Whatever the reason for your upgrade, buying a DSLR is a large investment, and so it is important that you buy the right one. When searching for a DSLR, the first thing that hits you is the Nikon vs Canon argument. Both are well known as strong camera manufacturers, but don’t immediately ask, ”Which is best?!”, instead, go down to the local camera store and try them all out. There is no such thing as a perfect camera, peoples needs are different, and you should buy a camera that suits you.
The way that a DSLR feels in your hands is extremely important, you don’t want to buy the so called ”best” and find it is not comfortable. High pixel counts, fast continuous shots, larger ISO range are all unimportant if the DSLR is sitting in the cupboard, unused after only a few weeks of buying.
Don’t focus on Canon and Nikon just because they are the too ‘big’ manufacturers, try Pentax, Olympus, Samsung, Sony and all the others you find there.
Next, ask if you can test the camera, flick through the menu to see if it is navigable, if possible take a few test shots, experiment with the controls, and if all this appeals, look at the megapixels, ISO, exposure etc, and see if fits your expectations and needs.
You need to be able to change ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Fast burst rates are unnecessary unless you want action. 3D photos are unnecessary unless you are planning to start up a 3D stock photo site, or similar. And it goes on. Cameras are getting more and more sophisticated, but do you even need all the fancy blah-blah that is being added? If you don’t, all that will happen is that you will be charged a lot more for the camera and the battery will be sapped faster.
You wont need a Nikon D3X to take pictures of kids and pets playing, even if you have the money. Pros use this camera. Its purpose is professional pictures, for shows, and events, where pictures will be sold.
Dare I suggest, maybe you don’t need a DSLR at all? Maybe a point and shoot camera will do if all you are planning to do is snap a few pictures of kids and pets, you don’t want your large investment gathering dust on the shelf…