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New camera dilemma- Compact vs DSLR?
HI,.

I'm a newbie here, so this is my first post. I need a camera and wasn't sure whether to go with a compact like the Canon SD870 IS (which has solid reviews, and I'm leaning toward that model because of it's 28mm equivalent wide angle) or a smallish inexpensive SLR like the Nikon D40..

I like the compactness of the Canon 870, since we do a fair bit of hiking and small size is a bonus. But I really want my pics to look good, too. I had a Sony DSC-T70, which I dropped and broke (bad move!), but I wasn't at all happy with the photo quality of it (later read that it's picture quality is considered mediocre)..

So I guess my question is: will I notice a significant and consistent quality difference in the pics I take with a DSLR vs a good quality compact? I don't really care about big zoom capability, since mostly the photos I'll take are either of landscapes during hikes, with friends when I cadge a ride on their sailboats, and social events when I'll use the flash and take snaps of people making fools of themselves (slightly exagerrating here)..

If people on this site write back that the Nikon D40 will blow the Canon out of the water because the bigger sensors on SLRs are much better, then I'll probably go for the Nikon. But if the consensus is that for photos of 8x10 or smaller, the differences would be negligible, I'll go with the Canon..

What got me thinking about this was that my sister emailed some photos she took with her DSLR (not sure what model she had might have been a D40) during a family trip to Mexico, and the quality of her shots put mine to shame much sharper and crisper, nice colors, but with none of the hyper-saturated Kodachominess of the Sony..

Thanks, all, for your insights, opinions and biases. Don't hold back!.

Andy..

Comments (22)

I'm biased, but truly think that an inexpensive SLR does a nicer job than a point and shoot. That little D40 is a good choice. It's so light weight it's almost invisible and takes fantastic pictures out of the box...

Comment #1

So by "nicer job", do you mean that if you went on a trip and took some photos of the sights, then went to a party and snapped some shots of the guests, when you went home to review the shots, the ones taken with the dSLR would look visibly better than those taken with a compact?.

Realistically, I'm not going to take painstakingly composed shots where I manage depth of field, nor will I take sports photography wher I demand powerful zoom or absolutley zero-lag shutter response. What I do like, though, is nice sharp pictures and accurate color. I used to use (still have it in my closet) a little Rollei 35 that took razor sharp picturse using 35mm film (remmeber those days), The flash attachment was a little klugy, and you had to estimate distance with the focus ring (the viewfinder was no help with that), but the photos were gorgeous. If only I could get that with a compact digital! ..or maybe I can?..

Comment #2

Have a look at the forum called "sigma slr", and read the discussions of the dp1 - despite it's limited uses, it does sound a bit like your old rollei:).

Oh, and do see this: http://www.rytterfalk.com/2008/03/09/my-dp1-youtube-review-d/.

What I do like, though, is nice sharp pictures and accurate color. Iused to use (still have it in my closet) a little Rollei 35 that tookrazor sharp picturse using 35mm film (remmeber those days), Theflash attachment was a little klugy, and you had to estimate distancewith the focus ring (the viewfinder was no help with that), but thephotos were gorgeous. If only I could get that with a compactdigital! ..or maybe I can?..

Comment #3

A small DSLR the Nikon 40 series is going to produce better images, however the convergence of quality is going to be close until you get into a situation like low lighting where the sensor of the DSLR will take over. I also believe when indoors just popping off snap-shots with a flash that a DSLR with a stock flash will also way out perform that of a P&S. Versatility and expansion ability are big advantages to a DSLR..

I like carrying around any number of my P&S cameras under the right conditions..

Lighting and exposure is most everything.

This was taken with a $125 Panasonic camera I bought for my son.http://www.pbase.com/pdqgp/image/80571932.

This one with a 7-8yr old Sonyhttp://www.pbase.com/pdqgp/image/93324484.

This with a $200 P&Shttp://www.pbase.com/pdqgp/image/81718731.

Put a small walk around lens on an SLR and you'll have nice portability and a great walk-about cam that's not too big either.http://www.pbase.com/pdqgp/image/36005110.

I use the same combo for parties too.http://www.pbase.com/pdqgp/nicks_third_birthday.

My parting advice is to just consider what exactly you'll use the camera for and how often. Will you expand your use or interest given the abilities of a DSLR or will all you ever really use is a snap shot camera. Budget is also a concern I suppose..

Hope the above helps..

Amazer98 wrote:.

