"It depends", of course!
Prices have certainly come down over the years. It used to be that $3-400 was a reasonable "entry-level" target, now it's about half that, or $200. Do factor in the cost of some necessary accessories, such as a reasonable-capacity memory card ($10-20), a case ($10-20), and an extra battery or a set of rechargeables and a charger ($20-40).
One can spend less, but that may imply a more toy-like camera with lesser quality images, slower responsiveness, and poor build quality. And one can easily spend twice that or more (back to $400), if you want more sophisticated features, a faster-reacting camera, a better lens, and so on.
Likewise with digital SLRs, they used to start around $2,000, and now one can get an entry-level model for under $1,000, with a starter "kit" lens. For $1-2,000, one gets more advanced models with better kit lenses. The new high-end is the full-frame sensor, and professional models that are built to withstand heavy use. The enthusiast will ultimately spend more on lenses than on camera bodies. And in my experience lenses are the better investment: they last across several bodies.
I think anything you've heard of is probably fine, either from a traditional camera manufacturer such as Kodak, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax, etc., or a well-known electronics manufacturer such as Sony, HP, or Panasonic.
There are some cheap, lower-resolution, strange-name cameras out there that I'd avoid. (See the previous price discussion previous.)
Assuming you're a reasonable shopper, there's a strong element of "you get what you pay for". The danger is that at first blush, it's not clear what those extra-cost-and-value factors are, so it's easy to end up with a "bargain" that turns out to have annoying limitations relative to a higher-quality initial purchase. On the other hand, there's no point in buying a high-end enthusiast's camera if you're just a casual snap-shooter: the extra features will just get in the way, and you'll pay a higher price in money, size, and weight than necessary.
Copyright Richard Schooler, 2001-2008 firstname.lastname@example.org