You ask any photographer what is the most irritating question he has frequently being asked? I assure you he will say "Which camera you will suggest me to buy ?" The simple reason for not welcoming this question is that its answer is not that easy as the buyer sees. The answer for this question depends on many factors & preferences of buyer about which photographer may not have any idea. The next difficult thing about suggesting a camera is that there are hundreds of cameras available at many different types of retail outlets with wide prices range from $75 to several thousand dollars. Some cameras are small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Others are large and can weigh up to two pounds. Some are easy to use. Others look like you need an engineering degree to operate them.
I have also been asked this question many times. The funny thing was that some times I have been called when the buyer is holding a camera in his hand in a shop & asking me about it's performance before paying for it expecting me to answer in few seconds ! It's really difficult to keep updated with new cameras & their specification especially for a hobby photographer like me. Unfortunately sometimes I even felt the buyer is asking the question just for testing my knowledge & showing me how better he knows about the new cameras, that's really irritating & waste of time.
I will like to write down a checklist for a new buyer so that he can himself analyse the answer & can get some help over taking a better decision for purchasing a new camera. First you will need to identify in which type of camera do you need? Following flowchart may help you for taking the decision. However if you find more confused than getting help then go to the description given below the image:
The summary of the flowchart is if you are novice user & looking for low cost & everyday use then simply go for a penny pincher point & shoot one. If you wish to add more sturdiness considering your naughty kids probability of giving considerable threats to camera then go for better build quality point & shoot with waterproof, shock proof features. For a bit advanced user higher zoom & manual feature SLR like medium cameras can be better choice. If you are sure you need better than this then SLR/PEN camera will be final choice.
So your answer is giving you following options:
1. A Penny Pincher Camera : Compact point & shoot (Optical zoom may be upto 5x)
2. Sturdy but good camera : Waterproof, shock proof compacts
3. Happy Medium Camera : Medium zoom to tele (upto 20x) with manual features
4. Professional SLR : Professional full frame D-SLR or higher
5. Top-Notch Entry level Camera : Mirrorless SLR / D-SLR
Then go to a website camera buying guide which is my personal favorite i.e. DPreview
You can compare side by side 20(max) cameras at a time & this is very helpful feature on this DPreview website : Compare Cameras
Here you can search for your camera by providing features you will like to have. You can also find the top cameras by the reviews given which will help you to pick the best one out of latest cameras.
Instead of mentioning all specifications details which you can find anywhere on net I will simply like to list some tips:
1. Don't go for only high megapixels. You may not need more than 10Mega Pixel.
2. Don't go for digital zoom numbers. Optical zoom matters for better picture quality.
3. Lithium ion batteries give better performance & small size in lieu of higher cost against Ni-MH batteries.
4. Go for lighter/small cameras unless you are very sure you need big one so that you don't miss it when you really need it. Many smart phones are now available with good picture quality now - days.
5. If you are going for D-SLR then have a look for mirrorless SLR/PEN cameras. They are becoming popular due to compact size.
6. If you are very sure you need professional D-SLR then save some money for quality lenses. Quality is not only about great camera body. Moreover body can be changed but not the lenses very easily.
Hope this helps you for choosing you new camera & me for the guiding the new camera buyers in better way :)
Here is a link declaring some best cameras in 2013 in each category.