Terms and compositions
If you buy a DSLR camera, make sure you know what the letters represent.
Taking great shots with a DSLR relies on understanding what that means.
ACCORDING to a Sony survey of amateur photographers, ''Two-thirds of DSLR [digital single lens reflex] camera owners stick to auto-mode'', and a third of them have no idea how to use it in any mode other than auto. So why did they pay extra for a camera they don't understand?
Presumably they assume that the more expensive, complex and heavier camera - all other things being equal - will give better picture quality. And there is some truth in that.
Use a compact with a tiny sensor and a DSLR with a much larger light-capture device, both set to auto, and they will give different picture quality. The DSLR will win, because the auto setting on both cameras will set the ISO speed.
When the light is low the camera will compensate by boosting the ISO. On the compact there will be a drastic increase in image noise, causing mottling of the image. On the DSLR very high ISO speeds still produce decent pictures.
But as 20 per cent of young DSLR users are only going to post their pictures on Facebook, who cares what the quality is like?
Keeping in mind Sir Humphrey's axiom that you never commission a survey without knowing the results in advance, we ask: why is Sony discouraging customers for its range of DSLRs? The answer is that the company sells another type of camera, the NEX compact interchangeable lens cameras, which are designed for customers who want DSLR picture quality in a fully automatic camera that costs a little less and weighs a lot less.
The NEX 5R reviewed at right is an example of the alternative camera type that would suit over-reaching DSLR owners. Sony and Samsung both use DSLR-size sensors. Olympus and Panasonic use smaller sensors in smaller bodies and Nikon and Canon have compact system cameras, all of which can take technically excellent photos.
Sony has a video of professional photographer Gary Heery asking bemused DSLR users to justify their gear overkill. Some of them don't even know what DSLR means.
According to the Sony survey, 72 per cent of DSLR buyers use their cameras to ''capture family memories and for fun''. The greatest spur to buying a camera at a specific time is an imminent trip. These people are not going to do a crash course in serious photography before they take off, so the requirement of competent, fully automatic mode is reasonable. And wanting to get the best possible images is understandable. Then there is weight. Who wants to lug a conspicuous brick around Paris when a dainty compact system camera will do the job?
Sony's advice is right: if you are not serious about getting to grips with the functions of a DSLR then don't buy one. On the other hand, if you are deadly serious about your photography, don't buy anything else.