Originally Posted by kathryn
Also I don't use a flash. I think it ruins picture. I take the majority of my pictures using the sun light. So I need a camera that can handle that too.
Learn to love your flash for this reason alone . . . . infill of shadows when you are shooting toward a subject backlit by the sun. I use a flash all the time on sunny days.
If you are looking at an entry level DSLR, then costs are going to rise accordingly as you begin to accumulate different lenses. It's the right way to go eventually but just be aware that you're probably looking at more than $600 to have a good spectrum of range.
Although I beat it to death until it eventually gave up, an alternative was an electronic option, the Panasonic DMC FZ20 (I think that is what it was called) which now has leapt several versions ahead. Basically, the step below the DSLR. There are no interchangeable lenses, just one lense but capable of macro through to 420 mm (too much fuzziness at the longer end but maybe the newer versions are better). A lot of great pictures came out of that camera although stopping action for sports wasn't necessarily the best. But the price might be in your range for a step up from what you have now. Other companies would have similar versions for you to consider. You're probably looking at about $800 to $900.
Still, as others have suggested, SLR is the way to go if you're prepared for the expense of building your system.
Below, an example of both using flash to fill in shadows (note the direction of Keeper's shadow but no shadow on herself) and one of the pitfalls of an DSLR (a hard to clean dirty interior of the camera from changing lenses which leads to spots on your image).