Derek,
Don't forget the "Click" a camera has to go click.

Worst thing to do is complicate anything in life. Find yourself a camera with simple controls and a simple lens. You are the zoom, exposure offsets, motor drive and focus control. The more you as a human are involved rather than technology, the less to go wrong and the better the results, IMHO.

Pick a $ ammount that allows funding of film and printing then pick the camera that fits in there. It will probably not be your only camera you ever buy so enjoy the journey. And make certain it goes Click, a lot.

Lee