Deciding between a DSLR and Point & Shoot Camera
Deciding between a Point & Shoot camera and DSLR camera requires sorting through many variables. DSLRs will give you the best image quality, especially with vastly improved high ISO capabilities that allow you to take low light shots without the use of small built-in flashes. However, to really tap into all of the image quality advantages that a DSLR offers, you will need to spend extra money on one or more lenses. And to fully maximize DSLR image quality you will need to use high quality lenses, which means further increasing the cost of your photography kit along with adding to the size and weight of your kit. Higher quality lenses are intended for specific uses and typically have reduced zoom ranges, meaning you will need more than one lens. So without the better quality, more expensive, larger and heavier glass a DSLR will only offer only marginal improvements over an inexpensive, small and light weight Point & Shoot camera.

My intent is not to dissuade you from going the DSLR route but to make sure you are aware that even with the big drop in DSLR prices they don’t necessarily represent the best performance for the dollar spent. P&S cameras often represent the best short term value unless you plan on investing a lot of time and money into photography in the long term, and in that case you should start building your DSLR kit as soon as possible. DSLRs offer better long term value because they allow for independent body and lens upgrades.

Both P&S and DSLRs yield better performance when using the creative modes (M, A or S) that allow you to take control of aperture, shutter speeds, ISO, focus and exposure settings. Even the best DSLRs are designed to give you standard images in the “auto” modes and in most cases the ability to capture the scene’s atmosphere will require that you depart from these standard settings. And finally making the leap to RAW file format will allow you to produce the image you witnessed or imagined at the time you took the photo. All of these features/settings are far easier to adjust and optimize with a DSLR, although, it is possible to do so on the high-end Point & Shoot cameras.

So if you are seriously interested in photography, think that you will get more than one lens and plan on using manual settings to get the most out of the DSLR then the decision is easy, get a DSLR! If the higher costs, increased size and weight, or the idea of using manual settings sounds like to much of a hassle then go with a Point & Shoot camera.

Whether you have decided to go the Point & Shoot or DSLR route be sure to read the online reviews (see separate page for list of online resources) and always checkout the camera in person at your local camera store before making a purchase. I recommend supporting local photography retailers whenever possible. Forget about big box stores as their staff usually know very little about the products, they often don’t allow you to use the camera or try different lenses and their return policies are usually more restrictive than online retailers while their prices are usually higher than what you can find online. In the long run you will benefit from having that specialized photography retailer in business when you want to make a return, upgrade or tryout different lenses with your DSLRs.

Quick Recommendations:
  • Point and Shoot: Canon S95
  • DSLR Crop Sensor: Nikon D7000 w/ 16-85 VR and 50 f/1.8
  • DSLR Full Frame Sensor: Canon 5D2 w/ 24-105 IS and 85 f/1.8
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