With film disappearing and digital cameras becoming more advanced, what happens to digital capture?
By Jeff Dorgay
Perhaps one of the biggest quandaries for prospective buyers of digital SLRs is whether to invest in a professional-level camera or simply go for an entry-level SLR or even a compact digital camera. The line between the types of cameras is continuing to blur.
For instance, although everyone is over the moon with 12-megapixel compact cameras, quite a few of these are now pushing the $500 price range and that’s right in the middle of the range of entry-level DSLRs with 8 to 10 megapixel sensors. What to do? Amazon.com offers the Canon Digital Rebel XT (8 megapixels) for $459 with a lens and the Rebel XTi (10 megapixels) for an even $600. The Nikon D40 (6 megapixels) is also available with a basic zoom for $469 and the Olympus E-410 (10 megapixels) for $529 with a lens.
Stepping up to a DSLR offers a lot more than just being able to switch lenses. The DSLRs also have larger image buffers, allowing you to shoot pictures in sequence a lot more easily, as well as larger battery capacity and a bigger range of accessories at your fingertips to widen your shooting possibilities (often sharing those accessories with the other pro cameras in their line). All of these features make trading up to a pro camera (whether you need it or not) a big enticement as your knowledge grows. What you also get with a DSLR that you don’t get yet with the compacts is picture quality, especially if you’re shooting in low-light situations. Nearly all of the compacts I’ve tested get noisy in a big hurry when you crank the ISO dial up past 400, but most entry-level DSLRs will produce very good results at ISO 800 and even a few at ISO 1600.
In the end, it boils down to the subjects you shoot and how much gear you want to haul around with you while taking pictures. As the compacts and the entry-level DSLRs keep getting better and less expensive, we’ll be able to continue this argument at least for the near future.