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Thread: DSLR or point and shoot?

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    DSLR or point and shoot?

    Hello, I do not consider myself to be a photograher although I do love to take photos. I have a question I an hoping someone can help me with. I would like to buy a new digital camera but I am having some trouble in figuring what I should spend my money on. I love how a DSLR sounds, but I think it may be more than I really need. Would any one suggest on whether I should purchase a user friendly DSLR such as some kind of Canon Rebel or a more expensive point and shoot. I am looking to spend somewhere between 500 to 700 dollars. Like I said I am no professional but I am very interested in taking more professional looking photos. Portraiture is mainly what I would be using this camera for.
    I know a cameras image sensor is an important factor in determining what kind of camera to use. Is there a point and shoot with a larger image sensor? Thanks for the help! Sara


    Is it safe to say a less expensive DSLR will produce better results than a more expensive point and shoot?
    Last edited by smarma; 14th February 2010 at 08:15 PM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Sara

    It sounds like you're on the first step of the journey. The DSLR is going to give you more options in the future. So, if the bug gets you in the way it's already got those of us on here, then you'll want the flexibility to expand and grow your system that teh SLR will give.

    Like many folk I got some things that I thought would do me forever (like a camera bag). That soon became too small and I ended up buying another one. So, stretch yourself as far as your budget will allow now, and then plan your system growth as your skills and interests develop.

    ps - Welcome to the forums.

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    I shoot mostly DSLR in both film and digital. That said, I ALWAYS have a point'n'shoot in my pocket. The point is that I don't always have nor want to have a DSLR hanging from my shoulders, but I do always want to get pictures when I see them. I can't count the times when I've seen a cute kid, animal or a shot for the local newspaper and had only my Canon SD750 at hand. It works.

    Because of the smaller sensor size, I have to work a bit to get beyond 8x10 with the SD750, but that is not usually a real drawback for the stuff I shoot with it. I tell my students that it is not as important to have the big DSLRs I show them in class as it is to have a camera with them when they see the picture.

    I suspect you will be satisfied with the P&S for awhile, until you get bitten by "the bug." Then you will want the DSLR's advantage of flexibility and quality. However, you will, probably, then still carry and use the P&S.

    Pops

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Hi Sara,

    Welcome to the CiC forums, and I hope you find us useful past the first question

    I agree with Donald, if you can, go for a DSLR, the only argument against being that of size, portability or pocketability - how important this is depends if your portrait sessions are pre-planned or opportunistic.

    You have already identified that you need a bigger sensor to get better bokeh (i.e. minimum Depth of Field) on portraits, etc., again a bigger (faster) lens will help - easier on a DSLR.

    I guess the nearest to what you asked about (large sensor P&S) are the Panasonic (I think) "micro 4/3" mount interchangeable lens cameras. However, these will give only about 1 - 1.5 stops bokeh improvement over some point and shoots. A Rebel will give about 2 - 2.5 stops better bokeh.

    Hope that helps, but I am relying on other members to chip in with advice too.

    Best regards,

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    As a couple of people have said, a lot depends on whether your portrait shooting is when you get a chance at family gatherings or whatever, or whether you plan to take the time to set up a shoot, either in your studio environment or in whatever location.

    My wife has a pretty good point-and-shoot (Canon SD900is), and I have a pretty good entry-level DSLR (Canon 500D/T1i). They're probably both in the price range you mentioned, although I upgraded piecewise, as I note below. When we travel together, we get the advantage Pops mentioned of having one accessible, one more powerful. In a quick snapshot, routine conditions, there's often little difference to be seen between the two. And the convenience of the SD900 can mean that my wife has fired multiple frames by the time I get my camera out of the bag. But when the light is low, for example, being able to put on a powerful external flash makes a big difference. And if you're going to take the time to set up your shots, the quick shot probably doesn't matter to you. Plus, of course, depth of field. My wife's camera has good capabilities for taking control of exposure and other settings, but as Dave points out, it won't give you the kind of ability to compose your subject with respect to the foreground or background (using depth of field/bokeh) that a DSLR will.

    One other point may be worth mentioning. I don't know what the market is on eBay or other second-hand outlets for used point-and-shoot. But I've upgraded in steps, even though I'm in entry-level equipment. My first DSLR was a 400D/XTi, and got a good lens. When I got the 500D body, I was able to sell the 400D body, which covered about half the cost of the 500D body.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Sara,

    If you are set on purchasing a point and shoot you will find many options for far less than the $500-$700 budget you have proposed. For portrait photography you wll however want a camera that functions well under differing lighting and a DSLR will provide better results, plus the format for storing photos will provide you with more opportunities to edit afterwards.

