Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Photography tips: dSLR or high end compact?

Many people literally grow into photography. They have a simple point-and-shoot camera for holidays, kids and so on. Gradually, they find out photography is fun, and they want to go a step further. Now they have the choice of switching to a high end compact or a low end digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex camera). This article lists the pros and cons of both, which might help to take this decision.

Sensor size
The most important difference between a dSLR and a high end compact is sensor size. Compacts, it may be no surprise, have a smaller sensor than dSLRs. The thing you will note in everyday use is that large sensors are less prone to noise at higher ISO-levels. This means that the dSLR will perform better in low light. Sensor size has several other aspects, as you may find when reading the ‘further resources’ below.

Value for money
The high end compact is clearly a winner in terms of value for money. You’ll get a great zoom range, a macro function and sometimes image stabilization as well. If you want these functions on a dSLR, you will pay twice to three times as much, and that is without the image stabilization. Sure, you’ll have a higher image quality, but under normal light conditions, the difference will hardly be noticeable, until you start buying high quality lenses. But then the price difference will obviously explode.

Change that lens!
The great thing about a dSLR is that you can change lenses. This allows for endless possibilities (and endless expenses as well). You can equip your dSLR with high quality lenses, special interest lenses, etcetera, etcetera. This is going to cost you, both in money terms and in terms of having to carry all those lenses with you and changing lenses every time. With a compact, you have an all-in-one lens, but expansion is hardly possible.

Big is beautiful (?)
Compacts are smaller than dSLRs. Period. That implies that they are easier to carry and easier to tuck away. They are also less intrusive, making it easier to photograph in social situations. Size, small or big, is also important for how the camera feels in your hands. That’s very personal, depending on your hands and preferences.

A big dSLR makes you look like a genuine photographer, especially with an oversized telezoom lens. I am not being sarcastic here. Size does matter in how people see you. I know models that refuse to work with a photographer with a compact camera, no matter the quality of his work. And I have even seen models throwing awkward looks at my Holga and at my 35/2 prime, even though is was mounted on a dSLR. And apart from that, status is important to most people. That´s okay, it´s as valid a reason to buy a camera the any other reason.

Further resources
Making (some) sense out of sensor sizes

Extensive article on sensor size

No comments: