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 10 Reasons to Buy a DSLR Camera

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RedDevil
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PostSubject: 10 Reasons to Buy a DSLR Camera   Sat Oct 24, 2009 4:01 am

One of the most common questions I get as related to photography is "What camera should I buy?" Before I get into the reasons I recommend buying a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, I'd like to state why you should NOT buy a DSLR.

There is a saying among photographers: "The camera doesn't make the photo, the photographer does." The point is that no matter how expensive your gear is, it means nothing without someone who knows how to properly use it. A great artist can create masterpieces with ordinary tools.

I urge you not to buy that Canon EOS 30D or Nikon D80 or [insert other DSLR model here] if you plan to leave it on full automatic mode. DSLRs are expensive light-capturing tools that can help you create some amazing images, but only if you have the time and patience to learn what you are doing and be creative.

As a side note, I will link to some various websites below which I think are useful in the context of this article. Please note that we are not paid for endorsements by any of these websites. I'm simply sharing what I think are some very useful links for people who aren't already "in-the-know."

With my public service announcement out of the way, I present to you 10 Reasons to Buy a DSLR Camera:

Creative Control:
This is probably the single most obvious advantage of DSLR cameras. These cameras have a multitude of settings that are just begging to be adjusted. Everything from shutter speed and aperture to white balance, in-camera sharpening and contrast, white balance and white balance shift, flash synchronization, and more...

Superior Sensors:
DSLRs typically use a sensor that is approximately the same dimensions as an APS film negative (22.7 x 15.1 mm). In contrast, the 2/3" sensor size of an 8 Megapixel digicam is dramatically smaller, about the size of the tip of your pinky (8.8 x 6.6 mm). The larger sensor translates directly to higher image quality in terms of detail, color depth, and dynamic range.

Less Noise:
Noise is the digital equivalent of film grain. The fact that DSLRs display less noise is at least in part a result of the larger sensor size mentioned above, however it is significant enough to warrant getting its very own bullet point. With your typical digicam, you will get noticeable noise which is detrimental to image quality at pretty much anything above the lowest possible ISO setting. Contrast that with your typical modern DSLR, where you can actually make acceptable prints even at some of the highest ISO settings. I should note that in the literal sense, DSLRs usually make MORE noise when you click the shutter than a point-n-shoot, hehe.

Accessories Galore:
DSLR cameras can almost be considered upgradeable, they have so many accessories... There are lenses, filters, adapters, extension tubes, flashes, strobes, brackets, and the list goes on. For example, you can buy affordable general purpose lenses or high-end lenses with superior quality. Some lenses serve special functions as well, such as those with image stabilization, macro abilities, tilt-shift functionality, and soft focus. You get the idea. With a DSLR, you have a lot of compatible tools at your disposal which opens the door to new creative possibilities.

No Shutter Lag:
Shutter lag is that awful delay between the time that you click the shutter on a digicam and the time that an image is actually taken. With DSLRs, there is virtually no delay between the time that you click the shutter and the image is taken. How many times have you missed a great photo opportunity because the camera didn't focus fast enough and then didn't take the shot fast enough once it was focused?

Instant Startup:
Most DSLRs have nearly instant startup times. That means if your camera is hanging around your neck and in the OFF position, and you see a three-legged man riding a unicycle towards you, you can quickly turn the camera on and snap the shot. And the aforementioned lack of shutter lag will further help in getting the photo. With a digicam it will usually take several seconds to startup, and then you'll have to wait a second or so for it to focus, and then when you click the shutter there will be maybe another second before the image is actually taken - and the three-legged man will be gone.

Higher Build Quality:
Most digicams are plastic, plastic, and more plastic. They feel flimsy and they're not all that hard to break. DSLRs are built to much higher standards, increasingly so as you get into the more expensive models of course. Some of the cheaper DSLRs are still going to have a lot of plastic in them, but overall they're more durable than a similarly priced digicam. When you get into some of the more expensive models in the $1,000+ range, bodies are ruggedized with largely metal bodies and nice rubberized grips. The ultra-high-end professional bodies are the most rugged and are weather-sealed so you can use them in the harshest environments without a problem. I don't think you'll find many war photographers using a rinky-dink digicam.

Viewfinder:
This can be a plus and a minus, but mainly it's a plus. With a DSLR, you do not compose your shots on the camera's LCD, you do so through the viewfinder, and you're actually looking through the lens (that's what TTL stands for, though not to be confused with TheTechLounge). Looking through the viewfinder allows you to see more detail as you compose your shots with regard to what's in focus, and you won't have to worry about glare on an LCD interfering with composition. The only negative looking through the viewfinder really has is that if you are in a situation where you have to shoot from the hip or over your head, you have to sort of blindly shoot. By contrast, some digicams have swiveling and rotating LCD screens which allow you to compose such a shot without a problem. It's a small sacrifice. I suppose there's also the fact that it might be less comfortable to press your face against the back of the camera, but you get used to it.

Ergonomics:
Back when I used to shoot with a small digicam, I would notice that my hand would cramp after a while of holding the tiny camera. DSLRs are larger and have molded grips which (to a varying degree) make holding the camera for long periods much more comfortable. The cheaper DSLRs are smaller and less comfortable, whereas the more expensive ones are usually larger and more comfortable. This is actually the main reason why I chose to purchase a Canon 20D over a Canon Digital Rebel XT - the 20D feels much better in my hand. And since I'm on the computer pretty much all day every day and I already experience occasional pain in my hands, I wanted a very comfortable camera to hold.

Price:
DSLR cameras are practically affordable nowadays. The big two (Canon and Nikon) currently offer DSLRs for as low as $500-$600 (Canon Digital Rebel XT and Nikon D50) and they've been encroaching on point-n-shoot price territory more and more each year. Believe it or not, this is actually already cheaper than some digicams out there. Not to mention the fact that you can often find a great deal on a used DSLR at some major online stores such as BHPhotoVideo.com and KEH.com. Another great source for used equipment is the Buy & Sell forums (registration is required, but free) over at FredMiranda.com. Incidentally, FredMiranda is also a great site to learn from other photographers, and it's also a good resource for camera and lens reviews by the site's users.

For me, the above list represents 10 good reasons to buy a DSLR over a point-n-shoot digicam. However, I don't want to paint a picture that DSLRs are the perfect solution for everybody. There are some aspects which some would view as a negative of DSLR cameras. You definitely won't be able to put a DSLR in your pocket, it may not be convenient for parties where people are likely to bump into it or spill drinks on it, you'll definitely get more attention with a DSLR around your neck than with a tiny digicam, it's heavier to carry around for long periods, there is a steep learning curve, and it's also an addictive hobby that may get you spending more on lenses and other accessories than you initially planned. These are all compromises I'm willing to make, but only you can decide if a DSLR is truly right for you.
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