Indy's Camera Review - Digital SLR's
SLR Learning Curve
©2009 James Melatis -
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As previously stated, D-SLR's are not point and shoot cameras. They are designed for high-resolution output for magazines and print ads, not video display resolution such as taking snaps to E-mail or for web images. If web and e-mail work is your main use for a digital camera, you would be better off to pick up an ultra compact point and shoot for $300 that fits in your pocket and produces great video resolution snaps right out of the camera.

Yes, you can always shoot in lower resolution JPEG format. However, if there is any possibility that a publication might pick up your photos or web work for a printed catalog, article, or cover shot, you are going to find that the lower resolution web images are un-usable for print. For example: When the publisher says they need a 5" x 7" image at 400 DPI (Dots Per Inch), that translates into a 2000 x 2800 pixel image. A 72 DPI video resolution image at 5" x 7" may look great on your monitor, but would only be 360 x 504 pixels. This web image if printed at 300 DPI would only be 1.2" x 1.68". Scaling up a 360 x 504 web image to 2000 x 2800 in photoshop is not acceptable or usable unless you like mosaics. In this example, the original needs to be 2000 x 2800 or larger. You may then wish that you had shot the originals with a film camera, or even better, with a high resolution D-SLR.

Moreover, D-SLR's allow you the flexibility and power to achieve your artist's vision. A digital SLR works just like a film camera, with the same exact control knobs, lenses, and settings. They allow the artist make many decisions, instead of the camera. D-SLR output is film-like, so getting good results with them requires some practice and effort. With practice, you can take great JPEG's right out of the camera like a point and shoot, but unless you already have a lot of experience with film or digital SLR's, it doesn't come as easy.

People moving from film to a D-SLR are already used to dealing with the camera settings. People moving from a point and shoot to a more expensive D-SLR may have some difficulties and understandably different expectations. Their old digital camera did everything for them. The tendency seems to be to blame the equipment when things go wrong.

The biggest complaint is that images seem a little soft or out of focus when viewed on a video monitor, but even then it is noted that the images look fine when printed. What is most misunderstood about the D-SLR is that the high resolution and quality also magnifies your mistakes. If you allow a shutter speed that is a little slow for a hand held shot or longer focal length, if there is not enough light to allow a faster shutter speed, if the subject is moving and you don't compensate for it, or if you accidentally move the camera, then the images come out soft or blurry.

Even when you get the shot perfect, a video monitor does not have the resolution to faithfully reproduce the true sharpness of a D-SLR image. It is not fair to compare the D-SLR sharpness with your old point and shoot on a video monitor. If you must make this comparison, you should compare two printed images of equal size. If the D-SLR image is not unquestionably better, then you just need more practice.

If you want that magazine cover, you need any camera with high resolution, good lenses, and a quality sensor. You also need to learn to be a great photographer. But why go to all of this trouble when you can get a camera that does everything for you? The reality is that truly great photography is achieved by knowing the different relationships between aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, shooting distance, composition, color, white balance, perspective, focus, available light, depth of field, guide numbers, and what to meter. It takes a while to learn all that, and the D-SLR is the perfect digital tool to help you learn. With the instant, no-cost feedback, the SLR learning curve is actually reduced. You go to all of this trouble so that eventually you learn to do great things that are not possible with a camera that does everything for you.

Some of my best shots are with the camera in manual, which allows me to get subjects and depth of focus that my point and shoot is completely unable to capture. For example: With the right lens and if there is enough light on the subject, you can shoot through 1/2" wire mesh fence or dirty 1" plexiglass like it wasn't even there. No matter what settings I tried, the point and shoot would only take pictures of the wire mesh and dirty plexiglass.

Another technique is to remember that the camera can see things that your eyes can't, like colors at night and fine details. A 15 second time exposure at midnight and the same shot in auto at noon is capable of producing the EXACT same color print, except the night shot has stars in the sky, and the day shot has shadows. And any time of day, the high resolution combined with quality lenses often brings out interesting details and subtle color differences that you didn't see when you took the image.

D-SLR's are flexible and powerful tools, with marvelous film-like capabilities in the hands of an experienced photographer. When you show people your glossy inkjet prints, they either won't believe they came from a digital camera, or more likely they will assume the expensive camera is doing all the work. Only you will know that the camera is just the tool, it is the skill of the person behind the camera that makes the real difference.

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