There is no shutter lag (a huge plus when photographing kids) and indoor pictures don't have the shadows/weird lighting that a smaller point and shoot camera often produces. The manual settings aren't too hard to use either. I called the Nikon customer support line this week and the person was very knowledgeable and taught me some valuable things about the camera in just a few minutes! Anyway, if you get a DSLR, these are what I consider the essentials:
- The camera body and lens kit - I have the Nikon D40 with the 18-55 mm lens (there are more specifics but this is a basic description). (I am getting the 50 mm 1.8f lens for Christmas, which I am very excited about, but I don't think it's necessary when you first buy the camera)
- External flash - I have the Nikon Speedlight SB-400, which is an affordable, compact flash that attaches to the top of the camera unit. It can be tilted in 4 different ways (to "bounce" the flash from something like the ceiling, providing more natural light in the pictures) and makes your camera battery last longer on one charge (the speedlight uses 2 AA batteries, totally separate from the camera).
- High-speed memory card - I would get at least a 2GB memory card because you tend to take a lot of pictures (since the camera is capable of taking many pictures really fast).
- Camera bag - I like using an over-the-shoulder camera bag. I wouldn't recommend a backpack if you plan on taking the camera in and out of the bag a lot, because it's a pain if it's on your back. However, a backpack would be great if you're a big hiker or plan on having the camera out for long periods of time and don't need to keep putting it back.
- Extra battery - the Nikon D40's rechargeable lithium battery lasts a long time (especially when using the speedlight), but I like having two batteries so one is always charged and ready to go.
- Warranty - we didn't get a warranty on our very first digital camera (this is our third) and it came back to bite us. Cameras are fragile (especially DSLRs) and endless things can happen to them...
Some other things to note - it's taken me a few months to become really proficient with the camera, so if you do get one, don't expect it to be something you can use without reading the manual. I finally bought the Nikon D40 Digital Field Guide by David Busch and it has been VERY helpful in learning the more advanced features.
Also - DSLRs don't come with video functions, so it's still nice to have a compact camera with video or a camcorder. I still use my compact camera (we have a Sony P200 that is a few years old) - I keep it in my diaper bag since it's so small - because the Nikon is bulky and not easy to bring along when we go somewhere. Also - DSLRs still have you look through the viewfinder, not on the LCD screen like we've become accustomed to with compact digital cameras. Not a big deal, but it takes some getting used to if you've used dig. cameras for a while.
And lastly... I was really pleased with Ritz. You can buy things cheaper online and sometimes without tax, but I was glad to do this big purchase at a reputable camera store. My purchase came with free prints, photography classes, and if I ever have a question, I can stop in at a Ritz or Wolf Camera store and they are happy to help you. If nothing else, I would buy the camera and lens from a store like Ritz and then order the accessories/extra parts online for a better price.
P.S. - If you're already into photography, you probably know about Photoshop actions - but if you don't... check out this blog to learn about them! I haven't ventured into using them yet, but will start looking for free ones online...