I know that not all scrapbookers are photographers, so I thought we should start out simply with a discussion about cameras. I’ll preface this with the fact that currently, I do not have a point and shoot camera. I use my cell phone for random snapshots and I’ll focus on the cell phone camera another day. I totally rock the cell phone and you will to! ;) I have been thinking about one of those polaroid type instant cameras for fun with the kiddies, but have no actual experience with them…yet.
P&S vs DSLR – What is the difference and what are the pros and cons for each?
A P&S is typically smaller and lighter, with limited features. These can be both pros and cons. A small, lightweight camera is great for carrying around with you to capture everyday moments. Most will fit in your pocket. However, a smaller size camera also means a smaller sensor and a smaller sensor means a lower quality photo. From a scapbooking perspective, theoretically, you will not be printing photos larger than say 12x12 (and likely, much smaller), so this may not be a disadvantage at all. The lens is fixed, making the overall camera smaller and lighter, and P&S cameras are easy to use in that literally all that is required is to point and shoot. The disadvantage here is that you give up creative control. You will get a mid-range zoom lens with a wide depth of field. Sure, most of your photos will be in focus, but that also means that most of the photo itself will also be in focus. One main thing that separates the style of snapshots from portraits is the separation between the subject and the background. This is achieved by shooting with a wider aperture that just isn’t an option with a P&S. Shooting in low light conditions is another area of give and take. A point and shoot camera simply can not perform well when the lights go down. The response here is the added flash. I’m not a fan of ever using a flash, but it’s the only option with a P&S. The biggest disadvantage, in my opinion, of a P&S camera is the time it takes for most of these cameras to take a photo. If you have younger children, then you know exactly my frustration. Kids are far too active for most P&S cameras to keep up. You’re likely to miss a moment, or capture some motion blur when chasing after an active toddler. And finally, the lower cost of most P&S cameras make them a very attractive option, especially for scrapbookers.
DSLR cameras are always going to have a much larger sensor than a point and shoot camera – which means a much larger image quality and the ability to print enlargements of any size imaginable. DSLRs are larger and HEAVY. The lenses are larger and HEAVY and a large assortment of lenses means a greater number of creative options, but you’re unlikely to carry them all around. These can be a disadvantage when you’re out and about, on vacation or just at the park. You’re unlikely to just toss one in your bag and off you go. Most photographers have larger, dedicated bags for camera equipment. DSLR cameras are fast – many with the ability to shoot 3.5 or greater frames per second. This is a huge advantage for photographing sporting events and young children. I mentioned earlier about low light being a problem for P&S cameras. The larger sensors of DSLRs allow them to perform far better in low lighting, without requiring a flash. Many DSLRs don’t have a built in flash – but sometimes a flash is needed, in which case, we’re adding to the amount of equipment to buy and carry around. This leads me to my last point for today: DSLRs are much, much more expensive. There are many more items to buy and learn to use. There will never be a time in which you just pick one up at the store, take it out of the box and immediately start shooting. The learning curve of shooting with a DSLR is extensive and time consuming.
Is a DSLR for you and do you really need a DSLR?
As a professional photographer, of course I need to have a high quality DSLR and a plethora of lenses, but let’s just talk about my personal photos. I enjoy the creative aspects of photography. I love to change my lenses, shoot wide open, and play with fun effects created with lenses like the Lensbaby Composer. I don’t think that I would be satisfied without a DSLR. Would I like a Point and shoot? YES, but for reasons not related to photo creativity or quality. This isn’t to mean that you can’t get great photo quality from a point and shoot, I just mean that I would choose a P&S camera for other, more appealing features. I would love a lightweight camera that is waterproof and shock proof. Something that could go anywhere, any time. A camera to take to the pool or the beach and not have to worry about getting it wet. A camera to take hiking and not feel like I have to lug 10 extra pounds up 14,000 feet. A camera that I could hand over to the kids and say “have fun” without worrying about losing my job.
Before heading out the to the camera store, as yourself what aspects of photography are most important to you. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both types of cameras – do your research and find the right features that are for you.