I am no where near a professional photographer, but I'll give you my 2 cents worth....
I personally, have a CANON 350D - And I LOVE it!! I bought mine when this model came out, but there are 2 more recent models - the 400D and now the 450D.
I am really very happy with my Canon. You can put it onto "Auto" mode- where you literally point and shoot. Then of course, you can use it on full manual setting, where you can adjust everything- F-stop etc.
My husband decided a few months ago that I never gave him a chance near the camera, so he bought himself a Panasonic - DMC-FZ18. It has a Lumix lens which has a fantastic zoom- 18x optical zoom.
I love this camera too- so great for taking on holiday as it's really nice and compact and no need for any extra lenses. It takes fantastic photos and you also have the option to set it to manual focus. It has various settings for motion shots, landscape, potraits, macro etc. Obviously not as much of a 'professional' camera as the Canon350D in that you can't adjust F-stop etc, but it really is a brilliant camera and I can really recommend it.
Good luck!! Happy shopping!