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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Point & Shoots vs SDLRs The Equipment

Pt 2 OK, in the previous post, the odd number photos were taken with the Nikon D300 and the even numbered shots were with the Canon SX 219 IS Point and Shoot (P&S). Is there a difference? Yep, but like I said, it is primarily due to the differences in post processing. With some extra effort the could be matched more precisely. BUT my point is that both cameras produced very good photos. And I still prefer my Nikon DSLR over the P&S, but the both have advantages and there are times I prefer the P&S.

So what are the differences? Beyond the obvious ability to change lenses. (I will probably have to extend this over several posts)
1) Ergonomics. The Images Doctors (Rick Walker and Jason ODell - great resource, google Image Doctors) recently had a podcast and the comment was made to the effect that the larger heavier cameras are easier to stabilize and shoot with; and I agree (but you can get too heavy). The Canon P&S has Image Stabilization (compensates for shaky hands, NOT subject movement or gross camera movement). but when I extended the lens to its full out zoom (386 mm IIRC) it usually required I prop it against something or get a tripod. A tripod for that little camera looks crazy but it is necessary. -- On the other hand, I find the Nikon D300 much easier to brace and stabilize using proper techniques (No elbows sticking out but rather tucked in.) even using an 80-200 mm f/2.8w/o VR (Vibration Reduction). The 80-200 is a big heavy lens but not the most by any stretch).  VR is Nikons name for the same thing as Canon Image stabilization. I.E. VR = IS.
  -- Even with IS, the P&S is difficult to stabilize at times.

2) Quality of sensor. There are basically three sizes of sensors out there. (A) Newer DSLRs like the Nikon D3 and D700 have a full size sensor, approximately the size of of the 35 mm film size.  (I would name a Canon model but there numbering system is worse than Nikons if that is possible, its all a matter of what you are used to really. Canon folks have difficulty figuring out the Nikon numbering system.) (B) Most other DSLRs which have a smaller sensor called APS-C. (C) Point and Shoots which have an even smaller sensor. No, I don't know the name for that size.
 - The result is that if a full size, a regular DSLR, and a P&S all have 12 Mega Pixels (MP), they don't have the same quality. Imagine a sensor with four rectangular pixels. Around the edge will be a little bit of "noise". Now have the same size sensor but with 8 MP instead. You have the same area of image capture and more resolution to differentiate with but also you have more noise. The end result is that a P&S with 14MP will not have the same quality image as a DSLR with 14 MP because the P&S has a very small sensor and thus will have a lot of noise since the pixels are smaller and the noise represents a greater percentage of the sensor size.
  -- The impact here will be noticed in the size of the print. If you are shooting for the web or 8x10s, a good P&S will be just fine. If you want to shot large shots (most folks don't) it may become a factor.

3) Portability: Here the P&S wins hands down. When my old P&S died, I missed having something in the console of my vehicle to capture those spur of the moment shots. I have some great snow shots that if I hadn't had the P&S, I wouldn't have captured the image. Even the smallest kits for a DSLR are a littel too awkward or large to carry on a day to day basis. That and the cost of having a DSLR kit even in the truck of the vehicle is not something most want to risk.

4) Interface: The DSLR has an optical viewfinder to look through. Most view about 97% of the actual image. I believe the D300 is rated at 100%. Most P&Ss don't have an optical viewfinder but rather rely on the LCD screen on the back. Viewing the screen can be an advantage when working at awkward angles but generally they result in the photog holding the camera in front of themselves several inches in front of their eye and the camera is not stabilized. Also, the glare of bright sunlight can make the LCD viewfinder also unusable. At times I have had to take the shot and hope I got what I wanted.

5) Interface again: Most DSLRs have major selection controls (such as white balance, ISO, etc) built around the camera body. Most P&Ss require you drill through layers of menu selections. (But DSLRs can have several layers of menus to work though also, but the major controls are readily accessible). a quick example. The White Balance and ISO controls are right on top, a quick reach and a spin of the dial and they are set. On my P&S, you have to select one of three buttons (hopefully the correct one), push it, turn the dial, select the setting, push the button again. you will know what this is when you try it in practice.

6) Features: P&Ss used to lag behind DSLRs but now they seem to lead the way in innovation. P&Ss had the ability to shoot movies before DSLRs. (the D300 is currently the top of the line APS sensor DSLR for Nikon. My D300 doesn't have a movie option, the D300s does.) My Canon P&S has an option for a fisheye lens effect. I can't afford a fisheye lens for my Nikon. And now that my Canon P&S had it, I imagine it will serve my needs. If I find a really need a DSLR fisheye, I will rent one, but for now, the P&S serves my needs.

7) Batteries: Most all digital cameras use proprietary batteries. It used to be P&Ss used AAs or AAAs,but now the trend seems to be to use proprietary batteries. The companies make more money that way. A WORD OF WARNING - DO NOT buy off brand batteries, at least for DSLRs. This is the voice of experience. I bought a back up battery for my D300 from an E-Bay vendor in hong Kong. The battery worked until I tired to charge it and it wouldn't recharge. I thought it might just not be showing the charge but it kept getting lower and lower. The cost of returning the battery almost made it not worth it to return. I got my money back and bought a Nikon battery. Most DSLR users buy brand name batteries. It doesn't make sense to spend the money you spend and then trust a cheap battery when you need it.
  -- BUT on my P&S I took a chance and bought a non-Canon battery from Adorama (great place to shop - I'll discuss shopping in another post). The battery was significantly less than the Canon version and it works fine. for a backup on a P&S, it is great.

Bottom Line - It sounds like a like my DSLR more and don't care about my P&S. Yep and Nope. I do prefer my DSLR but I love my P&S. The portability an features on it make it an invaluable tool in my photography kit. Sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a screwdriver. (I can't resist - Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't Almond Joys have nuts, Mounds don't!)

In the end, it doesn't matter what brand you have or if it is a DSLR or a P&S, the camera you are comfortable with and love using is the camera for you. It isn't the equipment, its the skill of he photographer.

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