slr vs. non-slr digital cameras


I'm thinking about investing in a slr camera but i'm not sure whether the high price that comes along with it is worth it or not.

I for one am not a professional photographer but I have a strong interest in photography. I hear that slr cameras are reliable and they will last for a long time. I will be an architecture student and I think a slr camera will be useful in case I study abroad or travel, or even document projects.

My question is, is investing in a slr camera worthwhile? Because I can save a lot more money by buying a far cheaper but still decent digital camera (like the canon powershots) and still be able to carry it around easily whereas it wouldn't be as convenient carrying a slr camera around. The picture quality of a slr camera is much better but I hear only if you know how to handle it..and as an amateur, I don't know if ill be able to utilizie a slr camera to its maximum potential.

The slr camera I am currently thinking of buying is the Nikon 50D, which is pretty cheap for a slr camera but still is quite good.

Any photography enthusiasts out there that can offer me some advice?

many thanks!!

Mar 25, 06 5:55 am
Ivan Kriakov

if you have to ask whether or not to buy an slr, you shouldn't buy it. They're bigger, heavier, and more expensive and break easier, and unless you have a few high quality lenses or are planning on buying some (over 500 a pop) its just not worth it. All the entry level slr combo lense kit such as the one you are suggesting come with a cheap lens, you're far better off buying a high quality compact digital. I'd reccomend the olympus c-7070, It is one of the few that has a high quality zeiss wide angle lens (27mm equiv.) good for arch and it's cheaper than anything else anywhere near in quality, about 350 online, it'll take much better photos than a nikon 50D with shit lens.

Mar 25, 06 9:23 am  · 

Personally, I would go with either a slr or an ultra compact. Ideally, you eventually have both. I went all over Europe with a Nikon 6060 (not digital) and a HUGE lens. It was a pain, but the quality of the pictures is so superior to point and shoots.

I have a Nikon 5000 (digital) now and I find it a pain. It's not a slr, but too big to take anywhere conveniently.

I wouldn't think a slr would last longer, in terms of quality and mechanisms, but the do offer superior quality and infinite flexibility.

It's true that they come with cheaper lens, but you can find package deals online (look at Broadway Photo, just incredible prices and they've been around a long time - never bought from them, though).

Not sure I agree that a 350 point and shoot will take better pictures than the Nikon, I'd place money that it wouldn't come close, but I don't know for sure. I do know that the 50D has gotten wonderful reviews and is a camera that is worth investing in more lens (that you could use on another nikon slr if you upgrade later on).

Just decide how important photography is for you. If you really are going to get into it, get the Nikon, if not, get something that will fit in your pocket and you won't need the instructions to figure out (I'd look at the Canon Elphs or Sonys).

Mar 25, 06 9:37 am  · 

The digital SLR is a nice tool to have. The older rebels are cheap and you can play/ experiment with technique and it doesn't cost a dime. I use mine constantly as an Arch student constantly. A Dig SLR and Photo Shop and you're on the way to a nice and affordable portfolio as well as playing with materials and textures if you're a rendering freek.

Down side: ITS HUGE... ultimatly you'll want both an ultra compact and an SLR.

Mar 25, 06 9:45 am  · 

i'd second trace about slr & ultra thin issue

i have canon 350d, olympus C8080 and sony T7 ( Ultraslim)

believe me the 350D blows away the other two at any situation, its fast, reliable, intuitive and extremely flexible, the only drawback is that its not easy to carry around and it attracts attention. Even with kit lens u'll get far better images with any dslr than point & shoot. In a way hte kit lens is good for us, because its the only cheap wide angle lens that u can have, all other wide angles will be quite expensive (+350usd)

about models, if you donot have any inclination to any brand, then according to my experience canon seems to be better, try to stretch your budget a bit and get canon 350D, its far better than nikon d50.

Whatever the brand or model is, any dslrs has a learning curve but dont let it deter you from getting the dslr experience, if you really want good shooting experience then dslrs are the only solution for the moment.................

