I use a Nikon D40 for pretty much all of the photographs on this blog.
The first lens is a 18-55mm that came as part of the camera kit.
The second is a 50mm, f /1.8* fixed lens which I purchased a year ago for about $100. I bought this lens for the sole purpose of taking those "still life" photos that are prevalent on these pages and because it does amazingly well in low-light. The drawback is that because I have the Nikon D40, it doesn't auto-focus. So it's like the old days when I took photography in high school and used a classic 35mm film camera. I have to
The benefits of the 50mm lens can be seen here. This was low-light. And had I used my other lens, it would have required a flash (which would have undoubtedly washed out the picture).
The prime feature of this lens, which can be both a blessing and a curse, is that it has a very shallow depth-of-field*. It's unavoidable. It creates great bokeh (that out of focus parts that make your photos look so artsy). See the crisp image with bokeh taken in a flourescent lit gym.
But this can be a problem when taking a picture like this where you want both the foreground and background to be in focus.
The other draw back of this lens is that I have to move myself closer to subjects to take a picture or back way up to get a wider angle. But I really love the images this lens produces, and I use it for most of the "still-life" photographs shot in my "light box."
I know that it is possible to get bokeh with a point-and-shoot camera. It depends on the camera, but I would look to see if there is a Macro mode or Aperture-priority setting. Though I didn't realize it when I was using the camera, even my early generation Nikon point and shoot had these features. The lens on a point and shoot is trickier to me, and because the camera is doing all the work to figure out the exposure (aperture/ shutter speed) completely behind the scenes, it's harder to control.
*In photography, you will often hear reference to F-stops. Without getting into stuff I don't really understand, an F-stop controls how narrow or wide the lens is opened restricting (or allowing) various amounts of light to pass through (aperture). Generally, depth of field (see below) increases with the f-stop number. Exposure is basically a combination of f-stop and shutter speed. Shutter speed is fairly easy to understand, it's how fast the shutter will open and shut capturing the image. I usually use my camera on a auto setting and let the camera choose the shutter speed and aperture. If you are like me and hate using a flash (more on that later), it's important to remember that once you get below 60 (which is 1/60th of a second) you will probably start getting blurry pictures as the shutter speed is too slow for you to hold the camera perfectly still. I sometimes cheat and go to 1/30th without a flash or tripod, but that's why I often have blurry pictures.
**Depth of Field defines the portion of a photograph that is sharp and in focus. Bokeh is the stuff in the picture that's out of focus. I learned from Wikipedia, that the word Bokeh comes from the Japanese word for blur or haze.