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If I move on to a dSLR camera, what am I getting myself into?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / July 1, 2011 5:11 AM PDT
Question: If I move on to a dSLR camera, what am I getting myself into?

My wife's friend recently went on a trip to Yellowstone National Park
in Wyoming and she shared her online photo album with us of her trip.
I was just blown away by the beautiful photos she took! Her
landscape photos, closeups of foliage and flowers, geysers, and rock
structures were just incredible--so full of life with such details and
vivid colors that it made me feel like I was physically there. Now I'm
no shutterbug and only have a point-and-shoot camera that is pretty
decent in taking photos, but seeing these photos of hers got me
seriously thinking of moving on to a bit more sophisticated dSLR
camera, which will allow me to take photos like hers. I know it takes
quite a bit of patience, practice, and a learning curve to take great
photos, but to start, I do need the tools first, right? What do you
recommend I start with? I'm green to dSLR, but I want to know what I
am getting myself into in terms of cost--from the camera to
miscellaneous equipment to get me going. Should I invest in something
basic or middle of the road or go all out? What would you recommend
for a newbie like me. Any tips or advice for someone like me who wants
to get into dSLRs will help out greatly on my decision. Thank you.

--Submitted by: Steven O.

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

It depends on you. --Submitted by: kekolohe
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-7593_102-5158598.html

It's all about the light --Submitted by: MightyDrakeC
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-7593_102-5158611.html

A new camera won't make you Ansel Adams. --Submitted by: dxjanis
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-7593_102-5158652.html

DSLR what am I getting in to? --Submitted by: markainsworth
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-7593_102-5159032.html

Tools aren't everything --Submitted by: liguorid
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-7593_102-5159522.html

Digital SLRs - It's about the lenses --Submitted by: drdoolittle2800
http://forums.cnet.com/7726-7593_102-5158589.html

Thanks to all who contributed!

If you have any additional buying advice, recommendations, or suggestions for Steven, please click on the reply link below and answer away. If you are referring to any specific camera model or camera equipment, it would be great to provide a link to the product specification or a link to a picture of the equipment would be helpful. Thanks!
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DSLR are high-end cameras
by XSYLUS / July 1, 2011 9:09 AM PDT

DSLR cameras are primarily professional grade cameras however that doesn't mean that only professional can own them. I have a Nikon D90 DSLR and I love it. The primary benefit with a DSLR is the interchangeable lenses, however the lenses can be quite expensive. In some cases some lenses cost more than the camera. There's a lot of information about DSLRs so the best advice I can give you is to check out this website: http://www.digital-slr-guide.com/ That site will take you step-by-step through finding the best DSLR for your needs as well as providing you with a wealth of information about the different models. You can also always look on youtube for tutorials about how to use a DSLR. DSLR cameras are quite advanced and offer a plethora of features and functions which in some cases is great and it other cases can be overwhelming. The only con to DSLRs (besides the price) is the bulky size - they are not compact by any means. Anyway, check out that website: http://www.digital-slr-guide.com/ - I hope that helps.

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What Can You Afford?
by mike9107 / July 1, 2011 9:22 AM PDT

Spring for the best equipment, particularly lenses, you can afford without skipping on the rent. You'll be glad in the long run. Make sure your camera body of lenses have stabilization. For a shorter learning curve, read the booklet that comes with camera. I know that sounds obvious but very few people actually do. For more detail you can buy a "....for Dummies" style book for your particular brand. Practice a lot. There's no extra charge for taking 200 or 600 digital photos.

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Think carefully!

As wonderful as dSLRs are, they can be cumbersome, expensive and also completely unnecessary. You really need to consider what you are goin to be using the camera for. Xyslus mentioned the interchangeable lenses, and in fact your camera will only ever be as good as the the glass in front of it and the photographer behind it.

The interchangeable lenses may be a luxury that you may not need. A good bridge cameras can do many of the things that a dSLR can do and is far more portable, and has many features that are included in a dSLR. You may find that if you actually took the Point and Shoot out of automatic mode, you can become far more creative.

