What if gear did matter? From David duChemin, and his gear is good vision is better philosophy to other pro’s that downplay the importance gear, we hear that gear doesn't matter. But what if it does? I would argue that depending where you are on this spectrum of "beginner to Expert" photographer, gear does matter and its relative importance is based on where you are on this spectrum. I like these descriptors rather than Amateur - Professional. These are better descriptions of your use of photography rather than skill set. (Do you use your photography to buy your shoes! to borrow a phrase from David Sparks).
Success in any endeavor, including photography, is based on three facets. Confidence, Skill / Vision development, and Experience. I think gear fits in as a component of confidence. I would also include view of self and what others think of us as factors in developing and increasing our confidence.
Confidence, for people starting out on the photographic journey, I would say is probably just as important as vision, and builds with experience. Obviously all the factors I am talking about are not mutually exclusive. As with anything in life the ability to bring confidence to bear is key, and the less of it you have the more this is important. How much do you think having adequate gear plays to improved or even generating confidence? I think it plays a big piece. I equate this to fake it till you make it.
Walking into a situation be it a client shoot, a portrait session, photo walk or even a personal project, with reasonable gear will help improve you confidence. Not having to think about (read - worry about) if your gear is inadequate is big. This will allow you to use that energy to focus on developing your vision, building your experience; and all that builds confidence. It will help to alleviate the negative energy in the situation. If you don't have the confidence then you will really benefit from the gear.
When I say gear I am talking about reasonable gear, do we all need the D4 - no. With reasonable gear then you can build upon the confidence through training and experience.
Do we need to worry about gear?
Now is there a chance that the the gear facet gets out of balance with everything else and turns into an obsession? Absolutely; I think when you are starting the journey you need to commit to evaluating what is necessary to get you to the point of not worrying about gear. For everyone this is a different point but could include a reasonable DSLR and a fast 50, for others it could be a full frame DSLR and a 70-200 2.8. This is something you need to honestly evaluate. Decide what is enough gear to stop the negative energy of not having enough. The key is when enough gear is enough?
With gear out of the way you can continue to work on your experience, and vision development. In the end these will be more important to your long-term success than gear. As your “amount” of experience and vision grow, the importance on gear will diminish.
In Summary Gear is important, but needs to be kept in balance. Success in any endeavor is built on confidence, skill / vision and experience. and in photography I would say that gear plays a part in that success.