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Should you get a DSLR

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onetrickpony
1 Nov 2012 - 2:15 AM

There seems to be endless discussions all over the internet as to whether people should get a DSLR, or stick with compacts.

Here's my version of this discussion.

DSLR pros (in order of how important I have found them since upgrading):

1. You can see what picture you are taking. The viewfinder shows you exactly what you are looking at. This is the main advantage, in my opinion, of a DSLR. You can track moving subjects much easier.

2. They take the picture when you press the button. (Compacts often take a second or so to autofocus, meaning you often miss out on shots or get your shot late), DSLRs focus much faster. A lot of good photos get missed on compacts because of that delay.

3. You can control them (using the manual modes). This means that you can start to work towards taking better photos.

4. They are bigger, making them easier to handle in the same way that its easier to type on your laptop than it is on your phone.

5. A bigger sensor means you can get a smaller depth of field and (with the right lens) start creating photos with bokeh (blurred backgrounds). There's a learning curve there, but ultimately I think that background blur often dramatically improves composure.


Compact camera pros

1. They are small, they fit in your pocket, you can take them anywhere without having to plan for it.

2. They have better 'automatic setting' modes, like 'sunset' modes or 'beach' modes, which will probably take better pictures than a newbie with an SLR.

3. They are 'all in one', you don't need to buy a new lens for this or that, or carry lenses around with you.

4. They are cheaper, even the ones which cost $800. And the costs don't grow with time. With a DSLR, there's always something new to buy. Spending $500 on a DSLR is just the start of the costs. After 5 years or so, there's a good chance you'll of spent at least $1,500 on bags, straps, filters, lenses, batteries, flashes etc. It could easily be $15,000 - a lot of people get carried away.

Note: image quality isn't on the list, because I've never been convinced that there's a practical difference for anyone. Neither is higher ISO rates because again, I don't think there's much of a difference.

My conclusion would be: if you have no interest in photography other than the desire to take your camera out of your pocket and take reasonable photos, buy a compact. If you're prepared for photography to start taking a bigger role in your life (consuming more of your time and money), buy a DSLR.

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Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1314996 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
1 Nov 2012 - 2:23 AM


Quote: You can see what picture you are taking. The viewfinder shows you exactly what you are looking at. This is the main advantage, in my opinion, of a DSLR. You can track moving subjects much easier

I`m no longer seeing any advantages of an optical viewfinder, yes you can see what`s on the other end of the lens, but this is all and the viewfinder does not show you exactly what your looking at, ie the effects of your settings.

Last Modified By Paul Morgan at 1 Nov 2012 - 2:25 AM
onetrickpony
1 Nov 2012 - 4:36 AM

Well, if you're comparing it to the kind of electronic viewfinder you get on an OMD then I guess thats a different kind of choice. But comparing it to my old compact camera my dslr is a vast improvement.

Newdevonian
1 Nov 2012 - 7:00 AM


Quote: I`m no longer seeing any advantages of an optical viewfinder, yes you can see what`s on the other end of the lens, but this is all and the viewfinder does not show you exactly what your looking at, ie the effects of your settings.

That's a scary statement. I assume you have depth of field preview? What else do you need?

Last Modified By Newdevonian at 1 Nov 2012 - 7:00 AM
keith selmes
1 Nov 2012 - 8:07 AM

There isn't a straightforward choice now between DSLR and the sort of compact described above.

We have the option of a range of fairly compact cameras with interchangeable lenses, sometimes called "mirrorless" and sometimes called "Compact System Cameras" (CSC). These either have no viewfinder, using the lcd panel like most compacts, or having an electonic eye level viewfinder. Because of the electronic viewfinder, the latter type are also sometimes called Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) . ( I still can't help Smile ing at that). CSC don't always fit in a pocket, but are usually smaller and lighter than a DSLR.

You don't have to buy a huge range of lenses, one zoom lens on a CSC or DSLR will typically give the coverage of the built in lens on a compact, but then you also have the choice of other lenses and accessories if you later on find the one lens limiting.

The choice of CSC and so on is increasing, but so far as I know, DSLR will still usually give better ISO performance, quite a huge difference when compared with normal compacts, and still better than CSC. Image quality is usually vastly better on DSLR than on really compact compacts, although again the distinction is blurring, and you have to be careful which apples and pears you're comparing.
I still very much prefer the optical viewfinder on a DSLR, as an LCD is often unusable, and an EVF doesn't always do a very good job. However, the choice really comes down to what you do with the camera - CSC are fine for many things, and I use one a lot, just as I often use a truly compact camera. A lot of people find a CSC is ideal for what they do.

