logo
RSS Twitter YouTube

The DSLR Difference

Overview & User Experience

The photographic experience of using a digital SLR differs from that of using a non-SLR digital camera. While it is known that digital SLRs can take better pictures, little has been said about the photographic experience and usability of these types of cameras. The purpose of this article is to fill this gap.

There are many articles available discussing the differences between SLR and non-SLR digital cameras. Most of these articles conclude that the main advantage of a digital SLR is its lower noise-levels, particularly at high ISO sensitivities (not even available on most non-SLR digital cameras). Other significant advantages include a viewfinder that shows focus clearly, a panoply of interchangeable lenses, longer battery-life and generally speedier operation. These conclusions are understood to be valid, so they wont be discussed directly here.

For the purpose of this article, we took the excellent Canon 20D DSLR and the amazing Konica-Minolta Dimage A2 for several photo-shoots and took hundreds of pictures with both cameras under the same conditions. The photographic experience uisng other camera models will vary, but these two cameras represent excellence in their class. The first noticeable difference, before starting to shoot, is the weight and size of these cameras. The 20D requires a larger camera bag and the A2 feels very light after using the 20D extensively with a 200mm lens.

The second difference encountered is with the viewfinder. While differences between each type of viewfinder has already been discussed at length in our viewfinders article, here is a summary of our experience: The exposure-priority live-preview on the A2's LCD is a wonderful feature, it allows to search for the composition very casually and freely. Conversely, an SLR's viewfinder is much less convenient for that since an eye must be brought to the viewfinder's level while checking composition. Then again, that is where the DSLR conserves the most battery power. To precisely control the composition however, one must look through the viewfinder (either EVF or OVF) . Here the EVF's 100% coverage provides the best experience. When it comes to judging focus, despite the EVF's remarkable sharpness, the SLR's optical viewfinder is far superior. With the SLR's OVF, any slight focus error is easily recognized. It would be hard to give up a true SLR viewfinder for anyone who frequently uses manual focusing.

Now the shot is taken. The shutter-release button is pressed halfway, then fully. The SLR always completed these actions faster. It is true that focusing speed depends on the lens used but it always seemed faster with the 20D. There probably isn't a technical reason for the focus to be slower (its probably manufacturers' product differentiation). For the shutter-lag, the non-SLR camera has to flush the charge on the CCD and probably close the shutter before doing that. This could explain why the DSLR reacts faster. The continuous drive on the DSLR is also much better but this seems to be more product differentiation again (since non-SLR cameras are sold for less, they are equipped with less memory buffer and slower internal processors).

Before even inspecting pixels, there are some obvious differences which should be explained. The Digital SLR always shoots in a 3:2 aspect ratio, this is the same aspect ratio as a 35mm film camera. Pictures having 3:2 aspect ratio print exactly on 4"x6" paper without any wasted space or distortion. When displayed on most computer screens, 3:2 pictures do not cover the entire area, they leave empty space at the top and bottom. On the other hand, pictures from most non-SLR digital cameras have an aspect ratio of 4:3 which is exactly the aspect ratio of the majority of computer monitors. Note that the A2 (and some other non-SLR cameras) can shoot in 3:2 aspect ratio by cropping the image in-camera and on the EVF and LCD. Printing 4:3 pictures on 4x6 paper gives 4"x5 1/3" prints bordered by 1/3" stripes on each side. Consequently, pictures will differ in composition even if the 35mm equivalent focal length is the same.

Camera Bag

Clear

Your camera bag is empty. To add a camera or lens click on the star next to its name.

Neocamera Blog is a medium for expressing ideas related to digital cameras and photography. Read about digital cameras in the context of technology, media, art and the world. Latest posts links:

Updates

    2014.12.09

  • 2014.12.09

    Fujinon XF50-140mm F/2.8R LM OIS WR Review

    Fujinon XF50-140mm F/2.8R LM OIS WR Review

    Fujinon XF50-140mm F/2.8R LM OIS WR Review added to the Fuji X-T1 Photographer Experience. This is the top-of-the-line X-mount lens with constant maximum aperture in a weathersealed and freezeproof body with built-in optical image-stabilization.

  • 2014.12.06

  • 2014.12.06

    Fuji X-T1 Graphite Hands-On

    Fuji X-T1 Graphite Hands-On

    The Graphite Edition of the excellent Fuji X-T1 adds an ultra-fast electronic-shutter with 1/32000s maximum speed and a number of improvements in a new smooth and highly durable finish.

  • 2014.12.02

  • 2014.12.02

    Nikon D750 Review

    Nikon D750 Review

    The first video-optimized full-frame DSLR features a 24 MP CMOS sensor with ISO 50 - 51200 range, 6.5 FPS and full 1080p HD video at 60 FPS, with stereo sound and AF-tracking. A 100% coverage viewfinder and large 3.2" tilting LCD with 1.2MP allow precise framing.

  • 2014.11.28

  • 2014.11.28

    Best Digital Cameras of 2014

    Best Digital Cameras of 2014

    The best digital cameras of 2014, selected among each class and for various types of photography.

  • 2014.11.11

  • 2014.11.11

    Nikon 1 J4 Review

    Nikon 1 J4 Review

    The smallest Nikon mirrorless packs an 18 MP high-speed CMOS sensor capable of 60 FPS drive and full 1080p HD video at 60 FPS, plus slow-motion video up to 1200 FPS.

  • 2014.10.27

  • 2014.10.27

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Review

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Review

    Uniquely compact mirrorless that features a 16 MP LiveMOS Four-Thirds sensor with ISO 125-25600 range, 1/16000s-60s, 5 FPS drive and full 1080p HD video. Full manual controls and a very complete feature-set.

  • 2014.10.10

  • 2014.10.10

    Fuji X30 Review

    Fuji X30 Review

    Premium compact with a bright 28-112mm F/2-2.8 mechanical-zoom lens and a 12 MP 2/3" X-Trans CMOS II sensor with built-in Phase-Detect AF. Now offers a large 0.65X magnification 2.8 MP 100% coverage EVF with Eye-Start sensor. Dual control-dials and full 1080p HD @ 60 FPS.

  • 2014.09.22

  • 2014.09.22

    Expert Shield Screen Protector Review

    Expert Shield Screen Protector Review

    Expert Shield Screen Protectors offer scratch protection with a crystal clear covering that uses no adhesive.

  • 2014.09.02

  • 2014.09.02

    Canon EOS Rebel T5 Review

    Canon EOS Rebel T5 Review

    Entry-level DSLR with 18 MP, 9-Point Phase-Detect AF, 3 FPS drive and full 1080p HD video in a compact body. The lowest-cost Canon DSLR yet.

  • 2014.08.08

  • 2014.08.08

    Nikon D810 Review

    Nikon D810 Review

    Professional DSLR with anti-alias-filter-free 36 MP CMOS sensor. Ultra-low ISO 32 to 51200. 5 FPS and 1080p @ 60 FPS. Large 0.7X magnification 100% coverage OVF. All new processing-pipeline and Highlight-Weighed metering.