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    There are many advantages to a DSLR while the main advantage of a top line DSLR camera is portability. There are cameras which straddle the line between the two types - these are called "Bridge Cameras". There cameras usually have better controls and may provide better image quality than the mini-P&S cameras but, they are bigger and bulkier and still have small sensors.

    The DSLR has the advantage of a larger sensor which can provide better imagery. It can also use interchangeable lenses which can be considered an advantage or a drawback, depending how you look at it. You have a greater selection of better optics when using a DSLR but, you need to purchase additional lenses.

    One of the most crucial advantages of a DSLR over a point and shoot camera is the shorter shutter lag time. With most P&S cameras, you press the shutter button and then wait what seems to be an interminable time before the camera acquires the image. This can cause many missed shots with kids, dogs (I can't count how many pictures I shot with a P&S that resulted in images of puppy tails as the pup raced out of the frame) and just about any fast moving subject like sports. You CAN shorten the lag a bit by prefocusing but the lag is still there. There are different shutter lag times for DSLR cameras but, the response is so instantaneous (In my experience with five different generations of Canon DSLR cameras) that the differences between models in lag time is a moot subject.

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Hi Sara,

    Big welcome to CiC from me too

    DSLR is definately the way to go if you're wanting to shoot portraiture. A DSLR will give you more options with regards to lighting - more options with regards to lenses - and will also give you a tighter depth of field that will help seperate your subject from the background to stop the portrait looking like - well - like a point and shoot snapshot!

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    I would like to thank everyone for all the great advice!

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    No worries Sara - do you need any help with camera and lens selection?

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Thanks, right now I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the advice and information on line!!

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by smarma View Post
    Thanks, right now I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the advice and information on line!!
    We'll help you through it

    Probably the best advice I can think of is to just take 1 step at a time; if we know where you are now - and we know where you want to end up, then we can draw a straight line between the two and help you start your journey

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by smarma View Post
    Thanks, right now I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the advice and information on line!!
    Sara,

    Don't be too overwhelmed. The consensus among the group seems to be:

    1. DSLR (we can steer you in the right direction with this option). Can also be used as a point and shoot.
    2. DSLR and point and shoot, two cameras. You might have to go a little bit above your $700.00 range for this option but who says you have to get the point and shoot right now.
    3. Midrange camera (bridge) gives you the functionality of a DSLR and the option for point and shoot but often lacks RAW option.
    4. Point and shoot, without the benefits of RAW processing, interchangeable lenses, limited options to alter aperture and shutter speed.

    I think the above selections summarizes the advise you have received from the group members.

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Thanks for summarizing!! Very helpful in putting all of this info into focus (pun intended). Now, I think I have opted to purchase a DSLR, first step complete. Now thinking of a Canon rebel. And I read some very helpful info on a wonderful blog by an aquaintence? and she suggested the Canon rebel with 50mm 1.8 lens for taking photos of my children which is what I mainly will be shooting. How does this sound and is there another lens that is more versatile?

    http://blog.rachelhendersonphotograp...ography-setup/

    This is a wonderful blog if any of you get a chance to check it out.

    I also want to mention how awesome you all have been!!

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by smarma View Post
    Now, I think I have opted to purchase a DSLR, first step complete. Now thinking of a Canon rebel. And I read some very helpful info on a wonderful blog by an aquaintence? and she suggested the Canon rebel with 50mm 1.8 lens for taking photos of my children which is what I mainly will be shooting. How does this sound and is there another lens that is more versatile?
    An entry-level DSLR will be just fine for what you want - they have different names for different parts of the world, but something along the lines of a Canon 450D / 500D (part of the rebel series) will be good for you. Don't sweat the specs of these things too much - there isn't really a "right" or "wrong" choice -- and there's a BIG overlap between many models.

    I'm not a big fan of kit zoom lenses either - but I do think it's a good place to start. Personally I'm not a big fan of the 50mm lens either ... it's OK for a general "shot of whatever the kids are doing" type thing, but if you're after good portraits then I'd suggest something with a longer focal length that's also a zoom (zoom lenses are a lot more versatile). I'd suggest getting the camera and kit lens first ... and then let's get you comfortable using it - sound like a good step 2?

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    The other thing I know is this, digital camera technology is changing all the time. If I do decide to spend a little more on a DSLR how long into the future will it take me? Will I have to get another camera in a few years due to all the advancements?

