Point and Shoot or DSLR. Which is right for me? Reader Q+A

DSLR cameraI can’t decide if I should purchase another point and shoot camera or if I’m ready to upgrade to a DSLR. What things should I consider before I make the switch? -Kristin

Making the decision to fork out the cash for a DSLR is always a tough one. Here are a few things to consider about the good old point and shoot versus a DSLR before you crack open that piggy bank:

The most obvious plus of a point and shoot camera is its
convenience in the form of a compact, lightweight body. You can toss it
in your bag, or even in your back pocket. But there are a few other
things about point and shoot cameras worth mentioning. Hopefully this
list will help you decide which camera you really need and which one
will fit your lifestyle the best:
Megapixels aren’t
When you compare price per megapixel, a point and shoot
camera will win every time. You can get a camera with a lot more
megapixels for a much better price. However, it isn’t always megapixels
that make the best pictures. It’s the sensors in the camera that really
determine how much “noise” (aka grainy-ness) will show up in your
photos. And when you compare a point and shoot to a DSLR in this way, a
DSLR, no matter if it has less megapixels, will take a better, crisper
photograph every time. 

Fully automatic? Easy. Manual? Not so much. Point
and shoot cameras are designed with the thinking that most users will
almost always take pictures in automatic mode. So with this in mind, the
automatic features are pretty great for taking a good picture in almost
any setting. But if you’re hoping to get to know those tricky manual
settings on your point and shoot, you’re going to find that they’re a
little buried in menus and not always easy to access for regular use. 

With point-and-shoots, you get what you get. Point and shoot cameras lack
the flexibility and adaptability that a DSLR will have. In most cases,
you can’t purchase new lenses or filters to improve or change your
camera’s abilities. They don’t hold the same long-lasting value of a

Thinking that you might be ready to make the switch
to a DSLR, here a few things to consider: 

Big and bulky, obviously. If you’re going
to start shooting with a DSLR, you’re going to have to face that fact
that bringing it along isn’t as simple as tossing it in your bag. It’ll
require either a separate camera bag, or at the very least purchasing a smaller
soft bag to protect it on the days you do decide to toss it in with the
diapers and sippy cups. 

Should you break the budget for a DSLR? Maybe. For
the price of a high-end point and shoot, you can get an entry-level
DSLR. But because of the ability to outfit your DSLR with lenses and
filters, it will be a longer lasting investment than the point and shoot
that will be obsolete in two years. And here’s a little hint: It’s not
necessarily the camera body that takes the best pictures, it’s the
lenses. If you’re worried about the initial investment, get an
entry-level DSLR and save up your money for an upgrade in lenses over
the next few years. Great lenses give you photographic flexibility and
amazing photographs. 

Made with a photographer in mind.
If you’re hoping to really wean yourself off automatic settings and
learn to shoot in other modes, then a DSLR will make those transitions a
whole lot easier. Most manual settings are right at your fingertips and
are adjusted without clicking through a series of menu options. 

always be the one behind the camera.
You can’t always pass the DSLR
over to the grandparents, or some stranger at the zoo to snap a picture
of you and your kiddos. And while many more people on the street carry
DSLRs these days, you can’t just pass it off to anybody. They’re a
little more intimidating and the average Joe isn’t going to be able to
snap a great picture with your “complicated” camera. 

There’s a learning curve. You’re not going to
take your DSLR out of the box and start taking amazing pictures
immediately. And while you can begin by taking photos in automatic mode,
if you really want the most from your camera, the manual will probably
become your favorite bedtime reading material. 

While I can’t tell you exactly which camera is the
right choice for you, I will tell you that I own a
Nikon DSLR
and will probably never go back to a point and shoot.
Photography is a big part of my every day life and toting around my DSLR
is no big deal. But I still see how the convenience of a compact camera
can really win out at the end of the day–our editor Liz is absolutely committed to her Sony CyberShot because it’s in her purse at all times, and as a blogger, she never wants to miss a photo opp. .

My perfect photography
scenario? Having my DSLR packed in my bag, and my iPhone 4 (with its great new camera) in my back
pocket. But if you’re still not ready to make the jump to the bigger
camera, maybe you should consider one of the newer “hybrid” camera models that pack a lot of the DSLR features
into a point and shoot-sized camera body. -Molly

to see what kinds of pictures a camera takes before you buy? Try the camera finder
on flickr to see how the camera you’re considering for performs in the
hands of everyday people.

cred: urban.prairie.forest)

Molly Balint is a tech and parenting writer at Babycenter, and a former Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech contributor.


  • Reply December 21, 2011


    I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the new compact camera systems that are being released now. Sony has the NEX line of cameras which have super large sensors but no mirrors. They sit somewhere between a good DSLR and a point and shoot camera. I’ve got a DSLR but it’s tough to carry that thing everywhere so I’ve been looking for something with similar features (and the ability to use glass I already own) but is far less bulky than my DSLR. I’ve only played with the Sony NEX cameras but if you’ve (or other folks who comment) have thoughts about the other options in that class I’d love to hear them!

  • Reply December 23, 2011


    I’ve been wondering the same thing as Elaine. I’m in the same boat about my DSLR. Any thoughts, Cool Moms?

  • Reply April 24, 2012

    Dawn @ thedalaimama

    What are some of the lenses you like best for your Nikon. I too am a Nikon dslr owner and I carry mine everywhere in my epiphanie bag, but want to get some “better” glass to shoot with.


  • Reply July 10, 2012


    I very much agree with the megapixels thing. People keep on obsessing with the higher megapixels even if they will simply shoot pictures of themselves. This is not the measure of a good photography.

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