And shoot. And shoot. Look at the pictures - understand why they are good, bad or indifferent.
- Read lots and lots of blogs and books.
And that picture? I took it on my phone. An HTC Desire... See? It doesn't matter and you couldn't tell...
Someone once said, the BEST camera in the world is the one you have with you.
Please do leave feedback if you have any! I'll do my best to comment back or email directly.