What I learned from my Digital Photography Class, Part 1:
Question: Which is the best camera for you?
Answer: The camera you have!
Our instructor's point was that most of us are not using all the features on our current camera and we can use the camera we own to learn a great deal about digital photography. My single lens reflex camera is a Canon EOS Rebel XT, shown below. I chose it because I could use either automatic or manual mode, and because I could change from the lens that came with it to either a telephoto or wide angle lens. It can store a LOT of photos, depending on the quality image I choose. It will keep me busy learning about photography for years to come.
It's a wonderful camera and I really love it, especially as I learn more and more about what I can do with it. The only drawback? It's a bit heavy to carry, especially when I am out bird watching and also carrying a pair of binoculars, or when I am riding my bike. And it was expensive to start with.
Our instructor suggested that for occasions when portability is an issue, I might consider getting a digital point and shoot camera like the one my sister has, shown below. It is small and lightweight, and easy to slip into a pocket wherever I might be heading. The lenses in these cameras are getting better and better, there is built-in optical image stabilization (vibration reduction), and the small cameras are becoming more affordable all the time.
I realize that this is just a very superficial description of these two types of cameras. For more information, see this Consumer Reports guide to digital cameras.