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Point & Shoot or DSLR Camera - Which is Right for You?

written by: Terri Cassidy•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/23/2010

Manufacturers are fighting for your camera dollars and offering plenty of options on both Point & Shoot and DSLR cameras. Which one would be a better option for you?

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    Point & Shoot or DSLR?

    Whether you’re a first time buyer or thinking of upgrading, this question can be rather daunting given the wide selection of cameras on the market these days. With Point & Shoot cameras inching up in features to match that of the lower end DSLR, and DSLRs coming down in price so more consumers can afford them, it can be a confusing decision. Let’s take a look at both formats to help make your decision a little easier.

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      What is a DSLR Camera?

      If you are a first time buyer, don’t be intimidated by DSLR cameras. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. A mirror is used to reflect the light coming through the lens at a 90 degree angle, then reflected another two times by a pentaprism to portray the image correctly to the viewer. The mirror swings upward and the shutter opens, allowing light to project onto the image sensor through the lens. Another shutter will cover the sensor to end the exposure, the mirror drops back into place and the shutter then resets. The speed of this process is milliseconds and a fast camera can do this more than 10 times a second. If you’re planning to take lots of action shots, you will need to consider this when choosing a camera. Lower end Point & Shoot cameras may have an action feature, but it just doesn’t quite compare to the speed of an entry level DSLR or that of a higher end point & shoot.

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      Pros of Purchasing a DSLR Camera

      • Wide range of interchangeable lenses. While the newer Point & Shoot cameras can have longer optical zoom capabilities, having removable lenses opens up many more shooting options. Telephoto lenses, macro, wide angle and fish eye are just a few of the many lenses available. Add to that the vast array of accessories, such as filters and external flashes, and you certainly open the doors to much more creativity.
      • Manual and Auto controls. Although some of the newer Point & Shoot cameras have manual controls, they are still limited. The manual controls on a DSLR camera give you more flexibility when programming your own settings while still giving you the option of Auto controls when needed.
      • ISO range. DSLR cameras have a larger image sensor allowing the use of higher ISO settings with an adjustment to the exposure setting, or shutter speed, to give you less noise (grainy pictures) than a point & shoot. This can give you much more options for shooting in different situations.
      • Better image quality. As I’ve already stated, DSLR cameras have a larger image sensor which will give you a better picture quality when using a higher ISO setting. This will also hold true if you wish to print your picture on a larger format of photo paper. The image will not appear pixilated or grainy as quickly, allowing you to expand the size to a greater degree than you could with a Point & Shoot.
      • Quality lenses. Point & Shoot lenses have certainly improved recently, but generally the lenses that come with, and are manufactured for, a DSLR are of excellent quality. The purchase of extra, good quality lenses only add to the options available to you and, if maintained properly, can add to the value of your camera kit.
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      Cons of Purchasing a DSLR Camera

      • Bulky and heavy equipment. With the camera, extra lenses, possibly a tripod or monopod and all the accessories, it can be rather cumbersome to pack your photo equipment with you wherever you go. It’s not as easy to just grab your camera and go.
      • Price. The cost of DSLR cameras is continually dropping, but they can still be more expensive. When you start adding on extra lenses and accessories, you can have a pretty penny invested in your photography equipment.
      • Learning curve. There is definitely a learning curve when starting off with a DSLR, but that will depend on how much knowledge you already have of photography and cameras. If you’re not familiar with all the terms and what they mean, you must be prepared to take the time to learn them.
      • Maintenance. Maintaining any camera is very important to keep them working at their best, but DSLRs need a little more care than Point & Shoot cameras. Each time a lens is removed from the body the chance of any foreign material getting inside is increased, and this can cause some unwanted results. Though most of the newer models have an automatic dust cleaning function built into the camera that will clean the sensor each time the camera is shut off, it isn't foolproof so great care is needed when changing lenses.

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      Please continue on to page 2 to find out the pros and cons of a Point & Shoot digital camera.

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      If you are having a difficult time deciding if you should buy a basic compact digital camera or a digital SLR camera, you've come to the right place. We've already learned the positive and negative aspects of owning a DSLR camera. Now, on page 2 of this digital camera comparison, we'll explore the pros and cons of the Point & Shoot camera. Which digital camera is best for you and your photography needs?camera comparison, digital camera buying guide, point and shoot camera, digital SLR camera
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      On page 1 of this camera comparison article, we explored the pros and cons of the DSLR camera. Now let's see what the Point & Shoot has to offer...

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      Point & Shoot Digital Cameras

      Point & Shoot digital cameras main attractions are their portability, price and ease of use. With so many features on most Point & Shoots you can be up and running in relatively little time.

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      Pros of Purchasing a Point & Shoot Camera

      • Light and compact. Point & Shoot cameras are getting smaller and more compact all the time. This makes them great for slipping into your pocket on the way out the door without the bulk and extra accessories of a DSLR camera.
      • Style and color. There are some pretty cool colors now available, instead of the same old black or silver that have been around for years. Okay, so this has no bearing on the functionality of the camera, but it will allow you to show off your style and flair.
      • Price. The cost of digital cameras have come down across the board, but Point & Shoot cameras have become so affordable that there are several choices in just about every price range.
      • Still pictures and movie mode. Most Point & Shoot cameras have the ability to shoot small movies with sound and the limits are set to the size of the storage card. This can be great for catching junior’s first steps or those crazy antics of your friends.
      • Image stabilization. This built in feature will allow you to take a nice clear picture without having to use a tripod. Great for anyone that has difficulty taking a steady shot.
      • Shooting modes. More and more Point & Shoots are increasing their selection of shooting modes making it easier to get a really good shot. Standard on most cameras are Landscape, Portrait, Macro (for really close up pictures), Night Shots and Action/Sports. Other modes can include Fireworks, Snow, Beach, Kids & Pets and a range of others. One of the newer Olympus models has 31 shooting modes to choose from!

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      Cons of Purchasing a Point & Shoot Camera

      • Shutter lag. This is still a bit of an issue with most users of Point & Shoot. Some manufacturers are working at shortening the gap between pressing the button and the camera actually taking the picture, but these cameras still cannot match the speed of a DSLR unless you go high end.
      • Image quality. Again, with a smaller image sensor the image quality isn’t going to compare to that of a DSLR, but they are improving all the time. If you’re not looking to make your pictures poster size, this shouldn’t be an issue.
      • No viewfinder. More and more manufacturers are moving away from the viewfinder in favor of the LCD monitor. There are still a few out there, but not many.

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      Which Camera Type is Right for You?

      Still a little uncertain as to which camera is best for you? If you’re lucky enough to afford both, this can give you the best of both worlds. Deciding what type of pictures you will be taking for the most part can help as well.

      Check out these great camera reviews from some of the other writers here at Bright Hub. This digital camera buying guide may also help you decide which camera is right for you.

      Doing a bit of homework and checking out camera reviews should go a long way in helping you decide which one is right for you.