Welcome to the updated Slickdeals redesign beta. Learn more and give us feedback. Or, return to the classic view.

Search in
Slickdeals Blog

Do you need a DSLR?

oFlamingo 3,855 September 27, 2012 at 03:09 PM
So you have a camera phone and from time to time, you bring your 12-megapixel point and shoot digital camera that you got for $150 on Slickdeals. A couple of times a week though, you see these larger, professional-looking cameras called DSLR’s that everyone seems to go gaga about. So you’re curious - do you actually need a DSLR? Is the picture quality that important for you to invest hundreds if not thousands on this new toy? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about DSLRs.


Practical Difference between Point-and-Shoot and DSLRs

A point-and-shoot camera is the compact digital device that elementary schoolers now get as Christmas presents. It’s usually under an inch thick and has a large digital screen where you see the image you’re about to take. Point and shoots have one irreplaceable built-in lens and are generally smaller, lighter and more portable than DSLR’s.

“DSLR” stands for digital single-lens reflex (camera). These are the bigger, bulkier cameras that professional photographers and enthusiasts use. DSLRs have interchangeable lenses depending on your needs, which makes them very adaptable for different situations. This means that if you’re shooting close-ups, you can use a specific lens that will produce the best image for the situation. Likewise, if you’re shooting landscapes, you can switch to a wide-angle lens to capture the image in its entirety.

Technical difference between Compact and DSLRs

A regular compact camera uses two lenses to capture an image. One lens goes to the image recorder (either film or flash memory) while the other goes from the physical lens to the viewfinder. This duality works fine when shooting at mid-range distances (optimal range for the built-in lens), but once you want to capture an image close-up or in wide angle, the image you see on the viewfinder doesn’t accurately reflect what’s being captured.

With an “SLR” (single-lens reflex), there is a mirror and prism mechanism that allows a photographer to see the actual reflection of the image that’s about to be captured with only one lens. Up until 3 or 4 years ago, you had to look through a physical viewfinder to see the image you want to capture with a DSLR and then use digital screen only to preview the photo. Newer DSLRs now have the capability of showing you a preview of the image on the screen before taking the picture.

So...do you need a DSLR?

DSLRs are far more powerful than regular point-and-shoot compact cameras. If taking pictures were the same as computing, the point-and-shoot and DSLR difference is comparable to owning a tablet and a computer. A point-and-shoot will do fine if you’re taking pictures of people who pose for a camera and are always in brightly lit areas, but if you’re capturing movement, unpredictable emotions or milestones, we definitely recommend investing in a DSLR. Image quality is far more superior with an SLR than with a regular point and shoot. Vibration Reduction (VR)/Image Stabilization (IS) lenses produce sharper images due to reduced noise. Having interchangeable lenses lets you find the ideal kinds for specific situations, and the ability to add a flash, use a remote trigger and a number of professional accessories are just some of the DSLR benefits.

Going back to the computing analogy however, if you only need to get on the Internet to check Slickdeals and your email everyday, it makes more sense just to get a tablet than a computer. Bringing the analogy to photography, if you don’t particularly enjoy taking pictures, then maybe sticking with your camera phone is sufficient.

Before you buy...

If we’ve managed to convince you that you do in fact need a DSLR (and not all of you do), here are a few things to consider before making your first purchase:

Brand Consciousness

Unlike most point-and-shoot cameras, brand is actually very important when it comes to DSLRs. The best lenses are usually exclusive to the brand, so when you buy a Canon camera body, you are most likely going to get Canon lenses. The same goes with Nikon, Sony or Panasonic. There are a few brand-agnostic manufacturers (e.g. Sigma, Tamron) who provide the same types of lenses across brands, which may have a few gems in their lineups. Adapters are available to switch from one to the other, but most camera enthusiasts would warn you to stay away from them. The two largest and most popular brands of DSLRs are Canon and Nikon and though there’s a premium for the brand, the accessibility of deals and lenses for these two are worth the initial investment. For Slickdeals in particular, we’ve seen a number of Canon deals on our front page, usually 10-20% cheaper than Nikon ones, and considerably cheaper than Sony and Panasonic.


Recent Slickdeals on DSLR packages


Canon EOS Rebel T4i *Live*
18-135mm STM Lens
PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II Photo Printer
32 GB memory card
$894 after $400 rebate

Canon EOS Rebel T3i
18-55mm Lens
PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II Photo Printer
Gadget bag
Replacement battery
$624 after $400 rebate

Canon EOS Rebel T3
18-55mm Lens
EF 75-300mm Lens
EF-S 55-250mm Lens
PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II Photo Printer
UV Filter
50-pack Photo Paper
$487 after $400 rebate

Nikon D3100
18-55mm VR Lens
$400

Lenses

The most important thing to remember here is that your shot will only be as good as your lens. Even the cheapest DSLR paired up with a good lens can produce images that will trounce a $5,000 camera with a mediocre lens on it. Quality lenses also keep their value should you ever decide that you are tired of swapping them (and get rid of the whole setup).

