This is always a hot topic in the photo forums that is good time well wasted. What is the best brand of camera? What's the best model? I've found it freeing to just pick one and go with that brand.
To determine your favorite brand of camera, spend a lot of time at a dealer just goofing around with the camera. Do you like the way it looks and feels? It's more important that you would think. The more you like the aesthetics, the more you'll want to use the camera. Do you like the menu system? This is also key because more intuitive that you find the menu system, the more likely you are to explore the camera's capabilities and the easier it will be to remember where to change settings.
But isn't the quality of the photo the most important thing? It's important, but there's only a few manufacturers and it's not uncommon to find out that they use some of the same parts across brands. The differences in quality are marginal and I find that to be the least of my worries about the camera.
Of course, price is a factor. If you have to make payments, it's the wrong camera for you. Save your money for experiences and educational material rather than on equipment.
Once you've chosen a brand of camera, stick with it. It's beneficial because the general layout of the menu system doesn't change much and when it does, the company sticks with the general flow of operation. I learned to reap the benefits after buying a used Canon DSLR. I wanted a smaller point and shoot, so I purchased a Canon G15. Although many years had passed between the Canon 20D and the G15, there was still a familiar feel to how to get through the menus. There is a general feel to the photos they produce when I post-process too. After that, I bought a Canon SX50 super-zoom that has settings nearly identical to the G15 which made things very easy.
Before learning that GAS(Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a expensive problem that kills creativity, I had a few cameras from Panasonic that shared many similar features. I could have went the same way with Panasonic, I just prefer everything about Canon out of personal preference, but both companies make fine cameras.
Another benefit to sticking with one brand is that there is far less to get excited about. If you watch photography websites and magazines pushing the latest gear, there is always something new and expensive to yearn for. When you buy it, you find out the whiz-bang technology wasn't nearly as big of a deal as advertised. If you're only following one brand, the updates are far less frequent. For example, Canon came out with the new G16. I was a little excited until I found out that it was basically the same camera with Wi-Fi added. That provides about 0 to my creative edge, so I could immediately discount that camera for consideration.
As an amateur, you're looking for small economical edges that push your craft further with minimal effort. Sticking with one brand of camera is one easy way of doing this.