I got serious about photography about 5 years ago. Messed around with it for 35 years prior. When I got into DSLR cameras all of a sudden I am paying some serious money for this stuff. It took me a few years to learn how to buy. That included figuring out what I really wanted, what could I afford, where to buy it and other questions like that. So I put a blog post together to share what I have learned. You can read it here:http://www.bobkeenanphoto.com/how-buy-dslr-stuff/
The short version is buy used or refurbished Canon or Nikon Cameras and Lens. Sigma and Tamron are good as well. Think a lot about what you want. Read the reviews, talk to other photographers, rent one if you can. Then buy it at your local camera shop if they are competitive. If not use Ebay, B&H, Adorama, or Fred Miranda. There is a lot more detail in my blog. Let me know what you think.