Five Reasons NOT To Buy a Digital SLR Camera

Category: Photography

I'm buying a camera to replace my broken compact model, which I had for 10 years. My friend says I should get a DSLR, but the price tag is making me hesitate. What is the advantage of a DSLR over the point-and-shoot that I'm familiar with?

Should I Buy a Digital SLR?

If you love taking photos, you may wonder if there's something more powerful than the ubiquitous point-and-shoot compact digital camera. There is, but it's not for everyone. Here is a brief introduction to DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras and why you (probably) should not buy one...

Unlike a compact digital camera, a digital SLR allows you to preview the exact scene that you are going to shoot. A digital SLR uses mirrors and prisms to direct the light coming in through the lens to the viewfinder. In compact digital cameras, you preview an image recorded by the camera's sensor. DSLRs also use interchangeable lenses to help you get the exact focus and effects that you want. Digital SLRs give you much greater control over the composition of your photos.

Additionally, the sensor in a DSLR camera can be 25 times larger than the one in a compact digital camera. Without getting into the technicalities of photonics, a larger sensor means a sharper image even with the same number of pixels.
DSLR versus Compact Digital Camera

Popular compact digital cameras like the Canon Powershot, Sony Cybershot, Panasonic Lumix, and Fujitsu Finepix series are great for taking casual snapshots of friends, scenery, and other subjects while you are on the go. But professional photographers and serious amateurs turn to digital SLRs to get the perfect shot.

Ready, Fire, Aim!

But before you rush out to buy a DSLR, here are five things to consider:

  1. Cost: Not only is a digital SLR considerably more expensive than a compact, you also need lenses, filters, a strap, lights, and a bag to carry all your stuff in. Budget at least an extra $1000 for a quality DSLR.
  2. Bulk: Digital SLRs are much bigger and heavier than pocket-sized compact digital cameras. No way can you stuff one of these in your pocket and take off for a hike or bike ride. After an hour on the trail, you'll get tired of that thing banging against your hip or chest .
  3. Complexity: More control is a plus of digital SLRs, but you have to spend time to master the skills of composition, lighting, etc. You'll also spend time changing lenses and composing shots. If you don't know an f-stop from a bus stop, you should not tread here. (Yes, there's probably an AUTO setting on the DSLR, but then why bother?)
  4. Maintenance: Compact digital cameras are relatively maintenance-free, but digital SLRs require regular meticulous cleaning of lenses, sensors, viewfinder and other components. Also, they can be more fragile and expensive to repair.
  5. Prints: if you only print small (up to 5x7 inch) photos, the benefit of a DSLR's sharper sensor is lost. For larger prints, the photonics kicks in and gives the DSLR the advantage.

For serious hobbyists or professional photographers, spending thousands of dollars on a digital SLR and its accessories is either a pleasure or a necessity. But most shutterbugs will find a high-end point-and-shoot compact digital camera is all they really need.

Which type of camera do you prefer, and why? Post your comment or question below...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 27 Jul 2011

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
The Feature Phone is Dead! Long Live the Feature Phone!

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Don't Fall For Online Financial Aid Scams

Most recent comments on "Five Reasons NOT To Buy a Digital SLR Camera"

Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
27 Jul 2011

I'm a very casual photographer, but I still demand quality in my pictures.

I love my Nikon CoolPix pocket-size camera, with its 9 megapixels, 6.3 to 18.9 mm zoom, and quality optics. The pictures are great, even when I crop and enlarge to 8 x 10" size. (Beyond that size, I have no idea.)

My first camera was a Brownie Hawkeye back in the early '50s. Much later, my wife gave me a Minolta SRT-101 as a birthday present. It was a nifty single lens reflex camera. But Bob's right: adding a couple of lenses, a good electronic flash, special batteries, a camera bag, etc., made it way more expensive that I had budgeted, and more heavy and bulky than I had planned.

Plus, of course, I never had the right lens on the camera when it came time to grab that once-in-a-lifetime shot.

My little Nikon pocket camera is always ready to go.

Posted by:

Garry Jantzen
27 Jul 2011

Isn't there a compromise? I don't know their name but these cameras "look" like a DSLR, have fairly large zoom lens but the lens is not interchangeable. They do have fairly rapid shoot feature. The big feature I like on my DSLR is rapid shooting - not only do I get the pic I want on 'single' shoot, but I can shoot at 5 fps. Few point and shoots support that!

