Edited to add: I wrote this out in case it helps those who are looking for a digital SLR (for hobbies) to make a decision. Definitely scan your local paper, esp. the Sunday section for deals. Often, they are as cheap as anything found online. Today's Sunday paper had ads for several digital SLR deals including the Canon Rebel and Sony (both with two lenses), but my price was still better. People are often wedded to a particular brand of camera because it's a brand they already own. In my case, that was true, but I approached the process with an open mind. Sony is new to the SLR game, but is a respected electronics brand in its own right. My camera has many bells/whistles only offered on more expensive Canons or Nikons but without the steep price. Since they are new, Sony has to be competitive, and that's great for the consumer.
So after much agonizing (and, by the way, thanks to everyone who commented with suggestions) I finally got my digital SLR camera. A Sony A100. Happy Mother's Day to me!
I'm one of those people that never R's TFM, and because I already have a Sony point-and-shoot, I'm really pleased that I could just charge the battery and start taking pictures.
In fact, the questions that I did have (how to review pics, mainly) were answered in the "quick start guide." I'll bring the manual on my trip to Hawaii and (maybe) read it there (or not).
People comment all the time on my food photos. Even though I'm not striving for food stylist-level quality (nor do I ever want my food to look too perfect), I do try to make what I cook look appealing. And for a point-and-shoot that I push to the absolute limit, I've been really happy the photos that my little Sony takes.
After spending months researching, pricing, and holding digital SLRs (they are heavy), I saw an ad in the paper yesterday for a huge 42nd anniversary camera sale at a respected camera store, the place where I bought my very first "analog" camera. The prices on their cameras were competitive and they were offering to pay the sales tax on all purchases. They had deals on just about every kind of camera and accessory you can imagine.
We walked into a mob scene, but within seconds, a friendly sales person asked if we needed help. He asked the typcial questions:
"What are you looking for in a camera?" (I want to take pretty pictures of food, and pretty pictures of my family.)
"How much do you want to spend?" (Under a thou.)
"Are you considering a specific brand?" (Not really. But I've looked at Canons, Nikons, and the Sony.)
"Anything else?" (I'd like it not to be so heavy.)
After listening to me prattle on, he suggested that I look at the Sony. It didn't take long to sell me on it. What finally convinced me was that it comes with the same stabilizer technology that the Nikon D200 has without having to spend the extra $800 to get it. It has a 3 frame per second shooting speed (and shutters nicely) which is fine for me. And, best of all it came with 2 lenses, the 18-70mm plus lens and the 75-300mm zoom lens (an over $200 value, basically free). The Canon Rebel XTi also came with 2 lenses (18-55mm and 75-300mm), but cost $100 more for the kit.
So because of the sale, I was able to get the camera kit with 2 lenses, a 2 GB card, 2 UV filters, an instructional DVD (seriously, I won't read the manual but I might watch this), and a camera bag (20% off), all for under a grand. Plus they threw in all kinds of Sony shwag including t-shirts, hats, 2 flashlights, a couple of caribiners.
And reason # 8,928 to get a Mac, I hooked up the USB cable and the photos were imported into my iPhoto in about 3 seconds. No additional software (or hassle) needed.