On the technical side, the Focal Length is a measure of distance where an image focuses. The magic number for camera lens focal length is 50mm. This is the distance where magnification is the same as that of normal vision’s. When a lens is less than 50mm, it’s considered a wide-angle lens and sees more than the eye can see. This would be ideal for landscapes and longshots. Lenses longer than 50mm are telephoto lenses, ideal for capturing close ups and focusing on specific targets.

Most camera starter kits come with an 18-55 lens and many brands have lineups that can complement the kit, such as the Canon 55-250mm or Nikkor 55-200mm as beginner zoom lens.


Recent Slickdeals on Lenses

Image from: http://one.nikonusa.com/V1.aspx

Canon EF 24-105mm $780
Canon EF-S 18-200mm $399
Canon EF-S 55-250mm $240

Accessories

You can buy your accessories as you build your collection, but the one thing you’ll need off the bat is a reliable camera case. It would be a shame to lose a $500 investment because of a $10 case. The neoprene covers are fine if you’re planning on keeping your camera within a sturdier bag, otherwise, it’s best to get a thick name-brand bag that will protect your camera and carry your lenses through events like picnics, graduations and hikes. An immediate second on the list would be a multi-coated UV filter to make images sharper and to protect the lens from dust and scratches.

Cheat Sheet

If you need a quick reference to the pros and cons of point and shoots vs. DSLR's, take a look at chart below:




-----
If you have ever wondered about anything on Slickdeals, please send a PM to oFlamingo with the subject line, “News & Articles”.

57 Comments

1 2 3 4
#16
You can really sum up this whole article by asking yourself one question. That is, if you had to ASK yourself if you need one, then no...no you don't. If you want to save money in the long run by doing your own kids/family portraits or if you're a "serious" hobbyist then I'd recommend one. Don't just get it to get it though and don't try to pass yourself off as a photographer just because you own a DSLR...please...

In fact I'll take it even further, the dilution of people who don't need nor shouldn't even have a DSLR is hurting "real" photographers...the whole "GWC" (guy with camera) mantra being the forerunner. Yes, I said it and yes I'm a little bitter. I'm all for people wanting one to get great shots of their kids or other family members and stuff like that, but when those some people have absolutely NO SKILL or talent and then they try to pass themselves off as knowledgeable photographers it's just not cool. Even worse are when these same people start taking clients and the poor clients don't even know any better. The amount of "professional" photographers I see today making decent money with shots that looks no better than normal snapshots is frustrating.

Sorry... /end rant

As others have said too, most people simply can't handle a DSLR and will only get frustrated. You only really need one if you find yourself both skilled enough and knowledgeable enough with your point and shoot that you're becoming frustrated at what you can't do. Furthermore, as for printouts, what makes something like an 8x10 portrait look better on a DSLR is generally the lighting that a skilled photographer uses and his knowledge of adjusting the focus area and stuff. Megapixels have very little to do with printouts at this size, so unless you're planning on printing out huge poster sized photos then they matter very little. Even at that there's ways to "add" detail to your shots effectively upping your MP count. So anyway unless you're really planning on learning and practicing lighting and stuff like that then there's really even no point in getting one for family portraits as you'll be able to get close to the same with your point and shoot.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#17
If you are buying a DSLR for photography, not video, very little has changed with in the Canon Rebel series since the t2i. They can be purchased second hand for a very reasonable price, often with a few decent lenses. Lots of bang for your buck, and if you upgrade in the future, it's a good lens family.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#18
Many Hollywood cinematographers use DSLR's to shoot feature films. If you are wanting a camera with amazing video capabilities then you might want to consider a DSLR.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#19
Quote from BargainBob View Post :
90% of people buying SLRs have no business buying these cameras. They are not professionals, they do not even know how to use anything other than auto mode, which defeats the purpose.
So true - 90% of people buying computers have no business buying those computers. They are not professionals, they don't even know how to program it - forever stuck with systems developed by others. LMAOLMAOLMAOLMAO
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#20
Quote from BargainBob View Post :
90% of people buying SLRs have no business buying these cameras. They are not professionals, they do not even know how to use anything other than auto mode, which defeats the purpose.
a photo taken by a beginner using auto mode on his DSLR, will be of higher quality than that same shot taken by the same beginner using a consumer point & shoot.

these folks aren't trying to be professionals, they could simply want higher quality pictures from these larger sensor cameras. i.e. parents who like taking pictures of their toddlers running around inside the house. do they really have no business buying DSLRs?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#21
As was brought up previously, for some folks, a bridge camera might be just the ticket. Have always been an amateur photographer since high school. I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ5, it takes some nice pictures. I was even asked by some friends on a budget to take pictures of their wedding, used the Lumix and got many compliments on the shots I got. My only real complaint was the zoom, there just wasn't enough. Our 13 yr old daughter is involved music, sports, and school programs. Sometimes (when they allow you to take pictures) you just can't get as close as you would like for some shots.

