Is gear important?
These are the things I normally take with me when I go out on a job. Is it a lot? There are some who carry more, and some who carry less... It depends on tastes and objectives I think.
If it is a fact that telling a photographer "That camera takes some great photos!" is a sure fire way of making him/her frown or show you an awkward smile, another fact is that photographers know that having good gear makes the job easier in some aspects.
A quicker and more precise focus system allows me to capture a spontaneous moment more easily. A greater sensor sensitivity with controled noise lets me photograph in low light environments without having to necessarily resort to using flash. A more silent shutter allows me to be closer and take pictures without the sound of the shots distracting people from what they are doing. Being able to record the photographs on two different cards at the same time lets me make an automatic back-up to prevent any eventual misfortune.
Details, yes. But some times those details help make the difference.
However they do not change the way I look through the camera to create my images.
The cameras, the lenses, the accessories, contribute for te technical part of the job, but they are not the ones making the images. That is what is unique about those who photograph, independently of the camera, be it cheap or expensive, film or digital.
I still believe that, as a teacher of mine once told me, "A slightly out of focus photo that strikes you emotionally is still better than one that is technically perfect but doesn't mean anything to you."
But what is really outstanding is to be able to put emotion and technical perfection in a single image! This is the continuous search!
Therefor, when you want to pay a compliment to a photographer chose to say "YOU make great photos!" and you'll se the proudest smile in the world manifest across his/her lips.
Have a great week! ;)