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Whether you’re a professional or amateur photographer, finding the best digital camera requires a lot of work. Of course, many start by reviewing the best DSLR cameras, but there are a wide range of camera models to compare, contrast, and rule out. To help you along, we’ll compare two standard styles, DSLR vs Point-and-Shoot.
If you enjoy this article and want to further your understanding of the various camera types, we have an additional article explaining SLR vs DSLR models. Another big decision to make is whether your circumstances demand a standalone camera at all. For more on this, you can read our guide that compares iPhones vs DSLRs.
Cameras are immensely complicated gadgets; to understand which one better suits your photography style, you must know the technology behind each type.
There are high and low-end DSLR cameras. Low-end DSLR cameras are often great for those who want a good camera to begin their photography hobby.
When comparing a digital SLR and a Point-and-Shoot camera, the main difference is how the image is framed and viewed when readying a shot.
A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) uses a mirror and prism within the camera body so that a photographer sees an exact image of what’s being captured in the lens through their optical viewfinder. After pressing the shutter button, the mirror flips up, allowing the light to hit the digital sensor within the camera, creating a picture.
Alternatively, a point-and-shoot (P&S) camera uses a separate viewfinder or LCD screen to display the image, and the user doesn’t see the direct image through the lens. Similar to DSLRs, light enters through the viewfinder and hits a digital sensor, capturing an image. However, because they require less precision and lens focus, these cameras have acquired the name “Point-and-Shoot.”
So, both cameras accomplish the same task: capture images and photographs. However, the range of creative control, image quality, and price vary widely between those two types.
For those who think they’re set on buying a P&S, we have a separate piece covering what to look for in a digital point-and-shoot camera.
For one, DSLR cameras have larger sensors than P&S cameras. This difference in sensor size means that DSLRs often capture many more megapixels per image. Larger pixels mean more excellent contrast, high/low light performance, and depth of range. They also have better autofocus features and the ability to capture wider-angle shots.
In terms of image quality, DSLRs have a significant leg up. Putting it into perspective, most P&S cameras have a digital sensor that is only 5% the size of a DSLR with a full-frame sensor.
Most point-and-shoot cameras don’t have interchangeable lenses. Instead, they have fixed zoom lenses, which are acceptable for taking basic photos. With P&S cameras, users also have limited control over their manual control options.
DSLR cameras have an incredibly vast range of lenses to choose from. This variety of lenses gives a photographer much more manual control over their options and expands on the possibility of photography styles. Additionally, DSLR cameras have more features that provide users with more flexible controls.
Only point a DSLR at the sun with the right filter. Doing so can damage the sensor within the camera body.
Point-and-Shoot cameras are great for those looking to rely on automatic mode for a simple photo process. Auto mode is easy to use and requires little setup. They also have a fixed lens, meaning users don’t have to worry about additional attachments.
DSLRs are highly complex and require a period of learning and time to understand before using them to their full potential.
STAT: Point-and-Shoot cameras typically come with lenses between 30-35mm. (source)
The main benefit of P&S cameras is that they are much cheaper than DSLRs. For example, Thye tends to start at around $100-$150 and range up to approximately $1,000. On the other hand, the cheapest DSLR cameras begin somewhere in the $300-$500 range, and the highest-grade options can reach over $50,000.