Brand Nikon

What makes a good and a bad camera?

I'm thinking of buying a camera. It will be my first, and I'd like to know how to determine a good quality camera from an okay one. What are the important features I need to look for in a camera? And what is the best brand: Nikon, Canon, Sony? If you could recommend a camera, that would be great too! Price is not an issue.

At least 10 - 30 times a day someone on YA asks: "Which one is a good camera to buy?"
A quick search would have given you hundreds of replies, but once again here is my 10 cents on the subject:

Point & Shoot cameras are wonderfully handy because of their small size.
When light conditions are ideal, they even take really nice photos - all of them do.

However, they all DO have limitations - they don't do very well in low light situations (i.e. noisy photos, hard to avoid blur, etc). The little onboard flash is very harsh at close range, and doesn't reach very far.
Many of them have no manual functions, so you are limited to only very basic photos, you can't compensate for unusual situations, or do many fun "tricks" and special effects.
P&S's also suffer from frustrating shutterlag and many of them chew through batteries rather quickly.

However, if you're ok with all those limitations, then go ahead and pick one, most of them (the same type and same price range) are rather similar. Personally I would pick either a Canon or a Nikon, and would certainly stay away from Kodak.

A higher end P&S will give you more manual options and better quality. Many of those even give you the option of adding a proper flash (which makes a big difference to your flash photos).

Don't worry too much about megapixels…. there is a limit to how many pixels you can squash into a tiny P&S sensor before you actually LOSE quality rather than gain it.
Don't worry about digital zoom, in fact, don't EVER use it. It simply crops away pixels, i.e. destroys information. The only real zoom is optical.

Decide which features are important to you, and look for cameras that have that feature.
Then go compare a few models on www.dpreview.com .

The very best thing you can do for your success is to borrow some books and learn about photography. A bit of knowledge will make a much bigger difference to your photos than your choice of P&S camera can.

For what it's worth - if I was in the market for a P&S camera right now, my choice would be a Canon Powershot SX10 IS http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ModelInfoAct&fcategoryid=144&modelid=17630

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