Quote Originally Posted by modafoto
But as a beginner you won't learn the basics which is essential. Of course the beginner could set the camera to manual and disable the autofocus...but we all know that it won't happen...or at least, it takes a lot of strength not to switch the electronics on and shoot away...
I can't comment on what the best system is for a beginner, but I did want to comment on the portion quoted. I realize I might be different from the norm but I never use any of the auto features on my camera. I hadn't even had my first roll of film developed when I switched over to full manual on my Minolta Maxxum 50QD. I've never considered going back - not even to use aperture or shutter priority. It's an auto-focus camera but I still manually focus all my shots. I have two zoom lenses but restrict myself to using a small list of specific focal lengths. I do not randomly change the focal length per shot but rather choose a focal length to work with as I view something I would like to photograph, I then set my lens to that setting and do my best to make it work. I actually get rather frustrated when I unthinkingly adjust the focal length rather than the focus - because then I have to stop and make sure to reset it to the chosen focal length before I am willing to proceed. I set of prime lenses would fix that little annoyance.

I think how the camera is used depends very much on the person using it and what they specifically want to get out of photography. If the person has a desire and is committed to learning, all the features in the world are not going to get in their way.