Should I Buy a Digital SLR?
If you love taking photos, you may wonder if there's something more powerful than the ubiquitous point-and-shoot compact digital camera. There is, but it's not for everyone. Here is a brief introduction to DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras and why you (probably) should not buy one...
Unlike a compact digital camera, a digital SLR allows you to preview the exact scene that you are going to shoot. A digital SLR uses mirrors and prisms to direct the light coming in through the lens to the viewfinder. In compact digital cameras, you preview an image recorded by the camera's sensor. DSLRs also use interchangeable lenses to help you get the exact focus and effects that you want. Digital SLRs give you much greater control over the composition of your photos.
Additionally, the sensor in a DSLR camera can be 25 times larger than the one in a compact digital camera. Without getting into the technicalities of photonics, a larger sensor means a sharper image even with the same number of pixels.
Popular compact digital cameras like the Canon Powershot, Sony Cybershot, Panasonic Lumix, and Fujitsu Finepix series are great for taking casual snapshots of friends, scenery, and other subjects while you are on the go. But professional photographers and serious amateurs turn to digital SLRs to get the perfect shot.
Ready, Fire, Aim!
But before you rush out to buy a DSLR, here are five things to consider:
1. Cost: Not only is a digital SLR considerably more expensive than a compact, you also need lenses, filters, a strap, lights, and a bag to carry all your stuff in. Budget at least an extra $1000 for a quality DSLR.
2. Bulk: Digital SLRs are much bigger and heavier than pocket-sized compact digital cameras. No way can you stuff one of these in your pocket and take off for a hike or bike ride. After an hour on the trail, you'll get tired of that thing banging against your hip or chest .
3. Complexity: More control is a plus of digital SLRs, but you have to spend time to master the skills of composition, lighting, etc. You'll also spend time changing lenses and composing shots. If you don't know an f-stop from a bus stop, you should not tread here. (Yes, there's probably an AUTO setting on the DSLR, but then why bother?)
4. Maintenance: Compact digital cameras are relatively maintenance-free, but digital SLRs require regular meticulous cleaning of lenses, sensors, viewfinder and other components. Also, they can be more fragile and expensive to repair.
5. Prints: if you only print small (up to 5x7 inch) photos, the benefit of a DSLR's sharper sensor is lost. For larger prints, the photonics kicks in and gives the DSLR the advantage.
For serious hobbyists or professional photographers, spending thousands of dollars on a digital SLR and its accessories is either a pleasure or a necessity. But most shutterbugs will find a high-end point-and-shoot compact digital camera is all they really need.
Which type of camera do you prefer, and why? Post your comment below...