Blender is OK and free. I prefer AutoDesk Maya (also free if you are a student. If you're not a student, don't even bother looking at the price).
Edit: I should correct myself to say that its free for anyone with a .edu account. You can be a faculty member, or someone like me who still has his .edu years after graduation.
As I only work in Maya and C4D, I can't tell you much about Blender, but from what it sounds like that may be where you want to start. It also helps to know what you would want to use it for. I only use C4D for broadcast animations and flying logos and would probably never use it for character animation. I use Maya for character animations because it gives you far more options than C4D.
I also didn't think that C4D's render engine was really that good but they improved it quite a bit over the years and workflow can be fairly quick with the use of Mo-Tags (which it needs to be in broadcast).
Maya on the other hand gives far more options and seems to go much further in depth, which at times can slow work flow a bit. I have to say IMO, Maya is king but you definitely are going to have a learning curve compared to C4D (which you will have in C4D also but not as steep a learning curve).
You could also check out 3DS.
From what I have gathered over the years it really depends on what you want to do as each seams to have its niche. Although not restricted to by any means, it seams to work like this:
Maya - film, games, broadcast (although C4D is taking its place in broadcast)
C4D - broadcast, some film
3DS - games, broadcast (although I rarely see it used anymore outside of games)
Either way you go you will have a lot of learning to do, not only with the software but the principles behind good animation. Good luck!