Think first about becoming a more creative photographer, before investing heavily in equipment that you might not want or need. Learn primarily about your ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed triangle, and how it applies, learn to use (and ignore) the rule of thirds. Find new perspectives. Everyone can take a picture at eye level, so look at your image from above or below.

Whatever your choice, even if you are planning on going pro, just enjoy your photography

A basic camera body can cost as little as $350, but lenses can cost thousands apiece, and you may need a fair few. Start of with some basics equipment even for your P&S, such as a tripod, or even a bean bag, to support your camera, learn to use the GIMP, especially if you can't afford photoshop, and ask people to critique your pictures

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Research before you Decide

Steven,

dSLR camera's are certainly good, I bought Canon 1000D, the basic dSLR Camera, I am quite happy with its performance. dSLR camera's are expensive especially the lens. My advice to you is before you buy one, access your need, are you a avid traveller or take many photo's during a month, if you think you do not take many photo's then stick to your point and shoot camera. My camera is lying in the chest for many months. My recommendation before deciding to movi is to explore Adobe Lightroom 3 - You can give your photo's a amazing finishing touch which will be almost close your friends photo's using you present point and shoot camera. You need to practice and understand the settings of Adobe Lightroom, there are 100's of training video available in youtube. The biggest advantage dSLR camera has it it takes photo's in RAW format which gives amazing flexibility to tweak the settings using Adobe the same in JPEG format is limited.

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Don't Scrimp on your First dSLR

I would not recommend going with an entry-level dSLR, if you feel that there is any chance that you'll take up the hobby.

The low price of entry-level dSLRs can be a real temptation and there are some good ones out there, however, what you lose in terms of convenience is really worth the price difference later on when you start taking charge of your camera.

By this I mean that there are settings that with some experience you will want to change frequently and if they are buried in layers of menus, you'll feel like your creativity is being strangled.

This does not mean that you should go out and by a Nikon D3s or equivalent camera. Buy a camera meant for advanced hobbiests, because that's what you'll be after several months, if you really get bitten by the bug.

This will mean that you will probably spend $1000 or thereabouts. Buy a body only, if you can and spend what you would have spent on a kit lens on a lens that will fit your needs.

An 18-200mm lens that some companies sell is a good all-round lens, but after some research you may decide that a good prime lens with a fixed focal-length is best for you. Some of the best and most popular are very affordable.

The summarize, if you try to go to dSLR on the cheap, ultimately you will probably be disappointed and will spend more on a more versatile camera body.

Don't be intimidated by the versatility of a dSLR, because it can be used just like a point and shoot until you learn the ropes, plus it'll be ready for your advanced knowledge when you are.

Do a lot of research on your own. If some things in this post leave you scratching your head, you can find answers on the internet quickly and easily.

I cite these topics because I've been there and done that.

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Don't skimp indeed
by sandylns / July 23, 2011 3:54 AM PDT

There are many tempting offers out there in camera heaven. Don't be fooled. Moving from film to digital is, for the most part, painless. The same cannot be said for moving from point and shoot to dSLR. Those of us familiar with SLR's have had no problem converting. There are even cameras that allow you to use SLR lenses in your new dSLR. Pentax and Ricoh come to mind. Not so with Canon or Nikon.
Look at the specs before you leap.
Ask yourself the following questions.
Can I use existing lenses or do I need to buy new?
Is the camera state of the art, or am I going to be playing catch up?
Is it user friendly?
Would I be better off using a P&S instead? There are some fine point and shoots that rival some of the lower end dSLR"s
Are you going to follow the hobby or, are you just a weekender?
Spending a thousand or more on a dSLR just to shoot snapshots is, to say the least, a waste. There is also a steep learning curve to any form of photography. Once you master the basics however, the world is your oyster.
Research, research, research. Knowledge is power. Use it.

