Several people have asked me in the past month what my camera recommendations are for taking photos of their babies, dogs and vacations are.
Dear sweet people, it's not the camera.
The best camera you have is the one you have with you.
And the best lens you have is your heart.
But that's another story for another day;
because I know you want to get to the fun stuff.
Here are some recommendations for your first rig;
These mirrorless cameras are small, light, shoot great quality photos and are cute as heck. They're pricey, but beautiful and worth the money. I recommend the XT-1 and a 35mm f/2 lens.
2) Canon or Nikon
Research "full frame" bodies in your chosen brand. Find a model that's a few years old (trust me on this one) and then search for it used. I'm not too familiar with Nikon, but Canon's 5D series is a great buy.
What you want here is a good quality body that is a true pro camera but that may be a bit older. This frees you up to get a quality lens.
Insider tip: Keh.com provides great used gear for a sensible price; I buy most of my grown-up photographer gear from them and it saves so much money. Every piece comes with a six month warranty. I had a problem once three years ago with an old Mamiya body and they took it right back.
Whatever you decide to do, please don't get the kit lens that comes with the camera. It's cheap glass and the photo quality will be super low. Get the body only and buy a high-quality 50mm or 35mm lens with a low aperture number; something like f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2.0 or f/2.8 will do the trick nicely. Lens is way more important than body.
Got your rig? Excellent!
The best thing to go with that new toy is a camera class at your local college and some books by photographic masters... Vivian Maier, Dan Winters, William Eggleston and Imogen Cunningham would get you started.
Remember, photography is about your heart. As Cartier-Bresson said;
"Photography... is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis.”