We had a trip coming up for New York City, so perfect time to look for a camera. Ended up getting a Kodak EasyShare Z990 12.0 MP Digital Camera with 30x Optical Zoom, HD Video and 3.0-Inch LCD. I have to say, I love it. I already had a tripod, so I can get some nice shots, even when maxing the zoom. I used the HD video to record my daughters groups concert when they were there. And it has plenty of features to play around with different settings if you want to take it out of auto mode. Got some beautiful shots with this camera. It's bigger than a point and shoot, but does so much more. Also liked having the view finder in addition to the lcd screen. My mother recently picked up a Fuji bridge type camera, another nice middle ground between point and shoot and a DSLR.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#22
Quote from mnagali View Post :
a photo taken by a beginner using auto mode on his DSLR, will be of higher quality than that same shot taken by the same beginner using a consumer point & shoot.

these folks aren't trying to be professionals, they could simply want higher quality pictures from these larger sensor cameras. i.e. parents who like taking pictures of their toddlers running around inside the house. do they really have no business buying DSLRs?
Interesting. So what does the Toddler do with all of the blown out "quality" photos? I have never owned a single DSLR that didn't fcuk up the photos in automatic mode if the lighting was not good, and face the fact, lighting is rarely optimal.

As for folks wanting higher quality pictures, what exactly are you saying because ANY "good enough" p&s will make an equally good photo as a DSLR especially in the size of print these folks will print out at OR if displayed on a screen, will look indifferent w/exception of low light where p&s gives you loads of distortion/pixellation and DSLRs will remain clean. So in some rare conditions, the DSLR may pull out a shot the p&s cannot. This said, go look at all of the very best photos ever on Flickr, and the p&s shots will win any contest on there because it's the youth playing around with computers all day long vs. anyone else that cannot get remotely close to keeping up that can process stuff to look incredibly amazing.

In the end, a person chooses what they want. Whether or not there's any debate about it is truly irrelevant since we are not the ones that have any right in saying what another should or should not have as a camera/car/object-device in the life. If a DSLR makes one happy, that's all that matters. If a p&s or cell phone is all one needs (which is indeed all 99% out there really need), they get the snaps, the vid, etc. and the "quality" is important only to the extent that the memory was taken...if the memory comes out washed out or blown out or doesn't come out period, the memory was lost...

Cheers!
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#23
Quote from Progression View Post :
Interesting. So what does the Toddler do with all of the blown out "quality" photos? I have never owned a single DSLR that didn't fcuk up the photos in automatic mode if the lighting was not good, and face the fact, lighting is rarely optimal.
lighting would definitely improve either shot more than the camera itself, but that's not my point in this case. my point with the toddler was to present a subject that won't sit still or will be running around. sure you could get a non-blurry shot with either camera, but I'd imagine it'd be easier with the auto-mode DSLR.

Quote from Progression View Post :
As for folks wanting higher quality pictures, what exactly are you saying because ANY "good enough" p&s will make an equally good photo as a DSLR especially in the size of print these folks will print out at OR if displayed on a screen, will look indifferent w/exception of low light where p&s gives you loads of distortion/pixellation and DSLRs will remain clean. So in some rare conditions, the DSLR may pull out a shot the p&s cannot.!
I don't think low light shots are so rare, but this is a matter of opinion I suppose. I wasn't arguing for *most* people who would be satisfied with "good enough" pictures (there are plenty of cameras for them), I believe I specifically referring to folks that want "higher quality" pictures (note: this is a relative term).

yes many factors will make for a better picture, including (not so poor) lighting and knowing how to actually use your gear, but setting all things equal (same picture taker, subject, environment, and lighting), the difference in hardware should put the favor on the auto-mode DSLR delivering a higher quality picture Smilie



-----------

also, please see the context of my original post and don't simply reply to my post in isolation. do you think DSLRs are only for professionals? are people in the wrong for using an Automatic mode provided to them by Canon/Nikon/etc? -- why keep on including it even on latest 5D3?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#24
Quote from mnagali View Post :
lighting would definitely improve either shot more than the camera itself, but that's not my point in this case. my point with the toddler was to present a subject that won't sit still or will be running around. sure you could get a non-blurry shot with either camera, but I'd imagine it'd be easier with the auto-mode DSLR.