Posted by:

27 Jul 2011

A few years ago I researched DSLRs at a store in NYC because I wanted professional quality photos. The price tag was just too high. Meanwhile, the small digital cameras seemed like mere toys, without sharp resolution.

So guess what I settled on: I kept using my old Nikon Tele-Touch 300 non-digital camera, which has never failed me in over 15 years and gives me photos with great resolution. I'll keep using it until it dies or until CDCs improve in quality, whichever comes first.

Posted by:

J. Shelton
27 Jul 2011

I like the DSLR (Nikon D40)because I have used a Nikon FM for 40 years and although everything is automatic (exposure & focus), the controls are familiar. I despise the view screen on most of the small cameras, as it is almost impossible to see in daylight. I recommend to friends that ask my opinion, to get a camera with a viewfinder. I believe Cannon still makes several viewfinder models.

Posted by:

Tom C
27 Jul 2011

The biggest difference in a DSLR versus point and shoot camera lies in the sensor size that Bob referenced in paragraph three.

Although the number of pixels on DSLR's and point and shoots may be comparable, the size of the sensor that is picking up the light for those sensors is markedly different. Most DSLRs use a sensor that is about 350 square millimeters. A point and shoot camera sensor is typically 43 square millimeters or even smaller. Both might have 12 million pixels, but the pixels on the DSLR are physically larger - so each pixel picks up almost 10 times as much light.

Size doesn't matter much when you're taking pictures in the bright sunlight. But when it starts to get dark, the larger physical pixel sensors matter. Point and shoots get very "noisy" in low lighting conditions, especially in black areas where you can see little color patterns all through the solid areas of a picture. DSLR's with their larger sensors handle low light much, much better, not only reducing the noise, but also picking up detail in dimly lit rooms that point and shoots just can't pick up.

A secondary affect of the larger sensor is that there is more light available to the sensor to make out shapes and quickly autofocus. If you've ever struggled with trying to take a picture of an active kid, or even lost a shot because your point and shoot took an extra half a second to click after you pressed the button, you'll be happy to know that DSLRs take the picture immediately when you hit the button. The difference in response time is astounding. If you are looking at a point and shoot that claims to have a fast response time, I still encourage you to try it out yourself before plunking down your cash - and when you test, be sure to test on moving objects and in indoor lighting. They've come a long way, but they're still not where the DSLRs are.

All that being said, I carry a point and shoot everywhere, and find I use my DSLR less and less because I don't like carrying around all that extra bulk. Some of the big names (Canon, Sony, and Nikon) have recently introduced some digital-viewfinder type DSLRs that are smaller and don't have a mirror viewfinder, but still have the large sensor. At this time they are just as expensive as the traditional DSLRs, but I'm hoping they will come down in price soon.

Posted by:

Des M
27 Jul 2011

No-one mentioned the 'latency' problem with all digital cameras i.e. the slight delay between pressing the button and the actual picture taking - bit of a problem when the subject is moving. Might as well wait until this is no longer an issue before investing big bucks in a digital DLSR.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

No doubt what Bob have said is informative.
I used to use SLR which were heavy and moving around with many lenses, filters etc was painful. But, since I got compact Digital Camera, I do not carry weight any more it is easy to carry and can move freely without any weight.

But as compare to quality no doubt DSLR is best. The main difference, Pixels, at night photographs taken by compact camera was not good while same photographs taken by Nikon D-70 was the best. Even shutter speed. Photographs of flying birds taken by compact camera was not clear enough while same photos taken by Nikon-D70 are superb. One of the best feature in DSLR which I like the most is adjustable live preview/LCD monitor in some cameras such as Nikon D5000 or Sony A300 etc. It help to take ground level photographs easily.

The Bad point in DSLR Lens maintenance, if we do not care we will get FUNGUS inside the lens sadly lenses are costly. Also during lens changing there is a chance dust can enter in the lens or viewfinder.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

All of the points that Bob lists were negatives for me when I wanted to go to a digital format. I still wanted the eye viewer, like my 35mm cameras had, but at my age I didn't want the bulk. That's why I settled on the fixed lens 35mm like digital with the eye viewer. I have been using an Olympus model for the past 5 years and have been very happy with it, even though I would have liked more than 18x zoom at times.

