We've all heard the saying that it's a poor workman who blames his tools. In general, that's right. The best tools in the world won't turn a shoddy craftsperson into a good one, and someone with superb skills can often turn out the most amazing work despite poor or makeshift tools.
But sometimes you reach the limit of the tool you have. That's happened to two friends of mine this month. Tinroof couldn't get the lighting on her photos right, though she tried different lighting, white balance squares, and the like. A better light tent solved the problem. Art of the Firebird was having trouble with photography. No matter what she did, her pictures didn't improve. She spent a lot of time looking at camera angles, white balance, staging, focus, and the like. Finally, she got a camera with a better macro lens, and all that practice paid off in instantaneously better photos.
Does the better tool pay off because of the investment in skill that preceded its acquisition? I think so, when that's the case. I can usually get excellent color out of Iris Orange glass, aka raku. But I spent months trying to coax colour out of raku on a Hot Head torch, and I think all that effort paid off when I got a torch that could actually have an oxidizing flame.