First, an apology to Terry, he is my friend and he has a Nikon D70. It’s a great camera and it was voted as best camera of 2004 by Popular Photography.
Ok, so on to the research…
If I were to buy a SLR-Like or Prosumer camera, I would buy the Olympus 8080. It’s a great camera for the price. The review is here at dpreview. The guy there doesn’t hand out “highly-recommended” easily. This means that for $700, you are set and good to go.
If I were to buy an SLR camera, I would buy the Nikon D50. It costs less than a Rebel, and has less resolution, but the pictures should be just as good as a D70. The D70 beat the Rebel last year, and is still very competitive. (If you have a Canon Rebel/XT, you did fine too). I trust Terry (and articles he has presented) on the actual handling of the camera. The Nikon cameras get out of your way a lot faster when you have to manually adjust something.
Here are a few articles from Terry and Bill on the whole bridge versus SLR debate:
Essentially, the DSLR cameras still have these huge sensors and faster processors, which give them a significant advantage. However, SLR-Like cameras give you all that you need in one package for 99% of the amateurs out there, and they have the added feature of showing you the shot in the viewfinder.
All that being said… what camera am I going to get:
My wife needs to use the camera as well, so it is off to point and shoot land. Most of her photos will be outside shots and the camera needs to be simple and not super expensive. This camera will get dropped and scratched. It will get little fingerprints on it.
So, as it usually goes, research leads to … more research!
After that purchase, I will probably get myself a decent bridge camera. I don’t need a lot of different lenses, dust issues, and expense. Buying an SLR means buying better lenses, which means spending over $1000. To get a great SLR, think over $1500. I don’t need that. The SLR-Like will handle 80% of my photos Just As Well for the same price. Cameras are almost like computers, right now. They get better and better at a fast pace, so it doesn’t make sense to get to invested into a super nice camera at this point in time.
My prediction: In 2-4 years, the bridge cameras will start getting the same features as the higher-end DSLR cameras. Why? The economics of camera making of the past and of now are very different. Eventually, the larger sensors, faster processing, better lcd viewfinders, etc. will all go down market. I mean, if they had the huge Canon sensors, how could they not be just as good?
Sidenote: After talking to people at work, it is amazing to discover how much people spend on cameras! I mean, there was someone who bought a Canon EOS 20D, to take pictures of their nephew!
Sidenote 2: Here is a guy who takes a very expensive camera and makes it a pinhole camera: link