Based on questions sent into me over the last few weeks here are a few pointers to look out for.
What type of camera should I get?
There are different levels of cameras available and which one you should go for depends on what type of user you/the receiver are going to be.
Compact Cameras / Point and Shoot : These are ideal for anybody who is just looking for something a bit better than your phone. They are portable and normally have a decent zoom range and produce good quality snapshots. Mostly used in auto mode.
Bridge Cameras - A step-up for those who have an interest but still want to let the camera have most control. Similar on the inside to a point and shoot camera but looks like DSLR. A Bridge camera will allow you to take over some manual controls. This allows for some experimentation and learning about how a camera works.
DSLR Cameras - Faster and greater quality than previous levels. Allows you full control over all settings on the camera and interchangeable lens.
What type of camera do you use?
I personally use a Nikon DSLR to allow me greater control. Being a wedding photographer I need a camera that is good in low light for both focus and quality. I have a selection of lens and mix and match as needed.
While I use Nikon, brand does not make a difference to a user unless you are used to one specific type of set up/already have a selection of lens. The difference between a Nikon and Canon is minimal at the higher end and will depend on your specific requirements and use. A wedding photographer will use a different higher end camera to a sports photographer.
Could you recommend a good starter camera and lens?
Most entry level DSLR's now are nearly as good as each other.
I'd recommend starting on something like the Nikon D3200 ( http://www.pixmania.ie/consumer-dslr/nikon-d3200-digital-camera-vr-ii-18-55mm-lens/15844307-a.html ) A very good camera to start on, full manual control and also shoots video (added bonus).
If you wanted to spend a bit more then the next model up, the Nikon D5200 would be a good choice. I shot my first wedding with this camera and found it brilliant. ( http://www.pixmania.ie/consumer-dslr/nikon-d5200-digital-camera-af-s-vr-dx-18-55mm-lens-black/22017804-a.html ).
The Canon equivalent of these would be the Canon 700d ( http://www.pixmania.ie/consumer-dslr/canon-eos-700d-ef-s-18-55mm-is-stm-lens/21650383-a.html ).
As regards a lens, the ones that come with most DSLR's (Kit lens) are ideal for starting out and good general lens. 18-55m normally come as standard and are good for up close photography, if you wanted something with a bit more zoom then a 18-135mm or 55-200mm lens would be required.
When you are going into more specific types of photography then the lens will change. Portraiture will be a different type to Wedding and Sport.
Would a bridge camera be a good place to start?
Once my interest in photography grew I purchased a Fuji Birdge camera. This gave me the opportunity to mess about with settings but still have the reliability of being able to hit "auto" when i really just wanted to get a picture.
Canon have some very good Bridge Cameras (Canon Powershot) ( http://www.pixmania.ie/bridge/canon-powershot-sx530-hs-black-digital-camera/22939549-a.html_ ). Fuji are also well respected in the Bridge Camera area but are a bit more costly.
Hope this helps any budding photographers or present purchasers! Any more questions or queries on the post feel free to comment.