It can be confusing, and the situation changes frequently, but I think we are very lucky to have the choices, from that point of view things are improving all the time.

P.S. you can use CSC in manual mode as well - one reason for popularity is the option of using old manual lenses , good quality, often low cost, via adapters.

Last Modified By keith selmes at 1 Nov 2012 - 8:10 AM
User_Removed
1 Nov 2012 - 8:18 AM

Paul's right. With a modern compact you can see with live view a very close representation of what your final image will look like. Compared to optical viewfinders, the image is flattened, it becomes more obvious when trees and lamp-posts are growing out of people's heads etc. You can see the effect of white balance settings. Some live view modes show exposure simulation and you can see how bright or dark the scene will be when shot. You don't get that with an optical viewfinder.

Live view is available on DSLRs of course but not in the eyepiece.

JJGEE
JJGEE  96236 forum posts England18 Constructive Critique Points
1 Nov 2012 - 8:34 AM


Quote: but this is all and the viewfinder does not show you exactly what your looking at, ie the effects of your settings.

Well I managed OK for about 35years and that was never an issue .

The only effects I was really bothered with were composition, focussing and depth of field, which of course one could see through an optical viewfinder Wink

User_Removed
1 Nov 2012 - 9:27 AM

Most of the "advantages" that you cite for a dSLR, OTP, are also to be had from CSCs with eye-level viewfinders and, of course, being mirrorless, CSCs also have some additional advantages.

That's why many of us have both - in my case a Nikon dSLR and an Olympus OM-D CSC. If I was forced to keep only one of them, then today I might still choose the dSLR but I rather suspect that, with another couple of years of CSC development, a different choice might be made in the future.

JohnHoppy
JohnHoppy  5 United Kingdom
1 Nov 2012 - 10:19 AM

Over and above these pros and cons, a potential buyer should consider the SYSTEM he is buying into. Compacts don't have a system, they're a separate animal altogether and really we have 2 different issues going on here. But the choice between an SLR and a mirrorless camera is not just about a camera - a large investment in SLR lenses should be considered in the light of the changing scene that began a few years ago when Olympus & Panasonic first ditched the mirror box and showed that the future would be electronic. You may find in another couple of years the SLR manufacturers turning over to mirrorless cameras (as they're cheaper to produce) with, in many cases, a totally different array of lenses & accessories. Spending big bucks now on SLR lenses (and what otherwise is the point of having an SLR?) might mean another big spend further down the line. People may prefer to keep their OVFs and reflex cameras but eventually there may be no such choice.

Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1314996 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
2 Nov 2012 - 2:08 AM


Quote: Paul's right. With a modern compact you can see with live view a very close representation of what your final image will look like

It took me a very long time to see the extra benefits of EVF`s over optical viewfinders, I used film slrs for the best part of 30 years, for the last seven or eight years I used both film and digital slrs, here are a few of the latest examples I can think of.

Some EVF`s now allow live tone curve adjustments in both stills and video, there`s also focus peaking like that used by Sony or the live bulb from Olympus

Compacts (some) have now become so good you will have a difficult job telling an SLR print from a compact print up to A4 or in some cases even A3. There`s one killer feature I have found that the dslr cannot match, a good compact with a decent leaf shutter can give you flash sync at any speed, dslrs can do this but at a price, reduced output. For some of the strobist type flash work that I do I will on occasions pick the X10 over my OMD Smile

There are over compacts that can do this, Pete informed me that some of Canons G series compacts can do this and I`m sure there are others as well.

The last few years have been interesting and maybe the next couple of years as well, could we be seeing less crop sensors dslrs and more full frame dslrs with these being sold at much more affordable prices, I do hope so.

Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73832 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
2 Nov 2012 - 5:24 AM


Quote: Note: image quality isn't on the list, because I've never been convinced that there's a practical difference for anyone. Neither is higher ISO rates because again, I don't think there's much of a difference.

I can't agree with you on the ISO, try a side by side comparison at ISO 3200, on a modern dSLR you get outstanding almost noise free images, with little loss of detail (a lot of the images in my PF of candid people in low light are at those settings), you just can't get close with a compact.

