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Do you need a DSLR?

oFlamingo 3,911 September 27, 2012 at 04:09 PM More Nikon Deals
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. 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


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:

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


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”.


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If a camera really could make me feel like "hot shit", I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
At least for me, it doesn't work that way. It's a camera, not a Ferrari.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
I need one, not very expensive, I am not a professional photographer, I love taking photos and a DSLR can take me the better experience of shooting.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Almost the single worst feature of a DSLR is the Auto setting. (Well, maybe it's a toss up with video recording.) Those who buy a DSLR and leave it set at Auto are missing out on some good pictures. Just understanding a few things like flash, aperture, and shutter speed will help you switch away from auto really make the best photos, just like you want them.

Here's an example. I was at an dance competition, an event that had low light plus lots of quick movements. Knowing that ahead of time, I brought my fastest prime lens and a speedlight, both relatively inexpensive items. There were others there with various levels of DSLRs, some much nicer than mine, with long zooms racked out (re: slow) and shooting w/the built in flash (re: weak) at auto shutter of 1/60 (re: slow); typical Auto mode. Their photos sucked. Their ISO was ratcheting higher because of low light, so the pics were all grainy/noisy. Most all were blurry too because the shutter was too slow. I was able to dial in a faster shutter, tweak the exposure and with the aperture wide open with my speed light, I got some great shots. If I'd been on Auto, even with the better lens and flash, the shots would've been about the same. The key was being able to know what the camera was capable of and using it that way.

IMO, if you just don't care about those details, don't spend up on a DSLR. You'll just spend more and the results won't necessarily be any better. I'd suggest you go with a less expensive camera with a fixed set of features. That way, you keep it simple and enjoy shooting more.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
I hear a lot of false reasoning from people who own P&S camera, and let me tell you, I have not seen one who have own an SLR and saying that their picture look worse than their P&S, unless you are ready to spend more money on some high-end P&S. I don't make money out from my photo, but I do love to look at beautiful things and capture them. If you have the same felling, then buy one. But then if you are not really care about how to enjoy the beautiful the people, scenery, when who care. Go buy a Kodak disposable camera and save some fun. The auto mode in these new SLR is so good it should be call "idiot proof". But then if you want to better yourself and learn how to capture better picture there are Adorama on youtube, they will teach you how to use, and how to capture picture amazing picture. 15 mins of watching youtube will teach you more than reading nonsense review. But then again, the inter-web is full of pseudo intellect which will tell you over and over again that you are are not good enough to use DSLR simply because your dumb. It is like, someone telling you, your not smart enough and should never try to better yourself. Let me tell you this, I have been using DSLR for more than half of my adult life. The great feeling I have when using DSLR is the same as when I first use GPS, it worth every single penny. So if you like to capture the moment, and savor the memories, go get the best camera you can afford and learn how to use it, and don't let any pseudo intellect tell you how you should live your life.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Several posters brought up the importance of size and convenience. Potential buyers may want to thinking about the environment and type of photography they intend on doing. Even professional photographers will use a P&S camera when hiking or working in difficult situations. A smaller P&S camera with a good sensor (albeit not as a good dslr camera) can produce decent photos if used correctly. Some even use RAW file formats for pictures like dslr cameras do. Carrying around a full sized a DSLR camera with lenses can be a pain in the next. It also can detract from being able to take certain shots. There is also the case for how fragile a dslr camera with its mirrors can be. It can be easier to carry a small P&S camera up a climb or through construction site.
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Another food for thought is a simple cost factor. A good dslr setup will require not only a good body but decent lenses which can run easily into the thousands of dollars. While cheap lenses can be bought, their image quality can be less than desirable. If one is not a professional photographer, consider looking at the different camera types such as the small P&S, megazoom P&S, the micro 3/4, and dslr models with the better price point for one's own needs. The best camera might not be the most expensive type.

With today's newer cmos senors on P&S cameras with newer processing engines, some P&S cameras have pretty good light capabilities (although not as good as dslr cameras). Consider trying out a P&S camera if one is dead set on using a dslr camera but might not need its capabilities.
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I have a really ancient Canon Elph, point-and-shoot. It takes fairly good pictures still and has a long lasting battery. My husband has a Canon Rebel something-or-other DSLR. Every picture is absolute crap. He is a very bright man but it appears there's a serious learning curve with a DSLR where you need to invest time (or at least read the manual) to get decent shots from this thing.
Ultimately you should NOT purchase one unless you have the time and motivation to invest into learning how to use it properly- in addition, your success also hinges on LOTS of expensive lenses, a nice strap and case, a tripod, a program to edit photos, etc. It's a very costly hobby.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
I am one of those people who dont really need a DSLR camera.
personally i do think that they are bulky and not really comfy to carry around.
i just got a job that pays me a little more than what i was earning when i was a student (which is $0) and i need a hobby. I am sure i will not become a pro photographer, but i would like to learn. i will never be able to have the time for learning all the tricks or even editing the pics and the convenience of the point and shoot will be missed. but i would like to take it out every once in a while when i go to places i will probably never go again such as traveling abroad, or special events. i would like to create high res memories (even if it is on auto mode)

just need to decide bw canons t3i t4i or nikons?
btw. whose lenses are usually cheaper or come up on slickdeals more often?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
I want to say this has been very useful and helpful. I love articles like these. I think you guys are doing a great job. Keep up the good work!
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Quote from shahzadquraishi View Post :
just need to decide bw canons t3i t4i or nikons?
btw. whose lenses are usually cheaper or come up on slickdeals more often?
typically you'll see more deals on canon than nikon. i'm a nikon shooter but the best way to go about it is go into a store or borrow and friend's dslr and just feel it out- check out the ergonomics of it all before deciding. it also helps if your friends tend to be all nikon/canon so you can share lenses
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Quote from childsafetylock View Post :
typically you'll see more deals on canon than nikon. i'm a nikon shooter but the best way to go about it is go into a store or borrow and friend's dslr and just feel it out- check out the ergonomics of it all before deciding. it also helps if your friends tend to be all nikon/canon so you can share lenses
thanks for the reply. are there any particular feature which make one better than the other? my price range is about 700ish... and a complete beginner. any features i should specially be looking for?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Ok, I have bought camera's/ video cameras in the past to be disgusted with the results. I have seen a Nikon at work @ my kid's football game from one of the parents. He was showing me AMAZING shots of these kids frozen in time at full stride with no blur. This man was very patient with me and explained it took months of him tinkering with the settings to get it right. I work all types of shifts so I can't be a coach for his team, but I do want to give back in the way of taking pics/video of the games and post it on their website. I don't need the most expensive camera, but I need a decent one that will do both. Not looking for NFL quality, if a point and click would work just as well can someone post a link. I am a true newbie to the DSLR world.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
Quote from shahzadquraishi View Post :
thanks for the reply. are there any particular feature which make one better than the other? my price range is about 700ish... and a complete beginner. any features i should specially be looking for?

of course i would be inclined to say "nikon all the way" but with the recent deals coming up for canon (most especially for the t3i model), it would be hard to pass that up. canon or nikon would be good. no matter which brand you choose, get out of auto mode. experiment with aperture and shutter priority modes (there's lots of info on the web, not to mention youtube, which will explain these modes). when you feel more confident, go all manual mode. going all maunal may seem daunting but in the end it is worth it and self gratifying when you know how to operate a camera in full manual mode. with digial, it's easier to experiment as oposed to the days of film. i find myself shooting mostly in manual, with aperuture priority a close second favorite.

this is a good video with some tips. i myself found them useful and i've been taking pictures a long time!
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
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