If you plan on purchasing a camera, I recommend checking Costco and BH Photo Video. BH Photo doesn’t charge sales tax, so sometimes they are cheaper than Costco. Costco has a great return policy.
For those of you who can afford it, a digital SLR is a huge leap above the point and shoot cameras. I recommend that you try before you buy. Nikon and Canon both make great starter SLR cameras and often sell in kits. Do not worry about mega pixels; anything over 8 is great. Instead, focus on getting more or better lenses over a body that has a lot of bells and whistles. Many of the new SLR cameras shoot HD video as well. This is a nice feature to utilize when you take the filmmaking course.
Samy’s in Santa Barbara rent these cameras, and it is not overly expensive. If you rent on a Friday afternoon, you get the camera the entire weekend for the daily rate.
Any questions, please email. Please know your budget, that helps me identify cameras in your price range.