Do You Need a Digital SLR?

So you are ready to step up from a compact digital camera to a Digital SLR or perhaps you have never owned a camera before and you want to go straight to a Digital SLR. Before you spend your hard earned money it is worth taking time to consider whether or not you really need one.

If you plan to really get to know you camera and you want to make large, high quality prints then stepping up and paying more makes perfect sense. On the other hand, the advantages of changing your camera are less clear cut if you are planning to keep your camera in automatic mode and make smaller prints or share photos online.

This article talks you through some of the advantages and disadvantage of owning a Digital SLR instead of a different type of camera. By the end of it you should have a clearer understanding of whether or not this is the right type of camera for you.

digital slrs

Advantages of a Digital SLR

  1. Better Picture Quality
  2. Flexibility
  3. Faster Response Times

Better Picture Quality

The combination of factors such as larger sensor size and higher quality lenses help to produce better quality photos. The improvement in quality is more pronounced when you are pushing the camera to its extremes. Examples of this are when you are taking photographs in lowlight, when you are photographing distant subjects and when you are photographing wide scenes such as sweeping landscapes.


Being able to choose specific lenses to match the type of photograph you are taking coupled with the advanced features on offer give you much greater flexibility. This can have a dramatic impact on the photographs you produce. This difference is even more pronounced if you add filters to your camera system.

More advanced focusing systems also add to the options you have available to create photographs exactly as you want them to look.

Faster Response Times

Better quality components and faster focusing means that your camera should respond quicker to photo opportunities. This improvement becomes even more noticeable as you step up in quality away from an entry level Digital SLR.

Disadvantages of a Digital SLR

  1. Price
  2. Size
  3. Ease of Use


By the time you have assembled a camera system the costs starts to add up. As well as the camera body you are likely to need a couple of lenses to get started, plus a flash gun and a bag. You may also consider a tripod, filters and a light meter.


If you are used to a camera you can slip into a pocket then you will notice a big difference when stepping up to a Digital SLR. As well as being larger they are also considerably heavier.

Ease of Use

With additional features available a Digital SLR is more complicated than a standard digital camera. The extra buttons and dials at your fingertips can be daunting, especially at first.

Other Options

  1. Compact System Cameras
  2. Good Quality Digital Cameras

Compact System Cameras

Compact System Cameras are very similar to a Digital SLR. They offer a lot of the same benefits and even have a couple features that may suit you more.

As with a Digital SLR you can buy different lenses to suit the types of pictures you plan to take. There are also plenty of advanced features to let you fine tune the way your pictures will look.

The big difference is Compact System Cameras are smaller than a Digital SLR. They also handle in a way that is a lot closer to a digital camera. They tend to have fewer buttons with the majority of the more advanced features being accessed through the menu system. A number of the models offer touch screen control.

As this is a relatively new type of camera one of the disadvantages is that there is much smaller range of compatible lenses compared to a Digital SLR. This means that although a Compact System Camera can be a good choice if your interest in mainly in general photography, they are not such a good choice if you are looking for a camera for more specialist subjects such as sports and wildlife.

In summary it is worth considering a Compact System Camera in you don't have any grand plans when it comes to photography. They are a good choice if you are looking for a bit of extra quality over a digital camera and see photography as a hobby rather than something more serious.

Good Quality Digital Cameras

If ultimate picture quality is not the be all and end all or if you are only looking to make smaller prints then you might not need to step up to a Digital SLR at all. A typical, decent quality digital camera is more than capable of taking good quality pictures in most situations.

Areas where a Digital SLR with the right lens will have an edge include lowlight photography and when photographing more specialised subjects. If you are not planning to take lots of pictures where you are pushing a camera to the extremes of its capabilities then a good quality compact digital camera will give you all you need without the extra expense of a Digital SLR.

Another point to consider is if you are not looking to pay out for more expensive lenses. If this is the case then the difference in picture quality between the different types of camera is reduced.

Digital SLR Accessories

Accessories play a large part in increasing the options you have available to you when taking pictures.

Main Accessories
  1. Lenses
  2. Flashguns
  3. Tripods
  4. Light Meters
  5. Filters
  6. Camera Bags

Camera Lenses

Being able to use specific lenses for specific photographs is the biggest advantage of owning a Digital SLR compared with a digital camera. Although there are digital cameras available with lenses that have tremendous zoom ranges they cannot match the quality offered by lenses for Digital SLRs. For example if you are serious about wildlife photography then the quality of the images you will be able to produce with a long telephoto lens blow away anything that can be produced by a digital camera with a fixed lens.

The difference in quality is less noticeable if you only plan to make small prints, but as you step up in print size the difference in quality becomes more and more noticeable.

Other advantages include faster focusing from Digital SLR lenses compared to the fixed lenses found on digital cameras.

If you find yourself regularly taking photographs in lowlight look out for lenses with large apertures. These pull in much more light than typical digital camera lenses.


There are a small number of digital cameras that have a hot shoe and can therefore use a flash gun. When using a Digital SLR in lowlight, particularly indoors, adding a flashgun can make it a lot easier to produce the results you want. Look out for flash units where the angle of the light can be changed. This gives you the ability to bounce light off walls and ceilings. The result is a much softer looking light with richer colours in your photographs.


All digital cameras can be attached to a tripod, but it is quite rare to see anyone using one. Using a tripod helps to ensure your camera is perfectly still when you take a photo. This contributes to sharper images. If you photograph fast moving subjects then a tripod may not be an option, but for subjects such as landscapes or in lowlight they help you get the best results.

A tripod becomes more important when using a Digital SLR as the increased size and weight makes it harder to hold your camera perfectly still.

Light Meters

Any camera you buy will have a built in light meter. Inbuilt meters have improved a lot over the years, but there are times when you want the meter reading to be from a specific point in the scene you are photographing. The ideal way to achieve this is by using a light meter.


If you really want to make a difference to the way your photos look gaining an understanding of different types of filters can make a significant difference.

Many filters create a particular colour affect, such as enhancing an orange sky at sunset. Although you may be able to replicate this with packages such as Photoshop there are plenty of other filters that can help you in other ways. For example if you take a landscape shot and find the sky is over exposed you can use a filter to darken that portion of the scene.

A working knowledge of filters can give a whole new slant to your photographs.

Camera Bags

Although camera bags have no impact on the quality of your photographs they are more or less a must have item if you own a Digital SLR. Not only do they give your camera a degree of protection they also have room for transporting lenses and other accessories.


As you can see there are plenty of plusses and minuses to buying a Digital SLR. Buying one is likely to be the right decision if you see photography as a hobby and you find digital cameras somewhat limiting.