Mar 25, 06 11:18 pm  · 
sporadic supernova

wow .. thanks for that review kaalpurush ....
i was just considering the 350D ... scraping up the moolah for it ...

but yeah i want an ultra slim too .. already have 2 SLRs .. too bulky to carry around!!

Mar 25, 06 11:54 pm  · 

I've had both, and I must tell you the only difference is the fedadles and the price

Mar 25, 06 11:57 pm  · 


Mar 27, 06 9:46 am  · 

I started with a canon 300D which I still use and love. The thing that made me get a small digicam (PowerShot sd450) was macro photos for my models. The cost of the sd450 was less than a wide-angle macro lens for the dSLR and it can focus down to 3cm and fit inside places and focus on details that get lost otherwise. It made a huge diference in the usefullness of my models for presentation boards.

Mar 27, 06 1:55 pm  · 

There is a compromise, the Sony R-1. The large sensor of a D-SLR with a nice attached lens, great image quality, even in darker situations. Going for around $900 now, which is the price of A single good lens on a D-SLR.

Mar 27, 06 2:08 pm  · 

im looking at the d50..have an N80, so the lens thing isnt a big deal

Mar 27, 06 6:52 pm  · 

yeah..on amazon, the d50 nikon is going for 569 dollars including lens, charger, battery, and some other things. The only other thing i might need to get is memory card and bag....i think 569 is a pretty good deal...overall it'd probably cost me about 700 dollars...or even 800 dollars if i want a longer warranty. overall for a dslr though..i think it's a pretty good deal...i'm not really professional yet so i think the quality of lens is not as important right now. nikons are pretty reliable cameras anyways

i'd figure if i get a cheaper slr that's still very good in image quality, i can save up more for a compact camera later
thanks for all your advice!

Mar 27, 06 8:37 pm  · 
sporadic supernova

auvn ... nice site ..
i used to go to

Mar 27, 06 11:38 pm  · 

i wouldn't spend the money on the body right now if you havn't used a SLR much... always spend your money on the lenses and a good tripod. if you shoot with a nikon system already, I say stay with that. if you are serious about architectural photography, you will want to get yourself some tilt-shift lenses (Canon makes more of these than Nikon) but they are way out of most people's price range. I use a 20D and shoot with my 17-40mm f4 L most of the time. I love it. get your camera from b&h or KEH.... they wont cheat you and are fairly priced. Make sure you get a good tripod!!

Mar 28, 06 5:09 pm  · 

B&H is the way to go...d50 out of stock, however

make sure you get USA warranty

Mar 28, 06 5:29 pm  · 

Espenses can quickly add up with a DSLR. Since you're planning to use the Nikon D50 for architecture. A good lens to invest in is the 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D ED-IF AF Zoom-Nikkor.
Also invest in a good guide from Thom Hogan to get through the learning curve.
You'll also need:
AC Adapter for the D50 - You'll need this to clean your camera.
Memory Card
Extra Battery
Tripod and accessories - check out

Mar 28, 06 6:08 pm  · 
Christopher Connock

when i first started with digital - the deciding factor for me was not the slr vs fixed lens camera debate, but whether my camera had manual controls.

if you are starting out, you need something that lets you grow if you want to. its really about control - the ability to adjust shutter speed & aperture. the compacts are great, but most just have pre-programmed shooting modes.

i started out with a canon g2 (early canon fixed lens) and loved it. it was a 'prosumer' camera with manual exposure and focus controls. perfect for long exposures for model/architecture photography.

nowadays, i have a 20d with the efs 10-22 and the ef 24-105 L. its ridiculously awesome...

...BUT digital photography is changing so fast, unless you are planning on buying multiple lenses, it might be best to stay with a fixed lens. its a nice way to start and the sizes are generally between a compact and prof slr.

