Do You Really Need a DSLR Camera? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

August 3, 2010 · 5 comments

in Gear,Tips & Tricks

Photography has always been somewhat of a cool hobby to have. With DSLRs being a lot more affordable compared to a few years ago, amateur photographers are jumping on the DSLR bandwagon. However, after the initial excitement wears off, most of these DSLRs would end up sitting somewhere collecting dust.

You don’t need to have a DSLR to be a good photographer, and having one doesn’t automatically make you take better photos. Here are five questions to determine if you really need a DSLR.

1.) Do you require the flexibility?

Take a good look at your point-and-shoot camera and tell me what you don’t like about it. If your issues tend to be on more aesthetic things, how you want it to be less complicated, or how you want to become a better photographer, then a DSLR probably won’t solve much of your problems.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for flexibility in camera settings and lenses, then a DSLR could be what you’re looking for. A DSLR can help you capture moments otherwise hard to do with a point-and-shoot — such as low light conditions (ISO), freezing an action shot (shutter speed), or creating depth-of-field (aperture).

Image thanks to: Richard_Miles

2. Do you have the money?

Photography is certainly not a cheap hobby. Although an entry-level DSLR with kit lenses retail around $1000, you’d have to factor in other accessories. Better lenses can cost more than the camera body itself. Then there are accessories like lens filters, camera bag, lens hoods, external flashes, memory cards, extra batteries, cleaning equipment, tripod, battery grip — as you can see, the list is never-ending.

Image thanks to: Jacky W

3. Is size and weight an issue for you?

A DSLR isn’t small or lightweight and that can certainly inhibit when and what you wish to photograph. It might not be the ideal camera to take when you go on your vacation by the beach, or to a friend’s party. If you only wish to take out your DSLR for special occasions, then it probably won’t be worth your investment. Only get one if you’re truly interested in giving a creative flare to everyday objects, surroundings and people.

Image thanks to: Conor Keller

4. Are you willing to maintain your camera regularly?

Unlike a point-and-shoot, a DSLR requires more than just a good wipe to keep it clean. Dust can easily get into the image sensor every time you change your lens, resulting in photos with imperfections. Your DSLR requires regularly maintenance both externally and internally. Cleaning out the image sensor isn’t a D.I.Y job for beginners and is usually done by experts at professionalcamera shops.

Image thanks to: Andi Licious

5. Are you motivated to learn about photography?

Getting a DSLR doesn’t automatically make you a better photographer. Your photos might be clearer and crisper, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good. Being a great photographer means a continuous learning curve. From the basics of lighting and composition to advancing yourself with photo editing programs. Thankfully, there are an abundance of free resources online, from blogs, websites, YouTube videos, and of course, Photoble.

Image thanks to: NA.dir

Alternatives to a DSLR and point-and-shoot

If you’ve answered a few ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to the questions above, you might like to consider premium compacts. They’re cameras for photographers who want the flexibility of a DSLR but without the extra weight or cost. Some suggestions for premium compacts are:

Canon PowerShot G11

Olympus PEN E-P1

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

  • http://twitter.com/SketchyFletchy Fletcher Thompson

    I’m rocking a Lumix DMC-GF1 now. When I was shopping around for a new camera I wanted to go DSLR (Dad hooked me and my sister on photography with his old Pentax SLR when we were younger), but I also wanted something pretty compact and portable, preferably using SD card storage and aiming for ~12MPx.After a bit of research, the Micro 4/3 lens format cameras seemed like a good idea. I tried out the PEN EP-2 and the GF1 side by side and was smitten with the GF1 on the spot. A plethora of advanced features over and above a normal point and shoot, faster focus that the PEN’s (with a built in flash, useful in a pinch), 720p film recording capability, RAW+JPEG native, good colour space and white balance control and it feels nice and solid. Excellent battery life as well.I can see expenses becoming an issue though. Lenses, = $$$. Ah well. :PDefinitely good suggestions in that list – my sister just bought herself a PowerShot G11 a month ago. It takes brilliant photos and is surprisingly versatile for a fixed lens camera.

  • http://twitter.com/SketchyFletchy Fletcher Thompson

    I'm rocking a Lumix DMC-GF1 now. When I was shopping around for a new camera I wanted to go DSLR (Dad hooked me and my sister on photography with his old Pentax SLR when we were younger), but I also wanted something pretty compact and portable, preferably using SD card storage and aiming for ~12MPx.

    After a bit of research, the Micro 4/3 lens format cameras seemed like a good idea. I tried out the PEN EP-2 and the GF1 side by side and was smitten with the GF1 on the spot. A plethora of advanced features over and above a normal point and shoot, faster focus that the PEN's (with a built in flash, useful in a pinch), 720p film recording capability, RAW+JPEG native, good colour space and white balance control and it feels nice and solid. Excellent battery life as well.

    I can see expenses becoming an issue though. Lenses, = $$$. Ah well. :P

    Definitely good suggestions in that list – my sister just bought herself a PowerShot G11 a month ago. It takes brilliant photos and is surprisingly versatile for a fixed lens camera.

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  • Xy

    Thanks for the helpful post.  I have been thinking of dipping my toes into the DSLR water and you helped me make my choice.

    I had to answer, “No” to all of your 5 questions when I really thought about it.

    1. Really settled it for me. “Take a good look at your point-and-shoot camera and tell me what you don’t like about it.”

    I recently sold my Panasonic DMC-TZ3  (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonictz3/) after a few years with its poor low light performance.

    I bought a Canon SD4000 (aka IXUS 300 HS) (http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonsd4000is/) and love it.  The fast, wide lens (f2.0 28-105) and terrific burst and video modes have been a joy.  The tiny size means I can always have it at hand. It can be had for about $240.  Maybe when I get beyond its capabilities, I will look for a DSLR.

    Thanks for helping me get over my camera lust.  Maybe someday, I’ll join the ranks of serious photographers.  But for now, I’ll work on getting the most out of the camera I have.

  • Debra Todd Jordan

    I have the Cannon Power Shot SX40 HS and I love it. Light weight and I don’t have to change lenses at the race track during a shoot. My photo’s come just as good as the ones that use the DSLR’s.

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