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Is an SLR camera a must when learning?

I am looking to start out in amatuer photography. I am very inexperienced, having only ever used compact cameras and cheap bridge cameras before, but I am looking to improve. I have decided to take the plunge and buy a better camera but as im only 16 my budget is very tight, up to £250. I would like to photograph mainly landscapes and to experiment with long exposures etc, and also take the camera away on holiday for taking touristy photos. There seems to be two ways to go because of my budget restraints and that is either a high end bridge camera, like the nikon p510, or a cheap second hand DSLR and lens combo. I am seriously tempted by the compact size and flexibility of the p510 and its rivals but at the same time i would like to experiment with and learn to use the manual controls of a DSLR. Which route would be best for a young and inexperienced photographer on a tight budget?

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    I think this is answered by the responses to Is an SLR camera a must when learning?
    – mattdm
    Jan 3 '13 at 20:44
  • I learned a ton about photography by using a cheap $100 1MP point and shoot camera when I first started with digital photography. I already knew the basics from film, but the possibilities with digital opened up my world. If you want to learn, you can learn on just about anything. Just grab some books and any camera you can get your hands on.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 3 '13 at 22:51
  • Have a look at Canon Entry level DSLR(1100D/T3) which is priced similarly to p510.
    – GoodSp33d
    Jan 4 '13 at 7:08

For learning, either type is good. The DSLR option gives you high quality images and better low-light performance from the start but it is not essential. Given a tight budget you will find yourself limited in terms of lens options.

For learning, you only need something with full manual controls and a premium compact like the Canon Powershot S110 is a great choice, as any of its rivals: Olympus XZ-2, Nikon P7700, Fuji XF1, etc. Not sure what the conversion rate is but those are under $450 USD. I would recommend one of those over an ultra-zoom like the P510 because they have much better controls, better optics and can produce more shallow depth-of-field due to their bright aperture.

Personally I started with a bridge camera a decade ago and do not regret it at all. It was an advanced model with plenty of external controls (like those premium compacts I mentioned but much larger) and it made beautiful images which have sold just as well as mine from a DSLR, until I stopped using it.

That being said, you can get a used Konica-Minolta 5D and 50mm F/1.8 lens - or something like it - for very little money. It will make your transition to a DSLR easier but the most important for learning is that you start shooting and controlling your camera.


I'm in a similar situation (18, budget of 350 for camera and 400 for lighting). I wanted to get a Canon EOS 5d Mark 3, but I'm not ready to rob a bank.

So I ordered a used Rebel T3 because I want to have as much flexibility possible for the least $. I also compared camera features at B&H and decided to go with the t3 because I don't plan on finding myself in any extreme situations (like shooting sports or great distances).

And now that I'm in the field and I've compared photos, it's quite obvious that DSLRs are the way to go — mainly just because of image quality (noise & size, etc.) and also I would like to be able to change lenses which you can't do on a high-end P&S.


I think this is covered already by


That said: my advice is to go with the DSLR. "Bridge" is a marketing term designed to appeal to your insecurity. Don't be insecure: be bold, and go to the real thing.

But, the "real thing" doesn't have to be a DSLR. Anything with good manual control and interchangeable lenses will put you at the right level to really get started. That will include both a used DSLR or a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (also known as "compact system camera" and a few other terms).

Especially when you look to get decent lenses, this may stretch your budget a bit. But, the great thing is that having done so, you have lenses which will last you a very long time. If you get a "bridge" camera, it won't carry with you.

If you do decide to get a compact camera instead, "bridge" isn't necessarily what you're looking for. Those tend to be bulky and look like a DSLR even though they're not. (Again, it's the marketing thing.) More useful would be an "enthusiast compact" (like those Itai recommends), but are pricey enough that I think you might as well go for a system option – DSLR or otherwise.

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    Additionally, your current budget is what it is to get you started. Doesn't mean you won't have more budget in a couple of years to invest in extra lenses :) Jan 3 '13 at 22:36

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