here's a story to pass along to your dad. When I was probably around your age, I spent about $2000 I had saved on a Gibson Les Paul Std and a Marshall 50-watt 212 combo amplifier.
That guitar and amp paid for about half for my college education playing 2-3 weekends a month for the next 5 years. Now, at 48 years old, my guitar and vocal skills pay for family vacations each year and THEN some!
Note to you Josh: Buy the camera. Shoot local stuff. Get your name out there and use your skills to make your gear pay for itself over and over and over again.