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Need some advice re slr/compact cameras

Discussion in 'Photography Forums' started by cubix, Aug 2, 2004.

  1. cubix

    cubix
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    Just wondering what you get for your cash when you buy a slr camera instead of a compact jobby. Another words if you take a compact with the same MP/lens range as a digital slr and considering the price differance what are you getting for your cash?. I know you can change the lens on a slr but if you got a compact say like the fuji s5000 which has a 10x lens (which Ive been told is close to a 70-300mm slr lens) whould this not keep you going for a while. I totally beleive in most cases you get what you pay for and before digital I had the standard 35m film slr which was sharp but am just wondering considering the cost (digital slr €1000/compact €4-600)is it really still for the big lads

    Cheers
     
  2. Peakoverload

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    The difference between a DSLR and a compact is quite profound but not thats not to say that everyone should buy a DSLR if they can afford it.

    The two biggest differences is optical quality and sensor size.

    If you take a 3MP DSLR and a 3MP compact the photos from the DSLR will be better quality. This is due to the optical quality of the glass in the lens but also the physical size of the iris. If you look at the iris on a compact it is much much smaller than on a lens for a DSLR and so cannot let in anywhere near as much light. Also the size of the sensor is larger allowing for more light to be focused on it, more light = more detail.

    Also the size of the sensor has a large effect on depth of field. Compact cameras have a small sensor which makes it much harder to produce any depth of field, i.e. where the background is out of focus. Therefore f/4 on a compact does not give the same depth of field as f/4 on a DSLR.

    Also all DSLR's allow you to use an external flash gun which not all compact do which opens up many more possibilities and also many DSLR's can be operated by a remote which is very useful for long exposures, macro etc where you want to avoid all camera shake.

    The cost difference between a compact and a DSLR is entirely worth it in terms of quality and extra features but only if you really need them and can make use of them. The Fuji S5000 you mentioned is a superb camera in my opinion and in terms of features does give DSLR's a bit of a run for their money when you consider you can pick it up for just £205!! However it can't and produce images or compare to the likes of the Canon EOS-10D, Nikon D70, Canon 300D, Nikon D100, Fuji S2 etc.

    Personally speaking I would only advise buying a DSLR if you are struggling to get the shots you want with a good compact and actually know how to use a camera and not just set it on one of the auto settings.
     
  3. seany

    seany
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    I have a canon S1. I took 3 pictures on manual with the an aperture of 3.1 to 3.2 shutter speed was 1/.59 sec 1/202 sec between the 3 pics. The one with diane in the background was taken with a nikon D100 on auto

    Now i'm no expert and i'm sure in the right hands more (much more) could be made from the D100. But i have to say the depth of field in the 3 pics taken with my canon are good enough for me. I love the S1, at £333 i'd say its a fair alternative to a DSLR
     

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  4. MarkE19

    MarkE19
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    You have also got to consider the size & weight of a DSLR.
    I have lost count of the times in the past when I was out and thought that I should have my 35mm SLR (pre digicam days) on me, but didn't bring it because I just couldn't be bothered to carry it around all day. But if I was after the best possible results then the SLR is the only real way to go. After all how many pro photographers have you seen with a compact camera when working? The compact may have several manual features, but I doubt any of them will give the amount of control from a full manual controlled SLR.

    Now that I have gone digital I have compromised and got a Minolta Dimage7 which is an SLR 'style' digicam. It is a fair bit bigger than a compact and looks very much like an SLR, but the lens is fixed. It has good manual control and is still fairly light and not too bulky to carry. I think this is a great compromise between quality and portability and I find that I tend to be carrying it a lot more than my old SLR.

    Both types of camera have their uses. When buying you just need to work out which is right for you.

    Mark.
     
