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by Bart Arondson

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I bought a point and shoot camera 2 years back and now I feel like I need a dslr with 50mm lens (because I think 50mm pictures look stunning)

The problem is when I initially bought the PnS camera, I was so excited that I used it to the fullest. I took lots of pictures but slowly after almost 1.5 years I stopped using the camera. I feel as if the point and shoot is just not right for me. It feels like I'm in need of a dslr, but I doubt my "feeling " of needing a new camera and moving to a dslr. I'm not quite sure if I might throw it away after 1-1.5 years of use, so I want to be very sure that a DSLR will help my interest before I buy a new dslr since it is a lot of investment.

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I suggest picking up your old P'n'S and start shooting again with the zoom at 50mm and see how it feels again. If you need/want a dSLR, look for a used one (2, 3, y.o.) before getting a new one; it will be less costly and will still be good enough to learn. –  Max Jul 7 at 13:12
    
@user7036: Welcome to photo.stackexchange.com! It is a bit unclear what you are asking, so I suggest altering your question otherwise it will quickly get flagged and downvoted. You can get a recommendation if you state your exact use-case, what are you photographing, possibly showing some examples, etc., what are you trying to achieve. Otherwise this is just a question about your "doubt", and in doubt, buy a new camera, right? ;-) Possibly a 1D and a D4 so that you can compare them :-) Seriously: camera is one thing, lens is another one - always budget for these two, considering the topic. –  TFuto Jul 7 at 13:23
    
And: you do not have to throw away your point-and-shoot, people having D4 bodies do not carry that around everywhere. (Sometimes the wife has a small P&S, and makes better pictures ;-) :-) ). –  TFuto Jul 7 at 13:24
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I think a better way to phrase this, so it doesn't have the personal bias, would be "Does an expensive camera make photography easier or more interesting" –  Jasmine Jul 7 at 18:24
    
@Max If he likes the look of a 50mm lens on a DSLR body, he should be using the zoom at 80mm, not 50mm. Nearly all consumer DSLRs have APS-C sensors with a 1.6 crop factor. But if it's the shallow depth of field that he likes, he won't get the same effect on a point-and-shoot, even if the zoom factor is the same. –  Mike Scott Jul 8 at 17:17

6 Answers 6

You need to analyze your "feelings" as to why a P&S isn't doing it for you and come up with concrete reasons that translate to camera features. If your general thinking is just that your pictures aren't pretty enough, then you're right to hesitate and do some more research. Cameras are simply tools. Taking the picture is still up to you, and in the right hands, P&S cameras can actually be used to create stunning pictures, within limitations. If you simply google for images taken with the same camera you have, you'll undoubtedly find that the camera itself may not be as limiting as you think it is.

The difference between a snapshot and a photo is not the camera it's taken with--it's the amount of thinking time, vision, planning, and effort that went into taking it.

However. If your frustrations with the P&S camera are specific and concrete, and those translate to camera features you can only get with a dSLR, then maybe it's worth the expense and time. But these days, many of the old reasons for moving to dSLR may no longer require a dSLR.

If all you want is thin DoF (blurry background), then you may simply need a camera with a larger sensor and a faster lens. There are fixed-lens cameras with dSLR-sized sensors in them these days, and every size in between. There are also interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras that can achieve the same thin DoF, and even P&S cameras with small sensors can achieve this at macro subject distances.

If you simply want more control over exposure settings, and your current camera lacks the "PSAM" (i.e., Programmable auto, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, and full Manual) modes, then all you need is a camera that has those modes on the dial; a lot of fixed-lens "enthusiast" P&S cameras do. If you want more control over post-processing, then you may simply need a camera with RAW capability (or, if your camera's a Canon Powershot, the CHDK). If you want more control over lighting, then all you need is a camera with a flash hotshoe.

None of these things requires a dSLR, although a dSLR can certainly deliver these features, too.

