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10 Reasons To Buy a DSLR 657

Kurtis writes, "If you're planning on getting a digital camera for yourself this holiday season, here's 10 reasons why you should choose a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera instead of a point-'n'-shoot. DSLR cameras are obviously not perfect for everyone. This article also has a couple of small blurbs about who shouldn't buy a DSLR, and a few things that could be deemed negative aspects of DSLR cameras."
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10 Reasons To Buy a DSLR

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  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:43PM (#16760301) Homepage
    1 - price
    2 - price
    3 - price
    4 - price
    5 - price
    6 - price
    7 - price
    8 - size
    9 - power requirements
    10 - no Kodachrome or T-max 3200

    Don't get me wrong: I'd love to have a DSLR (especially one compatible with my old K-mount SLR lenses), but so far, the reasons not to buy one have out weighed the reasons to buy one. I'm sticking to my compact battery-sipping 35mm SLR and my "prosumer" non-SLR digital for now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:48PM (#16760371)
    11 - lower dynamic range than any film camera
    12 - no really wide-angle optics (of quality, anyway...)
    13 - you can't change to "better film" - need to change to a better camera body when you need better.

    Love my D70 anyway.
  • Re:Go Digital SLR! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:56PM (#16760493)
    Yes. I've been using film SLRs since the 1970s, and have burned through endless miles of film and paper. I became relatively conservative in my shooting because - never mind the cost - the sheer nuisance of getting the stuff processed was a hinderance (even if I let someone else digitize the negs). Yes, shooting film makes you a more thoughtful photographer. But...

    Switching to a DSLR (in my case a Nikon D200) has completely altered my approach, entirely for the better. I'm still thoughtful about what I'm doing, but I experiment a lot more, and can adapt what I'm doing, based on the results, while my subject is still right in front me. I shoot gigabytes at a time and then trash the majority of it. The 6 fps and huge cache on the camera allow me to capture lots of things that a normal digicam or (not-insane) film SLR would never help me get, and I'm way ahead in productivity.

    The added bonuses (like, Nikon's essentially miraculous, built-in remote strobe control stuff) still have me actually smiling everytime I contemplate a shoot.

    But this stuff is NOT for the casual photographer - the digicams are just too good, and too reasonably priced, and too easy to use. A big ol' DSLR is not the right companion on a romantic hike or trip to a favorite restaurant. But I'm so happy to be able to put my collection of Nikon lenses to work on a new camera body, and to shoot stuff I simply never would have managed before. Seriously thinking about a D80 as a backup body (I tend to bang around in the field a lot).
  • by dotgain ( 630123 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @07:59PM (#16760529) Homepage Journal
    All true.
    I thought I'd never end up going digital, but I can't find any good 35mm labs here any more. It's pretty depressing spending minutes sometimes setting up exposures, apertures, etc., only to see JPEG artifacts on the prints.

    Took them back to the lab, yelled "WTF", and while he agreed there were noticable artifacts on the images, they were 'good enough for most people' because nobody before me had noticed.

    For me, while digital has lowered the price plenty, it's also lowered the bar.

  • Re:D40 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @08:36PM (#16761037) Homepage
    As for power consumption, I'm not sure what's holding you back? ... They last a reasonable length of time. A battery grip like the "big ED" holds a pair of batteries so it's down to one change every couple of hours.
    You sound like a Windows XP user bragging about how long he can go without rebooting. :)

    I have a late-80's-vintage 35mm SLR that runs on a single button cell (i.e. no huge-ass "battery grip") for... hell, I can't even measure it in hours. Even when I was using it heavily, I'd go for months without changing it. I recently went on a 10-day backpacking trip recently, and thought for a long time whether to bring the 35mm SLR a couple lenses and a load of film, or the non-SLR digital a couple memory cards and a load of batteries. (I went with the latter.) If I'd owned a DSLR, it wouldn't even have been in the running, being heavier than both combined and requiring even more batteries. Like I said, there are a lot of good features to a digital camera (that's why I own one), and even more to a digital SLR. But trying to argue that their battery usage isn't a liability compared to a well-engineered film camera is just silly.
  • Mod parent up! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:42PM (#16761839)
    He's totally right.

