Random Thoughts

DSLR: worth the weight?

Written by Gail Bjork

Because of their weight and size, I put off buying a DSLR. Now I wonder why I waited so long.

For years I was adamantly against getting a digital single lens reflex camera. The cost was a concern but the main reasons were size, weight and inconvenience.

It was easy to stay away from DSLRs as advanced compact digital cameras improved. But one area that continually disappoints is the high ISO performance of compacts compared to DSLRs.

I thought I would solve the problem by buying the Fujifilm F20. While it takes great high ISO photos, the camera features are simply too limiting for my photo taking style.

Photo taken at ISO 1600 with the Canon 55-250mm IS

Photo taken at ISO 1600 with the Canon 55-250mm IS. Click for larger view.

I eventually decided upon the Canon XSi/450D and have been using it almost exclusively since buying it. Even though the XSi is light for a DSLR, the weight sometimes bothers me. Not using it, but carrying it.

One day I decided to leave the XSi at home and take along my lightweight Panasonic FZ18, my third advanced compact digital camera. I love the FZ18 and its incredible zoom range.

But I now realize how much the FZ18 electronic viewfinder is poor compared to the optical viewfinder of the XSi. When light is low or I need a faster shutter speed and am forced to raise the ISO, FZ18 images are full of noise…even at ISO 200! I’ve taken some fantastic photos with my FZ18. but lighting needs to be ideal.

I’ve been shooting ISO 400, 800 and even 1600 with the XSi. The results, for someone using compact cameras for such a long time, are jaw-dropping.

New appreciation for a DSLR

I’ve gained new appreciation for a DSLR. It is inconvenient at times. But the image quality and performance far surpasses that of any of the many compact digital cameras I’ve owned.

There is a learning curve with a DSLR, and more so for lenses, but I actually find the XSi easier to use than a compact cameras. Hard buttons and for key camera settings are readily available; no fumbling through menus or joystick to make changes.

For many weeks I questioned why I bought a DSLR. Now I’m wondering why the heck I waited so long.

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.


  • dave, thanks for the useful chart comparing cameras. Mirrorless cameras are great but, imho, their biggest drawback is that for many you must by a viewfinder as an add-on accessory. Large sensor, mirrorless cameras that have all the goodies found on DSLRs, such as the Sony NEX7, can be quite expensive. Where mirrorless cameras have not yet caught up with DSLR is the limited lens selection. This exciting technology is still only in its infancy and I’m sure many good things are in store for mirrorless cameras.