I think it's fair to post the following:
1. You need to buy a camera which suits your pocket. Some people can afford to pay plenty, others not.
2. Ideally you need a camera with a 10X or 12X zoom if you are buying a fixed lens digital. This is possibly the cheapest route. Probably R4000 - R8000.
3. When buying a DSLR the price of the camera is only the tip of the iceberg. Good lenses cost buckets of money - anywhere between R8000 and R80000 each!!!
The camera body will be somewhere between R9000 and R60000.
4. Some cameras sold here cannot be serviced here. This has been a major issue with me and for that reason I buy Canon who have a jacked up service centre in Midrand. This is common sense, not a plug.
There is nothing worse that finding your camera has to be sent to the "North Pole" for service and the costs are out of your control.
5. Camera makers normally produce an excellent range of lenses but no way will the "consumer" lens give you the same result as the "pro" lenses. That is why you see some many of those "white" lenses at major events.
6. Some 3rd party lenses are fine but always try before you buy
. It is possible that compatibility problems can occur. The Sigma EX series are good lenses generally.
7. I always suggest digital - my reason is that film will eventually die out to a large degree and digital photos are more easily rendered into usable prints.
8. In less than a week in the Kruger I am likely to take 1200-1500 shots, if I keep 100 that would be a lot. Just think of the savings compared to film. Of that 100 it will end up at about 50. That equates to 60 films saved!!!!
9. Digital means you can just keep on shooting with no added expenses. All you need is enough storage.
10. A really good yardstick is to look at a digital with a sensor of 6mp plus. The Canon's and Nikon's in this range will cost you roughly between R9000 and R15000 - add a decent zoom lens and that's another R16000-R20000. You will then be able to get the "Getaway" type stuff.
11. Digital camera prices are more here than in the USA or UK - The USA is very cheap but on R10000 you might save 10% buying in the UK. It's not worth the hassle - buy the camera locally. That way you will not get any warranty problems. You could fall foul of Customs also.
12. Camera Retailers make used car salesmen in Jules Street (Jhb) look like saints. Be sure to shop around and you do not have to be nice to them. Invariably their sales staff have poor product knowledge and try to push specials. Don't feel that you cannot speak to the manufacturer - you can!
13. With the rapid advances in DSLR's the one you buy now will probably be obsolete in about 2 years. Be prepared to upgrade. For those with less cash available some good used units are slowly reaching the marketplace but you must test before you buy.
14. There are 2 excellent Internet resources for reading up on various makes - DP Reviews and Steve's Digicams - do some research before spending money.
15. Be prepared to spend money - once the bug bites you are in it for keeps! That fancy new lens you dream about is waiting for your wallet.
Image Stabilized Lenses/Cameras:
IS is reasonably new technology and is well worth paying for. The results show that IS is one of the best moves forward. I will not buy another non-IS telephoto lens!
Other Issues: Dust on Sensors:
A lot has been written on this subject all over the internet. It is not the catastrophe it sounds. Minimize lens changes in dusty places. Have a blower available - do not use "canned air". Don't leave cameras or lenses open to the elements.
Hope this helps.