You spend hours preparing for a photo shoot. You make sure your camera is in perfect working order. You know your subject through and through, the environment your subject finds itself in, behaviour etc. Using techniques perfected during the past decade, you approach your subject with the intent of capturing all those glorious photons bouncing off its surface.
Casual photographers and armchair critics call this photography. They also call it photography when you take snapshots with your cellphone while walking past some landmark in a tourist town - not even bothering to stop. Clearly there is a difference between the two activities.
It is thus no surprise why I become livid when I show people photos I took, only to hear the despicable comment
"Oh, you must have a great camera to take photos like that"
I am not a professional photographer - at best I am a semi-professional and serious amateur. But I have been doing this for a long time. It just irks me that people come up with that remark when viewing something they (possibly) feel they cannot create themselves. Maybe it is projection of internal jealousy neglecting the possibility that skill might be a factor, as it is the easiest to blame it on the tool. If he has a better camera than me naturally he will take better pictures.
I am a firm believer that a casual photographer (in this definition, meaning a person who does not have a high end camera and only takes photos occasionally) will take much worse photos with a high end camera than with a point and shoot or entry level camera. Let me explain.
A professional camera such as my Canon 1DX does NOT have:
or any of the other hundreds of features you can find in most point and shoot cameras or even entry level DSLRs. There is a big learning curve before one can use such a camera to its fullest potential. But until you have mastered the camera and photography in general, the camera will be much, much harder to get good results with than a consumer grade camera.
It took me more than two years with my first Canon 1D Mark II to get good photos. In the beginning my photos were blurry, not engaging, depth of field was used improperly, etc. I had to learn about diffraction, mirror slap vibrations, ISO control, depth of field, aperture, etc. before I could even begin to use the camera properly. And even after having learned that, it took a long time to master it.
If a casual photographer buys a nice and shiny Sony a7r camera with its massive 36MP sensor, will they get better results than with an NEX-5T costing 4 times less? I seriously doubt it. Without extremely good technique all the photos will be blurry - 36MP is a lot of things that can go wrong. The a7r is not image stabilized (at least, no in body IS). This makes the camera even harder to use correctly.
That being said, once you mastered proper technique and theory, a high end camera will deliver better pictures than a consumer version in most cases. If your intended use is for FaceBook or other web / computer based uses, then you will be hard pressed to see the difference between a $500 iPhone 5c and a $40,000 Phase One P65+. However if you intend to print your photos, or manipulate them in any way, or take photos of difficult conditions (think action / sport / low light / high contrast) then a high end camera can make all the difference.
Buying a high end camera does not make you a photographer. Without the required skills, it makes you a moron. At least if you do not intend to up skill yourself.
If you are one of those people who have made remarks such as the one in the title of this post, rather keep quiet next time. It is less insulting.