Looking back a long ways, the first camera I recall using was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, then I was able to use a Yashica TLR for just one day, much better. The first Camera I owned (bought) was a Argus C3 which I used for about 4 years, again better.
Then I bought a SLR like no name camera with a fixed lens and leaf shutter. No better than the C3, but it did have auto exposure.
After that, I bought a Canon FTQL, being employed as a engineer and able to compare notes with other fellow employees. I also bought extension rings, and had a darkroom that I built in one corner of my garage. This was a excellent camera. About the same time, I bought a Polaroid because my parents had one and liked it. Big mistake - the hundreds of images taken with it are now faded away and pretty well ruined. Eventually, I upgraded (I thought) the FTQL to a T50. I had bought a couple of optional lenses with it, it was really no improvement, however. Eventually, I sold it and used the Polaroid or a Olympus 35mm Superzoom which was easy to use, and did ok if you were not critical.
In the early 1990's, I bought my first Digital, a Fujifilm MX700. Well built and a step up already from the Olympus. It suffered in low light. When Nikon came out with the Coolpix CP990, I snapped one up, along with a external flash. This was well worth the money, and I still have one today.
After reading on DP Review about the Canon DSLR's, I wanted one, and the Digital Rebel came out at a price I was willing to pay, so I bought one, along with the first 18-55mm EF-s and a 75-300mm lens. Even though they were not great cameras or lenses, my images immediately improved, and I bought more and better lenses, progressing thru virtually all of the Canon crop and FF bodies. Looking back, I'll have to say that I can now capture images that I would not even dream of getting back in the 1990's or before.
So, Yes, my photography has greatly improved, but i'm looking for the next step up, and tried a D800, but that wasn't it. I returned my 5D MK III for the same reason, but might repurchase one if the price drops. Meanwhile, I buy and sell used lenses (new, only when I'm sure its a keeper), looking for better than what I now have, which is a really good selection. I do lots of very low light photography and catching fast action in extreme low light is what I enjoy doing.
So, over the last 60 years, I've spent a lot of time and money on equipment and have vastly improved from that old Hawkeye.