D-SLRs Vs. Advanced Compacts
Both digital camera types offer real advantages—which one is right for you?
Beyond raw focal length range, D-SLRs can tap into special-purpose lenses, like macros, offering life-size reproduction or extension tubes for even closer focusing. Some companies also produce special lenses that combat handheld camera shake, control depth of field and perspective by tilting and shifting, or create a soft-focus effect.
Advanced Compacts. In contrast to D-SLRs, the lenses on advanced compact cameras are permanently fixed to the camera body. Many of them, though, already have impressive zoom ranges, with 35mm-equivalent focal lengths often running from 28-200mm or more. That one zoom can replace an entire camera bag full of heavy 35mm lenses, and it may well be all the lens you need.
If not, most camera makers offer accessory lenses that fit over the cameras' built-in optics, widening and lengthening the range of available focal lengths. While the accessory lenses aren't as quick to change as D-SLR lenses, they don't exact a speed penalty like D-SLRs' teleconverters—your advanced compact's fast ƒ/2.8 lens will retain that speed when you attach an accessory lens to the front.
The Bottom Line
In a nutshell, D-SLRs are faster, more versatile and deliver somewhat cleaner images than advanced compacts. They're also heavier, bulkier and more expensive than advanced compacts. The smaller cameras, in turn, offer greater ability to operate unnoticed and often will make images where D-SLRs won't, simply because the compacts are so much easier to bring along. As digital camera prices continue to fall, maybe the best way to decide which one to get is to buy one of each!