I have just upgraded to a Sony Cypershot with a 30x zoom. It is a tad bit bulkier than the Olympus, but I don't think that will make much difference. I am very anxious to get it out on when we are hiking in national parks and bird watching.

Love the digital format with our extensive travels in our RV, including the 5 years we fulltimed in it. This type of digital camera works great for me, but others will have different priorities and expectations. That's why there are so many different makes, models and features!!

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

One of the important advantages with DSLR cameras is they can use VR LENSES (vibration reduction). This, along with the larger sensor previously mentioned, means they can take photos in low light without flash and still get a sharp photo without motion blur.
Flash photos are often burnt out and ugly so the end result is much better with a VR lens.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2011

I went to bike week at Daytona beach ....the biggest and baddest motorcycle event in the world.. I worked the main street for a week in the hot sun...carrying two nikon slrs and heavy telephoto lenses and flashes and camera bags....It was work and no fun at all but I got some great shots..I went to a cafe for a nice cold beer which I had definately earned.... and sat next to a guy with a point and shoot digital which cost him about $300. He asked me which motorcycle magazine I worked for and said he had seen me working the street all week.... I told him I just took photos for fun.........It turned out he worked for the biggest motorcycle magazine and he gave up on all the SLRs and only used the point and shoot and it worked a treat and nobody ever asked what kind of camera he took his shots with for the magazine....So go figure...all I use now is a point and shoot and I can carry it with me all of the time and get much more results than with my SLRs....Ive never been happier!

Posted by:

29 Jul 2011

I like to shoot panoramas--multiple, overlapping images which are then stitched together into one wide image using software (wonderful for landscapes). For this, the manual exposure control and focusing of a DSLR are very helpful, as the several images need to be shot at the same settings.

Posted by:

Robert van Ruyssevelt
31 Jul 2011

Yep I had a Pentax film canera with all the lenses, flash, spare film etc - what a hassle. I fonally decided to go digital and decided I needed a $5000 Canon. I didn't have the money and as had given away my old film camera I bought a $100 Fujufilm fFinepix J40 to tide me over. I won't need that Canon now - this wee digital camera is great - goes in my pocket - simple to use and i can just pull out the memory stick and plug it into my printer to instantly email or print!

Posted by:

03 Aug 2011

I have a Panasonic Lumix (DMC-TZ5) compact which is AWESOME!!! Yes, there is a bit of lag between pushing the button and the "shutter" firing, but other than that, it's a wonderful little point and shoot. It has a 10X optical zoom and that works for most everyday photo situations. When I print the photos, so many people ask what kind of camera because the photos are crisp and very colorful! I recommend this model -- and would even buy another one (used) if this one failed me!

Posted by:

07 Aug 2011

I'm curious what point & shoots you're using that you're happy with. My Olympus FE-190 point-an-shoot has so much lag between click and shoot that there is usually no one left in the image (there are dancers in the family.) Then there's a Nikon Coolpix in the family that has such a confusing menu system that no one wants to use it. I've poked about and don't really want to spend $1,000 on a big heavy camera - so I've been trying to figure out if there is something simple that could get a nice shot of someone dancing a foxtrot before they dance out of frame.

Posted by:

03 Mar 2014

I had a Canon SX160is compact camera, with 16mp and 16x zoom. Not expensive and took Excellent photos. Sold it for a camera with more zoom, the SX500is with 30x zoom, and then traded for the Canon SX50is with 50x zoom. Got rid of that quick, and bought another Canon SX160is, right where I started. Can't take a bad picture with it.

Posted by:

06 Sep 2016

To some extent you get what you pay for. Compact 'point and shoot' cameras are OK for snapshots, but too many require you to hold them some distance from the eye as the viewscreen is the 'viewfinder'. This leads to instability and camera shake. Same applies to phone cameras. The 'bridge' camera - basically a fixed lens SLR - is a good step up, but limited in its capability. While a top-end SLR will cost you a four-figure sum, (and so will each lens...) a reasonable 'small-sensor' SLR is not THAT expensive if you are serious about your photos.
I have a little Fuji compact and a Canon D-SLR (with four different lenses, computer flash and tripod in the arsenal) and I use whichever is most suitable for what I'm taking. For basic holiday snaps it's the compact. Serious occasions - wedding photography, wildlife, sport and record photos - and out comes the SLR.
Horses for courses..

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
About Us     Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- Five Reasons NOT To Buy a Digital SLR Camera (Posted: 27 Jul 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved