A lot of professional cameras nevertheless have the function dial with the little picture of the mountain, and the flower, and the moon and the stars, while entry-level SLRs also have the P, A, S (or Tv on Canon) and M modes. Rich, dumb brats can afford "professional" cameras, so manufacturers make sure to put on those modes professionals never use. Conversely, some professional photographers can't afford top-of-the-line equipment. The Canon Digital Rebel is a frequent choice for the talented but cash-strapped young photographer. In a nutshell, I'd say get an SLR. From there, choose Canon or Nikon. It's possible to own both Canon and Nikon equipment (esp. if you can afford it), but if money's an issue, choose one brand or the other and stick with it for all your accessories.