I am sure we have all been there. We are looking at some breathtaking photos taken by one of our friends. We see big fancy camera around their neck and then shyly look at the little point and shoot camera in our hand and think, “I NEED a new camera!”
Or maybe it went like this…we finally got the DSLR we had been dreaming of. We waited and we waited and finally the day arrived. We had our new camera all charged and ready to go. We just KNEW that we would FINALLY be able to take pictures like ________ (fill in name of awesome photographer here). We get ready, we breath deep, and we snap or first photo. And then before we know it we have snapped a hundred. We hurry to our computer, download the photos, and see dark blobs and fuzzy faces and think, “My camera must be broken! I need a new camera!”
It is a natural desire in most of us to want the best, to be the best. When it comes to photography, the desire to take the best photos usually leads us down a path of wanting a DSLR camera. We think “all the great photographers out there have them and I want one!” However, many of us find ourselves disappointed and frustrated that our pictures didn’t turn out like we had imagined. Is it the camera’s fault? Probably not.
A DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera is a great piece of equipment, It offers you better picture quality, more adaptability, faster speed, and total control. They are capable of capturing truly amazing photos in truly amazing places. For those that know how to use them, they are worth their weight in gold.
However, a DSLR is not for everyone. I have had so many people ask me what kind of camera I use and what they should buy. And I always respond to them by saying, “It depends.” Yes, a DSLR is a great camera, but it all depends on the time and money you are truly willing to put into it.
Since I would venture to guess that most of you reading this don’t have to be convinced of the good things about owning a DSLR, let’s look at the reasons NOT to buy. Be honest with yourself as you read these. There are some really great advanced point and shoot cameras on the market that might work really well for you, maybe even better than a DSLR.
I had nifty plans of a top ten list, but as I really think on it, I can see three main reasons that a DSLR may NOT be for you:
1. The Price: DSLR cameras are more expensive and generally come with really cheap (bad) lenses or no lens at all. To get the most out of your (expensive) DSLR, not only will you have to pay for the camera, but you will have to pay for new lenses.
2. The Size: DSLR’s are big and bulky. Do you love the idea of taking pictures wherever you go? Do you also love the idea of carrying a big and heavy camera with you? It isn’t easy and it isn’t fun. So either it needs to stay at home (in which case you won’t get those great photos you have been dreaming of) or you will have to bring a point and shoot (in which case you start to wonder why you bought a DSLR in the first place). And remember, just because YOU think it is fun to lug it around, hubby and kiddos may not agree.
3. The Complexity: Even though DSLR’s have an auto mode on them, they were not designed for this purpose. They were designed to be used in manual mode. If you are not ready to invest a lot of time reading your manual and other books to properly know how to work your camera out of auto (or even AV) mode, then a DSLR may not be for you. Advanced point and shoot cameras often take MUCH better photos in auto mode.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I am anti-DSLR. In fact, quite the opposite. I have owned and used a Rebel Xti and a Canon 20D. My 20D is slowly dying and I am secretly hoping its complete demise is soon so I can get this or maybe even this. I love DSLR cameras and all they are capable of. They just aren’t for everyone, and honestly, I bought one long before I was ready. I spent months being frustrated with my photos and those same months working hard in Photoshop to make those photos useable.
So, if you can’t buy a DSLR camera right now or you realize that you aren’t sure you will really take the time to learn how to use it properly, let’s look at a few great high end point and shoot cameras that might better suit your needs (or your budget). Some of these cameras even have some manual controls on them, allowing you more freedom than a traditional compact point and shoot. And in the price range of under $500, your budget will thank you.
(prices listed below are current bhphotovideo.com prices. Prices may vary depending on country and store of purchase)
Canon PowerShot G10 ($415.95)
- 14.7 megapixels
- Image Stabilizer
- Supports RAW images
- High Speed auto-focus
- Motion Detection Technology
- Face Detection
- PureColor LCD II
- i-Contrast boosts brightness and retains detail in dark areas
- 26 shooting modes with manual control and custom settings
- 30fps VGA movies
Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS ($159.95)
- 8.1 megapixels
- Image Stabilizer
- Shoots HD video
- 12x optical zoom
- Up to 3200 ISO
- Apertures up to 2.8
- Offers full manual control
Nikon Coolpix P6000 (499.95)
- 13.5 megapixel
- 4x wide-angle zoom lens (28 – 112 mm equiv.) with optical stabilization
- 2.7″ LCD monitor (230,000 pixels)
- ISO 64 – 1600 at full resolution (3200 and 6400 at lowered resolution)
- NRW RAW format (although “Windows Imaging Component” and “Windows only”)
- Built-in GPS receiver records location (latitude and longitude for automatic geotagging)
- External flash and lens accessories
- Face-priority AF
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 (409.95)
- 10.1 Megapixels
- 2.5x Optical Zoom
- 3.0″ LCD Display
- 24mm Wide-Angle Leica Lens
- Enhanced CCD Technology
- MEGA O.I.S. Optical Image Stabilizer
- Intelligent Auto Technology
- High Sensitivity (ISO 3200)
- High Speed Response
- Can shoot HD Videos
- 23 scene modes (including fireworks, candlelight, beach, and self-portrait)
- Full Manual Operation (and is easy to use!)
While the DMC-LX3 allows full manual control for more advanced photography, the camera also allows user to take perfect shots with outstanding ease. This is made possible by Panasonic Lumix’s iA (Intelligent Auto) mode. In iA mode the camera does all the work, activating Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), Intelligent ISO Control, Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Detection, and Intelligent Exposure. This leaves the user free to simply compose the shot and press the shutter button, with the assurance that the image will be clear, beautiful and properly exposed. Source.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ50 (319.95)
- 9.1 Megapixel
- 10x Wide-angle Leica Zoom Lens
- 3.0″ Intelligent LCD Display
- MEGA O.I.S. Image Stabilization
- Face Detection AF/AE
- Intelligent Auto Technology
- High Sensitivity (ISO 6400)
- High Speed Response
- HD Video Capture & Output
- Wi-Fi Capable: Seriously, this is so cool: you can upload your photos directly from camera to photosite (like Picasa). It also comes with a year’s free use of T-Mobile’s Hotspot service in the US. No more worries of losing pictures before you download them!
You really need to ask yourself if a DSLR is really what you need. If it isn’t, don’t feel bad. Instead, learn to get the most out of the camera you already have and/or look into what advanced P&S might better suit your needs.
And remember, before you buy any camera, it is good to read review from review sites and actual customers. Here are some that you can check out:
And if you already have a DSLR, are you really learning to use it? To get the full benefits out of a DSLR, you need to understand how to use the camera and its controls. In future posts in PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS, we will start to look at how to use your camera out of auto mode. We will look at the the three key ingredients to great photos (exposure, focus, and composition).
No matter what camera you use, PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS will help you get the most out of your camera. However, I will be the first to say I am NOT a professional — I am a total MWAC (mom with a camera). I do not claim to be an expert. However, I have learned a lot over the past few years and I know a lot of people who know a lot more than I do, and I will work to bring that information to you in ways that you can understand.
Happy Photo taking today!