So, you've decided that you are feeling limited by your point and shoot and that the time has come to part with your hard earned cash and get a DSLR. You've had a look around, found an amazing array of cameras on the market, boasting higher and higher megapixels, and an even vaster range of lenses with different focal lengths and aperture numbers.....but which one should you get?? Is there one that is best suited to photographing children? And which lens with which camera? I know how confused you may feel because I've been there! In truth, it's a difficult question to answer because it all depends on what your budget is and what you intend using your camera for, however I will do my best to help narrow down the choices.
The first thing to look at is which manufacturer to go for. The two top names in DSLR's are undoubtedly Canon and Nikon. I'm not saying that other manufacturers don't make great cameras, they do, it's just that Canon and Nikon are the most highly respected and widely used, and therefore have the largest amount of lenses available (including ones made by third party manufacturers). Go with one of these and you won't go far wrong.
There are a few features and capabilities that you are going to want to look at when deciding on the best for you - these are megapixels, ISO capabilities, frames per second and the auto focus system.
Megapixels relates to how large you can print your images, for example 12 megapixels will easily allow you to print up to A2 or 16" x 20" with no problems (or even larger). More megapixels allows you to create larger images, but most importantly for me, is that it is also does give you some more leeway when cropping your images, as you can afford to crop away more pixels and still be left with a decent amount for printing.
ISO hiigher ISO capabilities is useful if you intend to take photos in low light, which includes indoors. A entry level camera will only allow you to go up to say ISO6400, whilst my Canon 5D MkIII goes up to a whopping ISO25600! This means I can photograph in much darker situations without flash than someone with an entry level camera. There is also a difference is how your camera will perform at those higher ISO's too - a full frame camera will handle noise much better than crop frames, and will give you less noise (a grainy soft look to your images) you will get when taking pictures with higher ISO numbers. Most entry levels cameras are crop frame however - you pay a LOT more for a full frame.
Frames per second (shutter-lag) is how fast your camera can take pictures (most point and shoots can be quite slow and is often a reason for people wanting to upgrade to a DSLR) and is a key one for photographing children. Obviously, the higher the fps number the quicker your camera can take the images. Even the entry level DSLR's will be much quicker in this regard than your standard point and shoots, but it worth paying attention to this figure.
The auto focus system. . Auto focus is simply how quickly your camera can focus on your subject, again as you go up the models, each of these attributes get slightly better. Look out for the number of focal points and how many cross type points there are - these are more accurate. If you plan to shoot a lot of sports, say your child's soccer games etc, then these and the number of frames per second is the most important thing to look out for.
Now, with all the various points in mind, I'm going to give you some suggestions for DSLR's specifidally with shooting children in mind. I've referenced both Canon and Nikon, and used information taken from their websites to compile this list, but please double check any info given here, as there is always a chance I've gotten it wrong!
This has 24 MP, 11 AF points, and shoots at 4 frames per second, and goes to ISO6400 as standard. A great all rounder.
This has 18 MP, goes up to ISO 6400, and has 9 AF points with one cross type sensor, and shoots at 3.0 frames per second. Although this is a good all round entry level camera, also worth checking out is the Canon EOS Rebel T3i - it's a slightly better camera than this, and you can get some good deals on this since it has now been discontinued.
This boasts the new DIGIC5 processor, 18MP, ISO up to 12800, 9 AF points all with cross type sensors. If you can afford this over the T5, this is a better camera to go for!
24 MP, 5 frames per second shooting, ISO to 6400 and an 39 point AF system makes this a great all round camera.
Again, this has the DIGIC 5 processor, 20 MP, goes to ISO12800 but this has more AF points (19 to be precise) and each AF point is cross centre. In addition, it will give you 7.0 FPS, so excellent for sports or fast moving children.
24 MP, captures images at 6 FPS, and has ISO up to 6400 as standard. With an amazing 51 focus points (11 of these cross type sensors) this is another great action camera.
This model is a full frame sensor, which means that it will handle noise much better than crop sensor cameras, and can therefore be very useful if you do a lot of indoor photography. It also uses the new DIGIC 5+ processor and has 20 MP. However, at 4.5 fps, it is slower than similar models, and only has 11 focal points, and only onecross type sensor) so if you plant to shoot a lot of sports, the 70D or the D610 below is probably better suited.
Another full frame camera so wonderful for shooting indoors due to how it handles low light. This has 24 MP, shoots at a high 6 frames per second, has 39 focus points and 9 cross type sensors. Another great one for action.
Another high end camera is the recently released 7D Mkii (the MKi version has been discontinued) This is THE camera for you if you shoot action as it shoots at an amazing 10 frames per second, and has a whopping 65 focal points ALL cross sensor. (Can you tell that I am gushing over this camera?!) It's a crop sensor so if you don't shoot a lot of action, and are likely to shoot indoors more, then perhaps the 6D is the better choice for you!
All the approximate prices shown are for camera bodies only - in other words, without the lens. (You will have the option to buy the camera with a kit lens) I generally recommend that you pass on the kit lens as these do not have a very good aperture range, which you'll want and need to take better images. So take the cash that you would have paid for it and put it towards a better lens - there any many affordable options out there that will serve you much better, and you can see some in the starter lens guide. That said, it can sometimes be very little difference in price between body only and body with kit lens, if it's truly only a few dollars, then by all means get it - they can be handy as a general purpose lens, but please treat yourself to a new lens too for more purposeful shooting. Overall, go for the best body you can afford, without sacrificing lens quality.
I'm sure you appreciate that as a photographer and not a technology geek, this is based purely on what I personally would look out for in a camera for photographing children - so please take this guide as it was intended, as a jumping off point. You may have other requirements (such as video) please take your own needs into consideration when looking at the various models. There are many other models available - I complied this to give you some ideas and hopefully an insight into my through process behind choosing a camera so you can apply it to any model or brand. I should also point out that I have not referenced professional bodies here, the idea being that if you are spending that amount of money on a camera, you will already know exactly what to look out for!
That was a long post - both writing and researching - so I hope you have found this guide helpful when choosing your camera!