I'm a Nikon owner but have friends with Canons, and find either to be excellent. I also know an acquaintance whom just evaluated both then bought a Pentax K100D mostly because he already had existing Pentax lens and a long experience with their past cameras. I've read up on the Sony Alpha A100 (they bought out Konica Minolta -- excellent team -- whom designed the A100) and seems decent, too.
To be honest, mate, you're getting too worked up.
If you're inclined to go for the Canon, then by all means, go for it! Don't hesitate. You can get fine shots with any of the current generation of DSLRs as well as the previous generation. It's really more about how you skillfully use it than it is about the equipment per se. Thus, why sweat it?
You'll be replacing the equipment as time goes by and your skills gets even better, anyhow. At this price point, it's not like you're buying a new car or house.
It's not as cheap as a point-and-shoot camera, granted, but it's not like a AUD $8000 professional camera or anything.
If your budget is limited, you probably want to investigate the Pentax K100D and the Sony Alpha A100. K100D is equiv to prev gen cameras (fine ones, at that!) like the Nikon D50 or D70. A100 is equiv to current gen cameras like the Nikon D80 or Canon EOS 400D (aka Rebel XTi in North America).
The only time you really want to seriously think about what camera you're getting is if you already had a large existing investment in lenses since they are rarely interchangeable with other manufacturers' cameras.
A camera is also something you'll hold in your hands a lot. Does it fit YOURS
well? Are you going to share the camera with a significant other? Is it going to fit his/her hands well, too? (Male vs. female hands can be significantly different -- not just in size but heat/sweat, too.) If you expect a significant other to use the camera a lot, too, then make sure they also hand-test it, too!
Tip: go to a good photography store and politely ask to try the Nikon D80, Canon EOS 400D, and if in stock, Pentax K100D and Sony Alpha A100.
You don't have to buy the camera right there and then. You just want to get firsthand impressions of how it feels to hold the camera. It's often cheaper to mail order these things from reputable places, but it depends. You gotta trust YOUR own intuition!
It is true that each camera differs... but in the grand scheme of things, I feel they are relatively minor for the top manufacturers, especially if one is not a professional photographer with extremely exacting and demanding needs.
In time and with practice, your skills will sharpen, and you will decide what you need and what you don't need for your subsequent kits. But for your first camera? You already have heard all the fine choices. Can't really go wrong with any of them. I mean that sincerely; I would myself buy any one of them.
In the end, it is all about capturing beautiful images and having fun! Never, ever forget that. Go and take the first camera you feel comfortable with, then take a billion shots. We'll look forward to seeing your creations on the airliners.net front page some day.
P.S. Don't forget to get extra batteries, a good camera carrying bag, a battery charger, and high capacity storage media (depends on camera, but usually CompactFlash or SD
Which lens to get will depend on which camera you end up getting and more importantly, exactly HOW
you plan on taking photos. Lots of close-ups? Wide shots? In dimlit places? Places that prohibits use of flash? Public places or where you need to discreetly take pictures? Etc. All will influence type of lens you want, but the supplied kit lens are generally fine stuff.
If starting out with DSLRs, stick to the supplied kit lens until you start to really need 'something more'. This will avoid you going into the poorhouse unnecessarily or too early.