I've been enjoying taking digital pics for about the last seven years with my trusty Olympus C50 compact, and decided I wanted to take my efforts up a gear and get a 'proper' camera, so recently bought a Nikon D5000 and stock 18-55mm lens kit.

I'm very taken with it but over the last few months have realised that the fact that it feels so bulky (to me as a former compact camera user, anyway) means I've taken fewer and fewer pics. Even when I do take it out with me, the size of the camera, lens and the bag I have to keep it in means I can rarely be bothered to take it out and take pictures. It also makes me feel somewhat self-conscious, whereas my C50 used to give me confidence in taking street shots or pictures of crowds. Attempting to take photos of unpredictable and hyperactive toddlers is also fraught.

Has anyone got any suggestions for what I can do to resolve this — it's a fine camera, but I'm getting to the point where I think I need to swap it for a high-end compact so that I'll have pics of my kid growing up. Is there some kit I can get (bags, straps, holsters?) that will help my camera become more portable/usable?


5 Answers 5


Don't get tied down to thinking you only need one camera. Each camera has its own unique benefits and drawbacks. I highly recommend:

  • A small point and shoot camera for those always ready snapshots you want to take
  • An SLR camera for when you need more quality and control. You can capture motion very well with these things, and the control you have over exposure really can make or break a picture.

I also have a large format camera that shoots 4x5 film. I'm not recommending this for everyone, but it has a completely different style of taking photographs than either of the smaller cameras. The quality and control I have with the large format camera is its major benefit, but the fact that it weighs 12.5 lbs without the lens is one of its major drawbacks.

At some point you will need to get over being self conscious with a camera. I still deal with that myself. The fact that you can't hide the SLR and it's always visible makes you more conspicuous. However, in the right setting, I'm right at home to whip out the SLR take my pictures.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You know, there's nothing like wandering the streets with a 150mm on a Speed Graphic with a rangefinder and a wireframe :o). Who needs a tele when you can crop 90% of the image away and still get a 16x20 print? 4x5 doesn't have to be a chore. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ :) I will be updating my Calumet one of these days. I'm thinking both an 8x10 (for beautiful contact prints) and a more portable 4x5. Before that, I need to get my oldest lens CLR'd. For focal lengths I have 90mm, 135mm, and 26cm. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree with Berin, why not use both? Mind you, I hate using compacts, it just feels wrong to me, but that's personal taste. I'm more than happy to carry an SLR and took more than 20,000 shots last year alone with one, but people differ. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 1:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Every type of camera I have changes how I approach a picture. I think that's a good thing. It forces you into a fresh perspective and a new way of looking at the scene. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 13:06

The more accessories you take with you the less likely you are to take pictures. You best option is to keep the camera out and ready to use. Cameras, especially Nikons are much more durable than many people are inclined to realize. Also, if you have it over your shoulder you will probably take fewer pictures. Try carrying it in your hand when you wander around. It is true you don't feel as invisible when you carry as DSLR but the quality of the images makes up for that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Especially Nikons"? Can you back that claim up? \$\endgroup\$
    – You
    Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if that counts as backing up a claim. :-) Other than that oddity, this is good advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jordan H.
    Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 22:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Especially Nikons? I don't think that's well substantiated that Nikon is any better at it than others. I can't speak for Canon, but the fact that 40+ year old Pentax cameras (and lenses) are still in use would suggest that Nikon doesn't have a monopoly on durability. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 1:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Practically any camera that was made 40 years ago should be more than durable. My point was not about which camera is better, but that in order to take good pictures you need to have your camera out of the bag and ready. At the rate cameras depreciate these days no one should be afraid to have it out all the time. \$\endgroup\$
    – forrest
    Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 2:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ After trying a Luma Loop on the past several trips I've taken, I've really enjoyed having my DSLR hang around my shoulder securely and at the ready. I pick the most appropriate lens for the outing and go walking. Admittedly there's no room for storing accessories, but it's a great strap and carries the weight of a DSLR for long periods well. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 2, 2011 at 12:33

If you are certain you want an SLR but feel that regular ones are too bulky, consider a micro4/3 camera such as the E-P1, perhaps coupled with a fast 20mm pancake lens. It'll be smaller, but still retain most advantages (most importantly the higher image quality) that SLRs enjoy over compacts.


I wanted to take my efforts up a gear and get a 'proper' camera

The first question to ask is: "Why isn't your compact a 'proper' camera?".

Or, more generally, "what do you want to do that your current camera cannot?"

Your answer to this question very well might convince you to give up the DSLR & go back to your compact (or perhaps a newer compact).

But don't despair. Asking this question might also lead you to appreciate the DSLR and forgive it's bulk.

For instance: once you snap a beautifully sharp photo in indoor lighting without a flash, you might have the "ah-ha" moment that makes carrying the extra weight worthwhile.

In that vein: give your DSLR a try for a while, and then switch back to your compact... and note all of the features of the DSLR that you miss. Grass is greener and all that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 1. Compact doesn't do motion, low light very well. Plus C50 is a verrrry old 5MP model. 2. I want to shoot in low light, capture my very fast three year old son moving, mess about with bokeh etc. Thanks much - I've had the 'ah-ha' moment of which you speak. Now venturing out to do more blatant photography (photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10104/…), all tips and suggestions welcome! \$\endgroup\$
    – immutabl
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 14:32

Here's what I am doing:

Travelling light

I bring as little as possible: One camera (Nikon D5100), one lens (18-105mm or 35mm/1.8), spare battery, spare memory card, a polarizing filter and a small flash (SB-400).

The total weight is 1.2 kg (2.6 pounds), which is heavier than a compact, but still light enough that I can carry it all day without noticing much. (It's about half the weight of a standard laptop.)

Convenient bag or strap

Sling strap: I've tried a sling strap, it works well enough and gives immediate access to the camera. I think straps are most suitable when you are out on a dedicated shooting session.

Holster case/toploader: Most of the time I use a holster case. (I'm using one from Case Logic, the Lowepro toploaders are similar.)

The case is well padded, so I don't need to pay much attention to protecting the camera when it's not in use. I also like that a bag is more discreet, it's simpler to blend into the crowd whenever you're not actually shooting. (In the course of a normal day, after all, "not shooting" is the common case. At least for me, where photography is a hobby and I still have a day job.)

Access to the camera is still quite fast, although I leave the camera hanging from the strap when I'm expecting to take several pictures in a row.

Sling bag: A sling bag could be an alternative, offering fairly fast access and a bit more room than a holster case. I haven't tried them myself.

Pocketable second camera

I still don't bring a DSLR everywhere. Personally I think I'll be going for a camera phone for "the camera that's always with you", simply because there's small chance that I'll forget to bring my cell phone.

Some of the latest camera phones are actually quite good - not at DSLR level, but competitive with some point and shoots:

Or you could trade a bit extra bulk for higher image quality with a pocketable compact as per Berin's answer.

For a few suggestions:

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your great and detailed response. One year on I'm doing pretty much what you suggest. I bought a Canon S90 to supplement the SLR and I bought a tripod mount (opteka.com/ns7.aspx) for the strap (very highly recommended). \$\endgroup\$
    – immutabl
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 11:40

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