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Copied From the Learn Photography Master Thread: Lesson 1

Choosing a camera: Point and Shoot vs. Mirrorless vs. DSLR

Before you even start thinking which camera model to buy, you have to decide something much more important: the type of camera. There are three main types of cameras on the market today, and they each offer some things the others don't. Let's take a quick at them and see what the differences are and why you might choose one over the other.

Point & Shoots (P&S): These are by far the most popular cameras out there. Usually extremely compact, they're all easy to use, relatively cheap, and deliver great images. The point & shoot ranges from tiny shirt-pocket cameras such as the Canon Elph series, to large superzooms (sometimes called all-in-ones or bridge cameras) such as the Panasonic FZ series, to 'advanced' P&Ss like the Canon G series or the $2800(!) Sony RX-1. All P&Ss have fixed (non-removable) lenses.

Point & Shoot pros:
--- Amazing selection: At the time of this writing, B&H has 328 cameras in stock listed under Point & Shoot. A basic Canon Elph-style camera usually has a 3-8x zoom lens, a 3" screen, 1080p video, image stabilization, and a million other features. Should you could choose a superzoom, you'd get a 24-50x zoom, manual controls, a viewfinder, and (usually) a hotshoe for flashes. Advanced P&Ss will give you even more control, better, larger sensors, and higher quality lenses. Want a camera your baby could drop into a bowl of cereal? There are currently 18 different shock and waterproof cameras [url=|0&ci=8612&N=4288586279+35+4052359761&srtclk=sort]available
. Want a screen that swivels? Built-in GPS? WiFi? Check, check, and check. One screen not enough, you want two of 'em? Check!
--- Cheap: Even a $100 P&S will give you better pictures than a $500 camera from 5 years ago. You do not need to spend a fortune to get amazing pictures.
--- Light and easy to carry: No excuses for not shlepping the camera. If fits into your shirt pocket, a purse, just about anywhere.
--- Great video: Most current cameras are capable of recording 1080p HD video, or at least 720p. Combined with ubiquitous image stabilization P&Ss are capable of outputting awesome video.
--- Easy to use: Most P&S will only have an Auto or P mode, although some advanced or superzoom models will have full manual control. In Auto mode all you have to do is press the button. Some cameras even have an 'intelligent' auto feature where it could detect if you're shooting a flower, a portrait, etc. and adjust itself accordingly. This actually works pretty well on most cameras. In P mode you get a bit more control (you could turn the flash off, adjust the picture brighter or darker, etc.), but the camera still handles most of the decisions making for you.

Point & Shoot Cons:
--- Image quality relative to mirrorless and DSLRs: Yes, P&Ss will give you great picture quality - when situations are ideal. But if you plan to be shooting a lot in darker situations (indoors, your kids' school play) you will notice a considerable difference in quality compared to the other two. Sharpness will also not be as good as the others - the combination of a small physical lens, a small sensor, and over-zealous noise reduction (more on all of these later) is not a recipe for razor-sharp photos. These factors will be much less of an issue with advanced cameras such as the Canon G15, although a mirrorless or DSLR will still be far better.
--- Hard or impossible to achieve certain effects: You know that portrait look where the entire background is just blurred into creamy nothingness? That's one of the hardest things to create with a P&S (and conversely one of the easiest things to do with an SLR/mirrorless). Later on I'll show you some techniques to force this effect out of a P&S (to a degree), but the physics are simply not in your favor.
--- Speed: Compared to a DSLR, the P&S is practically a turtle. It takes a few seconds to turn on, zooming takes time, every setting change takes time. Most importantly though, is the speed at which the camera takes the picture. While a DSLR focuses almost instantly, a P&S could take a second or two. Once the image is in focus, there is a maddening delay called shutter lag, which is the time between you pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the picture. Between focusing and shutter lag, it could sometimes take 3 or more seconds to get your shoot, at which point the moment may be long gone. Later on we'll discuss some techniques for speeding this process up, but it'll still take far longer than a DSLR.
--- Not much control: The flip side to the P&S's ease of use it its lack of control. Want to lower your flash power so that people don't have that 'deer in headlights' look? Tough noogies. Want to change your aperture? Your shutter speed? Ain't happenin'. Of course some cameras do let you change all that, but a) they're in the minority by far, and b) since these are secondary features, you'll probably have to dig through 6 menu pages every time you want to make a change.
--- Limited expandability: A P&S is a closed system. Want a longer or wider lens? Want to use filters? No dice on most cameras. This is also a big issue if you ever want to dabble in lighting - it'll be quite difficult with a P&S.

