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.

By on 2005-05-05

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:

Camera Bag

Clear

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

Your camera bag is empty.

Add cameras or lenses by clicking on the star next to their name.

Updates

    2020.02.08

  • 2020.02.08

    Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide 2020

    Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide 2020

    The Mirrorless Digital Camera Buying Guide was fully rewritten for 2020, including all new systems from Nikon, Canon and Leica joined by Panasonic and Sigma. This new extensive 2020 Edition shows in 5 simple steps how to choose a mirrorless camera.

  • 2020.01.01

  • 2020.01.01

    Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Review

    Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Review

    This highly capable and compact mirrorless ranked as Best Beginner Mirrorless Digital Camera of 2019. Its 20 MP Four-Thirds CMOS sensor with Anti-Alias Filter is pared with 5-axis stabilization to maximize sharpness. Features a tilting 2.8 MP 0.39" EVF with large 0.7X view and Eye-Start sensor in a body with dual control-dials.

  • 2019.12.10

  • 2019.12.10

    Best Digital Cameras of 2019

    Best Digital Cameras of 2019

    The Best Cameras of 2019 awarded by Neocamera: Best Travel-Zoom, Best Premium Compact, Best Ultra-Zoom, Best Mirrorless and Best DSLR.

  • 2019.11.26

  • 2019.11.26

    10 Gifts Photographers Will Love

    10 Gifts Photographers Will Love

    The 2019 gift guide for photographers showcases photography gear that amateur and enthusiasts will enjoy. It is divided into 3 price categories to suit different budgets from $50 to $200 USD.

  • 2019.11.25

  • 2019.11.25

    Sony Alpha A7R IV In-Depth Review

    Sony Alpha A7R IV In-Depth Review

    The newest Sony high-resolution mirrorless packs a 61 MP Full-Frame BSI-CMOS sensor on 5-axis Sensor-Shift system. It shoots at 10 FPS, records 4K Ultra-HD video and focuses with a new 567-Point and 425-Area Hybrid AF system with Realtime tracking. This professional-grade camera features a 5.8 MP 0.5" EVF with 0.78X magnification, 100% coverage and an Eye-Start Sensor plus triple control-dials in a weatherproof body. This review shows exactly how the A7R IV performs and compares to top Full-Frame and Medium-Format digital cameras.

  • 2019.11.04

  • 2019.11.04

    Olympus OM-D E-M1X Review

    Olympus OM-D E-M1X Review

    Professional Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless sporting an ultra-high speed 20 MP sensor with 121-Point Phase-Detect AF on a 5-axis image-stabilization system effective to 7-stops. 60 FPS drive with blackout free view on a huge 0.83X magnification 2.4 MP 0.5" EVF. Even a builtin GPS in a dual-grip double dual-control-dial IPX1-rated weatherproof and freezeproof body.

  • 2019.10.17

  • 2019.10.17

    Nikon D3500 Review

    Nikon D3500 Review

    The lightest DSLR packs a 24 MP APS-C sensor with ISO 100-25600 sensitivity-range, 5 FPS drive and Full HD video capture. Basic features with simple ergonomics.

  • 2019.10.16

  • 2019.10.16

    Time-Lapse Photography for Beginners

    Time-Lapse Photography for Beginners

    Learn how to get started with time-lapse photography in 4 easy steps.

  • 2019.10.07

  • 2019.10.07

    Fujifilm X-T30 Review

    Fujifilm X-T30 Review

    The newest 26 MP 4th-Generation X-Trans CMOS sensor and X-Process 4 from the flagship X-T3 in more compact body. ISO 80-51200, 1/32000-30s, 20 FPS Continuous drive, Cinema 4K video. Dual control-dials and 2.4 MP EVF with Eye-Start Sensor.

  • 2019.09.30

  • 2019.09.30

    Nikon Z6 Review

    Nikon Z6 Review

    Nikon Full-Frame Mirrorless with 24 MP and 5-Axis Built-In Image-Stabilization effective to 5-Stops. ISO 100-202400. 12 FPS Continuous Drive. 3.7 MP 0.5" EVF with 0.8X Magnification and 100% Coverage. 4K Ultra-HD video.