To my mind subjects that require a dSLR (and even this is changing) are those where you need super-fast responsiveness. Where you have to time the shot exactly. Where you need the autofocus to be super-snappy to follow a moving subject. Or, subjects that require more exotic gear (say, tilt-shift lenses) that can only be found in dSLR systems at this time.

Renting or borrowing a dSLR and a lens and shooting with them is probably the easiest way to find out if this is for you with minimal outlay. You may be surprised at how large and unwieldy the gear is or how limited a single lens may be, compared to, say, a bridge camera (i.e., no macro modes or supertelephoto reach without dedicated lenses).

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+1 for trying to compare specifically how a DSLR meets the things he is missing. –  AJ Henderson Jul 7 at 18:31
    
A note of caution if you do rent or borrow: as with most gadgets, just playing around with a DSLR can be a lot of fun. If you try it, ask yourself honestly if you are practicing photography, or if you are playing with the camera - there is probably less longevity in the latter. –  imsotiredicantsleep Jul 9 at 0:47

NO. Owning an expensive camera will not motivate you to use it. If you loved photography you would be doing it with anything you can. I take cell phone pictures all the time, because I just love taking photos. When I whip out my phone to take a picture though, I like to think I'm better at composition than your average cell phone photographer. Seriously... take a look at my photostream. I've been a little tired lately after moving to another state so I've pulled back on the activity level just a bit, but go look and see if you can tell which photos I did with my phone? The reason I mention this is because if you loved photography you would be using the cheapo camera. Not using it suggests you don't really love photography.

The only case where this would be true is if your reason for disliking photography is the quality of your photos. That's the only thing that will improve. A DSLR won't change your life and it won't improve your photos. I recommend getting a phone with a good quality camera (Samsung Galaxy series) and if that doesn't change your attitude toward photography, nothing will. The bonus is if you still hate photography you still have a nice phone.

(You aren't gonna get an "answer" here either, you have to decide for yourself, none of us can tell you what to do. It's not really the kind of question we like on this site, but I think it's an important question. )

My photostream - recent photos include a lot of cellphone shots... see if you can tell which ones? https://www.flickr.com/photos/77816686@N02/

(BTW, if you loved photography you would post some of your photos too!)

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There is also the question of usability. You can't fine tune exposure with a P&S. I never shoot with a P&S and even rarely shoot with my phone because it doesn't give me enough control. If I go for a walk with my DSLR, I'll take photos I wouldn't otherwise take if I just had my phone with me, because the DSLR is an easier interface to taking photos without having to think about it (though this does assume a knowledge of photography that may not be applicable to the OP since DSLRs also require more knowledge of photography to use well.) Also, some photogs like privacy and don't publish –  AJ Henderson Jul 7 at 18:28
    
What is the point of taking photographs if you never show them to anybody? If someone loves photography, they will do photography and they won't let a lack of equipment stop them. Sure, there's a point to the DSLR cameras and they have their uses, but if you don't enjoy the activity of photography, no equipment will change that. If the OP does enjoy photography, there should be evidence of that in their life, which they should be able to share. –  Jasmine Jul 7 at 20:08
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There is a difference between showing all your work online and sharing in private with people. I don't post much of my work, but I'll put up prints around the house or give it to friends. Not all my photography is for mass consumption. Similarly, I hate using point and shoot cameras or smart phone cameras. If I see a photo I absolutely feel I must capture, then I'll use my phone, but I don't go actively looking for things to photograph without my DSLR and wouldn't have any interest at all in using a P&S. I was taking some photos with a P&S before I went to a DSLR, but it increased a lot. –  AJ Henderson Jul 7 at 20:11
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That said, I agree with most of what you said, but there are reasons why someone who enjoys photography might not share online and why they might not like shooting with a P&S much if they find the lack of adjustments and the slow shutter response frustrating, even if they like the idea of capturing images. There are many, many images I don't bother with because it would be too much of a nuisance to use my smartphone or because I know they wouldn't come out well enough on it's limited capability. –  AJ Henderson Jul 7 at 20:12
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Yes I agree, these are all good points. These are things the OP should consider. I'm no artist, I'm a documentarian and I love to document things, but I do prefer the DSLR for times when I know I will be taking photos. I can understand why a small camera might be nearly useless to a portrait photographer or other kind of artist. For someone who just loves taking photos though, and wants to explore composition, a cell phone camera can go a long way! I think it's important to determine for yourself if you love photography or you love expensive electronics. Nothing wrong with either. –  Jasmine Jul 7 at 20:21

