Point-and-Shoot Vs. DSLR Cameras: Which One Is Right For You?
Say you’re going on the ultimate family vacation. You know that you’ll want to take a ton of photographs, and you know that you want those photographs to be great. When you begin to research your camera options, you find out that there are two different types of digital cameras: point-and-shoot and DSLR. So which camera do you buy? It depends on what you need out of the camera and on how much you’re willing to spend. Below is a guide to help you make that decision.
DSLR cameras, or digital-single-lens-reflex, are easily distinguishable from point-and-shoot cameras because of one main feature — their viewfinder. When you use a DSLR camera, you hold the camera to your eye. The scene that you are viewing is picked up by a digital sensor, refracted on a mirror, and then focused before it hits your eye. What you see in the viewfinder is the exact same image that the lens sees.
Because of the precision of the lens, DSLR cameras are most often used by professional photographers. Along with their single lens reflex, they also feature interchangeable lenses, manual controls, more powerful image sensors that capture higher mega-byte images, greater depth of field for detail precision, faster shutter speeds and larger ISO (International Organization for Standardization) range. The faster shutter speeds and larger ISO range allow for images to be captured in low light without a flash. Powerful DSLR cameras can snap completely clear images at night.
A DSLR has many features, so it is more complicated to use. Their multiple features allow for more manual control, but these features can be confusing to understand and even more difficult to use. DSLR cameras tend to be larger and have heavy bodies and lenses; they are difficult to tuck into a purse, and even more difficult to whip out on the spur of the moment. Many of the benefits of a DSLR camera, including capturing large raw files, are actually useless unless you are blowing up the images to poster-board size or want to edit them to show their most minute details. DSLR cameras generally don’t include video capabilities, an important consideration if you like taking both moving and still images. Additionally, a decent DSLR camera tends to be far more expensive than a great point-and-shoot camera. At the lower end of the price spectrum, a DSLR camera, like a Canon Rebel, can run around $650 with only basic features, while a top-rated point-and-shoot, such as the Canon Powershot, costs between $300 - $400 dollars. Most DSLR cameras run thousands of dollars, and additional lenses for the bodies raise the price even higher.
A point-and-shoot camera is a great device made for simple operations. Light-weight and user friendly, point-and-shoot cameras can capture almost any image in the world. Photographs are generally taken by holding the camera away from your body and looking at the LCD screen on the back of the body. When you see the scene you want to photograph, you press the shutter button.
The most obvious benefit of a point-and-shoot camera is that they are less expensive and geared toward amateur photographers. They take great images using a number of built-in features that allow for quick, easy use. These include auto focus, red eye-reduction and set exposures. They have settings for taking night shots, portraits, landscapes, fireworks and any number of other scenes. On the high end, point-and-shoot cameras mimic certain capabilities of manual DSLR cameras, such as the ability to manually control ISO, the aperture size of the lens and the depth of field. What they almost never feature is a manual focus. Point-and-shoot cameras take better quality images than a smartphone and are great when you're on vacation. Basic models can cost less than $100, while sleek, light-weight cameras, such as the Nikon CoolPix S100, can run up to $300.
With a point-and-shoot camera, you just don’t have as much control over the device as you do with a DSLR. Because it is made to be easy to use, no matter how skilled you are as a photographer, your pictures will be limited by the restricted settings. Especially in low-light situations, the camera might only be able to capture photographs that are blown out by the flash; that is, you might end up with a photo that looks like a giant spot of light.
The Final Decision
Using a DSLR camera is an intellectually engaging, fully absorbing activity that requires more attention than using just a regular point-and-shoot. DSLR cameras are best for serious photographers who want to make long-term investments in great equipment.
Point-and-shoot cameras are excellent cameras that have most of the features you will need as a casual photographer. Because they are affordable and user-friendly, they are the right choice for most consumers.