Cranky Photography: All About Cameras

Posted by: Maggie

Many of you have asked me to write more photography tutorial posts, so I’m finally getting on top of that! I thought I’d start out with a question I get asked a lot: What’s the real difference between a Point & Shoot and a fancy DSLR?

POINT & SHOOT vs. DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)

Image Quality – There is definitely a difference in image quality.  The larger size of image sensors in DSLRs allows for larger pixel sizes, which reduces the grain or noise in your images.  Although, today’s point-and-shoots are still able to capture very good quality images. But you may not be able to create as large a print with them. If you’re looking to post pictures online, or create prints 8X10 and smaller you’re probably fine with a point & shoot.

Versatility – Point & Shoot cameras are not nearly as versatile as DSLRs. With a DSLR you have the ability to change lenses, ranging from wide angle to very long zooms. Image quality and photographic style is greatly impacted by your lens choice and quality. You also have the ability to use a variety of other accessories (flashes, filters etc) that are not available with a Point & Shoot.

Speed – DSLR’s are generally faster when it comes to things like start up, focusing and shutter lag.

Viewfinder – Because of the reflex mirror, what you see is what the lens will capture in a DSLR. With a point & shoot your viewfinder does not show you what the lens sees, but usually shows a slightly higher and wider view. The live view on the LCD display does show you what the camera is capturing, but is difficult to see out in sunlight.

ISO Range – This varies between cameras but generally DSLRs offer a wider choice of ISO settings, which allows greater flexibility in shooting in lower light conditions.

Manual Controls – While many point and shoots come with the ability to shoot in manual mode, a DSLR is designed assuming that the photographer using it will want to control their own settings. While they do come with good auto modes the manual controls are generally designed for quick and easy use while shooting.

Price – DSLRs are significantly more expensive. The least expensive DSLR is still several hundred dollars more than the most expensive Point & Shoot.

Size and Weight – DSLRs are big and heavy and when you add a lens or two to your bag it’s a lot to carry!

When to move to a DSLR

Digital SLR cameras offer a lot of extra features that aren’t available on a point & shoot camera. When you shoot with a DSLR, you gain more control over the lens, a faster picture taking rate, better focus modes, and a host of other features that you don’t realize are important until you start using them. Having said this, many people own a camera that’s too powerful for their needs.

It’s a good idea to know why you’re upgrading your camera before you decide to spend more money. If you are just going to put your camera on Auto mode and not spend the time to learn how to use the array of features available on a DSLR, I recommend sticking with a high quality point & shoot. Your pictures will be virtually identical using a good Point & Shoot in Auto Mode as they are with a DSLR in Auto.

More photo tutorials coming soon! Have a question for me or a suggestion for another photo lesson? Feel free to comment below!


  1. Looking forward to more photography tutorials! I love your work!! :)

  2. This is a great post, and was very helpful! I am planning to upgrade to a DSLR soon, and you confirmed to me that I am doing it for the right reasons. Thanks; I’m looking forward to more!

  3. Thanks Sarah and Anita! There are plenty more tutorials to come!

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