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Please enlighten me as to how it is painless?
by TriskelionAZ / July 25, 2011 7:29 AM PDT
In reply to: Don't skimp indeed

I had/still have a Canon AE-1 SLR camera. I went all out in college with all these fantastic lenses and filters. I would wish to use them on a Canon Rebel but i cant seem to find an adaptor that will let me use these FD lenses on EOS technology. I can live with using them in manual form. Those lenses cost me a small fortune and do not wish to go this route again. So now my old camera(its in excelelnt shape still) after so many years of use remains in storage because Ive been spoiled by digital cameras and want to use my awesome lens on digital. Please enlighten me as to what you meant by painless?
thanks

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I feel your pain
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / July 25, 2011 9:19 AM PDT

I too have a Canon AE1 that I carried for over 30 years.

My first digital camera was an Epson with less than a megapixel image size.
Even though I love the AE1, I could see the future was digital cameras.

I looked into the adapters for AE1 lenses and at first there were two adapters.
They both proved to be seriously flawed, so don't waste your money.

So my AE1 and lenses have been packed away for several years.

The digital camera has all the features of the old film cameras plus many more.
Not having to buy film and pay for developing has saved me enough money to pay for those new lenses.

..

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Digital SLRs - It's About The Lenses

Steven, I just bought my first camera in 25 years. It is amazing what these fancy digital single-lens reflex cameras can do without any help from the pilot! It is money well spent even if you choose not to become a techie.

I believe the only reason a "point-and-shoot" person should move up to the next level is to get a camera that has interchangeable lenses. Yeah, you can go crazy buying all the gizmos, too. But the real advantage over beginner SLRs or rangefinder (not through-the-lens) cameras are the lenses.

For me, having been a very serious amateur photographer, this was both a rude awakening and a trip to the candy store. My last camera was a professional model Nikon F2, a film camera that was purely manual. No bells and whistles on that camera! In its day (early 1980s) it was a $750 top-of-the-line camera (no lens). That same $750 barely covers the cost of a typical new lens for my brand new D7000 Nikon. What my savings account is suffering from is called sticker shock. Sad

Both Canon and Nikon offer wonderful cameras for a serious amateur and they start around $800. You can hit autopilot and let the equipment do all the work and it will take great photos. Or you can switch to one of about 5000 different modes and take several hours to figure out what buttons to push! These high-end SLRs even take movies Happy

If you're not a serious techno lover then I'd suggest a mid-level DSLR camera and buy one of the new-fangled zoom lenses that go from close up to infinity. As a suggestion, read some camera and lens reviews by Ken Rockwell. He's a down-to-earth guy and isn't factory sponsored so you get unbiased reviews of equipment.

Try to buy a lens with the stabilization assist built in. Each manufacturer has their own name for it: Nikon calls their's Vibration Reduction (VR). It's really valuable and beneficial. As a note, the reason lenses are so expensive now is because the optical quality is higher but they also have fancy focusing motors and the stabilization is typically built into the lens, not the camera body.

In the old days the camera body was not the important thing - it basically just fed the film. The lens was the important part. That's not true anymore. Get as much camera as you can afford and still get good quality lenses.

One last thing: Don't forget to get a flash unit. Most built-ins are convenient for a snapshot, but you're going to need something better and stronger for shots like your wife's friend. Happy

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pr3pare to spend more than you expect
by kuncne / July 1, 2011 9:41 AM PDT

I have in the past few years worked with quite a few professionals using DSLRs, and I've asked each one how much of his or her camera's capabilities they understand. These are skilled pros, and the usual answer is either 10 or 15 per cent. I've owned four myself and discovered ...

