To DSLR or not DSLR
Posted in Personal on 2008-01-20 00:31
I started my digital photograpy career with a crappy Olympus camera I got for Christmas from my father. The camera may have been crappy, but I took lots of photos with it, and hugely enjoyed it. The trouble was that a lot of the photos came out really poorly, there was no zoom, and so on. So eventually I bought myself a higher-level compact digital from Canon, which I was really happy with.
However, with time I have become more critical of this camera, and have started to feel its limitations. I'm by no means a photo expert, but some things have started becoming painfully clear:
- It performs poorly in low light. I'm left with a choice between grainy photos or photos which are blurry because the shutter time is so long. Pub and conference photos are a real pain, but even at noon in good weather photos can come out grainy.
- Decreasing depth of field to make an object stand out sharply superimposed on a blurry background is impossible. I can do it with objects which are less than 10 cm from the lens, but not with anything that's further away.
- Poor dynamic range, in the sense that if the light is uneven, I can choose between having parts of the photo black or parts of it white because of over-exposure. This happens a lot with shadows, or strongly backlit scenes.
- On overcast days all colour is drained away, and any shot of anything under any circumstances comes out as lifeless and drained of colour.
However, the great advantage of a compact camera is that it is, well, compact. I can keep it in my pocket, or hanging from my wrist, without really noticing. DSLRs tend to be big and clunky. This is important, because bigger cameras tend to be left at home, and I shoot nearly all my photos on the go.
So, I have been wondering whether it's really worth it to get a DSLR, and how much of a difference it will really make. My mother recently got a Nikon D-40X, and so today I asked to borrow it, just so I could try it out and see whether I felt it was really worth the expense and extra weight. I took a few test pictures to try it out. Below are one from my current compact and one from the DSLR.
Flowers, at home
Flowers, at home
So, clearly using a DSLR makes a huge difference in low light performance, and also in the ability to reduce depth of field. The DSLR photo makes me look almost like a pro. It's entirely the camera's achievement, but I don't mind. I haven't been able to test the last two points (at home in my flat late at night), but it does seem like a DSLR really might help noticeably with those two, too.
So, off to the camera store. Pity it's Sunday tomorrow.
On Tuesday I went to the local camera store and came out with a Canon EOS 400D, sold in the US under the idiotic name of Canon Digital Rebel XTi
Read | 2008-01-25 20:36
I bought myself a DSLR almost exactly one year ago, and have been working on my photography skills ever since
Read | 2009-01-10 16:14
Silje - 2008-01-20 08:02:47
I think you are making a wise choice. Though the camera is big and clunky, you might see that dragging along a big peice of magic gives you an end result that is far better then the compact one. One huge difference is also that you can take your pictures in RAW format and not loose importaint imformation in the pics unless you chooce to yourself. And the range of tones and color that actually exist in everything we see is also there. The small details which have great importance.
Paul - 2008-01-24 05:49:20
did you get the camera? I think it's definitely worth it for such an increase in quality. I've got a very basic camera at the moment, as I'm just starting to make a hobby out of photography, but thinking of upgrading soon.
Lars Marius - 2008-01-25 14:38:27
I did indeed buy a new camera, yes. More about it here: http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/150.html
Kiat - 2008-06-26 16:50:43
Thanks for sharing this. I have been asking the same question myself.
K - 2008-07-25 13:57:01
Have you tried using scene modes on the compact camera? If you want shallow depth of field, try using "portrait mode" - of course it won't be as good as an dSLR because of the aperture size difference, but it may give you at least a partially blurry background while keeping your subject sharply in focus.
Secondly, the auto light balance on your camera seems to be very crappy. If you are getting bad photos on an overcast day, or in varying types of light, perhaps instead of keeping the lighting on auto, you need to manually set it (sunlight, overcast, fluorescent, mercury, etc) or by temperature (e.g. 2500K, 10,000K)
You don't mention which model of Canon you have, but most of their compacts have a lot of manual settings you can play with. Nowhere near as good as a true dSLR, but enough to probably help you take much better photos than you are currently in special situations.
Lars Marius - 2008-07-27 04:26:25
K, the lens opening on the compact is too small for the portrait or Av modes to have much effect. The test photo above was taken with F/2.8, which is the biggest aperture setting on the camera.
The auto light balance was indeed not good on the test photo, but, well, that wasn't what I wanted to test, so I didn't bother with it.
The compact is a Canon Powershot A700. It does have lots of manual settings (including full manual mode), but none of them can do anything about the problems I mentioned.
relojes de lujo - 2009-02-16 14:49:07
amazing the difference between a camera and another.. coming to here looking for info on this camera and I have no doubt after see the photo ..