Anyone who has subjected themselves to the alternately useful and abusive site that is KenRockwell.com has probably noticed a fairly consistent theme from him: Equipment won’t make you a better photographer.
He makes this point again in one of his more recent and less useful posts comparing the Nikon D7000 to the Canon 5D Mk II, noting “If you’re still wasting your time worrying about such trivia, I doubt you’ll ever expend the hard thought required in actually making great pictures, as opposed to merely armchair shopping for cameras. Time spent worrying about equipment is time not spent on concentrating about your image, so if you waste time comparing cameras for too long, you’ll probably never make much in the way of exciting images. Worse, when making this choice between today’s two top DSLRs, you’re also committing yourself to a bank of one brand of lenses or another.”
First of all, I think it is a very strange to compare these two cameras. At the end of the day, a Nikon D700 is the most direct competitor to the Canon 5DMkII, and it is an inane observation to say that by choosing between a Nikon and a Canon you are committing yourself to the lenses compatible with those manufacturers (duh). I also take exception to the condescending tone being used – vintage Ken. But at least the thought being expressed here is important, and it is consistent with my thoughts in one of my early posts that said the best upgrade for a race car is to upgrade the driver.
So I am, shockingly, agreeing with Ken: Photography is no different – a great photographer is good with a shoebox camera. A terrible one would take poor shots with a D3s.
But let me add a caveat: Good gear can be more forgiving for the Enthusiast Photographer and allow you to get better results. It can enable you to get a shot you can’t without it. For example, my shot of Christo Redentor would have been a lot more difficult to frame with my 35mm f/1.8, the only other lens available at the time. But the equipment only gets you so far.
These days, almost any DSLR is going to be pretty darn good – choice there comes down to budget (for what level of camera) and handling preference (Nikon vs. Canon vs. Sony and others) in my opinion. Having a good tripod, a well-designed bag or the right lens can absolutely improve your photography by giving you a better platform and by putting less in the way of you getting the image. However, If you’re struggling to make use of your tools, it won’t matter much.
The net is one should balance gear procurement with the continued focus on the acquisition of knowledge and building your skill. Plus, just get out there and shoot!