I am getting frustrated with the limitations of my iPhone camera and my girlfriend's point-and-shoot. I want to purchase my first serious camera and learn how to take better photos.

I don't think the picture quality difference would affect me much, since I have only used point-and-shoot cameras. I am considering the dSLR because the controls might make it easier to switch settings quickly. I am also considering a Micro 4/3 or Sony Nex, because the small size would make it easier to have it with me and just take more photos.

Which would be better for learning?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While not a duplicate - most of the information is in photo.stackexchange.com/questions/8159/… \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Jun 17, 2011 at 0:29
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Be careful with the sony Nex, there's no quick access to controls \$\endgroup\$
    – David
    Jun 17, 2011 at 7:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ would you be open to other types of camera? It sounds like you might be asking "what kind of camera is less limited than my iphone / point & shoot, but still allows me to take pictures quickly and easily?" Is that right? \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Jun 17, 2011 at 12:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ In my opinion, go for Canon G series. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tooraj Jam
    Jun 23, 2012 at 3:08

3 Answers 3


Learning-wise the biggest difference is going to be depth of field control due to sensor size. On a micro 4/3's mount you can't get as much control over what portion of the picture is only in focus (subject isolation). The bigger the sensor, the more control. Sony Nex, however, shares the a sensor size with their DSLRs - so there's no difference there I believe.

Beyond that - its an image quality and handling thing mostly. DSLRs are typically faster to operate and faster all around and they're better in low light. Mirrorless cameras are smaller - its a bit of a tradeoff. There's other differences, but I'll leave that to the other question as its not learning related.

I think you'll be able to learn on either and if you think the smaller size will dictate you using it more - get a mirrorless camera (just make sure it has fully manual controls and that you can afford to buy more lenses in the future - don't buy a system you can only afford to get one lens with). The best camera is the one you have with you.


Broadly they are equal and have the same functions.

That being said, you should look for a model with more external controls which will make it easier to operate and learn. Here you will find a discrepancy between m4/3 and DSLRs. Even the most basic DSLR is reasonable but entry-level m4/3 and NEX models are not. If you go to m4/3 it would be best to go with a higher-end model like the Olympus E-P2.

If I were to give a slight edge for learning to any particular model it would be the Sony Alpha SLT-A55. This is an SLD that handles like a DSLR with the same image quality in a smaller body that has an excellent exposure-priority EVF. This lets you see adjustment to exposure in real-time as you change settings. You can get a similar view from Live-View on a Canon DSLR but the performance drops significantly there.


A high-end camera, either DSLR or mirrorless, will have three key features:

  1. Decent control access. My Olympus EPL2 mirrorless has all the controls you could want, but they're on fiddly button sequences and take some practice to handle fast. Bigger DSLRs have rings and dials.
  2. A proper viewfinder. That's inherent in the design of DSLRs but it's an electronic addon to most current generation mirrorless cameras.
  3. A wide-aperture lens (f/2.0 at the narrowest or f/1.7 or wider if you can afford it) so you can learn to work with your depth of field.

If you can't scare up the money for the lens, go for the first two.

In my opinion you really need both usable controls and a viewfinder to really learn the craft of composing, focusing, and exposing your pictures. If I hadn't learn to expose my pictures on an old-timey silver-film SLR, I think the mirrorless camera would be very baffling.


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