As most of you know, I am an Olympus user. I love the format, the colors, and the cameras that I've been lucky enough to have had the pleasure of using. That being said, I don't believe that I am what I am only because of the camera that I use.
Despite what I previously believed, and what I sometimes may feel because of equipment-envy, a Photographer is not his / her camera. When it comes to photography and the art of capturing the moment, one does not have to have the top of the line, full-frame, DSLR. What I've learned, after 10 plus years of taking photos, is that the sky is the limit when it comes to what a photographer can do with the equipment he / she has. Skill, art with the instrument is what will differentiate a photographer from a camera owner, however high tech his / her gear is. While everyone, given the correct financial breaks and availability of funds, can own the best camera on the market, not everyone who might own said camera will be able to utilize it quite so well, not at first anyway, not without practice. In short, do whatever you can with the gear you've got right now, and if you feel you've reached your boundaries and are ready to breach them, by all means, upgrade!
When it comes to getting the right camera, I don't think I'm an expert, though several friends and acquaintances often treat me like one. As far as I can tell, the best camera for you is something that fulfills the following requirements:
1. You can afford it. Very important factor. :) Why force something you can't afford?
2. You can see yourself using it. If you can't imagine yourself using the camera for what you need it to perform for, then maybe it may not be for you. Check it out at a shop, try it around the store. If it feels comfortable in your hands and fulfills your needs, then by all means consider it as a contender.
3. It will fit your needs. With the availability cheaper, high powered cameras and DSLRs now in the market, it's easy to fall prey to the Mighty Megapixel come-on. Unless you intend to display your photos on the billboards along EdSA, you may not always need a camera with the highest megapixel count, nor a camera with exchangeable lenses. If you are the type who wants a camera for its portability and for the purpose of capturing those precious moments, snap-shots if your everyday life, the type who likes taking nice photos and digital video besides, a lot of good point and shoot, prosumer cameras do just that.
4. The camera will allow you to grow as a photographer. This only makes sense if you imagine yourself doing more though. A lot of high-end point and shoot cameras allow you to fiddle around with the settings, from controling the shutter speed, changing the opening / aperture, as well as film speed. If you're fed-up with point and shoot short-comings though, DSLRs are the way to go. You might decide to read a few books, take a few classes or workshops to help you harness its full capabilities but they will be well worth it.
Just some thoughts. :) Don't take me too seriously on this. Try things out for yourselves. Read camera reviews, borrow from friends' cameras. Invest in it emotionally and rationally before you do so financially. And when you have it, don't ever stop taking pictures.