“Can you tell which camera takes better pictures?” Camera Showdown greets their visitors with this question. After that you select two different cameras and vote for the best ten pictures out of 20 and now you know which camera is the best. Despite the way the question is posed, it helps raising a good point.
With digital photography, the popularization of DSLRs and camera phones, people seem worried about your gear, how many megapixels, what brand of camera, what is the size of your memory card. All valid, but not very important questions. Back in the day where people were shooting film, except for some gear fanatics, no one really cared if you used a Olympus Trip 35, a Pentax K1000 or a Leica R4 or if you shot using Fuji, Kodak or Ilford. What mattered was that you took nice pictures regardless of the tools.
On the other hand, tools can indeed help (and specific tools will be needed for certain tasks). If you’re photographing a high speed event a phone or compact camera with huge shutter lag you will lose that moment or it is very likely your photo will be blurry and/or noisy under low light conditions, so a DSLR (or at least a mirrorless body) may be necessary to get the job done. If have ever tried to photograph an event using a bridge camera with no hot shoe, odds are the quality was pretty bad. I did it with the camera provided by employer and although there were usable photos, most of them were shaky and taken too late. But if the tool limitations are minimized or eliminated (shooting a slow moving subject on a sunny day, for example) and all that counts is the artistic vision, a crappy photographer will still be crappy whether they’re using an LG Easyshot or a Hasselblad H4D-60.
And if you run your showdowns with high-end DSLRs against camera phones and compacts, it is very likely that the more expensive the system the better chances it has on winning, not because it takes better pictures, simply because occasional photographers will probably never invest $1,500+ on a camera body plus the lenses, but will just get just about anything that is at hand or a cheap compact on sale. Also, it is more probable that people who spent more money on gear will spend more time on post-production.