Also I suggest that you look at the Olympus 510 and the Pentax K10. In my opinion they are superior in features and comperable in price if not lower to all the ones you have listed from the big three..
MaddogOlympus E-500, Olympus E-510..
Check out the Olympus 510 or 410 with 2 lens kit..
I suggest you look into Sony or Olympus for the fact that they are cheaper than Canon or Nikon and produce high quality products as well..
Oh and in the right hands, any modern DSLR will do well. Don't get caught up in the propaganda that in order to get good shots or be respected you have to use Nikon or Canon. It simply is not true...
As all preposters stated, there is no real bad entry level cam and every brand has it's advantages..
Keep in mind, that you are also choosing a "system". Bodies won't last as long as lenses and switching the system after some years will be hard leaving all the collected lenses behind..
My proposal: enter a shop and have a long and intensive hand-on with every cam you are interested in. Which one fits best in your hands? Which wheels, knobs and menus are most logical in use for you? A cam you won't become familiar with, is a wast of money, effort and time..
Build up a check list with features you think they are important and/or obsolete for you. Maybe we will discuss this list and add on some points here in this forum. And then count it out..
Only you can find the best for you .
Have a real long look at thr nikon d40 - there is a lens issue but if you are starting out then you dont have the worry of lenses you own. it performs as well as the d80 at a fraction of the price..
Thanks for your help everyone!!! After reading everyone's responses, it seems that almost more important than considering the body is considering the family of lenses I will be buying into. I have had the most lens experience and therefore the most body experience with Nikon, and they seem to be very good, so I think that will most likely be the route I will go. But I will go into a few shops first and compare before I do so..
As a newbie, I'm sure I'll have a ton of other questions, and I'm so glad I found this forum where there are so many kind people to offer advice!! Thanks for putting up with my newbie questions! .