So by "nicer job", do you mean that if you went on a trip and tooksome photos of the sights, then went to a party and snapped someshots of the guests, when you went home to review the shots, the onestaken with the dSLR would look visibly better than those taken with acompact?.

Realistically, I'm not going to take painstakingly composed shotswhere I manage depth of field, nor will I take sports photographywher I demand powerful zoom or absolutley zero-lag shutter response.What I do like, though, is nice sharp pictures and accurate color. Iused to use (still have it in my closet) a little Rollei 35 that tookrazor sharp picturse using 35mm film (remmeber those days), Theflash attachment was a little klugy, and you had to estimate distancewith the focus ring (the viewfinder was no help with that), but thephotos were gorgeous. If only I could get that with a compactdigital! ..or maybe I can?.

TimNW Columbus/Dublin, Ohiohttp://www.pbase.com/pdqgp..

Comment #4

This is the key question because if you might find a DSLR to be an irritation then there will be plenty of times when you won't feel like taking it with you. I'd say for up to 8x10 prints the little Canon will give pleasing results. (Run a 'search by camera' at PBase.com or Flikr.com and see what other people are getting from the cameras)..

However if you want to go for really big prints and have a camera system that can be expanded then go for the Nikon and get the best useful lens you can affordJohn.Please visit me at:http://www.pbase.com/johnfr/backtothebridgehttp://www.pbase.com/johnfr/digital_dartmoor..

Comment #5

Amazer98 wrote:.

If people on this site write back that the Nikon D40 will blow theCanon out of the water because the bigger sensors on SLRs are muchbetter, then I'll probably go for the Nikon. But if the consensus isthat for photos of 8x10 or smaller, the differences would benegligible, I'll go with the Canon..

IMO at 8x10 and smaller and low ISO, the difference is in prints is negligible - except perhaps for the greater chance of blown highlights with the compact. But ISO 200 and higher, you will see a difference. One problem with that Canon is that flash is weak and it will use ISO to compensate; your flash photos may be grainy if you're more than 6' away..

Download some of the test and/or sample photos from the reviews here, print them and decide for yourself..

Erik..

Comment #6

Thanks, guys,for your comments and suggestions. I did go to pbase and check out the photos. Got my son involved to, tabbing back and forth comparing samples from the Canon sd870IS and the Nikon D40. Without a doubt, the Nikon's pictures were sharper and with slightly richer color. In low light, when the ISO was at 800 or 1200 or even 1600, I could see how sharp the shots were with no noise adn amazingly, no need of flash..

I can tell this will be a hard decision to make, as I do like the ideas of a small camera. I just wish the compacts could take a truly awesome photo there were actually some excellent shots taken by someone in London, but most of the SD870 shots were technically not all that great... definitely not as sharp as the Nikon..

I also enjoyed that Danish or Swedish guy's review of the Sigma he seemed very psyched about it...

Comment #7

I would consider the portability factor as key which is why I'm personally likely to get the Canon SD870 or Fuji F100fd compact. I'd like the DSLR quality of image but figure that if I have to think about whether to take the camera with me or not due to it's size and/or accessories, then it's not for me. I'd therefore prefer a high-end quality compact P&S that I know is truly pocketable and that will travel everywhere with me...

Comment #8

Exactly right, Interbear that's the dillema. Still, I find me trying to convince myself, that the size of the D40 wouldn't be a deterent. Yet I know that you can't beat the convenience of pulling out a compant digital that's in a small belt holster, especially when hiking..

But he sample photos of taken by D40s make me lust for that kind of quality... in the meanwhile, I am indecisive and obsessively trolling the net to read comments by both sets of users. Anyway, I enjoy this stage of the shopping process the obsessive pleasure of serendipitous research is preferable to the post-purchase dissonance that I usually experience after spending money!..

Comment #9

One point that has not been noted that the quality of a 8x10 from a cropped shot will be much better from the dSLR than from the P&S. In other words, you need all the pixels you can get from a P&S while you can afford to throw some away on a dSLR..

Don..

Comment #10

Yet another point -.

I HATE LCD viewfinders. I would never buy a camera that did not let me accurately frame a picture through a viewfinder. Underline "accurately". Even the few P&S' that have viewfinders do not have accurate ones. Only you can decide how important this is to you. For me, it is not negotiable..

Don..

