I have been asked this question a few times recently so I thought I would write a short post and see if I can answer this as simply as possible.
Ok, so first things first you DONT need to spend a lot of money on a camera. Anyone who has come on my walks or read any of my posts will know that I am a huge advocate of keeping things cheap, and buying second-hand where possible. So much so I wrote a book about it!
Ansel Adams is considered by many to be the world's greatest landscape photographer, and even an entry-level DSLR nowadays has more power than he would have ever used. You can take award-winning photos on cheap cameras!
The above picture was taken with a second-hand camera worth about 250 pounds and won a competition in Outdoor Photography Magazine.
So what type of camera should I buy?
Pros: Interchangeable lenses, can be used for any type of photography, usually pretty cheap, lots of tutorials online, full control in manual mode, shoots in RAW format
Cons: Can be quite bulky, depending on what you do you may end up with a few lenses, swapping lenses a lot can be annoying
Pros: No need to swap lenses, usually good zoom range, lighter weight
Cons: Often don't have good performance compared to DSLR, often don't shoot in RAW
Pros: All the benefits of DSLR, Lightweight
Cons: Typically expensive, use weird size lenses that are incompatible with other cameras
So which one should I buy?
For most beginner photographers, my suggestion is to go with an entry-level DSLR for the following reasons:
Cheap, especially if buying second hand
Cheap lenses, again if buying second hand
Easy to use
Have all the features you should be using as a photographer, e.g. RAW mode, Manual Mode, Image Review, Autofocus, Metering etc.
A very good way to learn the main concepts of photography
Usually can be bought as part of a kit with a memory card, camera bag etc.
And what about brands?
Honestly, it makes very little difference. The Canon vs Nikon debate is purely down to personal preference. Sony, Panasonic etc are all very very good and you can take great pictures on any of the major brands. I personally use Nikon for what it's worth. The two major brands, good beginner cameras are, Canon EOS400D and Nikon D3300.
Ok, so where should I buy one?
I would always recommend buying from a reputable camera retailer online. You will get much better advice when buying and better coverage if something goes wrong. If you live in the UK my personal preference is London Camera Exchange or Wex Photographic .
What lenses should I buy?