    Saying everybody needs a DSLR because the results are better is short sighted at best. Yes, the results can be better if used properly. But the costs are high - I'm sorry, but 1000$ won't get you anywhere (perhaps a cheap consumer DSLR and couple so-so kit lenses, nothing more). I have several thousands $ worth of glass, and I still need to spend more: I really need a good UltraWide because of the crop factor (and that's already half of your 1000$ budget!) To have a good DSLR that'll last you a while you'll need to spend a good amount

    A Good DSLR (high speed/fps and good buffer, good x-sync speed, decent build quality, decent ISO range/noise, with decent set of features, options like battery packs, etc) is not cheap, but that's just the very beginning! Still not cheap.

    You also need memory cards which can cost hundreds even though they've come down in price a LOT lately (and preferably some way to empty them like an "image tank" or laptop for trips)

    And spare li-ion battery packs (can be pricey) or lots of nimh batteries (and cases for 'em) and chargers

    And the "good" flash for your camera system (typically around 500$)

    A good sturdy and versatile tripod and suitable head, easily 250$ (hundreds more if you want a pano head too!)

    And some camera bag (can get more expensive than one thinks) like say a mini-trekker or such, around 100$

    Accessories like cable release/IR remote, microfiber cloths/cleaning pen, sensor swaps + eclipse, quick-release/mounting plates, etc - it adds up pretty quickly!

    A "walkaround" lens, a decent telephoto (not the cheapo 70-300mm Tamron "coke bottles") and a superwide to start with. Eventually a macro lens (and all kinds of macro gear like tubes/bellows, ring flashes, reversing rings, etc), primes, nice lenses with vibration reduction or such. This will easily cost several thousands by itself.

    Filters for all your lenses! UV filters to protect 'em. A GOOD circular polarizer (hoya or whatever, NOT no-name crap!), ND grads, etc. Eventually you may want a IR filter (fun stuff), something like some of the fun/best Cokin P filters (e.g. blue/yellow polarizer) or such. You can spend hundreds on this again. And you want to buy 'em big, and buy stepping rings - NOT buy a set for each size of lens! Nice large (77mm+) filters are pretty expensive.

    Honestly, you can't possibly have a decent DSLR kit anywhere near 1000$ (Hell, I've spend 3x that on a DSLR body alone)

    And even when you have one, you STILL need/want a P&S digicam too. It's not like you'll carry the DSLR everywhere with you. And because you don't, you'll miss countless nice things. I've seen hundreds of neat or plain amazing things I had not expected to come across before, and the P&S came in handy countless times like that (when taking walks, at the parks with the kids when visiting family, that super nice bike I've seen at the mall the other day, at a camp fire with my dad this summer, etc - even just for photographing things I don't want to foget about/as a reminder!) The DSLR would have captured that in much better quality, but it's not practical to carry everywhere. It's no substitute for a small P&s. No need to be fancy. I got a very nice DSLR kit, but my P&S is a puny Nikon Coolpix L2. Cheap, small, good on batteries, half-decent zoom, etc. No need for high-quality or high-megapixel for simple snapshots (getting the picture is more important than the level of noise or level of detail). Oh, it does video too @ 640x480 (kinda fun), which my DSLR doesn't. And it has lots of "helper modes" that some may appreciate a lot.

    Oh, and a DSLR hardly makes better pictures by itself. I found that pretty frustrating the day I bought my first SLR (non-digital). Even after spending thousands, the photos can actually be WORSE than using a P&S! They only become better once you master the tool (knowing about ISO speeds, f/stops, how long a shutter time you can handhold, Depth of Field, hyperfocal distance, etc). Most people
  • Re:Go Digital SLR! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:50PM (#16761923) Homepage Journal
    I once dropped my A-1 in a Mexican river while on this trip [geocities.com], and although it was a quick dunk (no water in the film compartment) and it worked the rest of the day, I had to replace the shutter coil once it had dried out. I also had to get the lens cleaned as it got just enough moisture inside to grow stuff. (28-85mm f/4, it was well worth fixing.)

    Since I was on a cruise ship and didn't really want to send my camera off for however long, I found a TV repair shop in Puerto Vallarta and bought a spool of coil wire. My handwound coil is not quite up to spec, so there is a slight overexposure issue at 1/750 and 1/1000 shutter speeds as I had to weaken the spring that the coil opposes. But it works to this day, and I made that emergency repair over ten years ago.

    For all the abuse that camera has takes, it has held up rather well. I've gone through multiple power winders, had lenses freeze up on me, had film come off the rewind spool (that's a fun one to fix without spoiling the roll), and once even had a battery go *pop*. The camera doesn't seem to care. It was close to 20 years old when I got it and has been my primary camera for a decade. Aside from the water damage, it has never failed. This is why I wish I could just convert it to a digital back. Instead it looks like I will have to start over, as far as the body and the glass are concerned.

