Choosing a Digital Camera: Additional Considerations

Digital cameras come in a wide range of sizes, capabilities, and prices.

Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From pocket models about the size of a deck of cards to pro bodies, there’s something just right for everyone and for every pocketbook.

Choose a Camera That Feels Right

Select a camera that feels comfortable in your hands. If a digital camera is too big or small for you to hold comfortably, or if the controls are not laid out in a way that makes sense to you, chances are that you won’t enjoy shooting as much as you should.

While most D-SLRs are similar in size and build, the styling of the handgrip, position of controls, and other ergonomic features can differ drastically. The camera you choose should be one that you are most comfortable using.

Will I want to upgrade in the future?

The chances are that as you progress and learn this hobby, you will want to upgrade later. You may want to consider a camera that will meet you requirements now AND into the near future.

Do I want a point-and-shoot compact or D-SLR?

Cameras are constructed in one of two ways:

  • Point and shoot compact— the body and the lens are embodied in a single device
  • SLR—the body and lenses are separate

The X10 is Fujifilm’s attempt to entice advanced shooters willing to pay a premium for higher image quality and specs in a very small, if not pocketable package. (Source: dpreview.com)

The letters S-L-R stand for “single lens reflex”, which refers to the camera construction.

SLR means that the same lens is used for viewing and taking photos. A mirror in the body directs the light from the lens up into a prism for viewing and flips up out of the way just before an exposure is made.

D-SLRs accept a wide range of interchangeable lens, while compact point-and-shoot cameras have built-in lenses. The inability to change the lens that’s built into the camera limits your shooting options.

For D-SLRs, you can buy an infinite set of lenses, for which there are infinite purposes.

Point-and-shoot compacts are perfect if what you want is ease of use in a pocket-sized camera. You’ll have fewer features and a limited zoom lens range, but image quality is surprisingly good and constantly getting better.

While convenient and aggressively priced, compact point-and-shoot cameras can’t match the quality, speed, and versatility of D-SLR cameras. D-SLRs are equipped with larger and higher-quality sensors than point-and-shoot models resulting in higher quality images; there’s virtually no shutter lag; and DSLRs offer more creative control and accessories such as lenses, flashes, and filters.

The downside is they’re bulkier and pricier.

For the casual fun shooter, a point-and-shoot compact camera is often more than adequate. They’re light, easy, and do a fine job.

An advantage of compact point-and-shoot digital cameras is their portability—for hiking, cycling, kayaking, whatever. Many are pocket-sized and do not require a lot of extras.

I started with a compact point-and-shoot camera. Later I decided that I wanted to get serious about photography.

D-SLR cameras are the standard tool for serious amateur and pro photographers.

If you are leaving the house to socialize and want a camera to keep in your pocket just in case an interesting photo presents itself, the point-and-shoot camera is ideal.

If you’re heading out with a specific photography project in mind, you will prefer having a D-SLR.

Following is a quick list of the pros and cons of both types of camera:

D-SLRs

Pros:

  • Better image quality
  • Better lens quality (when you buy the good stuff)
  • Better speed and performance
  • Faster operation and larger controls
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • More accessory items available

Cons

  • Gets expensive in a hurry
  • Larger, heavier, and bulkier
  • Can seem complicated at first

Compact point-and-shoot

Pros

  • Small, light, and compact
  • Convenient
  • Less expensive
  • Easier for the whole family to use

Cons

  • Slower response times
  • Generally poorer image quality
  • Fewer accessory options
  • Shutter delay

Sigma’s D-SLRs have always been unique. Besides having a reputaion for simplicity, the Sigma D-SLRs exclusively use the Foveon X3 image sensor. (Source: dpreview.com)

Your final choice will be based on your budget as well as your requirements and needs. Despite the performance advantages of a D-SLR compared to a compact camera, there’s one overriding question you need to answer honestly: “What am I willing to carry?”

The right camera is the one you take with you. If you can’t see yourself carrying a D-SLR—and maybe an extra lens or two—then you’re better off with a camera you’ll find more comfortable.

Worth Pondering…

The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.

—Ernest Haas

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