Technology has progressed photography faster in the last ten years than over the last 100. Over the last ten years, photography has gone from a somewhat misunderstood, often thought to be overly complicated hobby to something nearly everyone takes part in. Auto-mode settings, advancements in facial recognition in cameras and red-eye reduction built-in have made just about anyone who points a camera in the right direction a photographer. During this ramp-up in interest, more gear has become available then ever before, both good and bad for photographers and budding hobbyists.
Having the best photography gear does not mean you will get the best photographs. This has been proven time and time again with the so-called mega-pixel race for those thinking the more mega-pixels something has, the better it is. Sure, it's true that at a certain point, having a better piece of gear will yield you a better shot, but only if you understand how to properly use it!
Cameras, lenses, filters, flashes and all the accessories that go along with photography are nothing more than tools, tools which allow you to manipulate light and capture moments in time. Before you start to make a really significant investment in any new gear, ask yourself what it is you're trying to accomplish and how this new piece of gear will really help you. Can you make something yourself that would give the same result? Can you rent or borrow the item first to ensure it's what you really need?
Gear itself does not make you any better or worse of a photographer, better gear only enables photographers with knowledge on how to use it and a creative eye the abilities to take different photographs. Ever show up at a family picnic with a DSLR and speedlight and have someone say to you, “Wow, I bet that thing takes great photos huh?” The reality is, modern point and shoot cameras are capable of taking stunning shots, so don't assume bigger always equals better.
Having an eye, continuously learning and always shooting will, in the end make you the photographer, not the gear you carry around. Gear envy and the so-called upgrade-itis syndrome is easy to fall into, but it won't help your photograph any if you aren't already using what you have to the full capabilities. Before you invest in more gear, invest in knowledge.