DSLR vs. Point and Shoot: Which Camera Should You Buy?

Main differences include price, skill level, and accessories

The Nikon Coolpix L20 is a point and shoot camera with a fixed lens. Nikon

When making the decision to enter the world of digital photography, you're going to want to do your homework. One of the key things to understand immediately is how to distinguish a point and shoot camera vs DSLR cameras. These two types of cameras differ quite a bit in terms of image quality, performance speeds, size, and especially price. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between point and shoot and DSLR cameras.

DSLR Cameras

DSLR cameras offer more power, speed, and features than a point and shoot model. DSLR cameras allow you to manually control certain aspects of a shot, while most point and shoot cameras work best when shooting in fully automatic mode. Digital SLR models cost more and are larger than point and shoot cameras.

Point and Shoot Cameras

A point and shoot camera is sometimes called a fixed lens camera, because the point and shoot cannot change lenses. The lenses are built directly into the camera body. A point and shoot camera also is very easy to use, as it doesn't offer quite the level of manual control options that a DSLR camera offers, which is where it receives its name. You just point the camera at the subject and shoot in fully automatic mode.

Camera manufacturers are cutting back on the number of point and shoot cameras they create, as the cameras on smartphones are improving to the point where people would rather carry the smartphone alone, rather than carrying a smartphone and a digital camera. 

Point and Shoot Cameras vs. DSLR

Not surprisingly, DSLR cameras cost far more than point and shoot cameras. DSLR cameras also have more accessories available than beginner cameras, such as interchangeable lenses and external flash units. The interchangeable lenses give the DSLR quite an advantage over the point and shoot camera because these extra lenses give the DSLR the ability to greatly change its capabilities and feature set as you change them.

A key difference between the two models involves what the photographer sees as he frames a shot. With a digital SLR, the photographer typically previews the image directly through the lens, thanks to a series of prisms and mirrors that reflect the lens image back to the viewfinder. A point and shoot camera often don't even offer a viewfinder. Most of these tiny cameras rely on the LCD screen to allow the photographer to frame the photo.

Other Camera Options

Ultra-zoom cameras look little like DSLR models, but they don't contain interchangeable lenses. They work well as a transitional camera between DSLR models and point and shoot cameras, although some ultra zoom cameras can be considered point and shoot cameras because they can be simple to operate. 

Another good type of transitional camera is a mirrorless ILC (interchangeable lens camera). The mirrorless ILC models don't use a mirror as the DSLR does, so ILCs can be made thinner than DSLRs, even though both cameras make use of interchangeable lenses. A mirrorless ILC will be able to come closest to matching a DSLR in terms of image quality and performance speeds over a point and shoot camera, and the price point for a mirrorless ILC sits in between what a point and shoot camera and a DSLR camera offer.