04 Apr Why DSLR’s Are Better Than Point-and-Shoots
More specifically, what makes a DSLR superior to a point and shoot? That’s a loaded question, but lets look at the major factors to consider buying a DSLR if you are serious about photography. A DSLR camera is requirement if you are looking at attending a Matty Photography workshop, and you’ll see why next.
Control, Quality, and Performance are the three of the many factors we are going to look at today. There are ALL KINDS of bells and whistles on today’s cameras, but we are going to specifically concern ourselves with the ones that really truly matter when it comes to making a photograph.
Control is pretty basic really, but hard to appreciate/understand if you do not know how cameras capture light in order to make a photograph. In short, the camera has a couple parts that vary their size and speed in order to capture the proper amount of light. Most of your point and shoot cameras to not allow you to control this. In turn, you lose control of your image taking. I mean… how can you control your camera and take the photo you want if you can’t control your camera’s functions in which determine all this? These mysterious functions that I speak of are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, all which contribute to making the image. If you do not fully know what these are or how to control them, you are not taking the photograph, your camera is, you are just clicking the button. Now don’t you feel special? 😉 Learning these functions and how to control them are covered in-depth and practiced in the beginners workshop, so don’t sweat not knowing this information, just know that it’s important stuff. A lot of students will walk into the beginners class with a camera that they do not know how to use, but by the end of the class, they are all well-skilled in how to take the photos they want with a DSLR and do it great!
Quality pertains mainly to how large and clean the image file is (we are talking about the image sensor here). This is not to be confused with the quality of the “photograph” as that mainly is hindered on your knowledge of light and skill with a camera. One of the first things you’ll notice when you shoot with a DSLR for the first time is that the quality of the image files kick the crap out of your P’nS image files. This comes down to a pretty basic principle. The camera sensor in the DSLR camera is MUCH larger. Think of your sensor just like a bucket that is outside capturing rain water, the larger the bucket the more rain it can capture. So the larger the sensor, the more light it can capture at any one time, and across a larger plane, which gives your camera more information in determining what to make of all that lighting coming into the camera. Aside from sheer light gathering capability, the DSLR sensors are built with much higher quality material, and they are much better at producing better colors, contrast, and light range levels. As your ISO setting rises for low light situations, your image quality goes down, but in much smaller increments on a DSLR than on a P’nS (we’ll hit this a little more in the performance section). Don’t get too wrapped up in this category, thinking that a $3,000 camera setup will make you a pro, cause it doesn’t. A nicer camera has the ability to take a better image quality file, but it’s the driver of the camera that’s setting the bar for the overall quality of the photograph. This is where your skill set and knowledge come in.
Performance is a tangent right off of quality in a way. Performance flirts with a couple topics, and those are speed and speed. Confused? Give me a sec to explain. Speed #1 is what you are probably already thinking of, and that is the rate in which your camera can take photos. Can your point and shoot take 8 frames a second? I didn’t think so. Are you a sports/activities photographer? Good luck guessing when to take a photo with your point and shoot, or you can just hold the trigger down on a nicer DSLR and take 8 frames a second, which 1 of 8 frames are much more likely to be better than your one-shot guess with the point and shoot. You can control the speeds of your captures, from 30 seconds to 1/8000th of a second. The second, and for portrait shooters, the more important of the two “speeds,” is low light performance. Sure, the human eye can see just fine in most indoor lighting situations, and that’s because our eyes rock and are very sensitive and dynamic in accommodating light changes. Camera sensors can’t keep up with our eyes with light changes, so we have to keep that in mind. Now, indoor light is very much considered a low light environment. This is where it is really important to have a large image sensor (a large rain bucket) to capture more light. So larger sensors are better at capturing more light, but they also perform much better at higher ISO settings. The higher your ISO setting is, the more sensitive your sensor is to light, making it so you don’t need as much light to make an image, but the downfall is that the higher the ISO setting, the more grainy your image will look. Imagine our rain bucket scenario again, and say we wanted to capture as much rain as possible so that we can do a water quality test on the captured water. The more water we have, the more accurate the test results will be. It’s the same with your sensor and ISO setting. Putting your ISO on a higher setting will effectively be the same as shrinking your rain bucket, so your camera does not have as much light to determine what the image should look like. I hope that makes sense.
Now, we can’t ignore that all this sounds great. The nicer the camera, aka the more money you throw at it, the nicer these factors will be for you as the photographer. It’s really easy to go overboard and get obsessed with having the next best thing, just because. I’ll tell you right now, the jump from a P’nS to a DSLR, as far as control, quality, and performance is night and day. The jump from a $600 to a $1000 DSLR is not nearly as noticeable, in fact, it’s downright hard to tell the difference. That’s why I can’t stress enough that it’s important to own and be knowledgeable with a DSLR camera if you are serious about photography, but don’t think that the nicer gear makes you a better photographer. Inherently, as you progress through the stages as a photographer, you’ll acquire better gear, as you should (everyone starts with a P’nS, then an entry DSLR, then a nicer lens, and so on). If you get to the point where you have paying clients, that’s great. As you move up in the ranks and charge more from your clients, you should invest in better gear to give them a slightly nicer product. It’s the least you can do as they are investing in you, so invest back, and watch the momentum follow. But at first, take it easy, get a DSLR that is comfortably do-able in your finances, and build your skill set. I can’t stress that enough. People spend hours upon hours comparing specs of all the gear out there, instead they could be out taking photos, building their skills and portfolio. Got a DSLR? Check, now go take photos and learn as much as you can, the rest will fall into place.
Got questions from this post or others you see on the site? Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions about gear or the workshops!