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Friday, March 21, 2008

Digital SLR or Compact Camera?

The most important two groups are fixed lens and interchangeable lens. The fixed lens cameras tend, with a few exceptions, to be smaller, lighter and more pocketable, therefore you are more likely to have it with you when you need it. The down side of these SLR cameras is that you very soon end up with quite a heavy bag of gadgets and are less likely to carry it everywhere with you.

DSLR’s ((Digital, Single, Lens, Reflex)) is define as cameras that have removable lenses, that have a reflex mirror which allows live optical viewing through the lens taking the image. ie DSLR’s use a mirror that allows you to see the image you’re about to shoot through the view finder - when you take the shot the mirror flips up allowing the image sensor to capture the image.

Lenses - Do you want the ability to change lenses? If so, a digital SLR is the only way to go. Sure, you can get the screw in versions for the compact cameras, but it's just not the same. Plus, with an SLR you can get lenses that compacts can't touch - extreme wide angle, life size macro, and super telephoto.

On the other hand, many compact cameras have a very adequate range with their built in lens. In fact, most high-end compact cameras have a lot more lens than what's included with an entry-level digital SLR. So, if you go SLR, you'll probably end up buying more lenses, a problem that really doesn't exist for compacts.

Focusing - Here's where an SLR is going to shine. They generally focus faster, more consistently, and more accurately than compacts. The larger viewfinder helps you spot misfocusing more easily, and manual focusing is far simpler than with a compact (assuming said compact allows any kind of manual focusing to begin with).

Display - Here's one for the compacts. You know how on the back of a compact digicam you see a "live" presentation of what's going on? You just hold the camera out, and when the scene on the screen looks good, you take the photo. With a digital SLR you are actually looking through the lens with a traditional viewfinder - no live video displays. If you like the live display, go compact.

Oh, don't worry - a digital SLR still has the little screen on the back so you can look at the photos once you take 'em.

Flash - This could be a tie. Many SLRs and all compacts have built in flashes. Every SLR can take an external flash and move it off camera (good-bye red-eye). Some compacts can do the same trick, but SLRs will probably have a slight advantage here. They tend to have more sophisticated flash metering capabilities and you'll probably see better results.

Size - Score one for the compacts. When it comes to big things in small packages, these own the market. With an SLR, you have to lug around lenses, possibly a flash, and even the camera itself is bulky. If ease of carrying is high on your list, you gotta go compact.

Manual Options - This is almost a tie. Most compacts have the same manual overrides as SLRs (exposure compensation, manual mode, aperture priority, etc). I would say that an SLR might have a slight edge in this category due to control layouts, but only by a nose.

Imaging Options - This is SLR territory. If you're into reading histograms, shooting in RAW, having oodles of white balance options, then you'll love most digital SLRs. Sure, some compacts include these features, but the majority do not have them on the same scale a digital SLR does. On the other hand, if you just want to take a snapshot at the next birthday part, go compact.

Ease Of Use - lets give a slight nod to the compacts in this category. You generally turn 'em on and use 'em. Right out of the box they tend to be ready to go. A digital SLR will likely have more controls and may require a short learning curve for you to adjust to it - but they can be just as automatic as a compact once you find auto settings .

Response - Our final category goes solidly to the SLRs. If you want a camera with cat-like reflexes, you want an SLR. They "warm up", focus, zoom, and generally respond quicker than their compact counterparts. If you shoot any kind of action on a regular basis, this is the way to go.

Overall, if you want control, lots of options, and different lenses, you gotta go SLR. If you're more into taking snapshots, like a smaller camera, and aren't interested in lots of lenses and accessories, then a compact is the way to go.

Should you buy a DSLR or a compact point and shoot digital camera?
Despite point and shoot cameras now coming with up to 10 megapixels their quality level is not necessarily has good as a DSLR with only 8 or so.The main reason for this is that the image sensor used in point and shoot digital cameras is generally much smaller than the image sensor used in a DSLR.This result in that the compact camera work at slower ISO levels which means that they produce ‘noisier’ (or more grainy) shots.Smaller sensors significantly reduce the quality of an image.

