It happens every week: "Phil, which camera should I buy? My lifestyle is X, my budget is Y, and my photography skills are Z. Help!" I really should figure out a way to get commission checks for all these referrals.
Like most electronics shopping, the consumer camera landscape is overwhelming and confusing. You have to know exactly what you're looking for, because there's so many models and tech specs that it's difficult to compare all the options – and easy to buy the wrong thing.
Here's a good starting point. For bigger questions like "what's a cropped sensor?" and "which model of GoPro is perfect for kids?", that's a future post. Follow this flowchart to start your shopping in the right direction.