Comment #11

Andy: Here's what I would do (and did) use a tele-zoom digital (Canon makes some excellent ones: I have, and will keep, my S2IS) until you've pushed it as far as you can. When you feel that the only thing limiting your photography is the camera/lens then switch. Don't forget to work on "how you see" because what will distinguish you (from others) won't always be the technical quality of your photos but the quality (and uniqueness) of your "vision." For example: I recently went on a tour with a group of 12 people: the possibilities were endless. There was an individual there with a digital SLR and the photos from my Canon were better not just in my opinion but by the others in attendance...

Comment #12

Donaldsc: I don't understand why I can't crop from an 8MP Canon ELPH w/o sacrificing a lot of quality, but can crop from a 6MP Nikon dSLR with no (or little) loss.. Does it have somthing to do with the larger sensor size of the SLR?.

Portlandscanner: Thanks for your advice about the superzoom compacts, but they don't appeal to me somehow. I'm not that into having a big zoom much prefer the ability to have a good 28mm equivalent wide angle. The appeal to me of moving to an SLR though I'm still wresting with the size issue is a larger sensor for sharper photos and much better low light results..

With my old Pentax SLR and Rollei 35 back in the 70s, I used to play around adjusting depth of field and prioritizing shutter speed vs aperture. Over the last 5 years, I've had a couple of basically p+s Sony compacts., but the picture quality couldn't compare to those film cameras. I know the Canon ELPHs are regarded as having the best quality of the compacts, and some of the sample pics from them are pretty nice. But many more of the SD870 IS pics on pBase.com look washed out or fuzzy compared to the majority of Nikon D40 shots..

Of course, the D40 users might be more accomplished photographers, but it's hard to adjust for that factor. By the way, I got a kick out of listening to the audio of the D40's shutter action. Maybe I could load that into the ELPH and have it play whenever I take a picture then, I could at least pretend I was taking a professional-quality shot...

Comment #13

Basically a DSLR wins when you leave ideal conditions or pixel peep or need speed..

If you don't do these thing then it won't help..

You can crop a DSLR better because it picks up detail better. There are fewer artifacts and less noise to mess up an image. I don't crop much - frame the photo when you shoot is my view, but to each his own. Low contrast detail is where this usually shows. It's largely ( as I understand it ) because diffraction has a bigger impact on small sensor. Although for exposure calculations aperture values work the same way on small sensor as large, that's all.

Diffraction is the other. The combination higher noise and the diffraction effects are quite destructive when you need to see detail..

Have a look here :.

Http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/diffraction-photography.htm.

The other thing you get with a large sensor is dynamic range..

The metering tend to be better and the in-camera processing is better too..

As I say, for many purposes this is no real use, but for some it is. It's a personal choice..

StephenG.

Fuji S3 ProPentax K100DFuji S9600Fuji E900PCLinuxOS..

Comment #14

Amazer98 wrote:.

Donaldsc: I don't understand why I can't crop from an 8MP Canon ELPHw/o sacrificing a lot of quality, but can crop from a 6MP Nikon dSLRwith no (or little) loss.. Does it have somthing to do with thelarger sensor size of the SLR?.

As all normal (bayer) sensors are approximations and really only giving the colour measurement in one third pixels, the size of each pixel matters: dslr have much bigger and more correct pixels than the small cameras, thus a 1 (one!) megapixel camera with a huge lens and sensor can make much better pictures than a 10megapixel pocketcam - if you have ever wondered about the amazing pictures from mars!!!.

The sweet spot seems to be around 5-7mp for small sensors and 10-15mp for dslr sensors - if you look at a sigma it uses a foveon sensor it is having the colour pixels behind each other instead of next to each other - then it suffers from less light in dark conditions, but still correct light so it looks good yet less vivid, quite the same as the human eye in low light!.

The elph is then a 3million colourmeasurement pixels and the nikon 2mcp, in the camera this data is averaged enlarged up to give the 8mp and 6mp - the fujis have a different (honeycomb) position of the cells which in the 6mp version gives much better results in correct colours and very low noise, but not in the 12mp versions, as the physical size and diffraction of light actaully makes it impossible to use such small sensors correctly.

A general guideline is to get the newest camera with the biggest pixels, thus the less pixels the better as long as it's new, if you use genuine fractals to enlarge dslr pictures, even a 3mp can be made into a poster, my brother has a butterfly that won a competition this way some years ago!.

Film cameras. I know the Canon ELPHs are regarded as having the bestquality of the compacts, and some of the sample pics from them arepretty nice. But many more of the SD870 IS pics on pBase.com lookwashed out or fuzzy compared to the majority of Nikon D40 shots..

