Digital SLRs vs. Compact Camera Systems

dSLRs VS. Compact Camera Systems - title

Maybe you’ve stumbled across this site before you’ve purchased a dSLR camera.  Maybe you’re wondering if you should buy a compact camera system instead.  Before you decide, this article may help!  Compact camera systems vs dslr cameras is certainly a topic of debate.  If you’ve already purchased your dSLR, don’t worry, I think you’ve made the right choice.

I must make a disclaimer.  I strongly favor the dSLR.  I think compact camera systems are overpriced, oversimplified hybrids that substitute fancy bells and whistles for learning the principles of photography.  I’m by no means a purist (I don’t shoot in full manual mode often), but I do think that in order to improve your photography you have to understand how a photographic image is captured.  The compact camera system hinders that.

I have numerous friends who have purchased a compact camera system because they wanted to take better photographs.  What the compact camera system doesn’t tell you is that the camera does not take a photo, it captures a photo that a photographer takes.  A more expensive and fancier compact camera system may have a better zoom than a point-and-shoot, but unfortunately this feature is the sole benefit without understanding the operation of a camera and the principles of photography.  Friends who have had their compact camera system for quite some time are still shooting in full automatic mode because they weren’t even aware of the other settings.  If you only are looking for a “better zoom” than a compact camera system may be better for you but if you want to improve your overall photography, a dslr may be a better choice.


Compact camera systems have a number of limitations.  Therefore as the user advances, eventually the camera itself will be a hindrance.  Compact camera systems are proprietary entities that are specific to the brand.  Sony’s compact system and Canon’s compact system cannot use the same lenses and more importantly as of now, do not have third party lenses.  If you have a Canon SLR, you still cannot use Sony lenses, but in addition to the multitude of Canon SLR lenses available (far more than their compact system “M” cameras), third party companies such as Sigma and Tamron have produced lines of lenses.  SLRs  allow you access to literally hundreds of lenses, while compact systems have a handful.

To get a bit technical, perhaps the biggest ceiling for compact camera systems relates to sensor size.  As compact cameras are much smaller than most SLRs (which admittedly can be an advantage), their corresponding sensor – the device that actually captures the exposure to create the image – is smaller.  This, more than total megapixels, has dramatic effect on the ability to “blow up” or crop an image.

Now compact systems aren’t all bad.  I’ve already mentioned they are smaller and lighter than SLR cameras and this can come in handy if your photography takes you to far reaches of the world.  For beginners too, the systems can be much more approachable and easier to use though I feel that if you are interested in learning the full functions of a camera, you’ll quickly get bored with the compact system.  And compared to top-of-the-line SLRs and SLR lenses, compact systems are much less expensive.  But like anything else, always remember, you get what you pay for.

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