Those magazines from 2003 were filled with gorgeous photographs. The cameras that made those photos were no doubt state of the art at the time, but we would find their specs almost laughable now. Compared to today's offerings, those '03 models are true dinosaurs! Still, those "dinosaurs" were capable of making some excellent photos. What gives?
It has always been true that good photos are made by people, not machines. People that have taken the time to learn a little about such things as composition, lighting, and exposure can produce quality work with even the simplest cameras. Reading the user guide and actually learning how to operate your camera helps too. On the other hand, the owner of the latest whizz-bang model from Japan who just opens the box and starts firing away, depending completely on the camera's automation, is likely to produce crap with every click.
Below is a photo from my first day with my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot G3. I spent a few hours on a Saturday morning just walking around my yard trying to see what this little camera could do. I admit that I was then a film snob, and still a little skeptical about what kind of quality a digital camera could produce. Those first photos sold me completely on digital, and I haven't shot one frame of film since. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
I thought the detail and sharpness was really impressive, even compared to film. As you can see in the crop below, the tiny strands on the ends of the stamens were clear and sharp, on a flower that was about the diameter of a quarter. Not bad for a 4 MP camera with a sensor about the size of my pinky fingernail. That's right, I said 4 MP! Cell phones have that spec smoked nowadays.
On the second crop below, note the tiny hairs on the edge of these buds! I knew that first day that digital was fully capable of giving me the quality I was looking for. That was back in 2003. Even the most basic digital cameras today are capable of amazing quality. The difference maker is you!
What make and model of camera do you own? How old is it? I'll bet it's newer and more sophisticated than my 2003 era Canon G3. In other words, your camera is good enough. If you're not satisfied with how your photos are coming out, a newer camera is likely not the answer; taking the time to learn some basics about photography is. Visit some sites like Digital Photography School, learn a few things about your camera, and you'll be amazed of what that old camera, and you, can do!