Because there are so many options, it's hard to make the best decision when purchasing a digital camera. Factors such as camera size, weight, photo quality and even the color of the camera all play their part. So, which type of camera is right for you?
Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends on what you're going to use it for.
If you want a camera that you can take around in your purse or pocket, then a consumer grade point and shoot digital camera may be the right solution. These types of cameras are compact and weight very little. They have decent automatic settings so you can take quick spur of the moment photos.
If the size and weight of the camera isn't a problem and you're looking for a better photo in terms of size, color depth, and overall quality, then a DSLR is probably what you're looking for. DSLR cameras have a larger photo sensor than point and shoot cameras. This is important because each pixel is able to receive a lot more light and data so the photo is able to be saved at a higher quality. For example, photos are less grainy at higher ISO settings because the larger sensor is able to capture the image with less noise.
To put this into perspective, a 14MP consumer grade point and shoot may be able to make a decent 16"x20" print, while a 6MP DSLR shooting in RAW can produce a good 30"x40" print. Why? Because the sensor is more than 4 times larger in the DSLR. When trying to compare apples to apples, you could consider the 6MP DSLR similar to a 24MP point and shoot, and even higher if the DSLR has a full frame sized sensor (available in high end cameras).
Also, the DSLR is able to change lenses for a variety of different situations such as macro lenses for closeups of flowers, large aperture lenses for low light shots, or telephoto lenses for sports and wildlife shots.
The downside is that these cameras are a lot heavier and bulkier, especially when factoring in the weight of the lenses. This can be a problem for spur of the moment shots or when hiking for miles. In the case of the wildlife photographer, special backpacks are available to pack lenses and camera equipment for protection and to help distribute the weight more evenly.