    Ah well, the price of progress...

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @09:51PM (#16761929) Homepage Journal

    With the Canon DSLRs, RAW will capture 36-bit color rather than 24-bit. The disadvantage is that you then need to postprocess the images to get decent results - but you can bring out details that would be lost in the shadows if you were shooting in JPEG mode.

    I think shooting RAW is a good idea anyway. Not only does it capture greater contrast, but it provides you with control over the conversion process, getting the color, sharpness, white balance, etc. the way you want it, rather than accepting the camera's guesses. Sure, you can adjust the way the camera is going to do the conversion a little bit, but the control is limited and you can't change it afterwards.

    Plus, if you get some decent software, like Bibblepro (runs on Windows, Mac & Linux x86), the conversion is nearly effortless. You're going to review your images on your computer before printing them (or whatever) anyway, so you might as well do it in the RAW converter.

    I used to shoot RAW+JPEG, with the idea that gave me the best of both worlds, but in practice I find it takes no more effort to just shoot straight RAW, and uses up less space on the CF card.

  • Re:Go Digital SLR! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:03PM (#16762525)
    "Canon is like Apple in that it has a rabid fan base" huh ... OK maybe that's a regional thing 'cause round these parts it's the Nikonites that are seen to be the "Rabid one eyed fanboys" of photography..... some of them need the fire hose turned on them when ever they start in to their Nikon V Canon diatribe. My personal opinion is, as a general rule, Nikon for the body (though the new D1's are getting damn close), Canon for the lenses (though there are, of course, truly great, legendary even, Nikon lenses)
    what ever ... between work and my personal equipment we own camera's of "point and shoot", "bridge", and DSLRs types (and I'm sure there are a couple of medium format 'blads and Rolli's still floating around here somewhere)
    In the Film SLRs and DSLRs we use both Nikon (F4/F5/D2H/D2X) and Canon (EOS 5/10/33 D60/D30/20D and a D1 on the must buy list) this due to a massive (several tens of thousands of dollars) historical investment in selected lens systems in both brands it was cheaper to buy both brand bodies than repurchase lenses (some of which are hard/imposible to find at the desired price/quality/utility trade off point for one or the other system).

    Fact is we find work for all of these - the point and shoots and bridge models are great for discreet crowd/street shot or candid portraits where a DSLR would be intimidating, but for studio and formal events nothing gets the subject to pose/do what you want like a massive DSLR with all the candy accessories bolted to it.
  • Agree 100% (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Desult ( 592617 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:07PM (#16762537) Homepage
    I'm a total amateur, but I've fallen in love with photography thanks to the XT. I've not used a 30D, but I can't imagine that it would present *that* much benefit to a person brand new to photography... I can set everything I need to set on my XT within a second or two. Generally I let it do its own metering and either select aperture or shutter speed, this works very well for me, especially as I'm still learning what combinations yield what results - I'm generally much happier with a shot that's exposed properly so I can see what mistakes I've made, rather than getting something pitch dark or entirely washed out and basically having to throw it away. Still, I can set mode, ISO, speed/aperture very quickly, often without looking. It'd be nice if I had a dial for ISO rather than having to go through the menu but as long as you remember what ISO you're currently on, it's not tough to set it by feel (and you can probably tell by the resulting change in light metering). I'm sure for a pro more speed/flexibility might be desirable, but for hobbyists I would totally agree with the lens comment. I can sell/give away my XT in a few years when I start getting frustrated with the controls (if that ever really happens), and upgrade to the next step up at 20 megapixels or whatever is current.

    For Canon, I would strongly recommend the 50mm f/1.8, it's under 100 bucks and will let you take most indoor shots without a flash. It is extremely easy to use and will let you get used to a prime lens. The autofocus is slow and noisy, but it gets the job done. Another great lens I've had experience with is the 28-135 IS - it's got an image stabilizer which isn't quite as useful as I had hoped, but it's a very good range of zoom for typical walkabout photography, it's not too hefty, and the image quality is quite good in my admittedly uncultured opinion! You can get the new XTi, both of these lenses and still walk away paying less than getting a 30D with no lens at all. The XT kit lens isn't horrible either, it lets you get down to 18mm for 100 bucks... I'm not sure if there are that many options that wide without either being fish-eyes or over 700 bucks.

