Here you find some general remarks on using photo equipment, - not reviews of cameras, lenses, tripods and such.
I can only say something about the items I actually use(d) and canít really compare them to other brands.
There are plenty of sites out there, which will provide you with tests, but the most important step before using them would be clearly determine what you want to do with the new photo gear.
Donít overestimate the impact of equipment either: I now use a (quite expensive) Minolta Dynax 9 camera, but many of my best photos (e.g. the ones in India) have been made with a Dynax 7000i that you can now by used for next to nothing. I still use hat camera as second body today.
A fast lens, a strong tele, a tripod etc. all may give you the chance to take some pictures you couldnít take otherwise, but for most situations, even a small point and shoot may be perfectly adequate (if it allows you to change the settings).
Anyway, here are some of my experiences: