I’ve had quite a few students in my “Intro to Photography” workshop ask me why they should upgrade to a DSLR and I always answer back with this question: “What do you dislike about your point & shoot (P&S) camera?” and I often get the same 5 answers. So I thought I would share those answers with you. So you see, this isn’t even coming from me. It’s coming from my students! I’m letting them do all the work today. 😉
Before we go at it, let me just explain basically what a DSLR is. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. DSLRs have interchangeable lenses while P&S have one lens that cannot be removed. That’s it! Well, not really but that’s what I wanted to point out. 🙂 Now back to the 5 reasons….
1- Response Time: This is by far the #1 reason why people want to upgrade. There’s nothing more more frustrating with a point and shoot then pressing the shutter to get that perfect shot of your child eating the last bit of dog food from the dog’s bowl and missing it by just that half second because… it took half a second for the camera to respond after you pressed the shutter! Darnit! Just another missed shot. DSLRs are instant! You press, it takes the photo, no lag time what so ever. Ok, for you tech geeks out there. there is a lag time bu it’s so small that we can’t even tell. Speaking of response time, it’s also worth mentioning that startup time is also faster on a DSLR (less then 1 second). Some P&S may have startup time over 4 seconds! There goes that perfect bird shot waiting for the welcome screen to go away. Double darnit!
2- Image Quality: There was a war going on since the beginning of the digital camera revolution. This was was all about megapixels. I remember paying over $1000 for my first Nikon P&S just to get that whopping [singlepic=307,300,200,,left] 4MP! The megapixel race was full on. It has now slowed down a bit. Why, you might ask? Because there are just so many megapixels you can cram on a sensor. And the more pixels you cram on, the lower the quality of those pixels. To put it simply, bigger pixels capture light better therefore give better color quality.
That brings me to my next point: sensor size. P&S have sensors roughly the size of my pinky’s fingernail (the first 3 sizes on the image) and standard DSLRs have a sensor roughly the size of a postage stamp (the red and blue sizes). So which one has the bigger pixels? Right! The DSLR. Bigger pixels = better image quality.
3- Lens Variety: My students often complain about the limitations of their P&S lens. It’s not long enough, not wide enough, slow zoom, can’t get close enough, ect… and they’re absolutely right! That’s a P&S limitation. You only got the one lens and you have to make due. DSLRs have interchangeable lenses. What this means is that you can purchase various lenses to give you more creative freedom. For example, if you like to take pictures of flowers and bugs, you might want to slap a Nikkor 105mm Macro VR on your Nikon D60. If you’re more into birds and wildlife, you might consider buying a Canon 100-400mm IS lens for your Rebel 450D. If you like funky stuff, you’ll want to add a Fisheye lens or even maybe a Lensbaby 3G. The possibilities are practically endless! The drawback is that you’ll need a bigger bag to carry all of them! 😉 I currently own too many 6 lenses because I sold one!
4- Less Noise: This goes back to Reason 2 regrading pixel size. Remember bigger pixels = better image quality? Noise is also part of image quality. Noise happens when you bring up your camera’s ISO. The higher the ISO the more light that can go into the pixel but it come at a price: noise (or grain). Since the pixels are smaller on a P&S, you’ll get more noise at higher ISOs than on DSLRs. Usually P&S can’t really go over ISO 400. With some of the newer DSLRs, you could go up to ISO 1600 with minimal noise.
5- Depth of Field: or DOF is the range in a photograph, from near to far, that is in focus. Now, on P&S you automatically get a big DOF (more of the subject appears in focus) than on a DSLR at the same f-stop. You’re probably thinking “that’s great. Isn’t that what we want? More of the subject in focus?” Not really because this means you have less range and control over DOF. And some of the coolest effects are done having shallow DOF. For more information on DOF, you can check out Luminous Landscape. It’s a great site with tons of practical info.
There you have it! I hope this short article has enlightened you a bit on the benefits of shooting with a DSLR. What’s also great is that the DSLR prices are always dropping. Some of the entry level cameras are available for less than $1000 which includes a kit lens. If you haven’t already done so, you can check out my articles on Canon’s entry level DSLR and for Nikon’s DSLR here.
Stay tuned next week as I post an article on the “11 Steps to Choosing the Right DSLR Camera for you”.