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Digital SLR Cameras vs. Compact Digital


A common question about digital cameras is "what is the difference between a standard point-and-shoot digital camera and an SLR digital camera. This article attempts to answer that question.

There are three main differences between a standard digital camera and an SLR digital camera:

  1. Changeable lenses
  2. The viewfinder
  3. The image sensor

Changeable Lenses

The changeable lenses are essential for serious photography. For instance, using a fixed lens with advanced low light capabilities provides much better image results than the all-in-one zoom lens on standard digital cameras. The drawback is obviously having to carry around a big camera bag to hold all those special lenses. You can also get "converter" lenses that attach to many non-SLRs. Whilst these are not as good as the real SLR lenses, they are small, relatively cheap and work pretty well. Note - SLR lenses usually only interchange between models from the same manufacturer

SLT Viewfinder

The SLR viewfinder uses an optical view window that displays exactly what the lens sees. More recent SLRs have "live view" feature which allows you to do it the other way around using the LCD window.

Image Sensor

Most SLRs have a larger image sensor, which in turn means less image noise on low-light shots and slightly smoother looking image.


Other SLR Features

Higher end compacts are starting to include many of the more advanced features you will find on SLR digital cameras. However, a couple of features still unique to SLR digital include:

  • SLRs are heavier and larger - great when you're trying to hold the camera steady, but bad when your arm gets tired.
  • Price - SLR's cost around double the price of a standard compact digital camera. Instead of buying an SLR camera, you could buy an additional compact with "super zoom" lens.

Some compact cameras have the more advanced features usually only found on higher end SLR digital cameras. This includes:

  • The ability to attach converter lenses
  • A hot shoe on top for attaching an external flash
  • The ability to take RAW or TIF images - much better than JPGs for editing
  • An external flash - for indoor shots

For a good starter DSLR check out:

Nikon D60

Nikon D40x

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