Camera shopping is fun, but also incredibly overwhelming!
The first step to buying a new camera is figuring out what type of photography interests you–portraits, landscapes, still-life, etc… You’ll also need to determine your budget. If you’re wanting a higher-end, professional camera, you’ll need a couple thousand dollars to get the body, and a lens or two.
(I’m a Canon shooter, so my recommendations are Canons.)
When buying a camera, you should definitely try it out–Camera stores have tons of different models at different levels so you can try out what works for you.
If you’re just looking to shoot for a hobby, and if you’re just getting started, I strongly suggest the Canon T2i. It’s a great camera for people who are just getting started–but it can certainly produce some very nice images. It’s a big cheaper than the newer T3i, too, which is good–and from what I’ve read, and from some of my photographer friends who compared the two, it’s equally as good.)
If you’re not looking for something so expensive and you’re not interested in having to buy lenses and learn a lot about DSLRs, there are multiple awesome point-and-shoot cameras on the market. Any and all of the Canon PowerShots are great. My personal recommendation is a fairly new model the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS.
If you’re an advanced shooter and looking for an advanced replacement, I’d suggest the Canon 7d. I shoot with it and LOVE it–it produces wonderful images for me. It’s significantly more complicated to handle than the entry-level DSLRS (such as the T2i and T3i), but it is perfect for my workload and the subjects I shoot.
Just about every camera has a user guide, and if you type in your camera’s model on google, there are thousands of results demonstrating how to get the most out of your camera. I also suggest subscribing to Popular Photography magazine–it’s just a darn great read, and there’s tons of information regarding beginner, mid-level and experienced shooting.
Best of luck in your camera search!