Taking photography as a hobby is as easy as picking up a camera and starts shooting but getting the right camera before one can actually start can be  a tough task. It will boil down to your aims as a photographer, how seriously you take your hobby and where you would like to go with your photography.  These are some things which should be clear before one can start thinking about a camera. One easy way can be borrowing a camera from a friend or relative and playing with it for some days, going out and just taking pictures, to get a feel for it and try figure out what he or she wants to do. But still, this might not come easy.

A digital camera is just like an analog camera but with a electronic photo-sensitive sensor instead of a film. It has a lens in the front with a sensor behind it, some mechanism (mechanical or electronic) to show a live picture to the user(so he/she can she where is the camera pointed at), some electronics for controlling the exposures and shutter speeds and settings and some buttons and controls to set these available settings.

There are literally thousands of digital cameras on the market nowadays. Tens of brands produce hundred of models. Cameras can be generally divided into two classes,which are:

  1. Compact digital cameras
  2. SLR cameras (Single Lens Reflex)

A compact is any small, usually pocket size digital camera. It might be fixed focal length or might have a zoom, have an eye piece or may not and so on. They are small in size and can easily fit in a pocket. They have an advantage of size over the SLRs but they are generally very incapable. To a normal person their pictures might seem of very high quality but a trained eye will really tell how good the pictures really are. These camera, depending on the make and model are very limited with functions and options, e.g. an external flash cannot be normally added to a compact flash. Later on we’ll learn that an external flash is a necessity for low light photography and the on-board or built-in flash in not enough.

As its names suggests, everything on the compact camera is also compact, even the lens and the sensor behind it. The sensor is an analog component and as its size becomes smaller, the noise level it gives out on its signal becomes higher, they are inversely proportional. And this is one of the reasons, pictures from a compact will seem of low quality, they seem to have higher noise levels. If the camera is used in darkness, the camera will try to amplify the signal, as it does that it also amplifies the inherent noise in the signal which results in usually worse quality pictures in the dark. The lens on a compact suffers from the same size problem i.e. it has to be small to fit in the smaller camera body and it becomes harder to produce high quality optics in that size also. Plus when the lens is smaller, lesser amount of light will fall on the sensor, which then requires slower shutter speeds or signal amplification by the sensor.

SLR cameras on the other hand are bigger in size mainly because they house a prism to redirect the light through the lens to the optical eye piece. There is a mechanism inside it, which allows the light to fall on the image sensor when a picture is being taken. SLR are bigger in size and they house bigger, higher quality image sensors. As the sensors are bigger in size they produce lesser noise even when the light is low. SLR cameras provide much more manual settings and options for photography. External flash units can be used, a variety of lenses can be uses for different purposes which in case of the compact would not be possible. But this all comes with a price tag and some weight on ones shoulder.

In general, compacts vs. SLRs is a give and take situation. One would have to think about what he or she wants to do actually. Photography with a compact is fun but with an SLR its on completely different level.

Muhammad Sohail Khan

~ by onlinecamerawarehouse on November 9, 2010.

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