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Moveing up to DSLR
by tedtks / July 1, 2011 9:53 AM PDT

I did the same thing last year. For decades I used a pentax 35mm (since 1966). even won a few ribbons for some
pics. picked up a Pentax KX dslr. it has live view like your point and shoot, and like the cheapy p&s I had.
the transition is considerable. Yes, it has automatic mode which does a very good job of getting you some
awsome pics. But, when you want to do some off the trail different things, it takes a lot of learning.
the language changes a bit so it sets you back a touch, but just something to get used to. the menu on mine
is easy to get around - just need to remember how you got ther the next time LOL.. like mose things these
days.. LOL
I picked up a second zoom lens, fairly good flash, and a 500 - 1000mm lens. Plus I can use the lenses
from my film pentax also. thats a nice thing about pentax. Plus its a lot less $$ than the cannon and nikon.
Oh, almost forgot another little thing that has saved me a few times - a wireless remote. it can be hard
sometimes to steady the camera on some things so a tripod is needed. My hands shake more these days,
but if you are young you wont have that problem. you have the capability to shoot in different output
formats and change the MP's.. I drop mine down to 7 to get a smaller file better for emails. but some things
that I want the precision - RAW.
Then, there is the fiddling around AFTER,, LOL need to get a photo shop program so you can play with
the pics to get different effects to enhance your pics. shop around and maybe start with the less expensive
and play with that first then you will know what you want to upgrade to,, if at all.
cant think of anything else at this point - good luck.

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move, by all means
by dilipkps / July 22, 2011 12:12 PM PDT
In reply to: Moveing up to DSLR

My experience is similar to that of tedtks'! I used a pentax ME film camera for over twenty years, before going digital. My son gifted me a pentax k-x dslr, recently. With one change in setting, I can use my old manual-focus lenses on this camera. So, if you buy a good body from nikon, canon or pentax, you'll be able to get good lenses from other sources. (I can't speak for nikon or canon, but I have a feeling that they too accomodate their old lenses in a dslr body). A good slr beats photo editing software anyday, for creativity. You cant edit the photo to get the hazy background with a super sharp subject!
On the downside:- a) the size and weight of the lenses- you'll be carrying a lot more gear. b) You'll might those fleeting moments which a compact camera can catch. (everyone carries a cell phone with a camera these days). c) You need to do a lot of research even after reading the 200 page manual.
Go ahead and choose between convenience and creativity!

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How I chose my DSLR camera

First, most DSLR cameras are as easy to use as your old "point and shoot" camera, they'll just give you more flexibility.

Here's how my wife and I chose our current Canon EOS DSR: We went to a camera store, and actually handled all of the major cameras: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax. Each felt different to our hands, each has different features. You can easily become caught up in arguing about which one is "better", but. . . My feeling is that you will take the best pictures when you have a camera that feels most comfortable in your hands.

Once you find that one, then you can decide what additional accessories you need. If you like landscape pictures, you might want a wide-angle lens. If you like close-up pictures, a macro is handy. If you like wildlife, a telephoto is what you want. That's why you get a DSLR, so you can change lenses...

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It depends on you.
by kekolohe / July 1, 2011 9:56 AM PDT

dSLR's require a different mindset than digital point-and-shoot cameras. They're bigger, have more features and are more flexible, but don't necessarily take better pictures. So whether they're right for you depends on you. They're not handy; they won't fit in your pocket or purse. You also have to deal with the fact that they're expensive and bait for thieves. But, if you're willing to learn how to use them, they're magical.

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dSLR not so huge now...
by usa29 / July 25, 2011 1:53 AM PDT
In reply to: It depends on you.

I too own a Canon dSLR with 3 lenses.
dSLR is definitely better in all situations whether it's day or night when compared to point and shoot with similar settings. Of course a well taken day picture from a point and shoot can look great compared to a badly taken one from dSLR.
If size is a concern, look at Sony Nex series.
They pack the same size sensor and have very compact body.
With a 18-55 lens, when detached, Nex body can fit in one pocket and the lens in other...

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I'm surprised!...
by JCitizen / July 25, 2011 5:41 AM PDT

The sensor is not only 14+ mp but 23mm by what 15mm? Your right, that is a full size sensor! Too bad Sony is selling it, because that seems like a very good design. Unfortunately I hate Sony and the crooks that run that company. Won't do business with them anytime soon! Sad

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Not full size sensor but APS-C size...
by usa29 / July 25, 2011 8:17 AM PDT
In reply to: I'm surprised!...

