These past few days I've been spending my time online salivating over digital cameras. Not those point-and-shoots that you can get for a hundred bucks. DSLRs like the Nikon D300 that CNET says is "a bit too expensive" at $2300.
I like my point-and-shoot. For being five years old, it's held up quite well and still takes great pictures. As people say, it's not the camera, it's the photographer. They say that about a lot of things, like "expensive basketball shoes don't make you jump higher" or "the clothes don't make the man." And it's all true of course, to a point. I think I take decent photos, but if my camera were in the hands of a pro, that camera would be making pro pictures. And yet, all else being equal, photos from a digital SLR will look better than ones from a point-and-shoot, and SLRs cost more than point-and-shoots. Not just in photography, but for all things in life, if you want quality, be prepared to pay for it.
It reminds me of a conversation with a friend sometime ago about photography as a hobby. Basically, it's expensive. Cameras cost a lot of money. Lenses (or "glass" in photog-speak) cost a lot too. And if you do film, then you have to pay for film and development. It's rewarding, though, to see what you can do with a camera.
People don't always remember that photography is very much an artform. A photograph might look like a copy of real life frozen in time, but in reality, there's so much that's up to the photographer. The exposure setting will determine how bright or dark the sky looks. A bigger aperture will blur the background. Using a wide-angle lens will make things seem farther away. Standing here will cut out that unsightly pile of trash. And so on and so on.
Photography has never been purely an objective documentation of the scene. Back in the days of black and white, I think people understood more clearly that photography is both documentation and interpretation of life. But this applies to the photographer as well. Don't think you have to capture a scene as it is; capture it as you want it to be. Your pictures will turn out better.