Image quality too, as on dSLRs you should be shooting Raw, this makes such a difference, no jpeg artefacts - you apply the sharpening you want, more control over the image, in terms of what you can bring back (over/under exposure).

onetrickpony
2 Nov 2012 - 8:13 AM


Quote: We have the option of a range of fairly compact cameras with interchangeable lenses, sometimes called "mirrorless" and sometimes called "Compact System Cameras" (CSC). These either have no viewfinder, using the lcd panel like most compacts, or having an electonic eye level viewfinder. Because of the electronic viewfinder, the latter type are also sometimes called Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) . ( I still can't help ing at that). CSC don't always fit in a pocket, but are usually smaller and lighter than a DSLR.

Very true. I deliberately omitted CSCs, because I have no experience with them. To be accurate, I don't think they ever fit in your pocket, unless you happen to be wearing a pretty big overcoat, but they are obviously much easier to carry. Actually, if I could afford an OMD or some equivelent, I'd buy one just for this reason.


Quote: Image quality is usually vastly better on DSLR than on really compact compacts, although again the distinction is blurring, and you have to be careful which apples and pears you're comparing.

I don't agree with 'usually' vastly better. 95% of people these days only want to view images digitally, most of them being shared over the internet. At most, they want to print standard sized prints. This is why a lot of people are disappointed by SLRs: they go on holiday and take a picture of, say, a beach with their new SLR, their friend takes a picture with their coolpix compact, they both post on facebook and the coolpix pic turns out better, because it was set in beach mode. The 'sunset mode' on compacts, to give another example, over saturates certain hues and produces quite impressive sunsets even when the natural lighting is flat. A DSLR can compete, but probably only if the user knows what they are doing. Here's the other problem: photography enthusiasts spend time zooming in to pictures and comparing minute details in them, most people only care about how images appear on facebook. Personally I very rarely print and mainly my photos are for my photo travel blog and facebook. I still feel I need a DSLR, but its got nothing to do with 'image quality'. The only time that's been an issue was on the few images I sold to magazines, but most people will never do this.

onetrickpony
2 Nov 2012 - 8:23 AM


Quote: I can't agree with you on the ISO, try a side by side comparison at ISO 3200, on a modern dSLR you get outstanding almost noise free images, with little loss of detail (a lot of the images in my PF of candid people in low light are at those settings), you just can't get close with a compact.

I don't mean there's no difference. I just mean its not a difference most users will notice. The noise on a compact, more often than not, barely shows up on smaller prints.


Quote: Image quality too, as on dSLRs you should be shooting Raw, this makes such a difference, no jpeg artefacts - you apply the sharpening you want, more control over the image, in terms of what you can bring back (over/under exposure).

That's not really what I meant by image quality - I was talking more just pixel count type stuff. But again, this only matters to people who are getting into, or intend to get into, photography. A lot of people don't want to spend ages editing their photos. But if that is an issue for you, there are pleanty of compacts which shoot in RAW (I own one).

Can I restate my conclusion here? "if you have no interest in photography other than the desire to take your camera out of your pocket and take reasonable photos, buy a compact. If you're prepared for photography to start taking a bigger role in your life (consuming more of your time and money), buy a DSLR".

One of the reasons I posted this originally is because I've read multiple threads where people have advised someone looking for a compact of some kind to go and get a DSLR. I think it was probably bad advice given the information they had. Blanket advising everyone to upgrade from a pocket compact doesn't make sense. Hence the post.

Nick_w
Nick_w e2 Member 73832 forum postsNick_w vcard England99 Constructive Critique Points
2 Nov 2012 - 9:34 AM

I'm sorry I was under the impression you were looking for advice, I didn't realise you were an authority on the subject. Had you had images in your PF, I would no doubt have refrained from commenting, bowing to your undoubted ability.

keith selmes
2 Nov 2012 - 9:46 AM


Quote: I don't agree with 'usually' vastly better. 95% of people these days only want to view images digitally,

I think you shifted the topic slightly. I suggested image quality would be vastly better, which in most camera to camera comparisons would be true, but you're suggesting most people wouldn't use it or need it, which is also probably true. In that sense, the DSLR wouldn't be better for them, something small and simple would be, but that's not a question of camera capability, it's more a question of user requirements.


Quote: multiple threads where people have advised someone looking for a compact of some kind to go and get a DSLR

It could have been sensible advice in the past. There wasn't a lot of choice apart from compacts or DSLR, and I always felt the compacts were expensive for what they were. But there are some very good compacts now, and the CSC types as well. Also those older digital compacts are often quite usable, and they're bargains on ebay now, possibly better than new bottom feeder compacts. And better than mobile phones.

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