Just to be clear...
Nex has APS-C size sensor ( 23.4 x 15.6 mm Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor) with 1.5 crop size which is slightly larger than Canon entry DSLRs.
Canon EOS Rebel series such as T2i or 7D have 22.3

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Cool!...(nt)
by JCitizen / July 25, 2011 8:23 AM PDT

NT Happy

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I see...
by JCitizen / July 25, 2011 8:54 AM PDT

that even the APS-H is not full sized either, but just under the standard. Very interesting! Shocked

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NEX = Not DSLR
by PistonCupChampion / July 25, 2011 2:31 PM PDT
In reply to: I see...

Just to clarify further, the Sony NEX cameras are not DSLR's. You do not look through the lens with an optical viewfinder...indeed they do not have a viewfinder at all. The NEX cameras are classified as compact system cameras. Another name given to the category are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.

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dSLRs have MANY benefits besides changeable lenses
by kLevkoff / July 1, 2011 10:03 AM PDT

Compared to point-and-shoot (POS) cameras, dSLRs have a few drawbacks and LOTS of benefits. A dSLR won't guarantee you better pictures, but it will give you a lot more options and more control if you're willing to put the time into it.

First the drawbacks (of dSLRs):
1) dSLRs are usually more expensive.
2) dSLRs are usually bigger and heavier. This is certainly a drawback when your arm gets tired, but it may sometimes be a benefit since it may be easier to hold a heavier camera steady in some circumstances.

Now the benefits (of dSLRs):
1) Changeable lenses. This is certainly the most obvious benefit, but it tends to obscure the fact that there are other benefits - even if you never buy another lens.
2) Optical viewfinder. Most dSLRs have one while most POS cameras do not. Personally I don't use it anyway, but some people can't live without them.
3) Manual focus override. Many (but not all) dSLR lenses will let you focus manually if you want to - which is very useful when the autofocus gets it wrong. This happens especially often in low light. Some even let you manually adjust the focus AFTER the autofocus has it's turn (both the camera and the specific lens must offer this option - many do). POS cameras never seem to offer this option.
4) Better autofocus in low light. Most dSLRs use a different focus mechanism than POS cameras. The result is that most dSLRs focus faster and much more reliably in low light.
5) Better sensor. Most dSLRs have a much larger sensor than most POS cameras. (We're not talking megapixels but the actual physical size of the sensor). The result is that, in low light, a dSLR will usually take a better picture with less visible noise than a POS camera at similar settings. This tends to not be noticeable in bright light and to be VERY obvious at higher ISO settings (400 and above). The difference is very obvious, especially if you take lots of indoor shots without a flash. So, AT THE SAME SETTINGS, a dSLR will give you a much better picture.
6) Better lenses. Of course, a dSLR lets you buy better lenses than the one that came with your POS camera, but even the "cheap kit lens" that came with it is probably very good when compared to most POS cameras.
7) Manual controls. Some POS cameras give you some manual control, others give you virtually none, while most dSLRs give you a LOT of manual control. Today, most of them also do as much automatic stuff as a POS, but it's nice to have the options for manual control when you're ready to try them.
Cool Battery life. Some dSLRs give you very good battery life. My Nikon d90 will let you take 700-800 (or even more) non flash pictures on a single charge. Most POS cameras don't give you nearly that many shots.
9) Start up. This is the time from when you hit the ON switch to when you get the first picture. Most dSLRs are much faster than most POS cameras in this regard.
10) Burst rate. This is how fast you can take several pictures in a row by holding the shutter down (like a paparazzo). This really matters for sports shots and animal shots (among other things). Cameras vary, but most POS cameras are VERY slow to take multiple sequential pictures, while dSLRs usually range from pretty fast to downright scary.
11) External flash. Almost all dSLRs have a hot shoe on top for an external flash. Almost all POS cameras do NOT. This is definitely something you might want to move up to later.

