DSLR cameras have been around for a long time, and they have been the elites of the camera world for just as long. Whether you browse through a magazine or visit photography competitions, you’d find it hard to miss the exquisite photographs taken by professionals using these cameras. Naturally then, you’d have had the urge to ditch your perfectly functional point-and-shoot for these black, bulky and “professional-looking” cameras. The question however is, are they really as superior as the professional DSLR camera reviews one reads in print media claim them to be? Put differently, are they really worth the hefty price tags?
To answer this question, let us look at what DSLRs really are. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex and it is a technology that differs from both point-and-shoot and the newer mirrorless cameras. As the name suggests, DSLRs have a single lens that sends light (i.e. the image) to a mirror. The mirror interchanges to send the light first onto the viewfinder and when the shutter is pressed, to the image sensor. This technology means that the image captured by the sensor is the same (or very similar) as that seen by you since the source and angle of light (i.e. image) are the same.
As opposed to this, point-and-shoot cameras have two lenses – one for sending the image to the digital sensor and the other for sending the image to the viewfinder. Hence, the image you see is not the same as that captured by the image sensor.
Naturally then, the DSLR camera is able to click images having a far greater affinity with what the eye can see. Combined with the professional’s skill in manipulating exposure, lighting and other metrics, this allows for the creation of the breath-taking images we observe in print and digital media.
The question of skill, however, is what drives many people away from DSLRs. We would not argue that DSLRs are as simple to operate and manipulate as point-and-shoot cameras. However, once one has learned the basics of using a DSLR camera, the amount of creative freedom afforded by the camera far exceeds the price and complexity involved.
The reason we say so is because DSLRs were meant for professionals and therefore evolved as per their needs. Hence, you would not find 30x zoom on a DSLR (using default lens) because professionals typically prefer to attach additional lenses for clicking distant creatures or objects. On the positive side, you get unmatched control over shutter speed, ISO, exposure, photography mode, zoom and a range of other metrics that you can tweak to get the image you always wished you wanted to click.
Moreover, DSLR cameras come with a shallower depth of field. In other words, while point-and-shoots would make it difficult to isolate your subject from the surroundings, these cameras would create a shallower background and thus help focus attention on the subject. Thirdly, the speed at which the shutter works and the sensor captures and processes the image are phenomenal compared to ordinary cameras so photographers clicking wildlife or adventure sports can capture multiple moments and then choose the one which they like most.
If all of these still haven’t persuaded you of the superiority of a DSLR over cheaper cameras, consider that DSLRs are meant to last for years. Professionals develop deep bonds with their devices and typically prefer to invest in lenses as opposed to cameras. Hence, these cameras not only come with better warranties but are also future-proof i.e. they have features which are yet to appear in point-and-shoot gadgets and are less likely to become outdated in the coming years.
All of this, however, does not make the DSLR any cheaper. Indeed, you are not likely to own more than one DSLR and are even less likely to change it in the next three to five years. Hence, choosing a DSLR is something you must approach with the same caution you’d apply to buying a car or large household appliance. Matters are made more difficult by the fact that professional cameras come with professional jargon like ISO, PSAM, EOS, CMOS and so on. If you manage to break them down, you still have to sift through the lenses!
The worst part of the selection process is that unlike musical instruments, every professional you consult will give his own opinion. To be honest, we are no better since our experiences are as unique as those of any other photographer. What we do hope to provide, however, is a set of simple guides that will help you make head and tail of the bulky black boxes that are your keys to the world of stellar photography. To save even greater amounts of time, we often go through the best products in the market and write easily comprehensible DSLR camera reviews for you.
None of this can replace the skill and experience that a professional photographer puts into choosing his camera. However, we believe that by providing these guides and DSLR camera reviews, the rather elite world of DSLRs would become more accessible and you would be able, in due time, to place yourself among the ranks of those whose photographs inspired you to go for a better camera.