Photography is an absolutely wonderful hobby to pick up and learn. When you see the quality of the photos that the professionals release, it is awe-inspiring enough to give you motivation to keep striving for it in your own portfolio. The only way you are really going to master the art is when you have experience on several types of equipment and you know how to fully use their capabilities.
Most people with start with a digital point-and-shoot. This will teach them the basics of composition, lighting, and subject. From these building blocks you can start diversifying your shots. Once you get a handle on what angles, subjects, and locations to shoot and how to properly capture them you can start looking into upgrading your camera.
That is why a beginner should always look online for the best SLR cameras and other photography equipment. Online you not only get good deals, you get reviews of the products and descriptions of their features. You can look on forums and get advice from fellow enthusiasts and maybe pick up a few tips as to what brands and models to look for (or which ones to avoid).
The camera is one tool you must absolutely make a researched effort to find. You should find one that works with the kind of image-capture you want to be involved in. The single lens reflex cameras are best for subjects that need a fast shutter-capture, for example sports, nature, time-lapses, etc.
While there is a pretty big competition between digital and SLR cameras, you really need an SLR to take your photography to a new level. They may be bulkier but this is because they feature better sensors for light and motion. They tend to have a strong image quality and a fast response time. You composure the picture through the viewfinder and you have options for different types of lenses and external flashes. This means more versatility and control over the final product. That and the image capturing features are customizable to a much grander variety of degrees.
Basically as a beginner you need to play around with these settings until you get a handle. Buy a few books on photography and start learning the lingo. The better you understand how the cameras work, the more controlled you will be and the more effective the outcome of the images you capture. The sooner you begin, the less time you miss to capture some amazing events.