As a new photographer, I would suggest buying a low-range dSLR to start with ($500-$700), with a single "kit zoom lens". Quite frankly, once you get used to the features and flexibility, you're probably going to know enough to have an opinion about what features you care about, and which one you REALLY want. Therefore, you should consider your camera to be a "starter", and not spend too much money on it or accessories until you've practiced for a while and know more about your specific needs and wants. I would recommend a lower model from a major vendor like Nikon or Canon (since there is a learning curve, you'll save time and learning effort by moving "upline" with the same vendor, and be able to keep at least some of the accessories and lenses you buy for your current one). It will also make a good spare once you buy your "good" camera, or you can pass it on to the family Happy Note than lenses are generally NOT interchangeable between vendors, and neither are the new "smart" flash units, so assume they are not unless you know otherwise.

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ANother great camera review Web site
by kLevkoff / July 1, 2011 10:09 AM PDT

Absolutely check out www.dpreview.com

They have piles of thorough, in depth reviews on all sorts of cameras, and at least basic information on just about every camera on the market.

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It's all about the light

At its core, photography is about capturing light.

So, my advice is to learn about lighting, first. Not paying attention to where the light is coming from, shadows and highlights, glare falling on the lens, framing your subject, etc is what usually results in a mediocre picture. A fancy camera will not solve those issues. All the lighting and light-awareness techniques that you can learn and practice using a pocket camera will carry over if and when you decide that you need a higher-end camera.

The computing power available in today's sub-$150 pocket cameras really is astonishing. For the vast majority of photographs, you can get a picture from a pocket camera that is indistinguishable from a $1500 Nikon with multiple several-hundred-dollar Nikkor lens. Especially when viewing at screen resolutions.

The main context where a good camera with a large lens can really make a noticeable difference is when the photograph ends up on a large print. There, the extra resolving power of the lens will produce a cleaner image on the sensor, and thus on the final print.

But when you take that high-resolution image and shrink it down to fit on a monitor, you're throwing away all of that extra resolution.

Also, keep in mind, that you can only take pictures using the camera that you have with you. Large dSLR cameras and the lenses that you carry with them are generally only with you when you set out with the plan to take pictures. There are many situations where being spontaneous with a pocket camera that you've practiced with will produce some great pictures that you otherwise would have missed.

One other thing to learn and practice before dropping a lot of money on a camera is touching up photos after they're on your computer. Cropping out distracting objects and playing with the gamma and contrast can take a blah image and punch it up into something really eye-catching. Again, this step is the same no matter the price of the camera taking the picture.

I use Irfanview for 99% of my cropping and gamma needs. It's free, very fast, and dirt-simple to use for manipulations such as this.

Having said all that in favor of sticking with an inexpensive camera, there are advantages to the higher end cameras.

They tend to have more computing power, so they often have less shutter lag. When taking pictures of children or animals that can be the difference in capturing that magic moment. They also have many useful controls arranged for quick access while your eye is at the eyepiece. On a pocket camera you may have to go into a menu to make the same changes, which, again, can lose you The Shot. And, with a dSLR, you can choose a lens that matches your shooting situation. Which usually means one lens each for close, medium and far subjects. And, the dSLR lenses gather a great deal more light, so they'll be able to capture a picture in lower-light situations at a faster shutter speed than the teeny lens in a pocket camera.

So, my advice is: Go forth and practice with a reasonably modern (within the last two or three years) inexpensive camera. When you can routinely produce nice images with that, *then* you'll able to figure out the features on an expensive camera that you need to take more of the types of pictures you like to take.

Without learning those techniques you'll just end up with a very large and expensive Point & Shoot camera.

Drake Christensen

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The best two responses
by drdoolittle2800 / July 4, 2011 4:21 AM PDT

Steven, I think this response by Drake and the one below, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" are the two best. I wish I had written them! Such good advice from both writers.

