Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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A Canon Powershot series camera has shutter priority, aperture priority and complete manual mode that lets the user control the shutter speed and aperture

Even though an Entry-level DSLR has more features, this looks similar to an entry-level DSLR.

In other words, is it necessary for an amateur to own a DSLR over a point and shoot camera such as a Canon Powershot?

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Please see photo.stackexchange.com/questions/144/… which I think answers your question. –  drewbenn Oct 31 '11 at 18:54
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An important consideration is that controlling aperture has less impact on composition with a small sensor camera, since depth of field is generally large in any case. (See photo.stackexchange.com/questions/9240/…) –  mattdm Oct 31 '11 at 19:44
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For me, a P&S camera is a portable device I can take anywhere and literally point and shoot, and DSLR is bigger, heavier thing that gives you great images but only if you find the will to carry it with you. So, my answer is - having both seems reasonable. Please note, however, that I'm not a photographer, not even hobbyist one. I don't own a DSLR, but my work is related to them. –  Violet Giraffe Nov 1 '11 at 20:03
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up vote 22 down vote accepted

The 1st difference, and arguably the most important one, is the image sensor's size. DSLR has an APS-C or Full-Frame (35mm) sizes CMOS sensors, where Powershots have much smaller, some CCD some CMOS sensors. this translates to superior image quality in terms of digital image noise - the larger the sensor, the less noise is apparent in the image. In this picture from Wikipedia, the 1/1.6" and smaller rectangles are the realm of P&S:

enter image description here

Also important is the fact that DSLR have interchangeable lenses, as well as TTL (Through The Lens) Optical Viewfinders which lets you see what the sensor sees.

DSLR are generally quicker than P&S, and occasionally have more features (but not necessarily, as the Powershot line has compatible CHDK alternative firmwares which enable many of the DSLR features).

Is it "enough"? This is a very subjective question. Given the price tag, the different size and weight group and more factors, only you can evaluate the "enough-ness" of a P&S camera to your needs.

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The viewfinder lets you see what the sensor sees in terms of composition. However, you're generally NOT seeing what the sensor will be seeing in terms of aperture. AIUI, the camera will generally stop the image way down while the mirror is down (and thus the viewfinder active), and when the mirror goes up to expose an image, it sets the aperture to the desired setting. –  Chris Wuestefeld Apr 9 '12 at 16:59
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@ChrisWuestefeld - yes, unless you press the little DOF preview button near the lens barrel. Then, the aperture closes and you essentially get the correct DoF in the viewfinder - at the price of a darker image. That said, the DoF seen through the viewfinder is limited to a certain minimum by the viewfinder optics. That means, that even though you may be using a f/2.8 lens, the viewfinder DoF will be equivalent to 4 (or whatever your camera is designed to). –  ysap Apr 9 '12 at 20:23
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