I get this question frequently, so I've written this article just for you.
First of all, read these links - they're the best I've found on this topic:
And I'll make a few additional suggestions:
1. If you have a good friend who uses a particular camera or brand, consider going in that direction. You can lend each other equipment, provide each other with technical support and ideas, and pat each other on the back for choosing the best camera brand on the planet.
Other than that, the brand is really not important, as long as it's one of the big ones. Although I reserve the right to tease you mercilessly if you don't go with Nikon. ;-)
2. Here are minimum capabilities I believe you should get:
Your camera should have the ability to accept interchangeable lenses. Whether you get them yet is up to you and your style of photography. But you should have this option. If you're looking at packages offered by retailers, beware the lenses that are included in the package. They are frequently off-brand and not particularly good. They may be worth it to get started, but just be informed about what you're getting for that really cheap price.
The camera should accept a shoe-mount flash.
None of my cameras have it, but I really like the tiltable LCD screens.3. After you get the camera, your next purchases should be:
a shoe mount flash
a really good tripod
a basics of photography book.
There's always one of these on the remainder shelves at the bookstore. Buy it and read it.
a subscription to Popular Photography.
4. Now for some specificsIt's cheap. And it's got lots of articles written for both beginners and advanced users. It's a great way of getting comfortable with photography.
If you're planning shooting outside, a polarizing filter and a Hoodman Loupe are worthy investments.Now, after all of that, if you still have questions, please let me know.
If you're planning on shooting flowers, a macro lens would be a good idea. This will allow you to focus closely, and have a higher f/stop for deeper depth of field.
If you're planning on shooting people, a popular lens for this is a 70 to 200 f2.8 lens. But there are other variations. What you want is the ability to have a wide aperture and a focal length of more than 50 mm
This was updated on 11/18/14.