Yup, dk, I agree. There is alot outthere for 3D, but you have to find your way through by trying them out.
My own preference is 3D Studio Max in combo with Poser, Bryce and Swift and then you have a pretty allround package I think. But, like mentioned before, you gotta find out yourself. I am not saying my own opinion anymore about compatibility or useability, coz it gets shoved right back. Not because I am wrong, but because everyone has their own preferences.
would be a very good start for you to roam around. They took over 3D Studio Max and affiliate programmes from Autodesk (& Kinetix) and are the leader in high-end rendering for stills and video. The video-part of Max is used for instance in alot of movies like Jurassic Park, The Matrix (with self developed plugins) and with the "touch ups" of Star Wars and the new Star Wars movies. So, yeah, they rock. But that's just me with my humble opinion. Just try them all out and find out yerself.
I work with 3D Studio since the DOS version 3 (1994) (it was not called Max in those days) and it never failed on my wishes. And that is just experience, not an opinion.
Anyways, have fun trying out all those programmes and find out what's the best for you.