DSLRs: The big, black, "professional" looking cameras. Big, heavy, and (relatively) expensive, these have interchangeable lenses and optical viewfinders. The big players are Canon and Nikon, with Sony and Pentax having a small but dedicated market share. A typical 'starter' DSLR will have a 18 (Canon) or 24 (Nikon) megapixel sensor, come with an 18-55mm lens, and have actual buttons for only the most important tasks. As you move up through the lineup, you'll get more direct buttons and knobs, status LCDs, better focusing/metering systems, more lens support, metal or magnesium bodies, weather sealing, wireless flash control, higher frame-per-second rates, and more. You also get better kit lenses (that's the lens that comes with the camera) as you move up, and at a certain level (usually the third camera in the lineup) you'll also be able to buy the camera body by itself without any lens.

DSLR pros:
--- Image quality: This is the number one benefit of the DSLR - even the cheapest camera and lens combination will give you better pictures that any point and shoot, even if the P&S costs much more. (B&H currently lists 3 DSLR kits (camera and lens) for $450 - that's cheaper than some P&Ss.) Looking at pictures of a P&S and a DSLR side by side, you'll be blown away by the difference in sharpness, color, and dynamic range (explained later) of the DSLR. When it comes to low light, there's no contest; the DSLR wins hand down.
--- Control: In a DLSR you have control over every single shooting parameter. There are no limits to what you could create; everything's at your beck and call. Flash power, exposure, color, and most importantly, RAW shooting. (I'll get into far more detail on that last thing later.)
--- Special effects: Out of focus backgrounds? Easy peasy. Long exposures? Timelapse? You bet.
--- System expandability: DSLRs are sometimes called 'system cameras'. This is due to the fact that unlike P&Ss, a DSLR is not just a camera; it's at the heart of an entire system. Each brand has dozens of lenses available, plus many more from third-party lens manufacturers. You could get flashes, transmitters, remotes, and many other goodies and they will all work seamlessly and communicate properly to one another. BTW, this is why you should choose your first SLR very carefully: you're probably buying into a system. First you get a camera and lens, then another lens, then maybe another lens or a flash, and then the a new camera comes out so you buy that. It's quite the pain to switch to a different brand once you're bought in to the system.
--- Viewfinder: By definition, a DSLR is a single lens reflex camera; what that means is that inside the camera just behind the lens mount there's a mirror, which projects the image from the lens into a prism, which in turn shows up in the viewfinder. The big advantage of this is that when you look through the viewfinder you're actually looking through lens, and as such are seeing exactly what the lens sees. This gives you an extremely accurate and life-like view, which makes it easy to compose your shots properly. A viewfinder also lets you use the camera in bright light without worrying about not being able to see the screen.
--- Speed: A DSLR is ready to shoot almost instantly after being turned on. No matter where you are, be it a menu or playing back you pictures, a slight tap of the shutter button and the camera is instantly ready to shoot. Focus is nearly instantaneous, and shutter lag is pretty much a non-issue. Another speed aspect is continuous shooting - holding down the shutter button while the camera rattles off picture after picture. An entry-level camera  could easily do around 4.5fps (frames per second), while higher level cameras could do 7 or 8 (or 12, if you count the $6800 Canon 1D X).

DSLR cons:
--- Size and weight: There's no getting around it: DSLRs are big and bulky, especially if you're carrying more than one lens.
--- Price: DSLRs start at about $450, and go way up. One of the most common cameras, the Canon T4i, will set you back about a grand. And then you want to buy another lens. And another one. And another one... :D
--- Video: DSLR video is a really weird situation. On the one hand the quality is INSANE. Just look on Vimeo and see what people have been doing with the Canon 5DMk2 and Mk3 and you'll see what I mean. On the other hand, if you look at the behind the scenes video of one of those, you'll see that the camera is mounted on a rig costing $10K or more. The rig stabilizes the camera and provides support for the focus controls, the zoom controls, the sound system, and many other things. Why is all this necessary? Very simple - because the camera does a horrible job at all this if left to it's own devices. Focusing during video is horrible, especially if anything's moving through the scene. What this means is that if you're buying an SLR and are planning on taking videos of your kids running around in the park, you will be sorely disappointed - nothing will be in focus half the time, and when the camera finally does achieve focus, the built-in mike will have picked up every grind and whirr of the lens as it moved back and forth. Canon has made some progress on eliminating these issues with their new STM lenses, but for now that's only two cameras and two lenses, and even that isn't perfect.


