A nice camera but... Wow, quite noisy images there, in the ISO sequence. I'd say fine until ISO 400 (but already easily visible). From 800 and up it's a lot. Anyway, seems like good value for the price indeed. And I for one am glad it does not have movie mode making it more expensive and failure-prone.
Yeah, as you sure know people are more interested in brand name than actual specs/quality of the product. So you have people look at you funny unless you are carrying something named either Canon or Nikon. I myself use Pentax, since: 1) I want to keep using my old lenses from K1000 days; 2) P gives better camera for less money. Pentax, in my opinion, gives much more features for the same price point of their competitors (see dpreview.com for real comparisons), AND can use any K-mount lens ever made. Good glass for cheap out there, if you're able to shoot manually.
OK, if you want the top of the top pro cameras, then there's only C and N as choices -- but then you're spending several 1,000s, not 100s. But for middle range or beginner levels, unless they already have a stash of lenses that can still be used with the new C or N camera, people would be silly not to look at Sony, Pentax, Samsung, Olympus, etc. Most people will rarely overgrow these cameras anyway...