I've really liked my Canon REBEL T3i...it takes awesome pics!
Its great that you want to get a quality camera from the beginning.
Those cheap cameras are made to just use like for ("maybe") three years and throw away(I call them throw aways)! You save more money getting a good one from the start! =)
Anyway I've really enjoyed this one....its awesome!!
I have a Fuji Finepix 14 mega pixels, 24x superwide with digital zoom. I can get the craters on the moon and it takes good nature shots. I bought mine on sale for $150. The only drawback to this one as it does not have a rechargeable battery, so I do go through some AA batteries. I have included a couple of nature shots so you can see the quality:
Nope.... I have the prickers from the weeds to prove it, lol! My dream camera is a Canon EOS, but major $$$$$$. I also have an album on my profile marked "photography" that will give you some more ideas of what it can do.
All big cameras will give you a great picture, BUT, if you want to shoot pictures like you have been I suggest a pocket camera. I am in Love with the Nikon COOLPIX, and there are several models to choose from. You will pay from ~$99-~$200, and the holidays will have mega deals precisely bc people think that their phones are also a pocket camera. The COOLPIX stores gobs of pictures, is easy to download and it is much easier to pull out when the shot is "here and then gone." My friend loves her large Canon for posed and planned shots but decided to get a pocket camera to catch pictures her other camera misses when she has to assemble the lens and setup.
I have a Canon EOS T3 Rebel and I love it! You can use automatic settings or adjust them yourself, AND you can use manual/automatic focus apart from the other settings. (I use manual focusing, but automatic settings - I find that with point-and-shoot cameras, the focus gets worse and worse as the camera gets older until your pictures are worse quality than what you started with, but when you focus yourself, you don't have that problem! And you can still do the settings automatically, or manually if you prefer.) It's easy to use and understand; you can look through it or use the picture on the screen.
I think the T3i is probably similar, too. The only problem is the price...mine cost around $600-$800, I can't remember, but in my opinion, it's worth it!