Mirrorless: Known by many different names (ILCs and EVILs for example), the industry has seemed to settle on Mirrorless lately. This was the brainchild of a joint venture between Olympus and Panasonic, and was aimed on creating an interchangeable-lens camera in with a P&S body and DSLR-like image quality, and has been wildly successful. Olympus and Panasonic are still the major players with their Micro 4/3s system, followed by Sony with their NEX line. Many others have tried to take over market share from the big 3, but have been largely unsuccessful mainly due to inferior products. Nikon 1, Canon, M, and Samsung NX are examples of fairly unpopular systems.

Most mirrorless cameras have a P&S form-factor, albeit somewhat larger. With the exception of Olympus and Panasonic, the lenses are not interchangeable between brands, but adapters are available to convert practically any DSLR (or old rangefinder camera) lens to just about every system. Most adapters will not autofocus the lens, so it's not exactly a perfect solution.

Mirrorless pros:
--- Size and weight: This is the main draw for most people. While not exactly pocket sized once a lens is in place, it it still a fairly compact kit and could be carried in a purse with ease. It's more like a large P&S than a small DSLR.
--- Price: Generally cheaper than a DSLR of a similar level. The Panasonics and Olympus (Olympusus? Olympi? ??? ) especially seem to be on sale more often than not.
--- Image quality: About as good as an SLR, simple as that.
--- Expandability: Like DSLRs, these cameras are part of a system. In the last couple of months more and more third parties have started to make lenses too. Micro 4/3s is a much more robust system then Sony NEX though, with many more lenses available.
--- Video: Video on mirrorless cameras is insanely fantastic. Similar in quality to an SLR, but with the ease of use of a P&S. It focuses quickly, perfectly, and fairly quietly.

Mirrorless cons:
--- Lenses: Far smaller selection than SLRs, although to be fair most important lenses are covered.
--- Image quality: A DSLR will still have slightly better image quality, especially in low light scenarios.
--- Viewfinders: Most donít have viewfinders at all, which make it harder to use in low light. Some of those have axillary finders you could out in the hotshoe (usually at exorbitant prices or some reason), but these are just to give you a general idea of what the camera is seeing.
--- Batteries: Uses batteries like a P&S (200-400 shots), while a DSLR usually gets around 2000 shots per battery.
--- Speed: Focusing, while worlds better than P&Ss, isn't quite up to DSLR standards yet, but that's getting better every day.
--- Control: While mirrorless camera offer the same level of control as DSLRs, very often you'll have to dig through menus to get to where you want to. The main point of mirrorless being cutting down on size, buttons and knobs were eliminated without mercy.


Lesson Summary:
--- Point & Shoots are great for most everyday shooting. Cheap, more options than you could ever want, great image quality and video. Quite difficult (but definitely possible - I'll show you how) to get the 'pro' look.
--- DSLR are king when it comes to image quality, control, and expandability. For the best pictures in any situation, go for a DSLR. Video, not so much.
--- Mirrorless cameras are the best of both worlds, with some caveats. Amazing image quality, the best video, and fairly small and portable. Less control and versatility than an SLR, though.


For the full lesson series visit the Learn Photography Master Thread.


Links to additional Info:

Learn Photography Master Thread: Lesson 2: Camera specs - What do they mean, and which ones matter to me?

Canon's DSLR naming scheme
Nikon's DSLR naming scheme
« Last edited by Curlyhead on August 10, 2016, 11:42:18 AM »

Author Topic: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread  (Read 176795 times)

Offline sams

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #1710 on: January 16, 2020, 08:21:28 PM »
Thoughts on the Canon g9x mark? Also is there some site where pros  put their cameras up for sale when they upgrade? EBay I'm afraid of potential abuse...
If I want I have Sony a6000 for sale is that interests u

Offline JunkYardUnz

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Re: Which Camera Should I Get? Master Thread
« Reply #1711 on: January 17, 2020, 01:22:02 AM »
If I want I have Sony a6000 for sale is that interests u
How much are you looking to get for it?