What cameras would you recommend these days? I’m glad you asked! (You didn’t. I don’t care.) I’m assuming we’re talking new cameras only (and there have been extraordinary advances in cameras lately). I’m also making the blanket claim that image quality of any new camera is “more than good enough”. Let’s go by general parameters (and roughly by increasing price).
Point and shoots Ehh, these aren’t worth it anymore. Your cell phone camera will do. The only exception would be if you’re really interested in a waterproof camera like the Panasonic TS line or the Olympus Tough TG1
Small but competent I’d look hard at the Canon S100 (also reviewed here), which is awesome and significantly smaller than even the smallest mirrorless system cameras. The Sony RX100 looks amazing, but ’spensive.
Small mirrorless system camera Will you buy other lenses? If yes (and you mean it!), go Olympus (E-PM1 or E-PL2) for the lens selection (mostly) and image stabilization. Otherwise, maybe consider the Sony NEX5n.
Entry-level DSLR I have a hard time recommending any of these. They’re fine – even outstanding – imaging machines and a lot of people love them. But they’re (to me) not very fun to use, and they all have dinky, unpleasant viewfinders. I dunno. Pass. Or get the latest Canon Rebel and be happy. Whatever.
Mid-level mirrorless Toss-up between Panasonics: G3 if you want an included viewfinder or swivel screen. GX1 if you don’t. If you’re looking at the GX1, do at least peep at an Olympus EP3 for the chic retro styling and image stabilization.
Top tier mirrorless Toss-up between the Olympus EM5 if you want image stabilization or the slightly aging Panasonic GH2 if you want a full swivel screen or are serious about movies. The Sony NEX7 is a sweet camera but the system doesn’t have a lot of enthusiast lenses. The Fuji XPro1 is glitchy and, no, it won’t get better.
Mid-level DSLR My diamond in the rough here is the Pentax K5: it’s small but extremely well-built with full weather sealing and image stabilization. Not to mention that for $900 as of this writing it’s a screaming deal. If I were bootstrapping an event photography business today, I’d grab two of these and a bunch of lenses for a fraction of the price of a comparable Nikon or Canon system and get to work.
Full-frame DSLR At this level you don’t need me to tell you what you want. (But it’s probably the Nikon D800.)