    A couple provisos - getting into the DSLR habit is like getting into musical instruments, car tuning, or home theater, or high end PC gaming. You're going to get addicted to it and start spending absurd amounts of money (if you're not careful). "Good" (L) Canon lenses start in the neighborhood of 1000 bucks. I haven't bought into that level yet, because I know it'd be throwing my money away at my current skill level. However, like good musical instruments, the stuff you buy has the potential to last a very long time, and from what I've read the Canon EF lens series has been going strong for quite a while now. But you're still pouring money into what will some day be obsolete technology, or worse, something you're not interested in anymore. Secondly, when you get "serious" about it, you look like a total nerd. I still feel very very awkward carrying a camera bag around - but if you're going to do anything useful with your camera you just about have to. Even without the bag, the camera is very obtrusive in the best of times, with small lens on. If you're reading this far into a comment on Slashdot, you probably don't care, but hey, fair warning. =) In the long run, I will probably buy a point and shoot so I can have something I can stick in my pocket and take places I wouldn't feel comfortable/interested in lugging my real camera around to. Once you start the hobby, you really start thinking about photographing everything interesting you see, in my experience.

    Oh, and the other thing that sorta bites about the whole hobby is vendor lock-in. Your camera vendor is your lens vendor is your accessory vendor. There are cheaper knock-off lenses, but in general, the higher quality stuff is single vendor. If you're interested in Canon, or if you're a DSLR initiate like myself, I've found this page to be very, very useful:
  • Re:Go Digital SLR! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dfghjk ( 711126 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:46PM (#16762875)
    Nikon has its vocal fanbase just as PCs do, but there's no comparison between the irrationality of Canon fanboys and their Nikon counterparts. A Canon fan believes that anything Canon does is inherently superior to anything done by any other company. They believe that every Canon DSLR outperforms its competition. They believe that Canon L series lenses have no counterpart in any other manufacturer's line. They believe that Canon is the choice of every photographer unless he is a fool. Sound familiar? Sure, just like a rabid Mac fan.

    That's not to say that I don't own Canon gear or macs. I own both. It's also not to say that all supporters of those platforms are that extreme.

    As for your opinions on equipment, they are very subjective. For DSLRs I think most would say that the Canon 1Ds2 is better than anything Nikon makes. I think most would say that Nikon's wides are better than Canon's. Macro being of importance to me, I can say that all Nikon macro lenses are better than Canon counterparts IMO. Canon makes great telephotos, great IS, and their big lenses are more affordable too. Frankly I think that the two systems are very competitive and it only tires me to read countless posts consistently recommending Canon. You won't see Nikon users eager to post their biased slant on /. in spite of the fact that their equipment is every bit as good. In fact, for entry level DSLRs you'll find the D80 considered in very high regard.
  • Re:D40 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @12:32AM (#16763247) Homepage
    Although I'm going to agree with you on all of those points, I am going to chime in and say that T-Max is one of the biggest things I miss about film photography.

    For one, shooting at ISO 3200 gives you razor-sharp results in almost any light conditions. Shooting digital at ISO 1600 in low-light produces noisy images, of which 3/4 are normally unusable. Film grain is preferable over sensor noise any day.

    As far as films go, T-Max is pretty odd stuff. The range of light frequencies it responds to is quite different than most other B&W films, and it even responds well into the IR range. The dynamic range is excellent, and yet the photos are sharp and contrast-y.

    Dynamic range (the range between the brightest and darkest portions of an image) is the biggest problem currently plaguing DSLRs, and I think we can look forward to the next generation of sensors offering far greater dynamic range, hopefully comprable to film.

    That said, I shoot entirely digital these days. I don't miss paying for film, and certainly don't miss paying for processing.
  • Re:Go Digital SLR! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @12:53AM (#16763417)
    as I said, it must be a regional thing 'cause here it is pretty much the exclusive domain of the Nikonites to go on and on and on and on about how much Canons sucks.

    Here just about anywhere in Australia I sling one of the DX's on and head out often I feel like the pied piper leading a merry band of fan boys all wanting to tell me about how every thing Nikon is "the best", hitch on an EOS and all I get is the occasional "you should have got a Nikon".

    Mainland China seems to be another bastion of the Nikon fanboy club.

    I have found that in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand there's a definite pro Canon feeling among photographers there.

