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I am about ready to buy a fancier camera. What do you think is the best reason to go from a point-and-shoot to a higher-grade camera?

I am considering the Sony NEX-7 (others seem to like it and get great photos from it, plus I am comfortable with Sony's Intelligent Auto, which my current camera, the Sony Cybershot, uses). What do you think?

+Keith Barrett, you have one, right? I watched Trey's review show and at that point, you had just bought it. Do you still love it?
Martin Heller's profile photoTristan Sonali Sonali's profile photoMd. Moniruzzaman Chowdhury's profile photoChristopher Siguan's profile photo
The only thing missing from this photo is the actual smell of the rose. What else could you possibly want?
Aw, thank you +George Lollar.
+Derek Pollak: absolutely! Though, I always thought that the technology might pick up more if only they called it something a little more elegant, hehe.
I made the jump from a Nikon Coolpix to a D5100 for multiple reasons.
*I couldn't take the shots I wanted to with the Coolpix
*I could take the shots I wanted with my old OM-1, but I hated the wait and expense of film processing
*I had the money, and my wife was OK with me spending it
Oh, and I forgot the most important reason: among the shots that weren't working using the Coolpix were pictures of my granddaughter.
Go to a store and physically try to use a bunch of different bodies. Whichever feels most comfortable to use to you is a pretty good choice. Canon or Nikon have the highest availability of parts and lenses, to rent and buy. That said, I've heard great things about that Sony NEX-7. 
Specifically, what about the photos improve?
I still love it and have taken a ton of photos but have had no time to process or post then.
Lots of things improve, depending on what lenses and body you get, and where you are in the art. Less shutter lag gives you better timing, faster shooting speed lets you get shots you'd miss, there's less noise at low light levels, autofocusing is more reliable, you can use a bigger range of focal lengths, you can buy fast glass that lets you capture motion in marginal light, you can do bracketed exposure sets for HDR processing...
I think the real improvement comes with the artistic freedom that you will have after switching from a point and shoot. This freedom will really open up the fun of photography...
+Martin Heller Shutter lag is the thing that bugs me the most about inexpensive cameras. Do you know why that's expensive?
I have a NEX-7, and I can honestly say that you would not be disappointed with it. Previously, my main camera was a D7000, which I still use, but the quality and portability of the NEX-7 makes the 7000 seem unwieldly and unnecessary.
I complained bitterly about a few cameras until I finally took the plunge for a d5000. Shots I couldn't get were low-light, and good pictures of active kids. I would always miss a great expression due to shutter lag. I couldn't really do any macro... 
As you dig deeper Christa you will learn that it's more about the lens than the body. Spend all your money on good glass. Sometimes there can be a huge difference! The differences are sharpness and speed. If you can afford it, go for the ones with IS in the name as well, unless you use a tripod for your shots, that internal stabilization is worth it's weight in gold.

I'm a Canon fancier, but Nikon is just a solid and to be perfectly honest I wouldn't even go with any other brand simply because of the ubiquitous nature of the gear you can find for those two brands as opposed to Sony. Also there are lens companies that make lenses that are spectacular, but only for Canon and Nikon.
Take a look at the micro 4/3 cameras and lenses. The m4/3 has the most mature a lens line up as of now. I like the Olympus Pen series. There is a website by Thom Hogan called where he talks about the differing mirrorless system camera options.
Nikon and Canon are my top choices, but my son-in-law has a NEX-5, loves it, and takes great pictures with it.
+Christa Laser Are you going to want to shoot in manual, or just with the intelligent auto? The NEX-7 is the best choice if you want to go all manual because of the tri-navi controls. You have instant access to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO all with your right thumb. If you plan on sticking with iAuto, then the NEX-5n would be a good choice. I had one for a few months, but sold it because I wasn't able to control the exposure easily enough, but it is a fantastic camera, and a good bit smaller than the NEX-7. I hope that helps!
What +Jennifer Bailey said about lenses is great advice. For Nikons, the magic initials are VR, for vibration reduction.
nice shot,wish there's a rose that it's beauty never fades :)
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