So I haven't taken pictures in any serious way for a while, but I want to start doing it again. I pulled out my digital camera (an HP photosmart 318) which was fine in its day, but with 2.1 MP, no zoom, and the only options being "flash" or "no flash"...let's just say that it doesn't do what I want it to do. I primarily take shots of buildings and landscapes, almost never take shots of people, and therefore don't need the ability to take many action shots. (Although one of the things that drove me nuts about the 318 was the shutter lag you could measure in eons.) Primarily I think I want to be able to do a lot of playing around with aperture, focal points, etc. - so I want a good range of manual control that can allow me to learn (while taking truly horrendous pictures at first). I also want good image quality, because I'd like to blow some of the pictures up for framing at 8x10. But at the same time, there's the "$800 door stop" concern - if it turns out that this isn't as much fun as I remember, I don't want to have blown a major pile of cash. Plus, I'm wondering about weight - I don't like the idea of needing a separate backpack for my camera equipment, because I'm worried that if it is too bulky I just won't carry it around. So I was thinking about the Canon A640 (or A630), which has a good MP, received good reviews, and seems to have some manual functionality (i.e. "stuff I can play with"). Alternatively, I also thought about the S3 IS, which has a longer zoom, but lower MP. With both, though, I'm worried about the reputation for noise at high ISO - but while I sound really smart saying that, I don't really know what it means in practical terms (i.e. whether it's a problem anytime you shoot in less than direct sunlight, or if it's only really a problem if you plan to shoot night bats in the darkest jungles of South America.) Either of those would be under $350, all in. There is also, of course, the Canon G7 - which seems to have even more manual functionality and to be an "almost DSLR," but has received mixed reviews about image quality. It would be around $550 all in - but has the advantage of being relatively portable compared to a DSLR. But if I decide to move up to a DSLR anyways, $550 seems pretty steep. I could also just start with a DSLR - presumably either the Rebel XT (or XTi) or a 20D (maybe used), or a Nikon D40 or used D70. I think they offer the most flexibility for learning and best image quality, but will also be the biggest and most expensive - and therefore more likely to end up holding a door open. (If I try a P&S out, learn the ropes, and really enjoy it I'll almost certainly go this way eventually anyways, though.) So enough about me - let's talk about you. What I really need to know (and hope one of you would like to expound on) is how much the differences matter. If you tell me that the image quality and manual functionality of a D40 so far surpasses that of an A640 that I'd be wasting time and money trying to learn on the P&S, or that DSLR's aren't as hard to carry around as they look - or, alternatively, that the differences aren't anything I'll notice for a while, and that the smaller camera will mean more pictures get taken...that would really help. I've looked at the charts and test pictures - but they're no substitute for experience. Do you find that you can do only a few additional things with a DSLR that you couldn't with a P&S - or do you find say, a whole, massive boatload of additional things that you can do? Do you ever carry your DSLR around with you just in case you see something worth shooting, or is it too much hassle? Sorry for the long post, and thanks for your input!