    I spent 2 months shooting Festivals in Japan and a month in South Korea and there it seems it's pretty neutral ground brand attitude wise (though I noticed a strong difference from local professionals between when I was using my own 20D and when I was using a rented D1 II never mind the fact that there were L lenses on both "light proof boxes")

    I totally agree that Nikon make better wide angle lenses, my opinion is that most canon wides are pretty average at best and in fact generally use a few specifically selected Sigma primes on my EOS (generally better and heaps cheaper).
    Macro's not my or my companies field so I can't comment there.
    I'll also give Nikon the thumbs up on their flash system integration - Nikon's flash metering system has, in my experience, always been far superior to Canon's old E-TTL I and still significantly better than Canon's newer E-TTL II.
  • Re:D40 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @01:35AM (#16763701)
    If I'd owned a DSLR, it wouldn't even have been in the running, being heavier than both combined and requiring even more batteries.

    Well, how many pictures were you planning on taking? If you were going to take 500 pictures, then you'd need 500/36 = about 13 rolls of film. My DSLR can take about 500 pictures on one battery. So, you'd need no extra batteries and no film. The weight between my SLR and DSLR is not significantly different. So, if you were to choose between a DSLR and an SLR, then for a two week camping trip, you'd be carying less weight with the DSLR than the SLR.
  • Re:Go Digital SLR! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:28AM (#16764341)
    over time, will tie up more money in lenses than digital camera bodies. -- Amen to that!
    Most photographers I talked to, told me if I ever wanted to buy a DSLR to buy the lens(es) _first_ then buy the body. A good lens will set you back a couple thousand...

    I am actually a fan of Pentax and already pre-ordered the new K10D and ordered some lenses (I like my set of primes) and then I'll wait for the new set of zoom lenses coming in spring. Along with the macro and some wide angles I already have from the Pentax K1000 (film SLR) I should be set...)

  • Re:Agree 100% (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @06:22AM (#16765193)
    Yeah, I've got my eye on a Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6L. $1400-$1600. Ouch. Man is it a nice lens, though...

    What makes it such a nice lens? It seems very slow for the money. f4 at 100mm? I don't think I could bear that.

  • by cyberworm ( 710231 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {mrowrebyc}> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:33PM (#16773159) Homepage
    It's been a while since I've shot film, but if I remember correctly, White Balancing was never an issue. I've found that with my D50 I have to realllllllly keep track of how my camera is set in regards to white balancing (even on Auto... I use "Probably" aka Program and Manual unless I hand my camera off to someone so I can be in the photo).
    The "auto" WB mode does ok for most stuff if I'm using a flash or outdoors. When I move inside though, it becomes apparent how poorly the camera recognizes Incandescent light bulbs or flourecent lighting. Granted when I go do post processing of the RAW images, I have the option to correct these, but if you're just an average guy taking family snaps you could really be disappointed that your 600$ super camera is making Aunt Helen look jaundiced, like an Ooompa Loompa, or a Smurf. With film, what you see has usually been what you get. With digital, it's been my experience that if you don't pay attention, you may not always get what you see.

  • My camera (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ^_^x ( 178540 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @11:23PM (#16779875)
    I'm not going to get in-depth with the reasons here - I am not a pro photographer, nor are most people, but I know how to properly set things like white balance, shutter speed, focal aperture, etc... to get the effects I want.

    I have a Sony DSC-P150 I got a few years ago. It was about $400 at the time, and is a 7MP camera with built-in Zeiss lens.
    A friend of mine got an Olympus DSLR (don't know the model) also 7MP.

    Comparing the two:
    - For ordinary photos, we're about comparable, except my pics are slightly blurrier (I'd say 90-95% quality of his DSLR), and he can save uncompressed, where I can't.
    - In low light - actually both cameras are outstanding. In extreme darkness, I can see a little grain on my camera, but it's so small I can't tell if it's the CCD or just JPEG artifacts.
    - Startup time is about the same. Actually, I'm probably about a half second faster, and what's more, my camera has to remove its lens cover and extend the lens. We can both go from off to having shot one pic, saved it, and ready to shoot again in about 3-5 seconds, so so much for the DSLR speed argument. My time also includes autofocus.
    - He can do extreme, artistic, impractical things like set his shutter speed to several seconds. Fine - even if I had it, I wouldn't use it.
    - THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE: My camera was $400 a couple years ago, and his was $800 this year. 200% the cost, 110% the quality, 120% the functionality... to me, it just doesn't add up why you'd pay that much, but hey - it's his hobby, so whatever floats his boat... For most people, including avid amateur photographers, I'd say only consider DSLR if you're getting REALLY serious about photography, or want some heavy-duty extra features that wouldn't be needed in "normal" photography. Otherwise, you're just paying for a camera that lacks preview ability, and collects dust on its sensor... oh, and that can interchange lenses, but then again with a cheap adapter, I could do the same - and there are point & shoot cams that already have a ring for lenses on them.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.