Home Cameras Compact D-SLRs Vs. Advanced Compacts
Monday, January 29, 2007

D-SLRs Vs. Advanced Compacts

Both digital camera types offer real advantages—which one is right for you?


Enlargeability. All things told, D-SLRs' imagers produce cleaner photos-a typical 6-megapixel D-SLR is more than a match for an 8-megapixel advanced compact. For images shot at low ISO settings, you probably won't notice too much difference in 8x10-inch prints. With 12x18-inch enlargements, you might see a bit of noise in the advanced compacts' images when you examine them closely.

The overall effect, though, is what's important. If you shoot with careful technique, the advanced compacts' 12x18-inch photos will look terrific, and the D-SLRs' images will look better. The same will hold for 16x20-inch prints.

Dust
The D-SLR's ability to change lenses has one drawback—the camera's interior is open to the environment while lenses are switched, and dust easily can enter. When the dust migrates to the film sensor, it leaves annoying little black specks on your images. You'll have to clean the sensor periodically, and expect to spend a little time "spotting" your images in Photoshop to get rid of the dust motes you missed. Because advanced compacts' lenses don't come off, their image sensors remain sealed and largely impervious to dust.

Cost
Although D-SLR prices have dropped dramatically in the past year, most are still more expensive than advanced compacts. Currently, the lowest-priced D-SLR costs about $800, including a 28-80mm (35mm equivalent) lens. To match the focal length range of the typical advanced compact, you'd have to add at least one more lens to this D-SLR package. Other D-SLRs offer more advanced features, but naturally cost more. Prosumer models usually are sold without a lens and cost about $1,500. In spite of their price, these D-SLRs can be a worthwhile investment for shooters who can put their potential to full use.

Just as advanced compacts pack a big punch for such a small package, they also give you a lot of capability for the money you'll spend—somewhere between $600 and $1,000. Since you get a comprehensive zoom range and some macro capability right out of the box, you can do very well without any additional equipment. If you want a full system, high-quality, accessory add-on lenses for advanced compacts cost far less than the interchangeable lenses for D-SLRs.

Interchangeable Lenses

D-SLRs. D-SLRs make use of the large systems of lenses and other gear designed for their 35mm SLR cousins. In addition, many manufacturers now offer special lenses for small-format D-SLRs. Taken together, the range of lenses for D-SLRs is truly staggering, with available focal length ranges for a typical system running from a 35mm equivalent of about 18mm to around 1000mm—and often much more. Add a teleconverter between the camera and lens, and the long side of the range doubles.


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