Or, why you should go ahead and spring for a nice camera if you’re currently on the fence.
AKA "big" cameras for those who don't care.
First, what’s an SLR camera? The Wikipedia article has a lot of photog mumbo-jumbo about what separates an SLR from its film predecessors. But in this digital age, most of us are debating between a digital point-and-shoot and a digital SLR. Bottom line is: point-and-shoots are built to be small, light, and cheap, while dSLRs are made in parts, so you can swap lenses and flashes onto the camera body as you please. The longer lenses (to give you that blurry background you can’t mimic on a little camera) and overall customizability are just part of what makes SLRs so awesome for the budding photographer.
Those of you who carry their SLR cameras around have undoubtedly talked to a friend who enjoys taking pictures and wants to take the plunge into SLR-land, but has doubts—about the money, the learning curve, the time. Well, if I can proselytize a few of you to the virtues of the dSLR, I’ll consider my work for today done. So, in the words of Daft Punk, SLRs are:
The biggest concern I hear, aside from the money, is that SLRs are too hard to learn to use.
I can’t tell you how wrong this is. Have one in your hands and have no idea how to use it? Set it to ‘auto’ mode, look through the viewfinder/‘eyehole’ (not intuitive in this age of huge LCD screens), and snap away. The camera does all the work for you. It’s a smart little computer; with the right framing, you can get lovely, balanced shots on auto.
Okay, want to actually learn how to use it? I’m glad you asked. Set your camera to ‘manual’. You’ll want to learn about
1) Aperture: how open the camera is, which determines how much light gets in, and
2) Shutter speed: how long it’s open, which determines how long the light gets in.
The wider and longer your lens is open, the lighter (or more exposed) your picture will be. That’s it! Once you understand this, and start fiddling around with your camera, you can take perfectly exposed photos. (I’m not going to ramble further about this, because this isn’t a photo blog. Or maybe I will, but another post.)
A nice camera makes it easier to get nice photos.
Now, I’m not saying good photos. Taking a good picture takes thought, an interesting subject, artistic composition—it’s not about just trusting your fancy camera. But the beauty of SLRs is that even casual snapshots look nice. The way I see it, the camera unlocks you to your starting potential as a photographer. Your photos will be sharp and clear, and I can guarantee that you’ll start thinking about the pictures you’re taking, because getting results that match what your eyes see will be that much easier.
From this past weekend at Foxfield, a UVA springtime custom, which was a good time to say the least. I was sliiiightly drunk and pointed the camera at my friend for one second, and with a little luck--presto! Great photo!
You know that awkward pause after you’ve finagled everyone into a group and then waited while your point-and-shoot madly tries to autofocus? And everyone holds their smile while heckling you through gritted teeth?
SLRs are fast. Infrared autofocusing, a click of the shutter, and you’re done. Your friends want a “jumping” picture? Done. Your baby cousin being adorable? Get it before he loses interest. You can time your SLR photos so much better that going back to a point-and-shoot will feel like using dial-up.
Don't try 10 times to get the timing right!
Some people worry that they’ll break their expensive new camera. Well, I’ve broken two point-and-shoots in stupid ways, but I treat my SLR like it’s made of gold. First of all, you’ll be so worried about it that you won’t sling it around like a piece of crap. Second, it comes with a neck strap. Point-and-shoot with a neck strap? You’re a tourist. SLR with a neck strap? Legit photographer. And lastly, these cameras are made to be used (and engineered with Japanese ingenuity to be nearly indestructible). Treat them with care, but take them wherever you want to take them. I have this article clipped out about National Geographic photographers, and the crazy things they have to go through to get those shots. Don’t worry about your camera—it’s strong enough to take it, and it’ll last you for years.
So if you’re deciding whether or not to plop some money onto a dSLR, trust me–it’s worth it. Ask me any questions you have, too, since you can tell I’m happy to talk about cameras for as long as you’ll let me.