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The Truth about DSLRs

They are huge, bulky, a pain to carry around if you count extra lenses and of course they are costly. The cheapest entry-level DSLRs these days would cost you about 5 times as much as an entry-level point and shoot. And yet.. so many of us do cross over only to find that their photos are not really 5 times better than when they shot with their petite little point and shoots.

WHY?

I cannot speak for all the people who own a DSLR and crib about their photo quality, but I will relate to moments in my life when I wanted to go up to people and give them a lesson or two on their camera gear. Following are my rants about what people should know before buying an SLR

An SLR is not a better Point and shoot

If you walked into best buy or Walmart with the intention of buying the best-est camera there is and walked out with an SLR camera you know nothing about then you probably bought the wrong camera. An SLR has severe limitations when you think about someone who is upgrading from a point and shoot. It does not do live preview, the controls are cumbersome and worse, there is no zoom button! Since most of the controls look baffling, the easiest way out is to set the camera in Auto and start taking photos. The result is a set of photos that look more or less identical to what you had with your point and shoot. Moral of the story – learn about if an SLR is really for you. Dont think of it as a better point and shoot.

Forget the Xs

Most point and shoot camera manufacturers advertise the zoom capabilities of their products to lure customers. Since the sensor sizes of those cameras vary a lot there is no standard focal length that can be defined for the zoom range. Instead the marketing folks use the ratio of the longest to widest focal length to show the apparent zooming power i.e 3X or 4X or 5X zooms. Dont get me wrong, I was one of those people who believed in getting the most Xs for the buck. But here is the problem, when transferred to the DSLR world those Xs mean nothing. Most decent zoom lenses dont go beyond 4 times the ratio of Wide to telephoto (eg, 100-400, 55-250, 24-105). That is because more zoom requires more glass, more glass means less image quality. Professional photographers choose to take their best shots on prime lenses (no zoom, fixed focal length,least glass). But how do you explain that to someone who still believes higher Xs equate to a better camera. The whole point of getting into the DSLR world is to be able to choose which lens you would like to use in which scenario. Moral of the story – find out what lenses would suit your photography needs, dont blindly go by the Xs

The Almighty Flash

A Flash is an essential tool for photography, there is no doubt about it, but if you plan to only ever use the pop up flash on the DSLR, it better be for a fill light on a sunny day. It pains me to see people not realizing how well the new crop of DSLRs can handle low light situations. To me, not having to use a flash all the time would be the reason to buy an SLR. There is really no difference between a photo taken with a flash on a SLR vs flash on a point and shoot. If you belong to the group who believes whitewashed faces with blue hues equate to great photos then save some money and buy a nice little slim point and shoot. If you really want to use your DSLR, learn about the ISO settings and now to set them for the ambient lighting.

P - Av - Tv - M

And then there are those who have never realized that there is a mode dial on their DSLRs. Its set to Auto and there it shall stay for eternity, for why would anyone break that ain’t broken? But thats the fun of digital photography, you dont need to waste any film to monkey around with the settings. Go ahead and play with the buttons and dials. See what they do, and why you would want to step out of your comfort zone (auto) to M(anual). If you are already working on those zones with your point and shoot then its probably time for you to upgrade to an SLR and if you are stuck in auto you need to really consider if you really need an SLR
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