This is the second email, where I try to make some recommendations for more advanced cameras. The criteria here were mostly the same, just with one additional point.
- Ease of use
- Good image quality
- Macro capability
- Less than $600
- Shallow depth of field
Obviously, a few of these recommendations break the $600 mark, but it can be done. I think probably a Nikon D40x and a 35mm f/1.8G would be the best and most economical choice. And macro capability is just that - capability. You'd have to add another lens, or get diopters.
Here's the text of the second email.
You asked me the other day how to get a "3d effect" in your photos. That comes from having a shallow depth of field, as in the photo above.
Any camera can get that look when you're shooting macro, like the photo I linked earlier. But if you want to get that look at normal shooting distances you need a camera with a larger sensor and a fast lens. That means either a dSLR, or a "mirrorless" camera. Both types of cameras have interchangeable lenses, so you can get something fast. The speed of a lens refers to the aperture, and the smaller the number the faster it is. You'll want something f/2.8 or faster.
There are a lot of choices. Most of the manufacturers make something decent. Let's do the mirrorless cameras first. They're smaller than DSLRs, but won't quite fit in your pocket.
Panasonic GF1 or GF2 with a 20mm f/1.7 lens.
Olympus E-PL1 or E-P2 with a 17mm f/2.8 lens.
And here are a couple of dSLRs.
Pentax K-x or K-r with a 35mm f/2.4 lens.
Nikon D40, D40x, D3000, D3100 or D5000 with a 35mm f/1.8 lens.
There are a lot more dSLRs to choose from, but these are the brands I'm familiar with.