Ok, I dabble in photography a little bit, but am no expert by any means.  However I do try to pay attention to things like megapixels when purchasing a new camera.  The jury is out as to whether it's really that important however

There's a guy that I really trust when talking about this subject.  He is professional photographer  Ken Rockwell. He's very very conservative and practical when it comes to recommending camera equipment.  And according to him:

..even a 3 MP camera pretty much looks the same as a 6 MP camera, even when blown up to 12 x 18" (30x50cm)! I know because I've done this. Have you? NY Times tech writer David Pogue did this hereand here and saw the same thing — nothing!

I assume that he wrote this article a while ago.  Some of the current cameras have an OUTRAGEOUS amount of pixels.

This camera for example has 23 freekin' megapixels.  You could literally blow up that shot of your niece and plaster it on the side of a CDTA bus with that amount of quality.

What's funny about all this however is that you can't even BUY a camera less than about 12 megapixels unless you purchase one on Ebay or something.  So does it have at least SOME value?

Personally, I think it does to an extent.  If you want to blow up a shot and make up for the fact that you were too far away when you took the picture, you want extra megapixels.  I've saved many a shot because of that.  It gives you a second chance sort of speak.

Other than that, you are probably just taking up unnecessary space on your memory cards.  They are also more difficult to email to people because they are very big files.

The bottom line?  If you are just shooting pictures to email and never print out, stick to the lower megapixel count, like 12 or so.  It's still plenty and you can blow things up just fine.  If you are more of a pro and really do a lot of editing, get more and you will be happy.

As far as what brand name to get?  Nikon, Canon, Samsung, Casio - they are all great choices. I will defer back to Ken for his recommendations. I don't know the guy, mind you, but I think he gives the most sound advice.

There ya go - happy snapping!   If you have any other questions, let me know in the comment section below , and then I'll ask Ken.    LOL