Random Thoughts

My love/hate relationship with a DSLR

Written by Gail Bjork

Before buying a digital single lens reflex camera, think long and hard about the pros and cons.

DSLR questionsAs a digital single lens reflex camera owner, I have very mixed emotions. I’m not quite ready to say I regret buying a DSLR, but I’m not having the photography-time-of-my-life using it either.

My relationship with a DSLR

I owned about 14 compact digital cameras before buying my first DSLR, the Canon XSi/450D. A peg above an entry level DSLR, the XSi is top notch in my opinion, and the opinion of many others.

Still,  I’m having a love/hate relationship with it.

A DSLR has advantages over compact digital cameras. No compact camera to date can match the high ISO performance of a DSLR, particularly useful when taking photos in low light or when high shutter speeds are required. Some FujiFilm compact cameras with a Super CCD perform well at high ISO. But they just simply can’t match the ISO quality of a DSLR. And they certainly do not have the performance and speed of a DSLR.

DSLR and depth of field

A DSLR also gives you more control over depth-of-field, but you must become familiar with the lens attached to the camera. It can be tricky selecting the right aperture on a particular lens to obtain the desired depth-of-field. In fact, compact cameras have much greater depth of field than DSLR lenses. Getting focus right with a DSLR takes practice.

DSLR performance

Compared to a compact digital camera, a DSLR is faster and more responsive — particularly if you have the right lens mounted on it. Changing lenses can be a pain, though, and sometimes you miss shots because the right lens is sitting in the camera bag.

It can be annoying to lug around a heavy camera and extra lenses. I miss the versatility of the SuperZooms I’ve owned, such as the Panasonic FZ18 and Canon S2. They served my photographic style very well.

A major caveat using a compact digital camera is that lighting has to be very good to capture good images. The quality of images taken in low light with a DLSRs is far superior.

Lenses can be difficult

Learning to use a DSLR is not that difficult. In fact, in many ways a camera like the XSi is easier than when first learning to use a compact digital camera.

But, and this is a big BUT, getting a handle on lenses is the real challenge. It takes a lot of time and patience getting the best out of a lens, finding what is called the “sweet spot” in order to get sharp images.

High quality lenses are mighty expensive too. Some can break the bank. Plus better lenses are almost always heavier and larger than kit-type lenses.

I own three inexpensive lenses, the 18-55mm IS, the 55-250mm IS, and 50mm 1.8. I’m pleased with their image quality — but I’m not pleased carrying them around.

DSLR: to buy or not to buy?

Only you can decide if a DSLR is best for your photographic needs. If you’re a pro, an abject photo enthusiast or do a lot of low light photography, you’ll want a DSLR. But if you simply enjoy taking photos, a compact camera may be your best and most cost effective bet.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.