Now it is cheaper than ever to pick up photography. Previously the cost involved is quite prohibitive. Even though you can get the gadgets cheaply but the cost of seeing the results is expensive. In the learning stage, you need to practice a lot. This means you need lots of films and with that lots of money to get it developed and printed. I for one, get by this by being a photographer for weddings and special functions. In all those times, I got the knack in taking pictures to show the events as it evolved and making sure that the main event is captured. This ends me up with two cameras just to make it safe and sure.
A must tool that I belief every cameraman covering a function should have is a good and strong auto flashgun. This matters very much when you are out in the open or in a very large room with high ceiling. For me, partly it is because wherever it is possible, I will use bounce lighting.
Present cameras will let you review the results immediately. You then have the option to delete those horrid results. Or maybe you would like to keep it and ponder later what when wrong. As most of the cost involved previously is on the output side, this is what makes photography these days a lot more cheaper. Only the good ones get printed.
If you have the money and time, it is good to take a course in photography. it will shorten the learning period. I took the long route. I bought books and magazines. I got to know a lot about the camera, the lens, the films and what it can do or cannot do plus the jargon.
There is no doubt that the most important part of a camera system is the lens. Although there are debates about the size of the sensors in modern digital SLRs, for me its a small matter. What matters is the result. To produce result, you need to know a few things. Things like composition, lighting and its effect plus the colour it produce, colour combination and details to name a few. I took a while to understand colour combination until I took time to look at those beautiful photographs and paintings and began to take notice of the colours there-in.
So, if you are very eager to start and your pockets are not deep enough, just get a good and cheap camera. Make it a dSLR because with compact, even though it has a manual setting, not much you can do. A dSLR will expose you fully to all those exploitations. Playing with aperture and it resulting depth of field are very interesting. The alternative is to pick a camera that is almost like a dSLR but not. This is my case. I got myself a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 to pick up on photography where I left. I am looking forward to get my hands on the Pentak K7. Body at least. Still I miss those doughnut shape lights that came with catadioptric lens.