Autodesk Maya is professional 3D modelling and animation software. It is being used by a lot of firms involved with 3D animation.
Maya comes with a lot more features than the previous versions. The main noticeable aspect is the interface. The new GUI is just great. There are a lot more windows and editors included. Those familiar with the old Maya could use this one easily. The help documentation includes flash animations. New MEL and Python commands are added. Improvements like faster 3D painting and sculpting, multi-threaded deformers make the program faster. There is a 64 bit version of the software which further improves the performance in newer systems.
One of the problems with Maya is that it is a very complex program. The huge list of tools can be very confusing for a beginner. The software is very expensive. If you are planning to use it for study, there is a free version available on the developer's website. The product documentation includes details for all the tools, commands, and API. The software requires a good graphics card and huge amounts of RAM and processing power.
I liked doing 3D modeling with the program. But I found the animation part quite confusing. I have an ATi Radeon HD 2600 graphics card, 2GB memory and a P4 64-bit processor. The program runs fine but the rendering will be faster if you have a good processor.