Compact or dSLR


Your question couldn't have come at a better time. I have been (and remain) the most-pleased owner of a Canon A630, but took the plunge into the world of dSLR just over a year ago. In addition, I'm actually preparing to order my very first macro lens in a few days.

I for one couldn't agree more with the salesperson and not just for the very valid reason of seeking better glass (the more hip word for lens in the SLR/dSLR crowd wink

While a dSLR will not make you a better photographer (think framing, composition, lighting, etc.) it will offer you more opportunities to capture photographs that might have gone missing using a compact digital camera.

In addition, the ability to shoot in the RAW file format will give you additional opportunities to tweak/correct images in ways that are more difficult or have less desirable results when editing JPEGs that come off most compact digital cameras.

Clearly the toughest part for you will be deciding which camera to purchase. While I use the Canon 40D I would never suggest that you only consider Canon. Certainly Nikon makes very fine cameras and I loved using my Nikon N65 35mm camera for many years. Other manufacturers include Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung, etc. Adding to the mix is the fact that you can purchase glass not only from these companies, but from third-party manufacturers like Sigma, Tokina and Tamron, etc.

To add to the confusion there is now the four/thirds dSLR, which is a camera with a sensor that is larger than the one found in digi compacts, but smaller than the one found in most consumer-grade dSLRs (like the Canon 40D, Nikon D80, Nikon D300, Rebel series, etc.). A good explanation of these issues can be found here:

So...what do you do? My completely personal opinion would be to focus on what you want to do with your camera and then shop to meet those desires. Advantages to staying with the two biggest names in photography, Nikon & Canon, is that their products are everywhere, they make complete camera systems (camera bodies, lenses, flash units, accessories, etc.), and you would be hard pressed to not find what you want or need. The other manufacturers, I imagine, also can provide you with fine equipment, but there is something to be said for working with those who have both a long history and large inventory of merchandise.

Specifically regarding your interest in macro work, I would suggest looking for reviews on macro lenses to help you narrow your field of both lenses and camera bodies. One site to which I often turn is:

Take their information for what it is worth. For me personally, I haven't felt I've been steered wrong yet.

If you opt to look at any of the four/thirds format cameras or ones from manufacturers other than Nikon & Canon, be certain that they (or a third-party company) offer some macro lenses. I would also strongly recommend the purchase of a solid tripod or monopod if you do not have one or the other already. Macro photography really requires a rock-steady camera and this can be very difficult to accomplish while hand-holding a dSLR with lens as they can get heavy, especially when compared to the A620 to which you are accustomed. And do not look towards one of the cheaper tripods as they really aren't made for the heavier dSLRs and lenses. Spend the extra bucks for a solid and steady tripod/monopod and you'll be very glad you did.

Finally, and since this is about my personal opinion and advice, I'm very happy with my Canon 40D and I'm purchasing the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro. There is a 60mm version, but it is almost as expensive and I think the the longer focal length will better serve my particular needs (and allow for a deeper depth-of-field when I want or need it). There is also the more recent Canon 50D, but I'm not yet certain how I feel about the increase in pixel density versus dynamic range.

Whatever you decide those of us replying undoubtedly wish you the best of luck and hope you really enjoy your upcoming purchase.