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Digital Cameras

The random endorsement: Digital SLRs (or why point-and-shoots are a waste of time)

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There wasn’t an endorsement last week—frowny face—because head whip cracker Biggs had me write that cute Usenet primer. As a result, one of you wants me thrown off the Internet for good, which I wouldn’t be altogether opposed to.

But we’re back to basics today; another plain jane, vanilla otherredundantword endorsement for your Wednesday afternoon. Digital SLRs are the focus of my attention today.

You aught to invest in a digital SLR. I don’t care if you’re taking pictures for Magnum or capturing your friends’ drunken stupidity for later Facebook placement, you need an SLR. (For a an idea of what an SLR is on a more technical level and how they differer mechanically from a point-and-shoot, mosey on over to Wikipedia for a hot minute. With any luck, the CG server will still be up and running when you’re done.)

An SLR won’t just take “better” pictures than point-and-shoots, either. Since you’re able to manually control the two basic operations of the camera—shutter speed and aperture—you can be a whole lot more creative with your photos. Take these two pics I took last autumn.

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This unknown male model posed for a quick shot at a club here in New York. Due to the oddities of club lighting (there is none), I had to screw around with the settings of the camera just to be able to capture any light at all. With a point-and-shoot, all you would have had is some shoddy built-in flashed washed out image; you wouldn’t be able to appreciate this real life Ancient Greek statue. Further playing around with the settings of the camera, you can take photos with all sorts of light tricks. Trails like the kind seen in the photo below (pictured: one of the club’s janitors (left) and some sort of CEO (right)) make you look like a skilled photographer when in fact you’re just an average joe fiddling around with a couple of dials on the SLR’s body.

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In my case, I started using an SLR (the old Canon Rebel XT) just to take photos at trade shows and the like. In fact, I was offered a job once at some “press event” (read: party) just because I was the only gun running around with an SLR. Granted, I never followed up with the guy because I’m a myopic jerk, but it was neat nonetheless. It wasn’t until I took a class on photojournalism and then started trolling photography message boards that I started to appreciate photography. If you’re just using a point-and-shoot, you really are limiting yourself.

True, I understand that it’s not exactly convenient to haul an SLR all over town, especially if you jump in the deep end and bring extra lenses and so forth. (Though I must say, companies like Lowepro and Crumpler make top-notch camera bags.) I totally understand that bringing an SLR to a Six Flags or whatever can be a pain. By all means, bring your point-and-shoot in that case. Just know that you won’t be able to play around with the depth of field (which would make for some really interesting photos… just check Getty for examples).

Even Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o uses an SLR!

SLR prices aren’t too bad nowadays, either. You can get an entry level one for under a G, if not significantly cheaper. And don’t panic over which brand of camera to get. At the entry level, SLRs from the likes on Nikon and Canon and Olympus et al. are all more or less the same; there’s no real opportunity cost in picking one over the other.

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Can a point-and-shoot do that?

In summary, SLRs are worth figuring out how to use. Be my guest and keep using that point-and-shoot of yours, but once you’ve tried and gotten used to SLRs there’s no reason to go back. I tired to use a point-and-shoot just yesterday and was like, “How the hell do you use this, this toy?” Needless to say, I’ve run back to my SLR.

And there you have it.

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