Most middle of the range digital cameras are good enoug for the budding amateur. It is more difficult to work from specs than it is to work from price.
I suggest you decide how much you want to spend first. Once you have a budget you need to decide what features are teh most important to you.
The following information is found on the ZDNet website:
You want a lens that can handle the broadest range of scenes. That means an optical zoom range that covers everything from wide-angle landscapes to close-in telephoto shots.
For any images you plan to print or retouch, we recommend you stick to 3-megapixel resolution and higher; Web- and e-mail-only photos should be fine below that. For prints at 8x10 or larger, look for digicams with 4-megapixel resolution or higher.
Some cameras use storage formats that are on their way off the market, such as SmartMedia, or formats that don't quickly ramp up capacities, such as Sony Memory Stick. Take that into consideration if you're making a long-term purchase. If you have a PDA or an MP3 player, you may want to choose a storage format that can work in those devices as well.
Our favorites are CompactFlash, because it comes in the largest capacities, and SD/MMC, which is increasingly popular and quickly upping its capacity. Most cameras don't come with enough storage for practical uses, so budget for an additional memory card. The optimum size you buy depends on the size of the images the camera takes. A good rule of thumb is the ability to shoot 24 images at the maximum size, about the same as a small roll of film. So, for instance, to shoot 24 pictures at the best compression setting with a 2-megapixel camera would require a 32MB card (approximately 0.715MB per image times 24 shots, rounded up to nearest card size that will accommodate them). If you shoot uncompressed, that would be 5.7MB per shot, for a suggested card size of 192MB.
All cameras deliver images in JPEG format, which should suit users who simply want to shoot and print. Look for the ability to select various compression levels. If you want to retouch, make collages of, or blow the pictures up to 8x10 or larger, the ability to shoot uncompressed TIFF and/or proprietary RAW images is essential.
All digital cameras offer an automatic white-balance setting that calculates the right color balance for your shot, but the results can be erratic. Look for models that let you select among white-balance presets for particular types of lighting, such as sunny, cloudy, incandescent, or fluorescent. If you'll be shooting a lot under fluorescent light, look for a camera with presets for all three types--or at least make sure that the fluorescent setting on the camera you choose matches the type of fluorescent light you'll be using.
Manual or custom white-balance is the most dependable because it lets you take a reading from an area that you want to appear as pure white in your picture, then use that reading to calculate the color balance. Advanced photographers may find white-balance autobracketing and compensation useful. The ability to adjust color saturation or select from different color modes is an important tool for serious photographers as well.
Many digital cameras offer special modes that optimize the camera settings for specific types of scenes. Landscape, portrait, twilight, and pan-focus are among the most common scene modes. Scene modes can affect both exposure and focus settings, and a panorama mode lets you shoot a scene in several frames, then "stitch" them together to make one big picture.
Look for a camera that offers scene modes that correspond to your favorite photo subjects. If you think you'll use this feature a lot, make sure that the camera you buy gives you easy access to it through a button or a dial, instead of making you hunt through the LCD menu to find it. Other useful options include continuous shooting, or burst, modes, which shoot multiple images sequentially to capture action. Many cameras offer voice recording and movie capture, but don't expect camcorderlike results.
Only hobbyists and professionals need to worry about the different methods for handling exposure; point-and-shoots handle exposure automatically and generally deliver an acceptable result. Look for a camera with exposure compensation. This feature is offered by many of the better point-and-shoot cameras, and it will let you fine-tune the auto exposure in tricky lighting situations.
Rechargeable batteries, especially lithium-ion cells, tend to last the longest. If you choose a camera that supports rechargeable batteries, check to see if it also includes a charger or AC adapter. Some cameras support rechargeables but ship with alkalines, so the charger costs extra. We like Sony's InfoLithium batteries because they're powerful and provide a readout in minutes of remaining battery life. However, cameras that use them can't take other battery types in a pinch.
A broader variety of supported battery types gives you extra flexibility in emergencies, so the best choices can run proprietary lithium-ion batteries (for longest life), CR-V3 disposables (long life in an emergency), and both rechargeable and alkaline AA- or AAA-size batteries for when your only available supplier is East Podunk General Store.
DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE
You should always try a camera before buying it. Make sure it fits comfortably in your hand and that it's not so big or heavy that you'll leave it at home. It should provide quick access to the most commonly used functions via buttons or other physical controls, and the menu system should be simply structured, logical, and easy to learn no matter how sophisticated the feature set.
A camera that takes longer than a second between shots (without the flash) makes action and candid photography very difficult. Furthermore, some cameras have long shutter delays between the moment you press the shutter release and the moment the shot is captured. Watch out for these long lag times as well as excessively slow camera start-up (more than a few seconds).