Mar 28, 06 6:32 pm  · 

wow thanks for all of the comments! i appreciate it

Mar 28, 06 7:36 pm  · 
art tech geek

just a couple of thoughts. I used to have a professional photography business (lab service & equipment). I still have & use the first camera I ever bought my last year of high school as a gift to myself - a pentax spotmatic with screw mount lenses.......... that dates me quite a bit. Pentax still made slr's of a similar design - the K1000 for years, used mostly in college photography classes. The pentax has been on every continent except for Antarctica. It has been dropped abused and beat to heck several times over and still works. The lenses have problems if you drop them though - use lens covers. The only thing that ever actually failed is the selenium cell in the built in meter. I was able to pick up a second body that was still in top notch condition for about $125 at a pawn shop about 5 years ago. I use both bodies - and usually shoot multiple slides of things now so I don't have to make dupes & have about 8 lenses. I know several others that have old spotmatics and they still have and use them regularly.

If you are serious about learning photography versus taking snapshots......... learning with a manual camera will make you better and very picky about digital cameras - particularly a bias against using point and shoots. The metering is based on an 18% calibration (using a grey card or the hand at the end of your own arm). If something is white in a picture - and you want it to be white or the lightest thing in your image - you need the ability to manually meter - I usually meter my hand and then take the image. Point and shoots don't give you that freedom or flexibity & perform miserably under some circumstances.

The images you take - even with a really tacky manual camera- are best when you can control the lighting. Once you know films and how to meter........... you can shoot in almost any situation without a tripod or flash. Photography is something that does not always give you a second chance to make time stand still - which is when really interesting photographic synchronicities take place. There are moments I remember very clearly that if I had a camera in hand - the moment would not have escaped.

I waited several years to purchase a digital camera. When I did, the ability to manually control everything from focus, to macro closeups, to time exposures, to aperature and F stops, shutter speeds, drove me to check things and save my dollars. I also was concerned about having the flexibilty that I had been accustomed to with my beater slr. Also ability to download pics easily without software issues and op systems. I ended up buying a Sony Mavica. Writes to CD's - no chips. Not the highest mega pixel anymore - but I use it pretty much for web design/work documentation. Photoshop fixes lots of things to make up the balance. It has been a wonderful investment and i use it almost every day.

If I were to go back in time to find a slr with more than I have now - I would buy an old canon FTB - one of the few reasonable production cameras that had a mirror lock. Long time exposures that are hand held get a jerk from the mirror flipping out of the way for the exposure. On the FTB - you could lock the mirror once you focused. Pretty nifty.

You might consider looking at a decent used non-digital slr body and an array of suitable lenses. You won't lose money - the resale is pretty constant. Your budget will go farther. A digital camera will save you money in the long term on film & with not developing pictures that you really won't care about - but unless it has manual overrides - you won't learn that much about photography - you will be snapshooting instead.

PS digital camera batteries take a dump in very cold weather - below freezing while shooting. Rain, etc - don't mix too well with electronic things. Always have extra batteries & cards, etc. SLR's hold up better in that environment.

have fun. go talk to some old timer in a camera repair shop that has been around for years. ask him if he has anything........ interesting.
I am still ask if there is an FTB with a couple of lenses that comes in for sale.

Mar 29, 06 12:06 am  · 
art tech geek

ps - in the SLR lens historically have been coated for color picture shooting. they pop. Nikon coated their lenses for B&W for years. The company gave them for free to war correspondents during the Korean conflict. The power of their lenses to make black and white images pop partnered with the durability of their old camera bodies are legendary.

I don't know if this is still the case - but in the case of used equipment it is a built in bias that can be exploited.

