Is Digital Right for You?
Let’s start by looking at the non-positives.
1. Usually end up with no physical photo album
2. Nearly always involves time on the computer (archiving, sorting, etc.)
3. Digital files can become lost or currupt due to computer crashes and damaged storage.
4. Must have adequate computer system requirement
5. Reliance on battery life of camera and potentially traveling laptop / storage
6. Cost of camera
By far the most difficult of these issues is the amount of involvement on the computer end (the archiving, sorting) and often the lack of a physical album.
Digital SLR vs Point and Shoot
One of the most important decisions you will have to make is one the style of camera. The most important differences between cameras is whether or not it has a detachable lens (also known as a SLR or Single Lens Reflex). The cameras fall into either the SLR category or are labeled a “Point and Shoot” (now on referred to as “P&S”). SLRs will always be more expensive than a comparably-featured P&S. These categorization applies to both film and digital.
The easiest way to identify a SLR versus a P&S is generally the size and the appearance of the lens. An SLR will have a focus ring that allows the photographer to adjust the focus on the barrel of the lens. A P&S lens will generally be much smaller and will not have such a ring. SLRs are also usually much bulkier than the P&S, as the P&S style aims for a form factor designed with your pocket in mind.
A couple of years ago, digital SLRs were priced out of reach for all but the most affluent photographers.
Deciding between digital SLR vs Point and Shoot types comes down to your expected uses and how far you want to pursue photography.
The range of point and shoot models has broadened considerably. While the early digital point and shoot cameras were fairly simple and of relatively poor quality(versus their film-based equivalents), a new point and shoot digital cameras has surfaced: the pro-sumer point and shoot. The term pro-sumer is a blend of consumer and professional, indicating that it is designed with the advanced amateur in mind.
* Digital Consumer Point and Shoot
Entry-level digital camera. Can be ultra-compact form factor. Lacks manual exposure, manual focus, optical zoom less than 4x. Very slow autofocus and significant shutter-lag. ISO sensitivity up to ~ 400.
* Digital Pro-sumer Point and Shoot
Mid to high-end for a point and shoot. Might offer manual metering modes, electronic manual focus. Some offer super-zooms up to 10x optical with surprisingly good optical characteristics. Some models have extremely little shutter lag, approaching those of SLRs. ISO sensitivity up to 800 – 1600, although noise from the small sensor elements causes higher ISOs to be less useful.
* Digital SLR
Pro-sumer to professional with interchangeable lenses. Always offers manual exposure, real manual focus. Lenses must be purchased separately, but have the ability to cover a much wider visual range and quality than the “super-zooms” built-in to the pro-sumer point and shoot cameras. Useable ISO sensitivity up to 800 – 3200.
So What To Buy?
Digital Consumer Point & Shoot
Lens quality poor
Manual focus difficult/slow
Larger sensor (Less noise)
Total Shutter lag minimal
Compatibility of lens/accessories poor
Bulky, heavy, multiple lenses take up space
Lens quality unlimited
Manual focus easy/fast
Shutter lag poor
Small sensor (More noise)
Compatibility of lens/accessories great