I spent years learning the artsy fartsy side of photography and I did it on manual cameras. All this techno stuff is overwhelming. I bought my camera because a good friend bought one and I liked it. She's still waiting for me to teach her about her camera. $2500 for her rig and she still shoots on Auto! I took a month and read the owners manual from cover to cover and still don't have a firm grasp on all the fancy features.

Light is the essence of photography - learn to see lighting in colors: see with your eyes the different "temperatures" of tungsten, flourescent, daylight, dusk, dawn, etc. Learn how to frame and control focus (depth of field).

Do that much and you'll take photographs as good as your wife's friend and you can do it with almost any camera. Ansel Adams didn't have a high-end digital camera...

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Moving to SLR fro point and shoot
by ramshah6 / July 24, 2011 8:42 AM PDT

Loved your response, very well articulated and explained. Excellent job!

Ram Shah

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Image sensor size is the biggest gain with a DSLR -
by fuelmagic / July 1, 2011 10:29 AM PDT
Imaging: The biggest difference between compact point-and-shoot digital cameras and digital SLRs is the size of the sensor. No, not the megapixels, the physical size of the sensor. Compact cameras have tiny sensors approx. 1/4" x 3/8" in size. They might have many megapixels but are tiny in size.

DSLR's use larger sensors and can capture much more detail in low light and have a greater contrast range in bright conditions. Canon or Nikon DSLRs use APS-C format sensors that are about 40% of the size of a 35mm film frame. The larger sensor will take the better picture and be much more forgiving of error.

Speed: DSLR's are much faster to shoot than automatic compact cams. You can refocus and shoot uninterrupted frame after frame. Much easier for capturing the moment, taking portraits or photographing kids or animals.

A compact camera will refocus and recycle more slowly. Good for an occasional grab shot but they'll leave you frustrated if your subject matter changes faster than you can shoot it.

Lenses: For an average photographer the lenses that come with the standard DSLR package are pretty good. They cost about $75 or so and do a good job. The standard DSLR "kit" usually comes with two zoom lenses that cover all of the useful ranges. There is little to gain by using a high end lens on this type of camera because it won't have the sensitivity to take full advantage of it.

Professional DSLRs have full frame sensors (the actual size of a 35mm negative). They require a superior lens to take advantage of all of the detail and resolution that these full frame sensors provide. A professional photographer will usually invest $1000 or more in each lens and simply upgrade the camera body when newer models become available. The $75 "kit" lens won't suffice if you're using a high end camera body.

DSLR drawbacks: If you remove a digital SLR lens you must be extra careful to not get dust inside. A single spec of dust that gets stuck to an image sensor will produce a much larger blemish on every photo you take...forever. Never touch or brush an image sensor. Fortunately, some of the newer models have several anti-dust features built into them plus software to eliminate blemishes digitally. That's something that you never need to think about with a grab shot camera.

Carrying multiple lenses is more cumbersome, obviously. Not as convenient to grab and run like a point-and-shoot.

Bottom line: Go for it. When you go out for the purpose of taking pictures a digital SLR can't be beat. You'll still find uses for your point-and-shoot camera when you want to grab a camera "just in case". You should keep it too.
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Priorities: Learn composition, light. Camera is secondary
by Ed1632 / July 24, 2011 1:13 AM PDT

While most of the other posts make good points, I'd assert you'll benefit most by these things:

1. Learn about composition, the framing of the photo, the positioning of elements, the angle of view, the difference in result from a wide-angle versus telephoto, etc. A skilled photographer can take better photos with a 1945 Speedgraphic than most people can with the best whizbang dSLR - because the skilled photographer creates good compositions.

2. Learn more about lighting. Photography is light-writing, after all. Sometimes you can affect the light on your composition. Other times, you have to seek the time of day and position to get the best lighting. It's good to know how lighting affects your photos.

