Digital Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras are excellent cameras that produce clearer, sharper and more colourful images than most point and shoot digital cameras available. With prices falling rapidly, they are now more affordable then ever. With the price gap between an entry model digital SLR camera and the most expensive compact digital camera narrowing; the question is- do I spend the extra money and get a Digital SLR camera? or save a few hundred dollars and purchase the best digital compact camera.
Well, it really depends on your budget; however if you do spend the extra money, here's what you get:
In addition to the price falls in the Digital SLR models, the performance on these cameras has increased year on year with the latest Digital SLR cameras being quicker and faster than ever before. They have improved to such an extent that power up or start-up time is near instantaneous with virtually no lag time. "Lag time is the time between you pressing the shutter release button and the camera actually taking the shot". This delay can vary quite a bit between different camera models and it is one of the biggest drawbacks compared to a compact digital camera. The latest digital SLR cameras have virtually no lag times and react in the same way as conventional film cameras, even in burst mode. Compact digital cameras are catching up; however the difference is still significant. A lag time of ~0.5 seconds can result in you missing the heartbeat of the moment and hence that potential great picture.
Digital SLR camera also has a larger sensor versus a smaller sensor in a compact digital camera. This equates to higher sensitivity and less noise and results in the camera taking clearer pictures in low light. (They also have better autofocus speed in low light as well). A measure of sensitivity in a digital camera is ISO and a typical ISO range for a Digital SLR camera varies from ISO 100 - 1600 with the latter being more sensitive. The ISO range for a compact digital camera varies from ISO 50 - 400. In summary, the higher the ISO rating, the greater the sensitivity and the better the photo can be taken in low light.
The Digital SLR cameras have a much longer battery life due to the limited use of the LCD screen. Please note, that as the LCD screen is only used for viewing the image, the battery life of a digital SLR can allow up to 2000 shots per charge in some cameras compared to 500 for a good point and shoot digital camera.
Digital SLR cameras also allow you to interchange lens such as adding a zoom or macro lens when required.
On the negative side of a Digital SLR camera; they are usually larger and heavier than compact digital cameras, the image cannot be previewed on the LCD screen prior taking the picture. If you really require the image to be viewed on the LCD prior to taking the picture, there are third party manufacturers that produce LCD screens that attaches to the viewfinder and allow the scene to be view just like a compact digital camera. The other drawback is the inability to take videos and finally, lenses are expensive with the majority costing more than the camera itself.
Although compact digital cameras cannot compete on features with a Digital SLR camera, they are great value, have the ability to take videos and are portable. If you have decided to purchase a Digital SLR camera I recommend you compare the features. If you are still undecided, purchase both.