"In the end it was clear that natural talent mattered a real lot, experience mattered a lot to a real lot and equipment matter a fair amount.Two points here. I disagree with you about recommending to people that you dont need to improve yourself before you improve your equipment. Yes, having good gear is important and may make your sessions easier and more fruitful, however there is a definite learning curve in photography. Having a beginner grab a 600 ex flash over a 430ex or something to me is more gear than they need. Yes having the 600 with more power may give them more shots, but 90% of the features will go unused. It is basically a waste of money. Just like if all these photo enthusiasts run to the 800 and only upload pics to flickr and frame home photos. Its overkill for MANY (not all).
Poor talent and very little experience were the most detrimental but equipment was not something to laugh off. Shooters, at ALL levels, instantly became better or worse depending upon which body they shot with. The difference was quite clear. And the ones going to the better camera were instantly better despite not even having time to settle into how to even use it the best.
Contrary to many claims there was no such thing as the equipment being 'too good' for a shooter. Even the least talented and least experienced instantly had a better take with the better equipment. All the talk about needing to improve yourself before you improve your equipment is just nonsense. That said improving yourself certainly IS very important and it does make the greater difference overall in many cases.
Both of the pros had hoped to get away with getting an xxD body but after the trial swap they were all like umm yeah.... no way in heck, my take rate instantly went down, equipment matters, definitely matters. And all those who hadn't used 1 series before were suddenly lusting after better equipment and complaining about how no small bodies from Canon had decent AF."
Also, you mention how the AF was so important to even the beginners and that is true. But that also shows you how it is not all about one specific detail. Yes, the 800 has more resolution, better IQ, more DR, but is that what will help people just breaking into the FF dslr market? Or is it high ISO, better AF, creative mode shooting (or whatever they call it) etc?
I totally agree- buy what you can afford, plan for the future, but you also need to be realistic. People are always wanting the best, the 36 mp, the carbon fiber, the fastest write speed, ... only you can really answer if you REALLY need it.
I saw someone post a pic of their work on these forums and showed how the extra DR helped him sell prints and he said that the DR put money in his pocket? Really? I truly think he sold those shots because they were well composed, well lit, well processed and the subject liked the way they looked in it. Did it matter that you could see more reflections in his or her glasses ? I highly doubt it, although the tog has convinced himself that it was the selling point.
I am guilty of this too - I buy everything under the sun lol - i loove gadgets. But honestly, do I need every little thing haha - probably not, but I convince my wife I do.