This is a broad question really. I've seen professional photographers use disposable cameras and I've seen talentless amateurs use cameras costing a small fortune. Not to sound cliche but it's the person that takes a good picture, not the camera. That said, pros tend to use high quality cameras and lenses. This is two main reasons: excellent image production and reliability (very important when you make a living at it). Film and digital are both used today, both with excellent results. Entry level is a good Single Lens Reflex camera offering manual controls and interchangeable lenses (35mm or digital). Up from there is medium format gear which imparts a very noticeable improvement in image quality. From there you are onto large format photography - a discussion in itself.
There are many solid brands in the SLR world but the two that pros arguably use the most are Canon and Nikon.
Local camera stores have fallen out of favor but why not go to a good camera store where you live? You can touch the product and talk to a salesperson about it. Pick up some photo magazines at the book store and peruse the articles and the many ads in the back. The internet has many, many sources for photo eqiupment (buyer beware).
If you are starting out, I would suggest picking up an older film SLR on Ebay for little money - you can get into good stuff for less than $100 now. Spend your money on lenses, film, and lighting rather than fancy crap and megapixels. One could argue however that digital allows lower cost mistakes. Decide for yourself.
Find other photographers and pick their brains. Take local classes. Join the local photo club. Good luck.