I'm looking to upgrade from my compact 12MB Canon IXUS to something that will give me higher quality images, more control over depth of field, flexibility (don't want to be swapping lenses all the time), and better zooming options, but I'm pretty bewildered by all the options out there. I want to make sure I get something that does what I need, the best for my budget. I don't want to spend more than 500. Any advice or recommendations? I would be taking pictures of people, wildlife, objects around the home and garden, and the usual kind of scene and people shots on holiday and at parties and events.

A friend of mine has a Canon EOS 60D which produces the most fantastic photos for her, but it's out of my price range, unfortunately. Someone suggested a bridge camera, but I've heard the image quality is not nearly as good as with DLSRs. I'd rather pay a bit more for something that does what I need and will last me years.

Any recommendations much appreciated!