There are two main categories of digital cameras. The digital single lens reflex, known as the DSLR, and the point-and-shoot digital camera. Both types of digital cameras have advantages over the other. Both types of digital cameras have disadvantages also. Which type should you buy? The answer to that question depends on what you plan to use the camera for.
The main advantage a film single lens reflex camera had over other types of film cameras, was that you saw through the same lens the photo was taken. This allowed you to see nearly exactly what would be in the final picture. In other types of film cameras, you looked through a lens that was separate from the lens film was exposed through. This meant, occasionally, what you thought was in the picture, was not. However, with a digital point-and-shoot camera, you can see the picture on the preview screen and this is nearly exactly what will be recorded by the camera. So in effect, digital point-and-shoot cameras have already gained the one of main advantages that most film single lens reflex cameras had over film point-and-shoot cameras.
One of the primary advantages of the digital point-and-shoot camera, over a digital single lens reflex, is size. You can get digital point-and-shoot cameras in extremely small sizes now. This makes the digital point-and-shoot camera very convenient. It is ideal for taking on vacation when you don’t want to carry things around or any other time you don’t want to take anything heavy with you. Trust me, I would much rather have had a point-and-shoot digital camera with me, than the DSLR I carried around, last time I went to Disney.
The point-and-shoot camera’s advantage in size also becomes one of the disadvantages. Because the cameras are so small, the flash is usually very close to the lens. This causes redeye to be a serious problem with many small point-and-shoot digital cameras.
The primary disadvantage of point-and-shoot digital cameras is something called lag. Lag comes in several varieties in digital point-and-shoot cameras. The first variety that you may notice is that some digital point-and-shoot cameras take a second or two to turn on. This can be a little bit difficult to get used to, since your film camera always seemed to be ready to take a picture. The next version of lag you may notice is on the preview screen. There is a slight delay between what is actually happening and what you see on the screen. There’s also some lag between the time you press the shutter button and the time the actual photograph is taken. This can make photographing a child playing soccer or any other sport extremely difficult. The final version of lag makes itself known between shots. After taking many digital photos in quick succession, the camera may need to pause while it processes the images.
Lag in point-and-shoot digital cameras is something the manufacturers are working very hard on. The good news is that, in most current digital point-and-shoot cameras, lag is now reduced significantly. While probably not something you want to use for sports photography, a current, quality, point-and-shoot digital camera acts very similar to a film point-and-shoot camera.
The digital single lens reflex really comes into its own in any type of action photography. The digital single lens reflex has comparatively no lag from the time you press the shutter button and when the photographs are taken. Because the viewfinder is optical, you are actually seeing the present and not the slightly delayed past in a preview screen. This does mean, however, that you cannot compose the picture through the preview screen. There been some attempts to do this in the DSLR by camera manufacturers, but none have proven very successful.
The primary disadvantage of the digital single lens reflex camera is size. While some point-and-shoot cameras are nearly as big, there are no truly compact digital single lens reflex cameras. Not much fun to carry around an amusement park. However, the larger size means those DSLR’s that do have a built-in flash, have placed the flash farther from the lens than most point-and-shoot cameras. The disadvantage is, that many digital single lens reflex cameras, particularly professional models, do not have a built-in flash.
The digital single lens reflex is extremely versatile. You can change lenses or add a more powerful flash. Most digital single lens reflexes also allow making manual adjustments much easier than digital point-and-shoot cameras. This is essential to the advanced shooter or professional photographer.