3. Whether you have a dSLR or a good point and shoot pocket camera, having a GOOD VIEWFINDER goes a long way to letting you compose your photo. The screen-on-the-back-only cameras may be tolerable indoors but they stink outdoors. I've not yet seen one that gives an image that's clear and bright enough to compete with daylight. Thus, as another responder commented, you just have to shoot extra wide and hope you got what you want. A camera with a good viewfinder - that you look though, seeing the same scene as will be photographed, will allow you to get MUCH better composition and better photos. Watch people with the screen-on-the-back-only cameras - they HAVE TO hold the camera way away from their faces to see the display to compose the photo. This greatly reduces the stability of their hold on the camera resulting in camera motion blur. A camera with a good viewfinder is normally held against your face (whether it's a little pocket camera or dSLR). This allows your head to be part of the camera stabilization, allowing stable lower-light and telephoto pictures. See #5, below.

4. A long zoom range lens that is EASY and FAST to zoom. It's a lot cheaper to make an extended zoom range lens for a camera with a small sensor. But, the larger sensors of the dSLR do have some advantage in image quality and you DO need a good quality lens to go with that. I've found that an 18-200 zoom lens on my Nikon DX camera gives me instant access to almost every focal length I need. (The Nikon DX cameras have a sensor 2/3rds the size of 35mm film - thus the 18-200 lens gives the same views as a 24-300mm zoom would on a 35mm [or Nikon FX sensor] camera. That's an 11:1 ratio.) It's CONVENIENT to have the focal length you want on the camera all the time and it greatly aids in composition.

5. Vibration reduction is a nice, new feature of modern cameras. If you can afford it, I'd recommend that you get something with good vibration reduction. I've spent a lot of study and effort learning to take photos in dim light or with long telephotos without camera shake blur. Even so, I've found that VR lenses are a great benefit.

Summary: A good photographer can take great photos with almost any camera. Learning about composition and light will benefit you most. Good equipment makes it easier.

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Good post...
by JCitizen / July 24, 2011 1:44 PM PDT

I had thought about these factors separately from time to time, but never put them together. I hope I can utilize them well, when I get serious about shopping. I primarily want one for astrography. But let's face it. If your going to drop that much money on a tool, you might as well use it; so I plan on doing more with it than star gazing! Happy

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The best camera is the one you will use.
by qaz111111 / July 1, 2011 10:40 AM PDT

The short version: are you going to carry around the big DSLR to all of the events and places you go? If not then the point and shoot is the better choice. A top quality point and shoot, such as the Canon s95, will take better photos than the majority of lower end DSLRs and the low light capabilities are incredible. Built in flash, terrific manual controls and modes for when you want them, superb sensor quality and all in a smooth shape that will survive living in your pocket (if there is not a cell phone there too.) The DSLR set up will include a couple lenses, flash, tripod, lens filters, and a camera bag to keep it protected and together. A decent flash will cost a couple hundred up. Good filters cost $100+, the best $150+ each! The best entry level DSLRs are the Canon Rebel series but you are talking about getting towards $1000 all done. But the best cameras are not going to take the best shots. You are. Experience will guide you as you experiment and learn. You will not get "THE SHOT" except by accident unless the circumstances are highly controlled. So get the camera you will use. The camera in your pocket at a birthday or the ball game or a party will get used. The DSLR takes commitment. You carry it and protect it at all times. You become identified by the camera that is always with you. If that is what you have in mind buy a reasonable used camera and try it. If you like it you can sell it for what you have in it and step up the quality. But in all truth. I have seen some of the most incredible photos taken by point and shoot cameras that people have mastered. The likelihood you will blow them up to billboards or even print them is very low so don't buy capabilities you are never going to use. When you learn to love shooting photos and want to go further, then step up to doing something you love to do before spending a bundle on a whim.

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Moving on to a DSLR
by kvanderaa / July 1, 2011 10:52 AM PDT

Do it only if you have an interest in photography as a hobby, there are many digital cameras on the market that are not slrs but will do a fine job with many features and they are smaller and easy to use. I like my Canon EOS 400D
because it is my hobby and I create my own pictures and it is almost an old fashioned SLR without video or sound but most importantly, I can take great pictures with it.

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