You can still model in Rhino and then import into Maya for rendering if you want. As far as getting that photo-real type of look, first thing you need is raytracing, you need to turn that on in the Render Globals as well as on each light. I don't have Maya open right now, but another thing to keep in mind is turning on and off reflections and refractions from objects. You can do that in one of the editors under the Window menu item, can't recall which one right now. As far as global illumination, you'll have to fake it in the Maya renderer right now unless you go and add a plugin for it. The best out there is probably MentalRay, but very costly. But you can also find a few good plugins to use over at highend 3d.
It's nice to have the latest and greatest, but sometimes it's better to concentrate on quality rather than being up with the Jones's
But with that being said, welcome to Simply Maya, think you will like it here, lots of good folks always willing to share something,be it a tip, tutorial, or just some foolish chatter
Red bellows of flame have blackened my stones
Convulsing my frame and cracking my bones
Hell's dragons of steel who roar in their chains
Crawl into my caves to suck out my veins.....
-The Mountain P.F.M.