So, since my needs have changed since my last camera (a Sony DSC F-717 purchased 9 years ago), I've been investigating the options. In particular, model photography is a much higher priority. Family snapshots are OK with the phone, particularly since I always have it with me. For more specific family events (vacation, etc.), I'll bring the camera along.
There are several classes of digital cameras available now. For the most options and best pictures, a DSLR is hard to beat. The one area it suffers is its size and portability. I'm not all that concerned about size, except for when it comes to being able to get it 'in' a layout. The lens typically sits too high to take a layout picture from a model person's 'eye-level.'
I've also been very intrigued by the various super-zoom options out there, particularly the Nikon P510. Right now it's probably my second choice, and I will probably test one out in the near future. But right now I'm trying the Sony NEX-5N. This is a compact camera with removable lenses. It also has the same size sensor as a DSLR, which is a huge plus in terms of picture quality. It's also a very fast camera, from start to first picture, and in terms of shutter lag. This is important for pictures of kids.
For the model photos, it's small, and allows a very small aperture (f/22), which in layman's terms means that it keeps things at different distances in focus better. The problem with photographing models is that you are both very close (in terms of the lens to the subject), and yet you need to keep things in focus over a range of several feet between the closest object and the farthest object. Having a very sharp focus on a very small part of the model is one of the things that immediately identifies the subject as a model.
Anyway, here are a few test shots using the aperture priority setting of f/22, ISO 100, and a long exposure determined by the camera automatically based on the other two settings.
I'm not an expert by any means, in terms of my knowlege of photography, or the results. But I'm pretty happy with these results. The downside is primarily the need to purchase additional lenses in the event that I want more zoom.
I suspect I will try the Nikon camera before I decide to keep this one. From what I've read, this is a better camera overall, but with my skills and audience the Nikon one will be more than sufficient in photo quality. The only real question is whether it can take model photos like these. Because the sensor size impacts the effective aperture, I'm not entirely sure what the minimum aperture is on the Nikon. Their specifications indicate f/8, but with a smaller sensor this number may be different from the 35mm equivelent and might compare well with the Sony.