Compared to fuji they are lacking correct colours and cannot at all compare in low light or flash, yet have better sharpness and less ca in sunshine.

Of course, the D40 users might be more accomplished photographers,but it's hard to adjust for that factor. By the way, I got a kickout of listening to the audio of the D40's shutter action. Maybe Icould load that into the ELPH and have it play whenever I take apicture then, I could at least pretend I was taking aprofessional-quality shot..

For all your fellow humans sake, please turn off any sound if possible unless you are absultely certain you are alone, I have had a restaurant dinner spoiled by guests takings snapshots with this fake sounds, could not even find out how to turn the sounds off!.

That is one more thing that is unique with the dp1; after the low purr of the lens extending, it's making dslr quality 28mm pictures without the dslr click of mirror, perfectlly silent!, also animals will apreciate this!..

Comment #15

... where I didn't think it would be worth bothering to take either the DSLR or the 9100 yesterday. Why didn't I bother? Family trip involving getting in and out of the car numerous times and weather at the time of departure very uninspiring..

Yet again the little old Canon s400 in my pocket got a chance to come good with just enough semi-manual control to cope..

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Unless you're totally dedicated to a DSLR, I think a good pocket camera is essential..

John.Please visit me at:http://www.pbase.com/johnfr/backtothebridgehttp://www.pbase.com/johnfr/digital_dartmoor..

Comment #16

I agree John. Having a good compact camera is important. (Not for all people, but many) You seem worried about size and if you are you are going to find a SLR too big most of the time to bring with you and having a camera is better then none. I have an Olympus E-510 which I love. It's considered small by SLR standards and it's still bigger and heavier to carry around then I want most of the time. My compact camera of choice is the Ricoh GRD2, but it has it's downsides (expensive, fixed 28mm lens). Pick a compact with some manual controls you can learn from, then look at an SLR down the road for the times your compact isn't enough...

Comment #17

Get the compact camera, from what you said it sounds like you really don't need a DSLR. The compact is work well for most of your situations, but later if you feel that you still aren't getting good enough results then you can get a DSLR, but still keep you compact for times when you don't want to carry around you DSLR..

I know what I just said has ben said already, but it never hurts to say it again. ..

Comment #18

I have a three year old point-and-shoot Fuji Finepix F10 and a spanking new DSLR Nikon D60. While I love the control my Nikon gives me, in test comparisons I made, the point and shoot photos were actually sharper, apparently not an unexpected result...

Comment #19

Donaldsc wrote:.

One point that has not been noted that the quality of a 8x10 from acropped shot will be much better from the dSLR than from the P&S. Inother words, you need all the pixels you can get from a P&S while youcan afford to throw some away on a dSLR..

Don.

Who told you that?.

I regulary take photos cropped to 3mp as it is done in camera. You have to blow them up considerably before they start loosing quality compared to the 10 meg image and easily make 8x10.

This one was at it's limit at an 8x10 but then it was cropped to 3 meg in camera and then further cropped on the computer.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window..

Comment #20

Well, it took me a while to decide but I just settled on the Canon SD870 IS as much as the D40 appealed to me, I thought I'd appreciate the size of the compact camera over the benefits of the dSLR. I took another, closer look at the sample shots of both camera, and in most cases, the differences weren't that apparent..

Sure, the Nikon handled low light conditions better and is certainly a more capable tool when it comes to crafting shots, but the Canon compact is more versatile with it's video ability and portability... at least versatile in the sense that as my only camera, it has the features I need..

I ordered the Powershot Digital Field Guide from amazon, and hope to delve into the features and abilities of the SD870. When I've mastered those and want to move on, I'll revisit the D40..

Thanks, everybody for your comments. I've enjoyed perusing this site and will continue to check out the postings here. Cheers!..

Comment #21

New olympus e420 with the pancake lens sounds like the perfect dslr for you. smallest lightest dslr on the market. 10mp, dust reduction that works, and the ability to get additional lenses to add to the kit as your needs evolve. better IQ than a P&S, better than a d40 for that matter from teh test shots..

The 14-42 and 40-150 that are also available and add reach for a modest price and are small and light..

Even the e410 on clearance somewhere would be a better deal. or if you like the d40 size format the e510 offers all the e410 does just adding IS which would be a nice feature....

Good luck shopping..

Comment #22

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