This question already has nice answers. I'll just address one sub-question inside your question. Namely:
I can see why this might be the case and that for the most part that it might be undesirable, but is it really that much of a problem?
Yes, it can be a problem. Painfully obvious in this...
Generally speaking, you've hit the nail on the head.
How do you know what good sushi is? You go taste lots of sushi that is reported to be good!
How do you know what good photography is? You go study and look at photography that is reported to be good (and that you enjoy)!
If you're tryin...
its something I've been spending a lot of time thinking on lately
@jackopen it depends what level of software you want, but I see you discovered the Video Production chat room, so I'll jump over there. I'm actually one of the moderators on the Video Production site. (I went to sleep before you got back though)
@jackopen Sony is normally cheaper of the 3, Canon and Nikon are roughly equivalent. Canon has like 60% of the market, Nikon 30% and then Sony, Pentax, and a few others split the remaining 10% or so. Quality wise, Canon and Nikon are generally the best, though Sony has been playing catch up pretty well and is probably the best value for the money at this point, though still not as good as a Nikon or Canon