Why would you pick DSLR vs Point and Shoot Camera or vice-versa? As DSLRs are becoming more and more affordable, a lot of people are wondering if it is time for them to switch to a DSLR and toss their point and shoot cameras. Nowadays, point and shoot cameras have a long list of features and capabilities, compared to even slightly older versions. GPS, face-detection, smile detection and many other new technologies are making their way into the point and shoot market, over-saturating it with new cameras and making it more difficult for people to choose the right camera for their needs. A similar thing is also happening in the DSLR world, where manufacturers are dividing the market into multiple segments, trying to capture a range of potential customers: from entry-level to advanced professional. But one thing for sure – there are many people, who are stuck in the middle, trying to decide whether they want to stay with their point and shoots, or bite the bullet and switch to a DSLR.
In this article, I will go through the advantages and disadvantages of both DSLRs and point and shoots, so that you can evaluate what’s best for your needs and make the right decision. So, if you are one of those people who are stuck in the middle, this article is for you.
Anyway, let’s analyze the advantages of point and shoot cameras:
- First and foremost, it is the Size. You can simply slip them into your pocket and carry them anywhere. Heck, some of the new phones have excellent cameras and you don’t even need a dedicated point and shoot camera anymore…hitting those ski slopes and keeping good memories is easier than ever.
- Weight. Most point and shoot cameras are very light weight. You do not need extra bags, tripods or other accessories to carry around. There are, however, advanced “SLR-like” point and shoot cameras that tend to get bigger and bulkier, due to their super zoom capabilities.
- Fixed lens. All point and shoot cameras come with fixed lenses. You don’t sweat in trying to change lenses.
- Massive Depth of Field. In layman’s terms, it means that point and shoot cameras typically cannot separate foreground from background, bringing everything in focus and making the entire scene look sharp. This could be both good and bad.
- Price. A point-and-shoot camera is always going to be cheaper to purchase and maintain than a DSLR.
Disadvantages of point and shoot cameras:
- Quality. Due to the smaller size of the camera sensor, point and shoots are no match to DSLRs when it comes to image quality, even with more Megapixels.
- Downside of a large depth of field. While a point and shoot gets your entire scene nicely in focus, there is not much you can do to isolate your subject from the background and make it look soft and blurry. With DSLR cameras and special lenses, you can get a very shallow depth of field and completely isolate your foreground from the background.
- Adaptability. Point and shoot cameras are not upgradable. You cannot change their lenses or mount external flashes (with the exception of some high-end models) and the number of external accessories is limited to the brand and make of the camera.
- Limited control. Unlike DSLRs, point and shoot cameras give much less control over the process of taking pictures. In many compact point and shoot cameras, there is very limited control over aperture and shutter speed, there is no distance marking on the lens and the cameras are tougher to control in manual mode.
- Shooting in the dark. Point-and-shoot cameras do not have good capabilities for night photography.
- Inability to capture wide-angle shots. Most point and shoot cameras have lenses that start at 30-35mm, which means that you cannot fit much of the scene and would have to stand back to capture more.
- Most point and shoot cameras are limited in how fast they can capture an image. Point and shoots are not designed for sports and action photography.
Now, let’s talk about the main advantages DSLRs:
- Better image quality. A DSLR camera typically has a much bigger sensor than a point and shoot camera – a point and shoot typically has a sensor area that is only about 3-5% of a full frame DSLR sensor. Having a big sensor helps to get images that have much less noise (noise is the grain you typically see in a picture) and much better overall image quality.
- Better sensitivity to light. Less noise means that you can work in very dim environments and capture photographs that you would never be able to with a point and shoot camera.
- Shutter and focus speeds. DSLRs can acquire focus very quickly and take multiple shots per second. Professional DSLRs are capable of capturing up to 10 frames per second. All professional action and sports photography is done with SLRs.
- You see what you shoot. A DSLR is constructed with reflex mirrors, which means that you look through the lens, instead of a see-through hole in the camera.
- Flexible Controls. DSLRs are not necessarily created for “simplicity” as most point and shoots are. So, you will typically find a lot more buttons and controls on a DSLR than on a point and shoot. Once you learn how to use those controls, you can quickly change settings, if necessary.
- Better investment. Generally, DSLR cameras hold their values much better than point and shoots. Although no digital camera can be considered a good investment, chances of selling your DSLR at a reasonably good price are much higher than even a slightly used point and shoot camera. Our Nikon D80 that we first bought was sold for about 10% less than what we bought it for after a year of moderate use.
- Ability to use different lenses. There is a big array of lenses that can be mounted and used on DSLRs, from super wide angle to telephoto, depending on your needs. My husband uses long telephoto lenses such as the Nikon 300mm f/4.0 for his bird photography, while I primarily shoot with portrait lenses such as the Nikon 50mm f/1.4. On point and shoots, you are limited to the “optical zoom” of the camera lens. DSLR lenses are also much better optically compared to lenses in point and shoot cameras.
- Full control over depth of field. You are fully in charge of isolating foreground from background or bring everything in focus through aperture control of the lens. Some portrait and telephoto lenses can really isolate your subjects and create a creamy and beautiful background blur, also known as “bokeh“.
- Weather sealing. Forget about using a point and shoot in challenging weather conditions. While point and shoot cameras are only suited for normal use, higher-end DSLRs can withstand dust, moisture, rain and snow and severely cold weather. My husband often shoots landscapes in subzero temperatures with his DSLR and he has never had a problem with it.
- Solid construction. DSLRs are built to last. While there are some parts that are made of tough plastic, the professional DSLRs are made of magnesium-alloy and can take a lot of physical abuse, while point and shoots would quickly break down.
Here is my quick story to end this article:
As a mother of two children, it is very important for me to preserve my family memories in forms of pictures. I always wanted to have a big album, full of beautiful pictures of my family for us to go back and look at in the future. I didn’t think about cameras or lenses, because I thought that if I wasn’t able to capture those special moments with my point and shoot camera, I could always hire a photographer to take our pictures. But soon after, I realized that there are too many of those special moments that happen in our lives (first smile on my child’s face, first walk, etc.) and it is not always practical and, in some cases impossible, to hire a photographer to save those memories. While trying to document those moments with what I have, I quickly started getting frustrated with bad pictures and memories that were lost forever. I was getting tired of thinking “I wish that image was better” or “I wish it was not as blurry” and really wanted to do something about it. Two years ago, my husband and I finally made the decision to upgrade to a DSLR and I am grateful that we did, because not only am I able to photograph my family and my kids, but also, I always had a passion for photography and I now have the right tools to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional photographer.