  5. HelenS

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    Sorry this is long, but maybe it will help someone (if only as a cure for insomnia!):

    I agree in general with the other replies you've had. Taking the Fuji S5000 example you gave, its lens is actually equivalent to a 37-370mm zoom in 35mm film SLR terms - a bigger range than you thought. By the way, come September the Fuji S5500 will be launched - which is an improved S5000 with 4MP and a few other tweaks, mainly answering any mild criticisms existing owners have had. Digital SLRs of course look very like 35mm SLRs, but their digital sensors (CCD or CMOS), though physically bigger than those in compact digitals, are not quite as big as a frame of 35mm film. Therefore, if you fit a lens which is not specifically made for digital SLRs and marked up as such, you actually need to do a quick multiplication to find out what that lens will "act" like. The factor can be something like 1.4x, making a 70-300mm lens actually act like a 98-420mm, for example.

    It's very popular to recommend a dSLR over digital compacts, and certainly they will bring an increase in versatility and quality - the bigger sensor means the results are smoother, with less noise (which is the digital equivalent of film grain), and they can usually be made more sensitive as a result (digitals have settings equivalent to the ISO of film speeds and most compacts top out at 400 or 800 because after that they are just too noisy [for some users, with some compact digitals, they'll find what IS offered too noisy!], whereas dSLRs regularly go up to 1600, 3200, even more).

    However... you have to weigh up other factors too. There's cost - whilst an "affordable" dSLR might be comparable in price to a top-end compact digital, it doesn't usually include a lens - and a lens with equivalent range to the one on the compact is likely to be significantly expensive. The combination is also likely to be much, much larger and heavier. Then there's the depth of field issue another responder mentioned. The smaller a sensor, the LARGER the depth of field actually - so at the same aperture setting, the compact digital will keep much more in focus, in front of and behind what you focussed on. The dSLR will still give more depth of field than a 35mm SLR, because its sensor is that bit smaller than a frame of film, but the difference is quite subtle, whereas it is very noticeable that you get much more in focus with a compact digital, since the size difference of the sensor is very significant. Now, which is preferable depends on your style of photography. If you like to do portraits and artistic shots, the difficulty of blurring the background with a compact can be annoying. On the other hand, it is useful to be so easily able to keep things in focus when you are doing closeups and macro, since "optical rules" mean that depth of field automatically decreases when you focus closer, and the magnification of close focusing increases the effects of camera shake, so that if you reduce the lens aperture to try to get more in focus, the shutter speed slows and you get more shake - a vicious circle. With a compact digital, you don't get troubled by this anywhere near as much as with 35mm film photography, and a dSLR would be closer to the 35mm situation.

    Similarly, because of the small size of a compact digital's sensor, you will have noticed that the *real* focal length of the lens is something very short, such as (guesswork here since they don't mark it) about 5.7-57mm or so for the Fuji S5000's 37-370mm equivalent lens. A side effect of this is that you can focus much closer than is possible for a 35mm film format lens - to approach as close with a dSLR you need a macro lens or addons. The short "real" focal length is also the reason for the extended depth of field.

    Other differences to note: on a dSLR you retain a proper optical TTL eye level view as on the 35mm version, but compared with the 35mm you gain an electronic LCD monitor on the back of the camera. On a compact digital, you have the LCD monitor on the back and either a rather basic optical eye level finder as on a 35mm point and shoot (i.e. just a window, a few basic frames and target point engraved if you're lucky, and an AF locked/not locked light plus a flash ready/not ready light, and that's it. It won't be possible to tell anything about how accurately you have focused, how much depth of field there is, and it will be no use at all in closeup/macro shooting as it will be looking in the wrong place due to parallax). On the other hand in many more advanced digital compacts such as the Fuji, an EVF (electronic viewfinder) is provided instead of the basic optical finder, which is a miniaturised version of the LCD on the back, with all the info as available on that. The EVF is thus looking through the lens, as is the LCD on any *compact digital*. Note that the LCD monitor of a dSLR is NOT looking through the lens (see below) - you only use it to review taken shots. Taking the EVF to compare with the SLR's optical TTL view, the EVF gives more information, overlaid on the image, and shows what the chip is seeing through the lens. However, if the light's too low for the CCD to make out much, that's all you'll see too, and you may generally notice that you can see some flicker, some slowing of fast action and perhaps be able to make out the tiny dots that make up the image on the EVF. There are pros and cons with everything.

