I get questions all the time from friends and acquaintances about which camera is the best one to buy. To that question, there are a myriad of answers based on what you plan to do or shoot with the camera. Even though photography is a technical field, those aspects don't particularly interest me. I get bored with conversation with other pro's about lenses, DOF, and photography RULES. While I agree it's important to know the basic rules of composition, light and of course camera usage I think honing the "eye" is a much more useful lesson to the layperson embarking on a journey through photography. There are many roads to take towards arriving at a successful image and at the end of the day, the viewer will decide based on how the image moves them (or not).
In my opinion, there's no reason to spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment. I've seen "photographers" with the latest of everything and the photography vest to match, but will use their camera on "A" automatic mode, or do all the "photography" using photo-editing software.
To answer the question about which camera to get, I'd say spend little on a camera with an M (manual) mode. This allows you total control of the camera and will force you to learn about exposure, depth of field and shutter speed. You will of course need much practice with composition--how you "frame" what you're shooting, and that takes much practice so shoot A LOT!
Nowadays, there are advancements with camera phone technology and we've all seen what the iphone can do! I happen to shoot OFTEN with my iphone, but my main pro camera--a Nikon D80-- is considered an antique in the rapidly-changing landscape of DSLR and technology. Yet, I still get the job done, pleasing clients and "fans" alike. When I think about how we revere images from the past-- those taken by "Master" photographers--I note that most of those camera's used to shoot historical images are now antiques! This reaffirms the notion that good photography is not only achieved by the (good/expensive) camera, but mostly by the "eye".
The most important thing in all of this is to ENJOY photography. Whatever genre interests you, be it fashion, photojournalism, landscape, still life, etc., it's important to have fun, treat your subject matter with the utmost importance, and try new perspectives.
These days, everyone claims to be a photographer thanks to the mass accessibility of camera phones, so it's important to STAND OUT from the pack in some way, learn from your mistakes, never compare yourself or your work to another photographer and always remain true to yourself!
(iPhone) Photo copyright Ocean Morisset Photography. Peekskill, N.Y