Roughly what do you want to spend? Its a bit difficult to give any suggestions without having some idea. For instance, the Fuji S7000 has had superb writeups from almost every digital camera magazine in the last two months. But the big drawback, is that its roughly £600. BUT, from first hand experience, its brilliant!
6 to 700 USD will get you a decent camera, 3 Megapixel plus, Lens Zoom to equivalent of 200 mm Nikon Coolpix 5700 (Get a deal it is just being replaced) at 5 Megapixels goes 35mm to 280mm. Should do it nicely. Nikon coolpix 8700 when available, same lens with upgraded sensor should be an OK choice.
1,000 USD will get you a Canon 300D kit but you'll need a sigma or Canon 75-300 Zoom (app 140 USD) as well to get shots like this. Picture qualtiy is better, especially in mediocre light because the sensor is bigger. 200 USD more will get you into a Nikon D70 plus lens, then 140 USD for Nikon 75 to 300mm lens. Great features probably available late Spring.
It is not all about the Megapixel number, the Nikon D2H takes great pictures on 3Mpixels and cost 4,000USD, ( mainly used by pro sports photographers) but less than 3M. is probably not worth considering.
It is really easy to get lost in the choice at the moment. D Cameras at this level are just getting to be a big market and there is not too much convergence yet so the choices are interesting and the competition is getting really hot so prices are getting interesting too.
The main difference between the two levels above is in viewfinbder. The cheaper have video style finder with a bit of lag (but hugely better than they were,) and same on shutter. Canon 300D (DRebel) and D70 have optical viewfinder, awesome autofocus and instant shutter. Also if you end up doing a lot of this you could get a lens extender or bigger lens for them.
Another thing. Go try them in shop for "Feel", just as important as when buying a plane!
Sorry to rabbit on, just done three months research into this as starting new photo business soon.
I think you have had good advice on the quality issue.
My major bugbear with digital cameras (and one that is not covered in most camera writeups) is the boot up and write time. Many cheaper digital cameras seem to take about 3-4 seconds to turn on then can only take 1 or fewer frames per second. This is unbeleivably frustrating if you want to switch it on and start immediate picture taking. I have lost count of the times I have taken a picture of the tail of something disapearing out of the frame.
If you have the means the aforementioned Nikon D2 or the D100 are superb machines but they are a bit heavy. Switch on and fire away.
One thing I will say is after you have experienced digital it is unlikley you'll ever want to bother with film again.
I use a Canon 10D with a 70-200mm L USM IS lens. After using the 70-200mm zoom, I feel the availability of the zoom to 300mm would be great. The Canon 300D body gives a cheaper way to get there, but it is not compatible with all the Canon lenses.
My latest digi camera is an Olympus C4000 zoom 4 Megapix bought cheap in SNG a year ago. Although the quality of the pics is excellent I´m not satisfied because of the lack of speed of the camera and the users interface. It takes ages before the camera is ready to take pictures and also it takes along time before I can take another pic.
Speed of use and users interface is defintively a major point for my next decision.
Lately I´m beginning to re-use me old Nikon FM more and more.
Aha!! Funnily enough (working for a rather large UK camera retailer) I get people asking exactly this all the time. This does not mean I am going to be able to turn round and say "that's the camera for you" because if there's one thing I've learned from selling cameras all these years it's that there's no better way of deciding than going out there, bugging the hell out of the shop assistants, asking them to get the camera out and making it work so that you can hold the thing and get a real feel for that camera's specific systems.
There are cameras out there with fantastic specs that will give you exactly the results you're after, but that are as awkward as hell to get a decent grip on, or are too bulky or have a lens that seems designed to get in the way of your finger etc. Try out as many cameras as you feel you need to (Note: it is not wise to try them all in the same shop. We happy, helfpul assistants tend to start grinning madly after about the fifth camera inspection and you may find yourself waddling out the shop with tears in your eyes and £400 worth of camera up yer bum )
I would be inclined to agree with Lukeafb1 - anything with a Fuji chip in it is a dead cert in my humble opinion. I would not, however, be inclined to agree with under_exposed. Whilst on paper the DSC 14n seems to have it all Kodak were about nine months behind release schedule when it finally came out due to a rather large number of 'technical glitches' which apparently the camera stills suffers from. I personally haven't had the chance to play around with the 14n because it never reached our store and the three customers who had paid £2000 each to get this thing as soon as it came out demanded their money back and ******ed off to get something else.
All in all I'm going to stick to film for the time being, still haven't found a digi capable of proper black and white. Happy hunting anyway, and don't be afraid to ask to handle cameras, it's the only way you'll find the right one for you.
I just love my Fuji, for which I paid well over £500 at the time....I remember wincing when I bought it but have had endless fun, especially when I got hold of Photoshop Elements and learned to manipulate the images a bit. I think you get what you pay for, but be prepared to see your choice outmoded and outspecced very soon after you buy it.
Some very good points made here, particularly the one about 'Lag"
I reckoned saving about half the price of a camera was worth three seconds warm up time and even a little lag on the shutter but futher experience shows it is a pain. If there's one thing I want in my purchases it is to look at them later and say (to myself) "I'm glad I went for that" and you don't get that feeling when you buy something that annoys you later.
I was in a shop Friday handling both the Canon300D and the Nikon D100. There are features in the Nikon range that I will want for my business (D2H optional wireless downloading, D70, camera orientation record (Never haver to rotate a picture again!)) so I will probably end up going the Nikon route but I did like the feel of the Rebel (300D in UK), easy on the hand. Nikon was virtually instant 'ON' Canon took about 1 sec. Both cameras 'shoot' instantly, just as any SLR and both have virtually instant autofocus (Nikon cycled once because I was focusing through a window but the rest of the time it was almost too fast to see!) just outstanding, both of them. Fuji S2 has a good reputation too and uses Nikon lenses.
PMA (V Big camera show) starts in a few days so you might wait till after PMA, there may be some price adjustments coming, if not you have only lost a few days. (Some $300 price drops have already been announced)
Do a search on the Computer/Internet Issues forum using the search terms "Digital Camera" and you will get about a page of related topics. May be something there that will fill in a gap or two for you.