� Are you looking for a compact point & shoot camera, a DSLR, or something in between? (Or perhaps you haven't decided yet � that's okay!)
� Is this your first camera? First ever, or first digital?
� Are you interested in a high level of control, or would you prefer to let the camera do as much "thinking" as possible?
et the camera do as much "thinking" as possibl
� If you had to choose, would you prefer a more versatile (large "�") zoom lens, or top-notch image quality with no zoom at all?
top-notch image quality
� What size of camera do you want? To what degree would you be willing to sacrifice other features for compactness?
Size is not important, but not extra large
� What budget have you allocated for buying this camera? Please be as specific as possible.
� Do you plan to spend more on additional accessories now or in the future? (Lenses, lighting, tripods, batteries, memory cards, camera bags... it adds up!)
� How long do you plan on keeping this new camera?
� What will you generally use the camera for?
My son and his wife are expecting their first child in August, 2012. I am looking for a camera for kids, sports, and pets.
Also, it must take great pictures, be a DSLR entry level camera.
� Are you going to photograph sports? What sport, and from how far away?
� Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos, or other low-light photos?
� Will you make prints, or primarily view and share images on a computer screen? If you make prints, will they typically be small (up to 5�7") or medium sized (8�10"), or are you interested in larger sizes as well?
Share images and print small to medium sized pictures Mostly small.
� Are you interested in spending time post-processing to make an image "perfect", or would you prefer to use images basically straight from the camera?
The people that will use the camera use photoshop at work, so, both.
� Are there particular lenses or technical features that are interesting or important to you?
I'm not sure. A good basic lens. Any, do you recommend any other things (lens?) to get?
� Are there particular brands or models you already have in mind?
I do. But, I'm not sure. I guess I would want the best fit possible.
Probably any of the entry level DSLRs would suit you, so you may want to consider longer term factors. If you think you might want to explore more specialised areas of photography, there's a greater range of lenses and accessories available for Canon & Nikon than Pentax and Sony. Also, it's important you feel comfortable with your camera, so I'd suggest you go to a well stocked camera shop where you can try out models from all the major manufacturers to see which feels best in your hands, how easily you can reach the controls, how logical the menus seem to you, etc. - these are all very personal things, only you can decide.
A few general points. Sony now use a fixed semi-transparent mirror design they call Single Lens Translucent (SLT). This enables very fast frame rates, which is good for sports, but loses some of the light, so they're a bit noisier in low light situations. Sony and Pentax use an image stabilisation system in the camera body, whereas Canon and Nikon use lens based stabilisation. The advantage of in body stabilisation is that it works for all lenses at no extra cost, but the in lens type is probably more effective with long telephoto lenses. You'll probably need a fairly long lens for sports, but that might have to be a later purchase. You're probably a bit optimistic if you expect any entry level camera to last 10 years.
Although entry levels have a high level of automation available, if you want the best quality images in all situations, you're going to need to learn to take more control of the camera. The standard lenses often supplied in the kit with these cameras, but if you want the best quality, you might want to consider buying the camera body only and getting a better lens, either from the camera manufacturer's range or from a 3rd party such as Sigma, Tamron, or Tokina, e.g. the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 or the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. You may want to look at getting a longer telezomm for sports, something like a 70-200mm f/2.7, but you'll need to save up for a while for that - quality doesn't come cheap!
Pentax K-r with the two kit lenses 18-55 and 50-300. It's a fantastic camera, and should be about your price range even with the extra lens. If you are willing to sacrifice the zoom versatility for quality, get the K-r body only and then a Pentax 50mm f/1.8. Much sharper and faster than the kit lenses.
Thanks to those of you who answered my post. I have almost made a decision. The people I am buying this for have given me some input. And, I have decided on a Canon T2i camera kit. They have access to one at work and seem to like it. Thanks for your input.