Mar 29, 06 12:12 am  · 

wow...great advice art tech geek! thanks a lot..i'm eager to learn more about photography with a slr

Mar 29, 06 12:27 am  · 

i've been shopping for a 'dslr for beginners' if there is such a thing, without wanting to lay out too much cash. in the 600-700$ range there are some great deals:
the NIKON D50
Konica Minolta MAxxum 5D
Olympus E-500 EVOLT
Canon 350 Digital Rebel XT (slighlty more expensive, more like 800- 900)
I finally settled on the MAxxum 5d over the Nikon D50 and over the Olympus since it had some great features such as image stabilization in the camera body which allowed for sharper shots on the move or without a tripod.
I believe though they were just bought out by sony but lenses and any minolta lenses, which are solid, will be compatible with future models. I didnt go for the 350 canon digital rebel which cost more since at that price point, you might as well get the canon 20d, which is an exceptional entry/intermediate level dslr. theres also the newly released nikon 200d which is powerful.

i second
also, is another indepth review site

Mar 29, 06 1:42 am  · 

i thought most slr cameras have image stablization..i don't know much about slr's but don't image stablizers emit a frequency from the camera? i

Mar 29, 06 1:48 am  · 

not 100% sure but usually high quality lenses, specifically telephotocome may come with their own image stabilization, in the lens, in the case of the maxxum 5d, the technology is in the camera body which is not typical for every dslr body. here are some links...

Mar 29, 06 1:57 am  · 

yeah, you're right...d50 has no stabilizer... i guess if i'm taking fast shots it wouldn't really matter but on the other hand, i'd need a tripod for longer shots...w/e that term is called..thanks a lot!

Mar 29, 06 2:05 am  · 

often getting a "soft" image is not a bad thing... most raw files will tend to be softer than jpgs. and this is because it does no in camera processing or sharpening. this is good because it will not try and "resolve" details that are not meant to be resolved thus resulting in you loosing information. Photoshop and raw (crw for canon) is the only way to go but i think that the 3rd generation image stabilization lenses will give you the few extra stops that you need to capture that photo in dark places without sacrificing too much information if you decide to not bring the giant bogen or gitzo tripod along.

Mar 29, 06 7:36 am  · 

anyone seen/own this?
price is a little high and expert’s find it middling
but the 23mm lens is tempting


Mar 31, 06 3:19 pm  · 

One difference to take note of between the DSLRs and digital point and shoot cameras is the shutter lag. The newer digital point and shoot cameras are better but the higher the megapixels the worse the shutter lag.

Mar 31, 06 5:15 pm  · 

20d with the efs 10-22 and the ef 24-105 L should be the best set for architecture unless you have full frame

Mar 31, 06 6:39 pm  · 

i've managed to inherent some very fine camera equipment ... mostly Leica SLR cameras (a SL2 and an R-5) along with a slew of VERY fine Leica R-Series lenses. most of this equipment was acquired new in the 70s and early 80s. it's in very good shape - just a shade below "like new".

both of the camera bodies are for film ... which can be useful. but, in today's digital world, i wonder about how much real use i'll get from this equipment and whether i should just sell it.

does anybody here know anything much about Leica camera equipment ?

my main questions relate to whether the lenses i own can be used effectively with more modern digital Leica camera bodies (or other brands of camera bodies.) if so, do they require expensive modification to work well with those digital camera bodies? are the results just a major headache and compromise?

i've spent a great deal of time on Leica discussion forums and those guys are so technical i barely can understand what they write and i certainly don't yet have a clear idea about the forward compatibility of the lenses I own.

any help would be appreciated. my own camera background is mostly "point and shoot"

May 24, 07 10:38 am  · 

No idea - as far as I know (and could be wrong about ALL of this) is that if they have the same lens mount, I believe you could use them on a digital camera. But I'm assuming they are made for fully manual camera bodies, you would not be able to take advantage of autofocus nor modify them, as they wouldn't have electronic components. What I'd do is make a list of your gear and bring it to a camera shop in your area that sells digital leicas (or call one) and ask them! Retail salespeople should know enough about it to tell you what your stuff's capable of doing, yet since they're working retail, be able to explain it in either laypersons' or technical language. Again I don't know anything about leicas or much of anything really, but that's just my educated guess!

