EDIT - I have purchased a Sony A200 DSLR. Hoorah! Thanks for all the advice/tips/discussion, it was pretty invaluable.
I am looking to get a digital camera and would like to throw myself at the collective feet of you chaps for advice. I've done a brief search on the forums and all the other relevant threads seem to be rather old, hence me creating a new thread.
So, thanks in advance for any advice or tips
What I own:
One is a one year old entry level point and click no brand (given as a gift) which I use mainly because it has optical zoom. The actual image quality isn't the best and the shooting modes are not the best. It doesn't get used much now that I have a new camera phone.
The other is a camera built into my phone. The phone is the Sony Ericsson C905, which has a built in Cybershot 8 megapixel camera. Now this isn't as bad as it sounds as it was the best camera I could get in a phone in the UK, at least as of February 2009 and since I was due for an upgrade it didn't cost me anything (UK phone deals are awesome sometimes!). It is more than enough for the vast majority of photos I want to take - you know, of friends, social events, random things I think are cool and even basic sight seeing. I've used the phone as my camera for traveling around Europe this year and generally the results have been pretty good, except where I need a good zoom.
What I want:
I am a little bit unsure about this bit to be honest. I'm not entirely sure whether I want to go so far as a DSLR - where I can start playing around with all the complexity that this requires, or whether I should just go for a high end camera with a good lens and lots of automated features (is this called "prosumer"?). So I'd welcome your general thoughts on either position
If I was to go DSLR I think I'd probably need to join a photography club so I wouldn't be wasting my money on features I do not know how to use. I've a couple of friends / housemates who own the entry level Canon and Sony DSLRs so I can probably also get tips there too I guess.
So I can't really claim to know a lot about anything advanced regarding digital cameras or cameras generally. I have read buyers guides and I did use to sell entry level digital cameras back in the day while at college, so I have a basic level of understanding that might (I hope) be slightly more advanced than "more mega pixel lixels = good" so be gentle!
My Budget/ other constraints:
I am looking to spend no more than about 300 Pounds, which is about 350 Euros, 500 US$D, 600 A$D, 550 C$D, 740 NZ$D, 2,600 Danish Kroner and 3,500 Swedish Kroner (those being the currencies I'd guess you'd all be likely to use, apologies if I've missed yours out).
The camera needs to be sold in the UK as that is where I currently live. Ideally I'd like some sort of international warranty as I am likely to move back to NZ in the next year or two. I am not sold on the idea of buying overseas as I want to be able to go visit the shop/or at least have access to local consumer protection laws that I am familiar with.
I run an entry level one year old Macbook, so there is firewire and USB 2.0 but no card readers. Any software packages should ideally be compatible with OS X 10.5.8, but that being said, I probably will buy a PC laptop in the next year or so, so this isn't essential.
I don't give a crap about what memory card format as cards seem to be dammed cheap of any flavour these days. Although I probably wouldn't want to support a very obscure/likely to be discontinued any time soon format .
I don't have any brands I want to avoid either.