Digital SLR Vs Digital Point-and-shoot Cameras: A Non-technical Guide

Not everybody wants to be a professional photographer. Some of us just want to take a few pictures here and there, and don’t want to spend a fortune doing it. Before you confront the army of camera sales teams in your local home electronics store, take a look at this guide for casual photographers. The sales push is on for Digital SLR cameras, so be prepared before they come after your wallet.

1. What is SLR?

SLR refers to Single Lens Reflex, or a camera that has one single lens to both view a scene and capture an image. What this means, to the casual photographer, is the picture you take will be the same as the image you view through the lens. It also means you can change the lens to take telephoto or wide angle photos. The most appealing aspect of an SLR camera is the ability to adjust the camera’s settings manually, so that a seasoned photographer generally knows what the finished picture will look like before it is ever viewed.

2. What is Point-and-Shoot?

A point-and-shoot camera uses one lens to view the scene, and a separate lens to capture the desired image. This means the image captured will not be the actual image viewed by the photographer, but only a close approximation. For most casual photographers, the image is so close you won’t recognize the difference. Point-and-Shoot cameras require very little manual adjustment (if any), and operate like the name describes. Focus is usually automatic.

3. Does an SLR take better photos?

Yes. With an SLR camera it is usually easier to capture high quality photos, but there is a price. Entry level SLR camera prices are two to three times higher than high-end point-and-shoot camera prices. SLR cameras also have a learning curve, and require the user to learn a little about how a camera works.

4. Does a Point-and-Shoot take poor photos?

No. A Point-and-Shoot camera may take high quality photos, and the quality of these cameras is constantly increasing. It is more difficult to produce a professional quality photo with a Point-and-Shoot camera, but it is possible. Point-and-Shoot digital cameras now take pictures that can be printed as large as 11×17 with excellent results.

5. Is a Digital SLR worth the investment for a casual photographer?

Probably not. An SLR camera is usually the choice of serious amateur photographers and professionals. For people who just want to snap a few shots of their kids here and there, or take a picture of their dog while hiking, a digital Point-and-Shoot will produce great pictures. An SLR is bulky, expensive, and requires a little time to learn. A Point-and Shoot is compact, less expensive, and easy to use straight out of the box. If you are interested in learning more about SLR photography, or photography in general, your money is better spent on a used 35mm SLR. For less than $300 you can purchase what you need to learn the ins and outs of photography, a far better value than the $1000+ price tag of learning SLR photography in a digital medium.

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