The best motivation for buying any camera is when you run into the limitations of your current one. If you don't understand why you want certain features, and when you would use them, you're not going to use them. There is a serious drawback of a DSLR and that is the size and weight. I keep making pictures with my phone, because it is with me all the time. I know people who bought a DSLR because they wanted more beautiful pictures, but didn't want to dive into theory of lighting, composition, DoF etc and don't want to carry it around. No surprise it stays at home catching dust.

Advantages of DSLRs that I can come up with now, are:

  • Faster shutter response. The photo is taken instantly instead of a second later with P&S
  • Bigger sensor. You will get better bokeh and less noise, also in darker environments
  • Interchangeable lenses. You can buy specialized lenses to meet your needs.
  • Heavier. It will be easier to hold the camera still, and avoid motion blur.
  • More control, you can pick faster or slower shutter speeds, apertures etc.
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+1, though it is worth pointing out that weight is a good thing for inertial vibration absorption, but it is also a poor thing as well due to added stress. If it pushes a tripod closer to it's limit, it can reduce how well the tripod holds still and it certainly has an impact on muscle vibration when under strain from being handheld vs a lighter device. The bigger thing is that it is big enough/designed to be held up to your eye. The third point of contact with your head is what offers the biggest hand held stabilization advantage. (Your head is much more stable than your hands normally.) –  AJ Henderson Jul 8 at 13:16
    
"it certainly has an impact on muscle vibration when under strain from being handheld vs a lighter device" - quit contrary. When you are tired you'll hold heavier object much more steady than a lighter one. But of course - grip is a huge deciding factor here - shallow grips will force you to hold a device in a way that's very unstable comparing to a proper, deep grips. –  MarcinWolny Jul 8 at 13:47
    
@MarcinWolny - sort of, comments are limiting, but the advantage of weight is inertial stabilization. If you can conduct the weight in to bone, inertia of the heavier object will better absorb random muscle spasms, however putting the muscle in to a more fatigued state (such as when not using bone on bone support for weight bearing) will produce more muscle strain and spasms that will generally result in more losses than the inertia gains. It's a complex balance though and not really strictly on topic for this. Main thing, proper support >> weight, which I think we agree on. –  AJ Henderson Jul 8 at 14:28
    
Yep, we certainly do. As for the other topic, perhaps this would be a good question to ask yourself: How often you have been exhausted while shooting to the point where you couldn't hold DSLR steadily? If you were - then lighter camera would most likely benefit you. If not - then heavier camera would benefit. –  MarcinWolny Jul 8 at 14:33
    
@MarcinWolny - btw, if you are interested, I would love to continue the discussion on stabilization from weight in chat if you feel like it. It's a fascinating topic, just not a good fit for comments. :) (Plus I like any excuse to let people know about our chat room.) –  AJ Henderson Jul 8 at 14:36

Shooting with a DSLR is quite a different user experience than shooting with a P&S, so if your main complaint is difficulty in making adjustments, then a DSLR may help counter that, but it really depends on what your reasons for not taking photos are.

As far as knowing what shooting on a DSLR is like, there isn't really a substitute for trying it. While DSLR photography is quite different from point and shoot photography, it isn't necessarily in the ways you think. You have far more creative options for a variety of shots, but it is also something that you have to consciously use since they are much larger, heavier and more bulky. It isn't something you can just carry with you all the time in most cases, so it is something you have to be deliberate about using.

If you have a vision of what you want to accomplish and feel like the P&S simply wasn't an effective tool for accomplishing that vision, then a DSLR is quite possibly a solution, but if you simply didn't care enough to pull out the camera and take photos because you didn't feel like taking photos, a DSLR is probably unlikely to make a significant difference since it is even harder to take with you (even if it makes taking the photos themselves "easier" once you know what you are doing.)

