This is a question that I am often asked by friends and acquaintances when they are considering a digital camera purchase or upgrade. Like buying a new computer, this too can be tricky and confusing. Salespeople are always trying to upsell and there are always new cameras and new features emerging on the market. By the way, this information will apply to both Digital SLR cameras as well as Point and Shoot cameras.
- DSLR vs. Point & Shoot – This is a really important decision if you are torn between the two. Most consumers or everyday shooters will think they are buying too much camera when considering a DSLR. What really hurts is to decide on a Point & Shoot and then try a friend’s (or someone else’s) DSLR and fall in love with it. On the other hand, if you buy a DSLR to only take snapshots, you could end up hating it because it can be a hassle to haul around. Without a doubt, a DSLR will always be a better camera and produce better images, but there are some great “prosumer” P&S cameras that give DSLRs a run for their money. P&S cameras are great because they are easy to use, take great pictures, and they are ultra-portable. The big advantage with DSLRs is having interchangeable lenses in which the optics are far superior to those in a P&S camera. Now remember, it’s the photographer (artist) that creates the image, not the camera. You give someone like Vincent Laforet or Joe McNally a point and shoot, and they will still create amazing photos. Just some food for thought before you dive in and spend $500.00 plus on a new DSLR. And that brings me to my final point; cost. An entry-level DSLR will almost always be more expensive than even a high quality P&S.
Personally, I use a Nikon D40 which is the most entry level DSLR out there. I can’t complain, (I won it in a raffle) but I have also fallen in love with it. My D40 takes great photos, is super lightweight, and I just plain have a blast using it. Would I like to have a D300 or a D3??? Sure I would, but my bank account disagrees.
- Resolution – Here’s a subject that a lot of people get wrapped around the axle about. Resolution, defined in Megapixels, tends to mislead buyers. Salespeople who don’t know any better contribute to the problem by conveying that if they buy a camera that has a 12.1 megapixel sensor, it will take better photos than the camera that only has a 6.1 megapixel sensor. Not true. The amount of megapixels a sensor is capable of does not determine the quality of the image. The size of each individual pixel does contribute to quality though. A larger pixel means a larger amount of light can be taken into that pixel. That’s why a camera with a larger sensor will produce higher quality images than a camera with the same resolution that has a smaller sensor. Resolution really translates into how large you can print the image before you start to lose quality. For example, an image made by a 6 megapixel camera can be printed with excellent results up to 13″x19″. If you want 16″x20″ you need 8 megapixels. And lastly, if you need to print a 24″x36″, you’ll need 10 megapixels or more.
Once again, it all comes down to personal preference. Those who are serious about photography will most likely choose a DSLR over a P&S. However, if you are on the fence I really think you should take a hard look at some of the entry-level DSLRs. Nikon and Canon both make excellent products and you won’t be disappointed with either brand. Those that want to always have a camera with them with the least amount of hassle will probably go with a point & shoot. Canon and Nikon both make great P&S cameras as well. Another thing you can do is find your local camera store and go in and play around with a couple different cameras and see which one feels best to you. The salespeople there will be far more knowledgeable than those found a major electronics retailers and they will be more likely to give you honest advice since most of them are photographers themselves.
I hope everyone is having a great week and enjoying the holidays! Happy shooting! 🙂