Not sure whether a digital SLR is right for you? To help you decide, read our top five reasons for buying a dSLR.
Here in the CNET.com.au office, we receive all kinds of questions every day -- some are genuine requests for help, others are so ridiculous they would make the list of top ten questions that should never be uttered.
One of the most common questions we get is "which is the best digital camera out there?" While there are many cameras that impress us (and just as many that disappoint us), there is no definitive "best". As some people would say: It is not the equipment, but the person behind it.
That said, there's no harm in holding a good piece of hardware hostage, right? So here are five reasons you should consider buying a digital SLR this holiday season.
One of the biggest differences between dSLRs and compact shooters is the size of the image sensor. You probably won't see it unless you decide to tear apart your digicams, but the sensor in consumer cameras is typically the size of your pinky, while that in a dSLR is many times larger. Rule of thumb: A larger sensor translates to better image quality especially in terms of noise and dynamic range. Putting that into perspective, a 6-megapixel dSLR would likely produce better pictures than a 10-megapixel consumer compact digicam. So cut out that megapixel chasing, will you?
Unlike the snapshot cameras, dSLRs have a wealth of controls that scream "use me". The standard fare comprises aperture, shutter-priority modes and full manual, which allow you to determine the size of both the aperture and shutter speed concurrently for more creative shooting. Other features include adjustment of tone curves, sharpness, contrast, saturation, custom white balance, in-camera editing and flash synchronisation, to name a few. We can go on, but you get the drift.
Sure, you can whip out your latest digicam at a party. But the next day when your friends ask to see the pictures you took, don't give reasons such as "oh, my memory card burst into flames and I don't know why", when, in fact, you're embarrassed to say your pictures looked like they were covered with a layer of sand. That's noise. Shots from dSLRs exhibit less noise partly due to the larger image sensor which, on its own, is already a huge advantage over compact snapshots. Let's just say that a picture taken at ISO 400 on a dSLR can rival ISO 800 or even ISO 1,600 on a consumer camera.
Most point-and-shoots take some time to power up and it can be from 1 second to slightly over 2 at wose. So what? You missd a shot, that's what. If you had your hands on a dSLR before, you'd appreciate the near instant startup time, usually faster than you can time with a stopwatch. Shutter lag, which is the delay from the time you hit the shutter till the image is captured, is also practically non-existent on a dSLR. And we haven't gone into speedier autofocusing speeds and burst modes yet.
Ultimately, buying a dSLR is akin to buying into a family of camera accessories and these can range from external flash units to battery grips to strobes, lenses, filters, etc. Skip this section if you intend to leave your camera only in full auto-shooting mode, which is a waste, really. Lenses play a huge role to complete that shooting experience. From general purpose to high-end specialty glasses, there's almost a lens for every photographic moment. We said, almost, didn't we?
So what now?
The list can go on, but the point we'd like to make here is digital SLRs are getting more affordable. While that may tempt consumers to make the switch, it is also important to consider whether they would be able to live with one. One thing for sure, dSLRs are not pocketable, yet, and are a lot bulkier than point-and-shoots. Like we said, if you plan to snap only in full auto mode, look elsewhere. Otherwise, a digital SLR could be a worthwhile investment if photography is your hobby.