May 24, 07 11:04 am  · 
there's always plan c
May 24, 07 11:35 am  · 

i have a sony r-1 and it has some dope pics....... i'll send you a link if you email me...


May 24, 07 11:50 am  · 

for the west coasters (and everybody inbetween) find a good pro camera store for checking out gear... online may be cheaper, but you won't have the personal assistance in figuring out what sort of SLR/high end digicam to get. In LA, Samy's is the store to start with (just don't go on a weekend when they're flooded with dilettantes), but there are also some other great stores with better prices serving the tons of pros working in LA.

go ahead and rent a camera body and lens for a few days (this will run less then $100) as a real world test drive. you may be able to strike a deal with the store to apply part of the rental fee towards your purchase...

I've been a nikon guy for the past 15 years, first with a 6006 and now with an N80. Only thing that has broken on both bodies is that tiny built in flash (and it's worthless anyways). My current lenses are the 80-200 f2.8 and the 24-85 f2.8-4.8. (note for the 24-85mm, at the wide end all filters cause bad vignetting, so make sure to remove em for shooting at 35mm or wider). I used to have the 35mm f2.8 pc that I really miss that I bought used at the columbus camera exchange (good store).

My tripod is a bogen with the grip action ball head (don't recommend or any ball head - they are not very good for pans or keeping the heavy 200mm lens locked down) -

get a classic 3way tilt/pan head - much better for smooth panoramas and tweaking the macro framing of an architectural model.

oh- i also have a nikon cool pix bought for grad school after spending $200 on film and processing the first semester- it paid for itself...

For film lenses being used on cheap digi-SLRs, there is a conversion ratio because the sensor doesn't cover the full frame. (so your 35mm will shoot like a 50mm, and your 28mm will be a 35mm). Pro-SLRs have bigger full-frame sensors and no math is needed.

If you have to ask about getting an slr or a point-n-shoot, get the point-n-shoot. You'll know when it's time to get a real camera with full manual exposure controls.

Babs- you're really lucky to have that leica gear- they do have a digital body, check the web or go to any good pro-camera store, just know that this will cost $$$$

May 24, 07 11:59 am  · 

babs, i think it depends on what your ambitions are. if i were you, i would wake up early tomorrow, grab my light meter, run down to the local camera shop and pick up some slide film. then start shooting.

if you want to break yourself of the 'point and shoot' dependancy heres you chance. Leica lenses make for beautiful images and shooting digital at the consumer, sub $1,500 level still makes for inferior images(for print, maybe not web).

May 24, 07 5:24 pm  · 

oh, yeh. slr all the way. unless of course i go clubbing and i want some party shots.

May 24, 07 5:27 pm  · 

I have a Nikon D70 and I love it. Compared with point-and-shoot digital cameras that I've owned and used, the SLR has taken consistently higher quality images. The images load very quickly to the card. I have a 18-70mm Nikkor lens on it, and I've never felt the need for anything else.

That being said, from time to time I think about selling it, and replacing it with a Leica D-Lux 3 (point-and-shoot), which is a much smaller package and would be handier to carry around. A professional Architectural Photographer I know has a D-Lux 3 and highly recommends it.

May 24, 07 5:51 pm  · 

squaresquared - D-Lux 3 or Digilux 3? Aren't they different cameras.

I have reason to believe the Digilux 3 will take my R-series lenses, but may require the lenses to be modified. Still, the Digilux 3 is about a $2,200 - $2,500 camera - woof!

May 24, 07 6:02 pm  · 

The D-Lux 3 camera that I'm interested in is point-and-shoot, not SLR.

That Digilux looks tasty, though. Wish it were affordable. Looks like you can buy an adapter to use your R-series lenses with a Digilux body. Check out the Leica web site:

Start saving!

May 24, 07 6:45 pm  · 

ricoh caplio gx100 is good. used by many professional photographer for travel.

May 24, 07 10:06 pm  · 

for the similar price range ricoh is better than leica. a professional photographer once told me that.

also, digital camera like leica or ricoh are very attractive item for stealing, in school, construction site, clubbing or any public places, could be gone in a sec.

