One sure way to tell the hobbyists from the people making a "living" from photography is to monitor how often a system switch occurs. If you are a dentist who birds on the weekend, you may just be with Canon the even-numbered years and Nikon the rest. If your actual livelihood is contracts with Universities, businesses, publications, and wire services, a system switch would cost about half of last year's profits, and thus ain't happening anytime soon.
As a hobbyist then I guess I break the rule as I have been with Canon over 20 years now.
As a full time worker for most of that time I couldn't spare the time to play at switching - if I was lucky I might get 1 day a week off and after 70+ hours of irregular working hours, to relax with something familiar was about as much as I wanted.
I dont see why people try to differentiate between pros and hobbyists
I didn't mean to differentiate. Nor did I intend to suggest pros have more "soul" than those who photograph for the love of it. (if anything, the opposite may well be true.)
What I meant to comment on is the increasingly common phenomenon where the best equipped photographer on the scene is an amateur. I'll be on a job with my 7d and my 5D mark nothing and my 70-200 IS mark nothing and my other 4-plus year old lenses, and up walks a guy with a 1d markIV and a 5D mark III 70-200 IS II and a 2 or 3 L fixed lenses and maybe a big white. Is this new competition I need to worry about? Usually not. It's most likely a tax attorney with a fat line on his visa card who, while very nicely equipped, is just out having some fun. He or she might get some great pictures, but due to lack of depth in experience, would most likely leave substantial gaps in the coverage my client needs.
One photographer I see doing volunteer work at the annual Komen for the cure event has been from Nikon to Canon back to Nikon on three consecutive years. That's something you will almost never see a working photographer do, only hobbyists with six-figure jobs or rich spouses. On a job you need the kind of "do it with your eyes closed" familiarity with equipment that will simply not develop if you switch systems often. I'd have to justify a system switch to my accountant, and perhaps more importantly, to my wife. Mostly I can't even justify it to myself. (And believe me, back when the D3 was new and I compared images from it to what I was getting with my 40D, I *really* tried.)
Plus, not to burst any bubbles out there, but except for a very small minority of photographers who not only have exceptional photo skills AND great talent for marketing and self-promotion (that's what I suck at), photography is simply not lucrative enough to support a system switch more than once a decade at most.
If I sound like I'm bitching, I'm not. I make most of my income doing what I love. But, as I write this, I'm on my lunch break from the third shift custodian job I do to earn health insurance and supplemental income. That's my reality and I'm OK with it.