A Look at some of the Differences Between DSLRs, Point and Shoot Cameras and Camera Phones

This article expands on the information in Tip #1 of my book, Pet Photography 101 concerning the differences between different cameras. “w1.6″ is the link referenced in the book to this article.

A few of the advantages and disadvantages of five types of cameras are described below.

Main advantages of film cameras compared with digital cameras:
1. No computer is necessary. You can drop off the film or single-use film camera when you are done shooting a roll and have the whole roll processed, get 4×6 or 5×7 prints of each picture, have all the photos scanned to a CD/DVD, or have any combination of those services performed. You can have the files posted online for you, ready to share with friends and family.

2. The cost of film cameras is generally very low (almost free in the case of single-use cameras, but of course you’ll need to pay for film, processing and printing). Waterproof single use film cameras are especially good for when you go to the beach or when you go swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, white water rafting, etc. Sand and water are not very friendly to most electronic digital cameras, though you can purchase housings or special bags for digital cameras [see w1.1].

3. Your negatives or slides can serve as a high quality backup, and don’t require any computer or storage device to access.

4. There are some unique film cameras on the market, including swing-lens panoramic cameras that can produce some amazing images, especially when you place a dog or cat in the frame. Others include the Holga and Diana+ cameras that help to produce very artistic images that must be seen to be believed [see w1.2].

Main disadvantages of film cameras compared with digital cameras:
1. There is no ability to review your photos as you are taking them, and there are fewer features on most film cameras compared with digital cameras.

2. You need to wait until you finish a roll to process and see your photos, so the cost per shot can be much higher than with digital. Also, you need to process all of your photos on a roll, even if there are only a few “keepers.” With digital, you can take just one photo and quickly download it or bring it somewhere to be printed.

3. You can’t change ISO and color temperature as you can with most digital cameras. ISO and color temperature are essentially “baked into” the film. Of course, you can shoot at a lower or higher ISO than specified, but your flexibility in this regard is limited.

Main Advantages of DSLRs compared with point and shoot cameras:
1. The image quality you can achieve with even the “kit lens” that is sold with many entry-level DSLR’s will generally be better than that on point and shoot cameras. This is especially true when you shoot at higher ISOs (for example, over ISO 800).

2. You generally have more control over and easier access to settings compared with point and shoot cameras, such as ISO, shooting modes, auto/manual focus, etc.

3. DSLRs offer a Raw file capture mode, and many point and shoot cameras do not. See Chapter 8, Tip 71 for more on this topic.

4. The shot buffer is larger and frame-per-second rate is higher on most DSLRs compared with most point and shoot cameras. This larger shot buffer allows you to take more photos without waiting for the camera to write to a media card (the media card speed also plays a role here). The higher frame-per-second rate allows you to take more photos in a short burst of time when you see your pets doing extraordinary things (like yawning!).

5. Most DSLRs have a traditional optical viewfinder, instead of just a video representation of what you are about to capture, as found on most point and shoot cameras. That can be helpful because the built-in diopter can be easily adjusted for your shooting eye. Also, putting the camera against your face when shooting can help to stabilize the camera. And having a true optical viewfinder can make manual focus, or tracking of a moving object (like a jumping cat) much easier.

6. Most DSLR’s have interchangeable lenses compared with point and shoot cameras that generally don’t. This opens up nearly limitless creative potential.

7. Many DSLR’s have a good quality pop-up flash that works well in many situations, but especially as a fill flash light. See Chapter 3, Tip 23 for more on fill flash. More importantly, most DSLR’s have hot shoes for external flash units, and many have a PC sync port for connecting a wireless trigger device, portable flash, or studio flash unit. Though not common, some point and shoot cameras, and some video cameras also have hot shoes, which is a big plus.

Main disadvantages of DSLRs compared with point and shoot cameras:
1. DSLRs tend to be bulky, and not nearly as portable as most point and shoot cameras. This can make it more difficult to bring with you everywhere you go with your pets and family. That’s a problem, because without a camera, you won’t be taking many pictures! Of course, you can invest in two cameras–A DSLR for when it’s convenient to carry it with you, and a point and shoot as a go-with-you-almost-anywhere-and-everywhere camera.

2. DSLRs are generally more expensive than point and shoot cameras, and adding lenses can increase their overall cost dramatically.

3. Most DSLRs don’t have a video capture mode but most digital point and shoots do. A video capture mode is a great feature to have on a camera, especially when capturing the antics and often-hilarious actions of pets. That being said, many new DSLRs entering the market are adding audio/video capability, and in most cases, the image quality is outstanding. Also, don’t underestimate the power of audio. It is usually captured along with video. It can then be separated out in editing software and used in still or animated slide shows, or burned to a CD.

Main advantages of camera phones compared with point and shoot cameras:
1. Even though point and shoot cameras are generally small and portable, many people still leave them home. But few people leave their house without their cell phones. That means you can take a picture (and in some phones, record video) virtually anywhere you go, and at exactly the times your pets and other family members are doing things you want to capture.

2. You can usually e-mail a photo captured from a camera phone in just a few seconds compared with most point and shoots that require you to download the files, and then send them. There are Wi-Fi enabled point and shoot cameras as well as Wi-Fi SD media cards that can be configured to upload images wirelessly to a computer, but the camera phone still has the advantage when it comes to ease of sending a photo quickly to an e-mail account [see w1.3].

Main disadvantages of camera phones compared with point and shoot cameras:
1. The image quality from camera phones is generally not very good, but some cameras produce good results. Check out some of the camera phone shots on Flickr.com by searching for different camera names, such as Apple iPhone.

2. The adjustable features (especially the autofocus controls) on camera phones are generally lacking compared with point and shoot cameras.

3. The speed from shot to shot (burst speed) is often very slow on camera phones compared with point and shoot cameras. For example, on some camera phones, you must confirm that you want to save each picture as you capture it, unlike most cameras that just store the images one after another.

Main advantages of dedicated video cameras vs. still cameras with video modes.
1. Many video cameras offer an option to record to tape at a higher resolution with less compression than if you shoot to a hard drive or card.

2. Most video cameras have an optical zoom mode that keeps adjusting focus properly as you pan. Many still cameras with video modes either employ digital zoom or are unable to quickly adjust focus on the fly.

3. Most “solid state” video cameras that record to SD or SDHC cards use formats that are more efficient than the very popular .avi video format used on many still cameras with video capability.

4. Dedicated video cameras sometimes have an external mic socket, which allows for far better audio quality compared with the small and low-quality mics on most still cameras with video capability.

5. Capturing motion or panning of the camera is often better with dedicated video cameras than most still cameras with video capability due to image stabilization on many dedicated video cameras.

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Posted on October 21, 2009 by Andrew Darlow | Filed Under Pet Photography 101 Book, Photography Tips

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