First, do you go with Nikon or Canon? I am a happy Nikon user but the truth is, they are about equal. Once you pick one and buy some lenses, that generally drives your upgrades for many years to come because the lenses are not interchangeable. I will get around to making a set of Canon recommendations, but let's start with a Nikon system. Remember, there are lots of alternatives and an equal number of opinions from "experts". Here is my opinion:
First, the camera body. Right now Nikon is selling the following DSLR bodies: D3200, D5100, D7000, D300s, D600, D800 and D4. They range in price from $500 to $6,000. If you are looking for a good DSLR without overdoing it, I would go with the D7000. Why? The D3200 and D5100 are nice cameras, but they are missing a number of features that make a bigger camera worthwhile. If you don't care about those features, I would suggest saving money, weight and complexity and go with a Superzoom. The D7000 runs around $1000 for the body, about $700 less than the next model up, the D300s. I love my D300 but it is built with 4 year old technology and desperately needs to be updated by Nikon. The other models are more expensive and would be hard for a beginner to justify unless you just won the lottery and simply don't care.
For lenses, you want to be able to cover a wide angle view through a fairly long zoom. To grab that market, the lens manufacturers have come out with lenses that cover an amazingly broad range. Nikon has an 18-200 and even an 18-300 lens. While it is nice to have one lens that does everything for you, these lenses sacrifice quality and sharpness, which is one of the big reasons you are buying a DSLR. I suggest finding a pair of lenses that covers most or all of your needs, at least as you get going.
- Nikon 18-105 zoom. This is one of Nikon's kit lenses, which means you can buy it with the body and save some money. This is the lens you will probably use 80% of the time. Portraits. Parties. Landscapes.
- Nikon 55-300 zoom. This gives you the ability to zoom in tight on things that are further away. Make sure you get the VR version of this lens (see link below). Nikon currently sells three different 55-300 zooms. Argh!
- Nikon D7000 16.2MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR ED Nikkor Lens
- Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom
- Tiffen 67mm UV Protection Filter ($8 protects your 18-105 lens)
- Tiffen 58mm UV Protection Filter ($7 protects your 55-300 lens)
- SanDisk Extreme 16 GB SD card (Get two. The are fast and reliable. Stick with Sandisk)
- Kingston's USB 3.0 Media Reader (USB 3 is so worth it)
- Extra D7000 Battery (Not required, but I wouldn't go without one. Stick with Nikon!)
- Giottos Medium Rocket Air Blaster (the best $10 gadget to keep your camera and lens clean)
- Induro AKB2 Tripod Kit (a good tripod at a good price)
- Case (I won't even bother to suggest one. People like such different things. Get one big enough for your camera and both lenses. I am a big fan of both Lowepro and Tamrac brands)