Last year Paul and I made a very important purchase – we bought our first DSLR camera. Moving from point and shoot to DSLR took a very long time; we already had eight years of photography practice and thousands of photographs under our belt before we made the leap. The main reason it took so long to buy a DSLR was because we were very happy with the quality of photos taken with our point and shoot, a Canon PowerShot SX60. Also, we liked the ease of having the massive zoom, a function we used a lot.
But last summer as we prepared for our trip to Tokyo, we began to think more carefully about making the switch. Having previously visited Tokyo years before, we were salivating at the photography opportunities there; it is maybe the most photogenic place we had ever visited. While we loved our Canon PowerShot SX60, and had taken many fantastic (if we say so ourselves) photos with it, we knew the quality of photographs taken by DSLRs is better, even though there are limitations that come with it. So after much humming and hawing, and Googling and research, we bought one – a Canon EOS 750D.
Before we moved from a point and shoot to DSLR, all we wanted was an article to outline the practical differences differences between both styles of camera, not necessarily the minor technical details. Also, I often have beginner photographers ask me for advice on what type of camera they should get and whether or not they should buy a DSLR. Now I’ve been using our DSLR for nine months I feel I am in the position to write that article I wanted and answer those people who questioned me about it. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
Canon PowerShot 60XS
We used our point and shoot, a Canon PowerShot SX60, for years, have taken thousands of photographs with it and been very very happy with it. It is a fantastic camera which takes excellent quality photographs, excellent quality videos, and has a massive zoom. I would recommend this camera to everyone.
One of the best things about the Canon PowerShot SX60? No need to switch lenses. Paul and I take the majority of our photos as we walk through cities; of street corners, buildings, interesting people, anything that catches our eye. We can spot something at the end of a street or a small detail in the distance and zoom in to take the photo in seconds. We can take two photos in a row, one up close and one far away, without switching lenses. It is not possible to do this with a DSLR and that is the biggest difference we have noticed.
Now when we have our shorter lens on our Canon EOS 750D and we see a photo in the distance we want to take, we have to pause to switch lenses. After years of being used to taking photos at any distance in a split second, this has been difficult to get used to. And crucially, there are definitely photo opportunities we have missed.
Here’s a photo Paul took, one of my favourites, that we probably wouldn’t have got with a DSLR. He took it when a couple zipped past us on a moped under a pizzeria sign in Rome. Our Canon 60sx instivenely blurred the couple and focused on the pizzeria; with a DSLR we would have to have selected on the screen what we wanted to focus on. Also, if we’d had the wrong lens on the camera to take the photo he wouldn’t have had time to switch it as he saw the moped quickly approach.
The massive lens on our Canon SX60 is, along with its image quality, its best feature. The longer lens we currently have for our DSLR doesn’t zoom anything like as far and if we were to buy a lens that did it would be MASSIVE and very impractical for carrying around all day
It is a lot harder to take discreet photos with a DSLR as it makes a shutter sound when you press the button. Sometimes you want to take a photo without drawing attention to the fact you’re doing it, which sounds creepy but is sometimes the only way to get the shot. For example, Paul took this photo while sitting in the back of a Mumbai taxi with our Canon PowerShot SX60 and it ended up winning an award. If he had the DSLR he wouldn’t have been able to take it, or wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking it, as it would have made a noise.
Gigs and sports events
Another useful thing about travelling with our Canon PowerShot SX60 is that we could always get into football games and concerts with it and we probably wouldn’t have with a DSLR. An example is when we went to see the Arcade Fire at an outdoor venue in Berlin and the people in front of us got their DSLR taken off them and we got in no problem with our Canon PowerShot SX60 even though, ironically, it would have been able to zoom a lot further. We were definitely not at the gig to take photos (side note: I HATE people take photos at gigs, from their phone or otherwise, and would never encourage it) but as were in out in the city as tourists all day it was a lot easier to go straight to the gig with our camera rather than take it back to the hotel. Paul often goes to football games overseas and with the Canon PowerShot SX60 he never had to worry about bringing the camera back to the hotel before he went to the game.
After you’ve chosen the point and shoot camera you want to buy the rest is simple; the lens is there and you don’t have to do anything else with it. Buying a DSLR takes a lot more research as you need to buy the lenses separately and there’s a multitude to choose from, each with different technical details and capabilities. We own three lenses for our DSLR and did a lot of research before buying each one.
For reference, here are the lenses we plumped for:
The first was the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM that came with the camera as tends to be standard. Within the first few days of practicing with this lens we felt that it wasn’t quite going to be long enough for the kind of urban photography we like to take.
Following advice from a photographer friend of ours, we looked on mpb.com and picked up a second hand 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens for £89. We swithered about this purchase for a long time, having already bought the body it felt like costs were ramping up, but in hindsight it would have been a real opportunity lost if we’d gone to Japan without it. Although it’s still doesn’t zoom anywhere near as far as our Canon PowerShot SX60, we’ve been very happy with the quality and haven’t found there to be many, if any, situations where we’ve needed a longer zoom.
Our final lens is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II. Again, we bought this following advice from our photographer friend, who told us it’s the lens he often uses for taking photos at weddings. It was only £50 from mpb.com and in very good condition. It’s an excellent lens but probably the one which requires the most skill to use. In the right setting, it takes excellent quality portrait shots with a lovely depth of field.
Although we’re still very much novices when it comes to the DSLR scene, we’re happy we have lenses which cover us for the 18-250mm range, as well as our 50mm to take excellent quality portraits.
DSLR cameras are significantly more expensive than point and shoots. The need to buy lenses separately from the main camera body is not easy on the wallet; often the lenses are just as expensive as the main camera body. And if you want a very long lens, for safari or such like, it will be very very expensive (not to mention very big and bulky).
Carrying it around
Another practical point we considered before we bought a DSLR was how comfortable it would be to carry around all day along with the multiple lenses – we were previously used to just carrying our Canon PowerShot SX60 around our neck. It hasn’t worked out too badly; we got this bag to carry the camera and two spare lenses in (although it’s usually just the lenses as the camera is around our neck) and it’s pretty sleek and easy to move around with. However, I should admit, 99% of of the time it is Paul carrying the camera bag. Well, I do have a handbag to carry after all!
So with all of the positive things I’ve said about our point and shoot, why bother getting a DSLR? There is one main reason and it is the reason which supersedes all the others: the image quality is better. There is absolutely no doubt about it. When I look at the photos we’ve taken since we bought our Canon EOS 750D compared to the ones we took before – well I thought the photos we took before were good but quality wise these blown them out the water. It’s like viewing everything in HD, with an extra sparkle that just wasn’t there before. Also, the DSLR has a beautiful depth of field effect we never had with our point and shoot unless the object we were focusing on was very far away from the background. The range of what you can do with a DSLR compared to a point and shoot is much greater due to the ranges of lenses and functions each lens has.
However, and I want to stress this, if you don’t have much experience taking photographs, don’t just read my last point and run off and buy a DSLR. They are more expensive and more complicated to use. We got years of thousands of fantastic photographs with our Canon PowerShot SX60 which proves you don’t need to buy a DSLR to get amazing photos.
Photographs taken by any camera are only as good as the photographer. I have seen so many people decide they want to become serious about photography, buy a DSLR, take some mediocre photos, then lose interest. In those situations it would have been better (not to mention cheaper) for them to experiment with a point and shoot first. If you do decide to buy a DSLR, practice a lot and actually learn how to use it. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how good the camera is – your photos won’t be as good as they can be.