alright, allow me to answer this question competently..... Be advised that I shoot Nikon and have for a while. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, Panasonic, Sigma, etc all make entry level cameras. Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus make truly professional cameras (35mm format anyway) For the camera body, I like Nikon the best--the cameras feel good in my hands, and have excellent noise/signal ratio, and are very rugged. For video on a DSLR, I love Canon--they're the only ones who have gotten it right so far. They have a lot of glass, but it doesn't resolve above about 21mp, so it's not worth it for the professional bodies--you're losing out because the lenses are ALWAYS supposed to outperform the camera, not the other way around. Olympus has some of the nicest glass ever made. Period. their bodies are a little odd, and their professional camera is more of a pro-sumer camera, but they are excellent, nonetheless. Sony is a new contender in the market, but should not be taken too lightly... the a900/a850 are excellent cameras at amazing price points. The old Minolta glass is amazing, and the new sony glass is pretty nice too. They are definitely not for sports--for that, it's Nikon and Canon all the way, although the D3/D3S are definitely the winners in that arena... Pentax has AMAZING glass, but their bodies aren't really all that great from what i've heard... You can get a Nikon, Canon, or Sony setup for way less and the same or better quality for the most part... There is no BEST BRAND... the best brand can be thought of as the brand you buy. All the other brands become irrelevant when you buy into a brand. I bought into Nikon, and as much as I envy some of my friends' amazing L-series glass, I never fail to get the image with a Nikon 200mm f/2... go out, try out the cameras you like, and pick what feels best. That's the best answer I can give you... Unless you want something very specific like low noise in the dark, where Nikon is gonna be best, or the best glass, where you want Olympus, or if you want to be an elite user, you could always get a Leica... if i have to make one recommendation, get a Nikon. If you get decent lenses (AF-S lenses are awesome by the way dont listen to these other people) they'll work on the D3000 to the D3X and all the others, including most of the film cameras. Nikons are fast, and if you get a D300 or above, they're built like a tank. All the professional lenses are built that way too. You really can't go wrong with any of the brands, honestly. Just do what feels right, and don't look back.