@Cam – I agree with that, though anyone can take a ‘pretty picture’ if they are at the right place. If they were perfectionists, or even educated in the craft, though, they would also consider the way time of day, weather and season would affect light (a la the repeated trips of Ansel Adams). In the end camera doesn’t have as much to do with how good a picture is when you look at some parts (lighting, mood, composition), but a lot to do with others (i.e., image quality is much better the better the sensor and lens). An image from a typical consumer point-and-shoot usually can’t look quite as good as an image taken by a an experienced camera user with a DSLR. There are just too many things they can address in manual settings that aren’t as easily addressed by choosing ‘smart auto’ on your average point and shoot (was surprised at how obvious that became to me on my computer when I bought a new waterproof/shock proof point and shoot after shooting mostly DSLR for a year!).
I know there are pros who use Holgas or who use their iPhones. I also know that higher end point and shoots can actually get image quality close to or equal to APS-C DSLRs now because some are even made with the same sensors.
One of the issues with the ‘amateur with a point and shoot’ is that those people do exist, and when you hire someone for money to do your family photo shoot and they show up with a Canon digital Elph, you’re going to hesitate a moment. If the finished images don’t look any better than your sister’s snapshots, you’re going to definitely feel ‘taken.’ If they are a master photographer with an Elph, they might do something amazing. Unfortunately, though, there are a lot more people who ‘love photography’ and would ‘love to be a photographer one day’ with point and shoot cameras than there are pros who have abandoned their interchangeable lens cameras for a point and shoot because its outstanding image quality makes them comfortable as a professional selling the images that it captures.
I agree though (except for a balance and comfort perspective – a 7D/5D/1D series feels much better with a pro-level lens on it than a Rebel – Rebels begin feeling front-heavy with most of the better lenses on them) that you can take a Rebel and put a great lens on it and get beautiful images. I have some images that people love that were taken with my Rebel and the kit lens, even. You have to know your lens’s sweet spots, and they’re usually a little smaller on the consumer grade lenses, but even a consumer quality lens, in the right conditions, can do beautiful work, and a better engineered lens (inexpensive primes are a way to get better image quality cheaply because they do not require the complex engineering of pro-level zoom lenses) gives you a lot more room to work in, with sharper images covering a broader part corner to corner earlier and longer than consumer lenses.
If you’re going to be wise in investment, it’s glass first. After a few years under your belt you discover that it’s a constant churn on the body side, but often good glass will get you through several bodies before upgrades are around and then the upgrades might not be too tempting. I only have $5000 in equipment left to get my ‘usually will need this for something I shoot’ list done. ~sigh~
(no – I am not a gear addict. I refuse to admit I have a problem until my collection is finished, because then I might have to stop!)