DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras start at about $600.

What you need is a camera with manual controls in addition to the auto controls.
That will give you better control of the camera.
And will let you learn more about photography.
Cameras with:
Shutter Priority
Aperture Priority
Program AE
Full Manual

Here is a list of such cameras in your price bracket:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare_post.asp?method=sidebyside&cameras=canon_sx110is%2Cfuji_finepixs1000fd%2Ckodak_z1012IS%2Ckodak_z1015IS%2Cnikon_cpp80%2Coly_sp565uz%2Cpanasonic_dmcfz28&show=all
..
.