All the pros have them, and you’ve either shelled out for one or are seriously considering it. Why are digital SLR(single lens reflex) cameras so expensive?
DSLR image quality
“What makes them so much better than a good quality point and shoot?” I hear you ask.
I know some of you have thought, “I don’t see the point of a DSLR, I can get sharper and better results from my compact camera.”
“I can get a camera with a built in super zoom for a quarter of the price and it covers more focal length than two DSLR lenses put together. I don’t even have to change lenses or get the sensor dirty, so why would I bother with a DSLR?” This is a common and valid question I often hear from inexperienced photographers.
So what is all the fuss about DSLRs? Why do they cost so much more, and do you really need one to create great photography? Are the benefits really worth the extra expense, and the effort of lugging heavy lenses and changing them in the field?
Firstly let me just say quite emphatically, that a DSLR is absolutely, one hundred percent, without question, the only way to go if you really want to take your photography to the next level and eventually achieve the wow factor.
Ok let’s address these questions one at a time.
There are many things that make a DSLR camera the better choice; in fact I could write a book explaining them all. Instead we will focus on the most important difference, image quality.
Nikon DSLR courtesy of en.wikipaedia.org
There are two things that have the greatest impact on image quality in a camera. The first is the size of the image sensor; the second is the quality of the lens.
The image sensor is an electronic chip that captures your digital image. Think of it as the digital equivalent of the film in a film camera.
All DSLR cameras have much larger sensors than the majority of compact, point and shoot and super zoom cameras.
The reason sensor size is important is that the larger the size the better the quality of images. This is because larger sensors reproduce finer details.
If you want to see the proof for yourself get something made of fine material such as velvet and photograph it with a compact camera and then with a digital SLR. The first picture I took with my very first DSLR was of my daughter’s teddy bear. When I saw the fine detail in the fabric I was blown away. I knew I’d never be happy with the quality from a smaller sensor ever again.
Digital Image Sensor courtesy of en.wikipaedia.org
The other benefit of a larger sensor is the amount of megapixels that can be placed on it, and still retain image quality. More megapixels are important for printing your images larger. They also enable the lens to resolve finer detail.
Unfortunately the more millions of megapixels you squeeze onto a tiny sensor, the noisier the image will be. Noise is that horrible grainy texture you sometimes see especially if an image is taken at night or is underexposed. When you try to lighten it in your editing software the noise becomes magnified.
When you want to use a higher ISO so you can still hand hold the camera in dim light, you will get much less noise at higher ISO’s from a larger sensor. Many compact cameras have sensors so small they cannot produce night time images without excessive noise full stop.
The larger the sensor unfortunately means the higher the price you will have to pay as manufacturing flawless high quality sensors is expensive.
In Part 2 of this series we will be discussing the different sized sensors on DSLRs and the pros and cons of each.