3 Differences Between Point-And-Shoot and DSLR Cameras

Today, nearly everyone is an amateur photographer, taking pictures to document their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Photographers of all skill levels are everywhere. Some are snapping selfies with their best friend with their phone. Others are even using a full DSLR rig to capture high-speed wildlife or sports photos. But what are the differences between these types of cameras? Other than the form factor, what separates a camera phone from a DSLR?

While at their most basic, all cameras are alike, as you upgrade, things start to change. Sometimes it’s a deceptively small thing, such as being able to manually control the aperture. Other times, it’s huge, like being able to take prolonged exposures or change out the type of lens you’re using. Sometimes, you may decide to change your camera just so you can get the desired feature, like Polaroid’s instant photographs. Here are three of the biggest differences between a Point-and-Shoot camera and a full-featured DSLR.

  1. Interchangeable Lenses – By far, the most obvious difference when you upgrade equipment is being able to change out your lens to suit the job at hand. As a lens changes in size, its focal length changes. To understand why this is important, we have to answer the question of what is focal length?

Focal length is essentially the distance between the image sensor and the lens, measured in millimeters. As the focal length shortens, the field of view that is captured on a picture grows larger. Conversely, as the focal length grows larger, the angle of view grows smaller. This comes in handy when you want to take wide panoramic photos or create portraiture.

  1. Adjustable Aperture and Shutter SpeedsAperture and shutter speed are the two most important settings on a camera when it comes to picture quality. The aperture determines how much light will come in to create the photo, while shutter speed determines the amount of time the shutter is open. The darker the environment that a photo is taken in, the larger the aperture or the longer the shutter speed must be.

In most cases, as aperture grows smaller, the shutter speed increases; conversely, as the aperture gets larger, shutter speeds can become faster. This allows you to make adjustments according to whether you need to capture an action shot that requires a fast shutter speed or need to adjust for lower light with a slower speed or larger aperture.

  1. Picture Size and Quality – As you move from your camera phone or point and shoot to a higher quality DSLR, you’ll notice that the number of megapixels your camera can handle will increase. This setting tells you what the total number of pixels will be in the best picture your camera can make. The total number of pixels determines how big of a print you can make without the photo getting grainy. For example, to make an 8x11 print, you’ll want a picture quality of at least 6 megapixels.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a bare minimum. You’ll want a higher megapixel ability for one simple reason: cropping. Rarely do you take a photo that is perfect and doesn’t need any adjustments. In most cases, you’ll want to crop and do some post-editing. A higher megapixel count lets you work with an image more liberally because you’ll still have enough quality after you crop to create the prints you want.

Making the move from using your camera phone to using a dedicated DSLR for photos is a big leap. But the freedom and ability to make adjustments on the fly make it more than worthwhile. With an eye on what you’re going to be gaining, deciding on what new camera to purchase will be easier than ever.

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