I suppose the question is.... what is the budget?
From my experience... low model SLRs, they're all pretty much like for like in terms of functionality and usability, so if SWMBO wants to go down the line of trading gear with friends, I reckon have a look around and see what nice friends you might want to swap lenses with one day. That's how I started down the Canon path..
There used to be some differences such as some Nikons tend to favour discrete buttons for every function vs menu surfing for Canons. Menu surfing sounds bad, but if you're a newbie and not going to use all of those features then menu surfing is just fine. However, I think that this is less of a thing now as huge screens on the back of cameras means that there can be less discrete buttons. But heck, with touchscreens coming, it's probably going to change again in the near future.
Another consideration is lenses - I'm a BIG fan of some of the "other" brands of lenses such as Tamron or Sigma. Sure a Canon L-series is nice, but for most of us, the equivalent Tamron (focal length and speed) can be 1/3 to 1/2 of the price with sufficient performance for the average joe. Compare the new Canon 28-70mm f/2,.8L II (~$2500) vs Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC ($1200 and you get IS/VC which the Canon doesn't have).
On lenses, also consider if SWMBO is ever likely to go full-frame in the future. If so, don't get into nice non-full frame lenses.
My BIGGEST piece of advice is "DON'T BUY A KIT". Kit lenses are basically rubbish and disposable. Don't get sucked into buying mega-double-kits. You'll get MUCH better value with a single Sigma or Tamron of similar price. If you're getting a crop camera (most likely), look at the ~17-50mm range or for a full frame, a ~24-70mm range. Of course neither of these lenses are particularly wide or tele, but if you can only afford one lense, a very decent "standard" lense will serve the best (unless there are very specific purposes in mind)
baudman wrote:If you can afford a 2nd lens, F1.8 50mm is the best $150 or less you can spend. F1.4 more fun still, but 1.8 would suffice for most stuff.
I used to agree... buuuut now I've got my Shorty Forty
, I've completely ditched the Nifty Fifty
. Same-ish price, smaller and with a better focus motor.