One of the most popular questions I get from my friends, during my travels, and photography assignments is what kind of camera I recommend. Some people are looking for a point-and-shoot camera to take casual vacation photographs and to photograph their children around the house. Others are thinking about stepping up to more of a pro-amateur camera, or maybe even a more sophisticated camera.
This is not an easy question to answer for me. I know the ins-and-outs of my camera and that is about it. I don't follow all the latest greatest cameras. I used to follow that, though now I realize the camera is really just a tool and as long as it makes sense to me and I don't have to think about how to use it, then it's a good camera. I don't care if it's a Canon or Nikon. If it feels right to you, it will be wonderful. Yes, there are other cameras you should consider other than Canon or Nikon.
A great online resource to research cameras and get very extensive reviews is Digital Photography Review. Their reviews of cameras are really good and include side-by-side comparisons. Don't get too caught up in all the techie stuff. Well, unless you are secretly a nerdy techie camera person. :) I usually scan all the techie stuff and go directly to the conclusion. Maybe that is cheating, though after I find a camera or two that looks good, I then go back and scan the rest of the review.
Your next step is to take a few cameras that look good "on paper" and head to your local camera store or even Best Buy, etc. Hold the cameras. See how it feels in your hand and how the buttons and menus work. For example, I switched from Nikon to Canon many years ago because the buttons made more sense to me. It was very comfortable to change settings and made more sense to me vs. the Nikon. Cameras were much different back then vs. today. You remember film?
The last thing you want to do is buy a camera because it got the best review and then you get it and it doesn't feel right in your hand or you are always stumbling over the buttons and menus. Of course, I'd steer away from the cameras with weak reviews.
There are some very cool small point-and-shoot cameras. And yes, I even use them when I vacation. Including the camera in my iphone. Right now I photograph with a Canon 1ds Mark ii and in the house we also have a Canon Rebel (digital not sure on the model) and a few other Canon point-and-shoots. So, I guess we are a Canon family. Though the next one may not be a Canon. It just worked out that way.