May 24, 07 10:10 pm  · 

Aren't most digital cameras attractive items for stealing?

May 24, 07 10:27 pm  · 

well, in hongkong, ppl are more picky...

at the construction site, there was this fuji camera unattended and sit there forever and no one bother, while there was this latest model of canon and disappear in no time.

May 24, 07 10:31 pm  · 

you pretty much have to take care with anything worth owning

May 26, 07 12:03 pm  · 

Nikon starts there digital slrs at about $500 but make no guarantees on if they are any better than their point and shoots - some of which run about the same cost.

I've been a big slr user, even before digital and it was a natural progression for me. However I fell in love with digital p&s that could travel well, in my pockeet etc. But there are limitations, so think about what you want it for and go from there

May 27, 07 6:37 pm  · 

i love my canon 20d. best money i've put down for a camera in a long time.

wouldn't trade it for a point and shoot any day, despite the bulk.

May 27, 07 8:46 pm  · 

for what it's worth, I happened to be in New York over the holiday weekend and visited two of the larger Leica dealers there.

One (BEH) told me to either get happy with film or sell the whole lot and buy a digital setup; while another (Tamarkin) said I should wait for Leice to release a genuine digital camera body for the R-series of lenses. Tamarkin felt that won't abandon its huge user base of R-series owners and the new camera body (probably a R10) would be available in 12-18 months.

wouldn't get much selling the equipment I inherited; not all that unhappy with film right now; easily can wait until the R10 comes out, so that's probably what I'll do.

thanks for all the help!

May 30, 07 2:29 pm  · 
wouldn't get much selling the equipment I inherited

depending on what lenses you have, you could probably earn a pretty penny form selling them. have you check keh's listings?


it looks like these bodies could fetch around $500 or more a piece for the sl2 and r5 bodies. who told you that you wouldnt get much for those cameras?

May 30, 07 3:34 pm  · 

Sconie ... actually, i live in the city where keh is located ... i've taken them to their shop and had them give me a detailed quote. they were quite nice to work with and spent a lot of time with me.

their quote for the 2 camera bodies (which need some maintenance) and 10 very high-quality lenses, plus a variety of misc. additional equipment, amounted to about $2,600 -- this same list of used equipment retails for about $6,500 (for comparable quality) at their shop and elsewhere -- so, that's what I mean by "wouldn't get much".

sure - $2,600 is a whole lot of money. but, to acquire a good digital SLR with a comparable array of high-quality glass would be a BUNCH more than $2,600.

i suppose I could sell this stuff on e-bay and get closer to the retail figure, but i see that as perhaps more of a burden than i have either the time or the patience to pursue.

May 30, 07 3:54 pm  · 

here's my opinion. i've been doing photography on the side for about 6 years now, so:

if you plan to buy an slr, digital or 35mm, plan to invest some money. also, know what APERTURE and ISO mean. i can not stand people that spend 2k on a digital slr and don't even know what aperture is. they just point and shoot and call it a day. learn a little first. and if you think that any type of slr is "heavy", you need to get to the gym. you have a lot more freedom with slrs because of the wide range of lenses you can buy. ie macro, telephoto, wide angle, fisheye..... with a standard digital camera, you're stuck on one type of lens. it really all comes down to what you want to photograph and how creative you want to get.

i still deal with my 35mm slr due to better enlargement quality. soon though i'll dive into the digital realm, being that it's cheaper in the long run(so you don't have to develop/get photos developed).

May 30, 07 4:02 pm  · 

interesting post - is digital really cheaper.

good quality color printers, paper and inks are expnsive -plus the tons of time required to process images andd print them out.

i've been doing film slr work for more than 25 years (yes - I know what aperture and iso mean) and digit photography for about four years. clearly, digital is taking over, but i'm not convinced it's any cheaper than film overall.

May 30, 07 4:31 pm  · 

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