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Old Aug 3, 2009, 8:19 AM   #1
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Default Camera vs. print output

I am trying to decide between a dslr or a good ultrazoom camera. I currently have a Canon A540 which takes acceptable pictures that I print on my Epson Picturemate. My ultimate goal is to have great QUALITY pictuers, and am not sure if I have the right set up. My questions are:

1. If I do get a dslr, will the print output on a 4x6 be any better than my current camera?
2. Would an ultra zoom camera produce similar print results than a dslr with a zoom lens with my current printer?
3. Also, I would like to take pictures indoors without worrying about the flash or if the flash will wash out the picture.

Please help. Thank you.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 8:56 AM   #2
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We need to get more info before we can answer your questions. At 4x6 prints, there are a few types of photograph where a DSLR will provide noticable improvement but there are many instances where it won't. Of MUCH, MUCH greater impact is a knowledge and understanding of photography. A DSLR is NOT a magic point-and-shoot camera. Even the best DSLR with pro grade lenses will still produce poor images if the shooter doesn't know what they are doing.

As to taking pictures indoor without worrying about flash: I'm not sure if your intent is that you don't want to use flash at all or if you do use it you want it to work flawlessly. As to the first part - flash is EXTREMELY beneficial and frankly an essential part of a lot of indoor photo work. A DSLR with proper lens will allow you to explore some indoor available light opportunities. But the problem with that is you need to be very selective in the types of shots you take. In my experience there are way too many times I want to take photos where available light photography just won't produce good enough results. So I use flash. NOW, the biggest improvement to flash photos comes from using an external bouncable flash. Whether that be a DSLR or a digicam with hot shoe (hot shoe is the connection on top of the camera for connecting an external flash).

BUT, again I have some bad news for you. Even on a DSLR where you'll typically find better flash exposure algorithms (Nikon probably being the best out there) you still have to understand how the flash exposure works and when to make adjustments. It is NOT a point and shoot thing. That's often why people get frustrated with flash photography - they take photos in diffiult situations in full auto mode with no adjustments to the flash output and get too dark or flash burned subjects so they give up.

I shoot with a professional camera, professional lenses and professional grade flash - if I shot in auto mode I'd still get poor results. And, I'll also add that even though I've had a lot of practice taking flash photos I still shoot them in RAW because the camera and I still make mistakes in controlling the flash output.

So, bottom line - good external flash can dramatically improve your shots but it's still just a tool like a camera and lens and even the best equipment produces poor results when the person behind the camera doesn't learn how to use the tool properly.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 9:16 AM   #3
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Thanks for your quick response. You made some very good points about flash. I am just a beginner and have done a little research into photography. I think I may enjoy it if I study and apply myself. My primary concern is that I will spend a lot of money on a dslr, but the print output would be the same as a P&S camera. I guess I should have asked:

Let's assume that the user knows what he/she is doing.

If the user uses a P&S and a DSLR to take a similar shot, will the print output at 4x6 be noticeable? If I want to learn, but the potential for output between both is going to be the same at 4x6 (which I will probably use most), is it worth it to upgrade to a dslr?
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 9:40 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willfields View Post
If the user uses a P&S and a DSLR to take a similar shot, will the print output at 4x6 be noticeable? If I want to learn, but the potential for output between both is going to be the same at 4x6 (which I will probably use most), is it worth it to upgrade to a dslr?
Again, it depends entirely on the type of shot. Taking a snapshot of your children sitting or playing outside or a quickly posed head shot you would be hard pressed to notice the difference. Same is true for a lot of landscape shots - at 4x6 it would be difficult to notice the difference. What types of shots would you notice an immediate difference?

1 - shallow depth-of-field (DOF). These are the shots where your subject is in focus but the background isn't. With long zoom digicams you can get this affect in certain situations but it's difficultl (you have to use a lot of zoom and in some cases you can't do that). For example, here's a shot you're just not going to be able to produce with a digicam (can't move far enough away from the subject to get that out of focus background):


Response time shots. The best digicams I believe still take over a second to power up - most dslrs are pretty much instantaneous. Same is true for time to focus and take the shot. If you can pre-focus then a digicam can be fast - but in many instances you can't. So the speed of a DSLR (again with the right equipment - for example either a wide aperture lens in low light or focus assist beam if kit lens) will acquire and let you shoot much faster than a digicam. So it will allow you to capture a shot a digicam won't.

