I am writing this blog today in response to comments expressed in a blog I subscribe to, "Behind the Lens" found here. George (in Behind the Lens) discusses the ongoing theme of "a better camera = better pictures/photographer" - and how false this theme is.
I agree whole heartedly that the camera does not determine the quality of the picture though when I started out that fact eluded me! I could have potentially saved a LOT of money doing things a little differently - including getting good advice on lenses.
But I think that is the main issue. When people look for advice, most don't have professional photographers as friends, don't have a connection to a photography forum or believe that the best advice can be found in magazines and sales people.
This is where the problems begin.
First of all, I will not label all magazines and sales persons as providing faulty advice. Knowing a little about cameras before hand has helped me weed out the best places to go for advice but in the digital photography era, almost anyone has suddenly become an expert in photographic equipment. The best example of this is the department stores that sell computer equipment now sell cameras, not understanding how to get the best pictures but pushing larger megapixels and the latest cameras with little understanding of composition. The same goes for computer magazines and any other electronics store. Unfortunately these are the places that most new photographers end up, thinking camera only stores are too expensive. Little do they know but the reason camera stores can be more expensive is they make sure the user comes away with a camera suitable to the user's photography rather than interest only in their commissions.
Ah, got that rant out of the way :)
"The solution is?" I hear you ask. Get some advice from someone who knows what aperture to chose, knows what the rule of thirds is and you will be most of the way to getting yourself set up right AT THE BEGINNING. I can also recommend getting a subscription to a photography magazine, a few blogs/RSS and a camera forum. They can all give you great tips but don't take all their information as fact. Photography, even with all it's technology, is still an art. You are the artist and will be first and best judge of how you are going - sure you can always improve but that is why we are human.
Get into the fray!