I use an Elnita that I bought back in 1987. It's still works great and it's gotten pretty hard use. My grandmother sewed on the full deal version, an Elna, forever. My cousin is now using it and it's still chugging along as well.
Berninas are really good too, but they're pricey.
Way back in the day the Singers were really good, but I think they now are made of all palstic gears and such and are prone to breakage. I have my mom's 1960's Singer and it's great for French Handsewing by machine.
I do simple sewing so I own a Brother table top machine. And I have a Singer Overlock machine which is table top also. Both are portable and not very heavy. They both came from Wal-Mart as gifts to me. I like them and I ma please with their performances.
I am hoping one day to aquire a long are for my quiting habit. <<<praying hard now>>>
I would also like one tha can be hooked to a computer (need more designs)
After fussing and fussing with my Kenmore, I finally bought a Singer. I don't do a load of sewing, but it has been great for what I've sewn. I've made a few outfits for my daughter, some Halloween costumes, sewn Boy Scout Patches onto uniforms, etc... and so far it's been great! I've had it for 2 years now and every time I pull it out of its storage box, it never fails to sew perfectly! My mom does more professional type sewing and would tell you to go with a Brother, however.
Yeah...it all depends on what kind of sewing you want to do. You could start out with a less expensive sewing machine, but if you get one that is going to give you fits of trouble or runs rough and jerky, you are going to get dis -couraged quickly.
I've used Kenmore in the 50's and 60's then heavy duty gear driven Singers in the 70's until just last year. I have a Bernina now that does it all but I need my sister's hi-tech know how to be able to operate it!
I suggest you look at a well known brand name in the $500 to $1000 if you are a little experienced and are really serious about sewing...A LOT!
I have been happy with my Kenmore and my Janome 8080. Don't get one of those inexpensive Brother machines at WalMart. They don't hold their tension very well. If you get a Kenmore, make sure to ask if it is one manufactured by Janome. Most are, but I have heard that some models aren't.
What you get depends on what you want to do and how experienced you are.
I sew for fun when I have time. Mostly repair work on my husband's clothes... or taking in my jeans and pants CONSTANTLY. (Losing baby weight can kill the clothes you have and you usually can't afford more so quickly.)
I love to do little baby blankets for friends and sell a few on etsy.com. So my sewing needs are simple and I need something I can move around a lot as I use it in the Office/Playroom/spare Bedroom/ sewing room. I have a Singer Prelude, and for $99 at Target, well worth it!