So here it goes: When looking at a lot of sample shots, I'm wondering "would have that gear been necessary", and the inverse question "What shots can *only* be taken with this kind of equipment" and why is an expensive dlsr necessary at all?[/u].
Expensive, and DSLR are not one in the same, as there are a good many relatively inexpensive ones on the market.
Most of the small sensor point and shoot types have terrible image quality. Even the least expensive DSLR will surpass that easily.
I see the current Rebel T3 with lens for $399 at B&H, cheaper still at some other lesser known vendors.
For that kind of money, its not a whole lot more expensive than a "better quality" non-DSLR, and less expensive than the top end non-DSLRs. I hate to call them point-and-shoot cameras when you get into the $300+ range on the non-DSLR's... they're just a cut better, but still way below what you'll get with an APS-C sensor.
If all you're ever going to do are moderate wide to moderate portrait type of shots, for your own fun, occasionally making larger prints, wanting creative control over exposure, there is nothing wrong with a sub-$400 DSLR... and I don't call that expensive.
I'd still be using my 10.1mp 400D (Rebel XTsomething), if it had not been stolen. It produced image quality that was just wonderful for anything you'd ever want to view on a computer screen, or on any print up to about 11x14 or so. I know, because I printed those... with very good results.