    Here it's wise to point out some other points that come from the difference between a dSLR's viewing setup and a compact digital's (let's say the S5000 again with its EVF). Both have the LCD on the back, and an eye level view which is through the lens. However, since a dSLR requires a mirror behind the lens to reflect the image up through the pentaprism to the eyepiece, its LCD is used purely to inspect the images you've already taken - because the sensor is only exposed when a shot is taken. The compact digital can use its LCD (and EVF) as a viewfinder, showing a live view of the effects of the various control setting changes you make. This probably doesn't count as a big advantage, but can be handy where a camera offers a live histogram feature (the S5000 does not, actually, but the S5500 might) - a graph to warn you of imminent under or overexposure of parts of the shot. Since back of camera LCDs can be difficult to see in bright sunlight, it's worth noting that the EVF-equipped digital compacts can also be switched so that you can review your taken shots in the eyelevel viewfinder - obviously not possible for a dSLR (or a digital compact with a simple optical finder).

    Finally, related to the dSLR's mirror setup and the fact that the sensor is only exposed to light when the shot is taken: because of this, dSLRs can evidently not offer a movie mode, which most digital compacts do. This could be a factor if you don't own a camcorder - though really a "toy" feature, the movie performance of these digital compacts is getting better (the S5500 is improved there) and is quite fun.

    A final difference I've thought of - because in a compact digital the sensor is used so busily for previewing the image (i.e. feeding it to the "live" viewfinders), it is responsible for the slower responsiveness of a digital often perceived by a newcomer to digital - there is a delay if you just press the shutter release as the sensor does all its jobs - autofocus and lock, meter exposure and lock, switch from sending the live image feed to the finder(s) to capturing the image and so on. Manufacturers are working to make them quicker and it's gradually happening, but the dSLR will still be quicker as its sensor has a simpler job to do.

    So, that's it. Go for a dSLR for the more serious photography reasons: versatility of a range of interchangeable lenses, increased quality of results, willingness to work towards a result where it's not general photography; and go for a compact digital for all-in-one convenience, light weight, fun features like movies, and ease of use in shooting closeups, but remember you will be sacrificing some picture quality as a result. The quality difference is there, but it's not glaring - how important it is to you depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. Strangely, compact digitals (I find) give their best performance close up - I find nothing to complain about at all there and my results are better than I got with film. It's the more distant stuff where you see 35mm *can* outperform them (if the processing is ideal), and where a dSLR is inbetween the two (just my opinion!).
     
  6. cubix

    cubix
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    Guys thanks for the replys and Peakoverload+HelenS much appreciate your indepth answer. Think I better get my self enrolled in one of those night courses soon to be coming up, camera wise I think I will put my cash into a compact at the moment and learn the art and where with all

    Thks again
     
  7. gingercat

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    Another DSLR advantage - larger sensor size = more light = faster auto-focusing. This is a real bonus when shooting non-posed photos.
     
  8. Johndm

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    Well I used an old Canon T80 SLR for nearly 17 years! And decided earlier this year that I just had to look into Mr Digital.
    Did I really want to carry a bloody great bag around again full of lenses, filters and so on, or did I want to just slip a shiny small and lightweight compact into my pocket?
    What I really wanted was quite simple.....nice pictures, end of contest, it had to be a new SLR.
    I only used to shoot say two rolls at an airshow, now I find I'm shooting off 300 to 400 easily.....wonderful fun.

    If you need some examples of what I've achieved with my new Canon 300D and 75-300 usm lens, take a peek here........

    http://www.airliners.net/search/photo.search?photographersearch=John Myers&distinct_entry=true

    Now you can't get them like that with a compact.. :cool:
     

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