The number of times I have been asked to recommend a camera has dropped significantly over the past year or so. It would appear that most everyone one either has a camera already or has decided that a smart phone is good enough for them. This is a tad bit unfortunate because there are so many good dslrs and mirrorless cameras on the market now that it is hard to go wrong at the moment. Because of this, so much of camera selection depends on personal tastes and lens availability.
The most interesting camera manufacturer at the moment has to be Fujifilm. The company produces well-thought out cameras with a useful collection of (generally) small lenses. The X-E1 (pictured above) s a tremendous value at the moment, while the X-T1 is pretty much the hottest camera around. I love Fujifilm color and the quality of the 18-55mm f2.8-4 standard zoom. Either way, it is hard to go wrong and the future looks very bright. I've still yet to try out an X100 but it is on my list.
Recent Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3s cameras are also very good and offer very good image quality even with the kit lenses. Their biggest advantage? Size. An Olympus E-M10 is positively tiny with its collapsible kit lens, smaller than even the Fujifilm offerings. If size is of the upmost importance, then it is hard to beat micro 4/3, and the image quality is closer to larger sensor cameras than you might expect. I hauled an Olympus OM-D E-M5 all over the place for over a year and it never let me down. It was especially great for 35mm black and white film-esque photography.
For general use (along with much better availability of low-cost lenses and long lens options like a cheap 55-200mm vr), I'd still recommend purchasing a D-SLR camera, most likely a Nikon like the D3300 pictured above. There may be a dearth of lenses for these cameras that intrigue camera nerds, but they take amazing photos at a very good price.
And why not Canon? Nikon has superior image sensors, the most important part of a digital camera, and everything else is pretty much equal. I also just do not find Canon's D-SLR line-up to be all that interesting outside of the diminutive SL1. Pentax makes solid cameras but is harder to find; the K-50 is an outstanding value for a low to mid-level D-SLR. The. K-500 offers a lot of camera for very little money and takes the AA batteries that some people love. Sony can't seem to decide what to do and continues to produce more camera bodies than lens choices.
For professionals and advanced enthusiasts, there are so many choices at the moment that it is difficult to recommend one camera to everyone. So much of it depends on the intended use of the camera. I have been a Nikon user for over four years now, ever since the launch of the D7000 and have been very happy with my decision to switch. The D800 is my favorite digital camera so far (like my old N80 film camera, but with medium format film-like resolution) and I particularly love the 28mm and 50mm f1.8 AF-S lenses. The D610 should also be a very good camera now that Nikon has worked the bugs out. The D810 will be released soon and offers several small improvements over its predecessor. The DF (pictured above) is a very intriguing, if a bit flawed, camera that has potential to get better with the next version.
Beyond Nikon, the Canon 6D and 5D mkIII are both very nice if a little short on dynamic range compared to the rest of the market. I find myself wishing Nikon made an image stabilized 28mm lens and a smaller 24-70 f4 lens like Canon. Sony, again, has great ideas with the A7 series but has yet to make an acceptable lens lineup to go with it.
Bottom line.. It's a great time for photographers.
Recommendations: Pentax K-500, $420 with kit lens. Nikon D3300, $600 with kit lens. Fujifilm X-E1, $800 with kit lens. Nikon D7100, $1500 with 18-140mm kit lens. Fujifilm X-T1, $1700 with kit lens. Nikon D610, $1800 body only. Nikon D810, $3300 body only.
A lens recommendation: Low price prime 50mm or equivalent for whatever camera you own. I.E. - Nikon makes a 35mm f1.8 for crop cameras and a 50mm f1.8 for full frame, both around $200.