Similarly, a DSLR isn't going to greatly improve the quality of your images unless the camera really was the limiting factor (such as too much noise in low light shots or not able to get shallow enough depth of field due to limitations of optics in the P&S.) A DSLR can actually initially make your images look worse as they are designed to move more control to the photographer and that means they require more skill to use well. As others have mentioned, it is entirely possible to take good photos with a P&S or even a cellphone camera, they aren't anything near the quality of my professional DSLR shots, but if my wife tries taking the photos, her smartphone and my DSLR look pretty similar unless I coach her through the settings and how to hold it.

Your best bet may be to rent one or get a cheap used DSLR to try out first. (You can always sell it again after.) I'd probably most recommend the cheap used DSLR as this will give you the most time to see if you can form habits of using it, though it won't produce the same quality of results that renting a decent one would. Either option will give you an opportunity to try it out before you buy a new one for yourself though and will help give you a better foundation to judge both your interest and the level of gear you want to invest in (if you decide it is worth moving forward with.)

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+1 "Try before you buy." –  inkista Jul 7 at 19:51
    
It's probably worth noting, too, that a "cheap used DSLR" can be very inexpensive without being a "used cheap DSLR"; it's possible to pick up an enthusiast/"prosumer" body with a control layout that doesn't penalize trying to take control—in good working order, mind—for about $150–250 (that'd be the D80 or D200 in the Nikon world or the equivalent in other brands). Throw in a (used) nifty fifty and for about $200–300 you've got more than enough to learn with and base future decisions on. (Oh, and places like B&H will give a substantial discount on trade-in, even if the trade-in ain't great.) –  user28116 Jul 8 at 7:58
    
@DavidRicherby - what $350-550? You aren't adding $200-300 for a $50-80 lens, are you? It's $200-300 total (assuming you already have something that will pass for a memory card). –  user28116 Jul 9 at 9:06
    
@user28116 Oops, I misread your comment -- sorry. But, still, $200-300 isn't what I'd call "very inexpensive". –  David Richerby Jul 9 at 9:19
    
@DavidRicherby - So get a D70-ish thing instead and call it $125 total. You're just measuring against a slightly different class of pocket point-and-shoot, and if a P&S would have been out of budgetary scope, then the whole situation is kinda mooted. –  user28116 Jul 9 at 9:36

All of the answers above are right on target, let me add one little caveat. Photography is often seen as a good, easy creative outlet because the technology supports the art so well - auto this and auto-that. The reality is that, once you've gotten the skills, creating art is damn difficult. Expecting that getting a better camera will somehow be the magic path to creating art is just incorrect. Before you buy anything, try being creative with what you have.

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You need two things more than anything else: Something to shoot and an audience to appreciate it. Maybe publish a newsletter, cover events for the local church, school, etc so you have things to shoot and an audience. I did this and was shooting every weekend with a purpose, a passion, and a deadline. Without this, the camera will collect dust.

Second, take a photography course. yeah, no one likes that option, but here's the best reasons why: It will force you to shoot frequently and push you out of your comfort zone as assignments will be for different styles and compositions and under different sets of limitations. This will help you see. I discovered I loved night photography, the opposite of what I do for pay (sports).

Third: As suggested above, buy used equipment -especially camera bodies. Anything over 5 years old wont depreciate too fast, get one that includes the box and original accessories so it can sell fast a year down the road as you home in on what you want. I won;t suggest a brand or model, but get one that has LOTS of buttons on it. You WILL like the convenience of ISO, focus mode, white balance, etc all available from buttons and the camera will hold it's value better. (good ones 5+ years old for under $250) Save your money -you will want it later for lenses, tripods, and other things you don't even know you want yet.

If you follow steps one and two, the equipment you want will become very clear to you after you do step three. If you buy solid build, great 5+ year old cameras, you'll be in a great position to shoot, learn, and advance.

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