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by smarma View Post
    The other thing I know is this, digital camera technology is changing all the time. If I do decide to spend a little more on a DSLR how long into the future will it take me? Will I have to get another camera in a few years due to all the advancements?
    Hi Sara,

    While it is true that the technology advances, there usually isn't anything that will actually stop a camera working in future. However, the same cannot be said for your desire - you will probably, if bitten by the bug, desire a model with more features "in a few years" anyway. you won't "have to", but you will 'want to'! Think of mobile phones; I bet you're not still using your 2005 model are you?

    One thing I noticed on Rachel's blog site which may confuse, is that she refers to a "Nikon 40D" and "Nikon 60D", now Nikon don't make them, but Canon do make a 40D and no doubt will release a 60D sometime this year. However, Nikon do make a "D40" and a "D60". Am I being pedantic? Maybe, but people new to the hobby find it confusing enough without slips like this clouding things further, I will leave a comment for her on that page and we'll see if it gets fixed.

    On lens choices, personally, having used only one zoom until recently (an 18-200mm, not the kit one), the 'fastest' that goes; f3.5 at 18mm through to f5.6 at 200mm doesn't allow one to really get the hang of narrow DoF for portraiture. Not that I wish to contradict Colin, but he is used to 'faster' zoom lenses (f2.8) which are far more expensive. I have recently acquired an f2.8 prime lens for macro work and it is proving a bit of a revelation. I also found, in my final film days, many years ago, that other than telephoto zooms, I actually ended up with the 'standard' 50mm lens on most of the time, to bring this up to date for a Rebel sized camera, that would equate to a lens in the 75-85mm range - which addresses one of Colin's concerns about the 50 being a shade too short for portraiture.

    Cheers,

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by smarma View Post
    Now thinking of a Canon rebel. And I read some very helpful info on a wonderful blog by an aquaintence? and she suggested the Canon rebel with 50mm 1.8 lens for taking photos of my children which is what I mainly will be shooting. How does this sound and is there another lens that is more versatile?
    That's what I started with in DSLR. That setup will give you the best results for the money, and it's perfectly fine for photos of people (which is 95% of what I do). You could spend ten times as much on a lens and find that it makes hardly any practical difference. Anyway, the 50 1.8 is so inexpensive, as lenses go, that you would be able to get started with it now and still save up for a second lens later when you have more idea of what you want (zoom, longer or wider etc.). That's what I'd do anyway.

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    If you have decided on a dslr, I would advise having a look at a secondhand 'semi pro' model as an alternative to an 'entry level' camera.

    I'm thinking about a Canon 30D or, if you are lucky, 40D. These are only slightly more expensive and secondhand could even work out cheaper than a new 500D. For the extra, you get a really solid piece of kit with easier to use controls and display screens.

    On the downside; although I prefer a chunky heavy camera some people find them too big and cumbersome to carry around all day; but do consider that option before making a final decision.

    I have a canon 40D and would never consider anything smaller as my main camera. A 500D will still take just as good photos, it's merely a matter of personal preference.

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    Re: DSLR or point and shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    On lens choices, personally, having used only one zoom until recently (an 18-200mm, not the kit one), the 'fastest' that goes; f3.5 at 18mm through to f5.6 at 200mm doesn't allow one to really get the hang of narrow DoF for portraiture. Not that I wish to contradict Colin, but he is used to 'faster' zoom lenses (f2.8) which are far more expensive. I have recently acquired an f2.8 prime lens for macro work and it is proving a bit of a revelation. I also found, in my final film days, many years ago, that other than telephoto zooms, I actually ended up with the 'standard' 50mm lens on most of the time, to bring this up to date for a Rebel sized camera, that would equate to a lens in the 75-85mm range - which addresses one of Colin's concerns about the 50 being a shade too short for portraiture.
    Hi Dave (& Sara!),

    It's going to depend on what Sara is shooting; for outdoor portraiture then wide open will give the best blur - but - with wider apertures and shorter focal lengths then she's going to have to zoom in with her feet and is then likely to have insufficient DoF to cover the subject, necessitating a stop-down anyway. I often will shoot outdoor portraits at F2.8, but I'm usually using something close to 200mm, which gives the most pleasing compression.

    If Sara ends up getting a couple of cheap strobes and constructs a little makeshift studio then you can't shoot at F2.8 anyway (I typically HAVE to shoot at F11 at it's the lowest my lights will go to) (unless I'm using a ND filter).

    What I was thinking though is if she can get the camera with the kit lens then we can get her going with some of the basics (backdrops, reflector / diffuser etc) -- it won't cost a lot to add a new lens later on.

    Just my thinking anyway

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