Movement - without doubt a DSLR will show a huge improvement here. For a couple reasons. FIRST, DSLRs have better high ISO performance so you can get higher shutter speeds to freeze movement in lower light (in good sunlight you're OK even with a digicam). Second there's that response time again - how quick the camera focuses and the shutter releases. Third, there is the frame rate. Several digicams have gimmick high frame rates but they are very low res images. Most that are giving you real resolution are still around 1 shot per second. Most entry level DSLRs give you 3fps and mid levels are 5-6 frames per second. So you have more images to choose from to get the perfect picture. Forth, DSLRs have more 'brains' than digicams so they can track moving subjects better. Any DSLR will do a noticably better job than a digicam, but the Canon entry level DSLRS (XSI, T1I) are particularly advanced compared to the competition at tracking moving subjects.





You'll also notice in these shots that two of the components are at play - first, tracking a moving subject but second, that shallow depth-of-field so the subject is in focus but the background isn't.

And then there's those available light shots where you need high ISO and can't use flash or don't want to:
ISO 1600:


ISO 6400:


These are instances where the results from a DSLR will be instantly noticable over the results from a digicam - even at 4x6.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 9:51 AM   #5
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Conversely, here are some shots where the output from a digicam at 4x6 would look no worse:


with external flash:





with a superzoom you could easily get shots like this at the zoo:
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 10:49 AM   #6
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Great pictures! What cameras did you use for these?
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 11:50 AM   #7
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The photos were from a couple different Canon DSLRs (one discontinued and one out of your price range). So, these photos weren't meant to advertise a specific camera for you since I don't own one you'd be buying. Merely to show different styles of shots and when a certain photo could be gotten from a digicam vs. when a DSLR is required.

I will say this however. For the shallow DOF shots, the lens is extremely important. You're not going to get that background blur with kit lenses on entry level DSLRs. You're going to have to buy additional lenses to get that ability.

Now, of the various photos I posted, the sports photos are the place where the Camera / lens combo makes the biggest impact. I would only bother going into detail if a primary use for you was going to be sports shooting. And, of course, not every DSLR out there is going to have ISO 6400 results like the volleyball photo I posted. But again, I wouldn't get hung up on that unless your shooting needs REQUIRE you shoot at those ISOs. Every camera purchase is a trade-off. Every camera and every DSLR system has pros/cons. Choosing one camera or system over another means you get the benefits of the one you chose but it also means you give up some of the benefits of the one you didn't choose. There is no single camera on the market that is the best at averything. So don't get hung up on features unless you need them.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 1:45 PM   #8
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very nice shots JohnG... here is 1 from T1i set on auto using kit lens, am still learning to use the camera this is from my first day shooting.

By a pond mid day under a giant tree in the shade
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 2:15 PM   #9
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Thanks for the information. It is very helpful. I will need to sit and figure out what I want to do before I invest any money. I did see an ad in Best Buy for a Nikon D40 outfit with two lenses (one is their standard kit lens and the other is a zoom lens) for around $600. I am not sure if this is what I want because of the 6 mp sensor. I think I would like the ability to blow up a few good pictures to hang in my home or office. With that , you need a higher megapixel camera. (I think I am correct in mentioning this.)

However, I can get a decent ultrazoom camera for less than $500. But I lose the speed and agility of a dslr.

That's a lot to think about since I'm on a small budget for this. (No more than $800 for everything, including camera, storage cards, bag, etc. Of course, lenses would be an extra expense down the line.)

Thank you.
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Old Aug 3, 2009, 2:29 PM   #10
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The canon xsi 12mp kit is around 641 on Amazon seen it as low as $600 its last years model but still a very very good camera.
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