Point and Shoot vs. DSLR Cameras


I am often asked why a DSLR camera is needed when so many good point and shoot cameras are available.  Actually each has its advantages and disadvantages but not all of them are obvious.  Let's compare.


1. Image Quality


Both Point and Shoot and DSLR cameras are digital and both use an image sensor to capture light and record an image.  Point and Shoot cameras use a smaller image sensor than DSLR cameras.  That means the pixels are smaller and the image quality is not as good as a DSLR, especially in low light.


2. Zoom Range


A point and shoot camera has one built in lens but a DSLR camera can support many different lenses through its interchangeable lens mount.  The available focal length for the built in lens is usually much smaller than what is available for A DSLR camera too.  This means you won't be able to zoom in or out as much.


3. Speed


A point and shoot camera does not have the same processing capability as a DSLR camera.  This means that it will work slower and the time between shots will be longer.  This can be important if you want to capture something in motion.


4. Light Sensitivity


A DSLR camera usually has a greater ISO range meaning it can handle low light conditions better than a point and shoot camera.


5. Dynamic Range


A DSLR camera has a greater dynamic range too.  This means it can capture a wider range of light conditions without losing details.


6. Depth of Field


A point a shoot camera controls all the settings to automatically produce the 'best' shot possible.  It controls both the aperture and the shutter speed producing a fixed depth of field.  A DSLR camera allows you to control the settings separately producing effects such as blurred backgrounds or deep depth of field.


7. Flexibility


A DSLR camera can accommodate different lenses, flash attachments and even audio recorders to capture the images you want.  A point and shoot camera must do everything with one lens and one small flash.


8. Size


A point and shoot camera does have advantages, though.  It is clearly smaller and weighs less than a typical DSLR camera.  This is most important when you have to carry the camera around all day.


9. Ease of Use


A point and shoot camera is easier to use too.  As the name implies, just point and shoot.  A DSLR camera is a complex tool that takes some time to master.  Most DSLR cameras have a point and shoot mode, though, to ease the transition.


10. Cost


The point and shoot cameras win this one too.  Most of them are less expensive than a DSLR camera.


You might be surprised to know that most avid photographers still use a point and shoot camera occasionally when they don't want to lug a DSLR camera around.  They also serve as a backup camera to be used if other equipment is damaged.  But a point and shoot camera has too many limitations to be the primary camera for serious photographers.  However, there's a newcomer on the market that has some of the advantages of both point and shoot cameras and DSLRs.  They're called mirrorless cameras.  We'll take a look at them in a future article.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


   Roger Nelson