I think you need to look at the Panasonic FZ30. One man wrote you to look at a entry level DSLR. That is fine but you will have to buy lenses, which is where the real cost comes in, and besides most entry level DSLR are near the $1000 range. The FZ30 has it all built in. You have a leica zoom lens from 34mm to 420mm or 12X. You have full auto or full manual controls. You can go Aperture Priority or Speed Priority, or full manual. You have a very powerful 24' at 80 ISO range built in flash along with a hot shoe if you want to use your own flash. You cannot beat the lens or the 2"viewfinder which is at 240,000 Pixel rez along with the EVF (electronic View Finder) which I find superior to the optical type in low light. This camera does it all and you can get one for right at $500, a lot less than a entry level DSLR. It actually has outdone most of the Entry level DSLR's. It is a fantastic camera to learn on and presonally, I have yet to see that many better pictures on cameras that cost up to $5000. True in low light DSLR camera's will have less noise, but the noise problems are not as acute as some may say. I have made hundreds of pictures in ISO 200 and 400 and what little noise I have had cleaned up easily with the free version of Neat Image. For the price, you will not find a better camera with as many capabilities, plus it has the best image stableization on the market. It is a full size camera but if you are going to go into more serious photography work, you do not want to get one of those subsize cameras, the high end DSLR's are the size of this camera. Beleive me, I am a professional photographer, I have all the other camera's and plethora of lens, this camera matches them picture for picture and I have not been disappointed yet and you will not find a better looking or better built camera for the price.