DSLR Strengths:-Due to the larger size of image sensors in DSLRs which allows for larger pixel sizes - DSLRs are generally able to be used at a faster ISO which will lead to faster shutter speeds and less grain. DSLR can be fitted with many high quality lenses ranging from wide angle to super long focal lengths depending upon what you are photographing (and of course your budget). Add to this a large range of other accessories (flashes, filters etc) and a DSLR can be adapted to many different situations. It should be noted that when it comes to lenses that the diversity in quality of lenses is great. Image quality is impacted greatly by the quality of the lens you use. DSLR’s are generally pretty fast pieces of machinery when it comes to things like start up, focussing and shutter lag. Due to the reflex mirror DSLR’s are very much a what you see is what you get operation. ISO range varies between cameras but generally DSLRs offer a wide array of ISO settings which lends itself to their flexibility in shooting in different conditions. In manual mode, a DSLR is designed in such a way that it is assumed that the photographer using it will want to control their own settings. While they do come with good auto modes the manual controls are generally built in in such a way that they are at the photographers finger tips as they are shooting. DSLR models do not get updated quite as often as point and shoot models (which can be updated twice a year at times). The other factor in favor of DSLRs is that the lenses you buy for them are compatible with other camera bodies if you do choose to upgrade later on (as long as you stay with your brand). This means your investment in lenses is not a waste over the years. One of the things about DSLR is the versatility that it gives in many areas, especially depth of field. This is really an extension of it’s manual controls and ability to use a variety of lenses but a DSLR can give you depth of field that puts everything from foreground to background in focus through to nice blurry backgrounds. In general the lenses that you’ll find on a DSLR are superior to a point and shoot camera. DSLR lenses are larger (more glass can add to the quality) and many of them have many hours of time put into their manufacture (especially when you get into higher end lenses).It is advisable to buy the best quality lenses always where possible.

DSLR Weaknesses:- DSLR’s are generally more expensive than point and shoot digital cameras. The desire to add more lenses later and that this adds to the cost of a DSLR. DSLRs are heavy and sizable and when you add a lens or two to your kit bag you can end up with quite the load! Maintenance in cleaning your image sensor is cumbersome in that every time you change lenses you run the risk of letting dust into your camera.However this problem that is being rectified in many new DSLRs which are being released with self cleaning sensors. DSLRs are designed for manual use this of course means you need to know how to use the tools that they give you. However nowadays all DSLRs have fully Automatic mode and many have the normal array of semi-auto modes that point and shoot digital cameras have. In many DSLRs the only way to frame your shot is via the optical viewfinder though that is changing with more and more new DSLRs having a ‘Live View’ LCD which enables you to frame your shots without looking through the view finder.

Point and Shoot Digital Camera (Compact) Strengths :- They are mostly slim and light. It is so quiet that even subjects don't even notice shots have been taken of them at times. In auto mode or one of the other preset modes, the quality of images produced in point and shoots in general shoot quite well. In general point and shoot digital cameras are cheaper. Point and Shoots always come with LCD Framing and some even come with ‘flip out’ screens that enable their users to take shots from different angles and still see what they’re shooting.

Point and Shoot Digital Camera(Compact) Weaknesses:- Point and shoots generally have small image sensors which means that the quality that they produce is generally lower. However - that if you’re not planning on using your images for major enlargements or in professional applications that the quality of point and shoot cameras can be more than enough for the average user. In general ISO ranges are more limited in point and shoot cameras - this limits them in different shooting conditions. Point and shoot digital cameras were always notorious for their slowness, particularly their ’shutter lag’ (the time between pressing the shutter and when the image is taken. Most point and shoot cameras have view finders but they are generally so small that they are almost useless. Some models don’t have viewfinders at all (increasingly a trend). Many point and shoot cameras do have the ability to play with a full array of manual settings and controls(‘aperture priority’ and ’shutter priority’ modes) but quite often the manual controls are hidden in menu systems and are not as accessible as on a DSLR (if they are there at all). They are generally not very adaptable. What you buy when you first get them is what you are stuck with using for years. Some do have lens adapters to give you wider angles or longer zooms but generally most people don’t go for these accessories.

Finally, remember that although the camera helps, it's the photographer who makes the photos. There are fantastic images from both compact cameras and digital SLRs. It's the person behind the camera that makes great photos - you just have to decide what style is right for you.

The Two Classes of Digital Cameras

Film vs. Digital Cameras

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