I don't think low light shots are so rare, but this is a matter of opinion I suppose. I wasn't arguing for *most* people who would be satisfied with "good enough" pictures (there are plenty of cameras for them), I believe I specifically referring to folks that want "higher quality" pictures (note: this is a relative term).

yes many factors will make for a better picture, including (not so poor) lighting and knowing how to actually use your gear, but setting all things equal (same picture taker, subject, environment, and lighting), the difference in hardware should put the favor on the auto-mode DSLR delivering a higher quality picture Smilie



-----------

also, please see the context of my original post and don't simply reply to my post in isolation. do you think DSLRs are only for professionals? are people in the wrong for using an Automatic mode provided to them by Canon/Nikon/etc? -- why keep on including it even on latest 5D3?
They keep including Auto mode to get more people to buy expensive cameras that they wouldn't be able to operate otherwise. It's not complicated at all. For most people, taking pictures is about capturing the moment. Sadly, most people will miss those moments because they spend too much time lugging around a huge camera that needs to be protected. Also, I can't tell you how many times I've seen moments missed because of people who want to be in the picture and they hand out the camera to someone and spend the next 2 minutes trying to explain how to take the picture. laugh out loud
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Android & Windows Expert
322 Reputation
#25
Don't forget the shutters due wear on the DSLR only has so many shutters 100k life on most.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#26
Quote from BargainBob View Post :
90% of people buying SLRs have no business buying these cameras. They are not professionals, they do not even know how to use anything other than auto mode, which defeats the purpose.

These cameras are big, bulky, not practical to carry around, and no one wants to be farking with shutter speeds and aperture when taking a birthday picture.

Do yourself and your wallet a favor buy buying a regular camera.

I just hate the average slugs who buy these cameras and think they're hot shit for owning one because they were told its "the best" when realistically they don't know wtf they're doing and have no business owning one.
Sounds like a jealous professional photographer .
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#27
Quote from jindusingh View Post :
Sounds like a jealous professional photographer .

Wow this is an incredibly expensive hobby. I think seeing those prices, made my mind up for me. I thought i can get a DSLR and a good 2 or 3 lens (tele and wide) for $300-$500. That isn't even in the ballpark. This is a $2000 and up hobby.

Makes the $40 i spend quarterly at JCPenny's seem worthwhile.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#28
OK. One needs to learn lighting, aperture, shutter speed and focal length to take a decent pictures with DSLR. Can you share what will be the best setting (focal length, aperture, shutter speed, ISO or program modes) for the following common situations:
1. Indoor party in a restaurant or living room with incandescent lighting with the subject within five feet
2. Close up shots of flowers, humming birds in an outdoor setting with moderate day lighting at a distance ten to fifteen feet
3. Fireworks show on July 4th
4. Outdoor group photos/portraits with historic monuments or background
5. Sporting events
6. Kids and toddlers in a indoor living room situation

Please share your thougths
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#29
Quote from jindusingh View Post :
Sounds like a jealous professional photographer .
I'm not a pro photographer, but I do agree that most don't need to bother having a DSLR. I'm a major proponent of learning on some of the more advanced P&S (gateway) cameras (such as the older Canon PowerShot A series or some of the newer PowerShot SX Series). I would get studio-quality shots (with the right lighting and settings) with my old 4 megapixel Powershot A80 than some people can get with their DSLRs. Plus, my A80 had some functionality that mirrors a DSLR (like Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, full manual, etc.). Once I learned how to use those functions, I was able to push it to the max. It was then that I upgraded to a DSLR. Now, I don't use full auto unless I'm using it to get a vague baseline for manual settings.

It always amazes me how many have DSLRs and just use them as they would a P&S, complete with the built-in flash, and looking at their pictures, they look far worse than what I would've taken with my old A80 camera. Actually, I've taken better photos with my cell phone camera than they did with their $1000 DSLR.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#30
Unless of course you get addicted to birding like I did. But I did it on a very limited budget as far as DSLR goes. A used D300 for $550 and a used Tamron 200-500 for $400 plus cards etc, spent about $1100 which is a serious serious bargain setting for birding, I have not seen a bridge camera that can compete. With that being said, I think for most everyday casual users, an entry level dslr will be more than enough to produce great images. The real key to great photography is knowing about lightSmilie
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Page 2 of 4
1 2 3 4
Join the Conversation
Add a Comment
 
Slickdeals Price Tracker
Saving money just got easier.
Start Tracking Today
Copyright 1999 - 2015. Slickdeals, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Copyright / DMCA Notice  •  Privacy Policy  •  Terms of Service  •  Acceptable Use Policy (Rules)