Choosing a camera, do you really need a DSLR - Bubbablueandme

Choosing a camera – is a DSLR really necessary? Try a compact system camera

In the blogging world, it seems everyone who has a vague interest in improving their photography dreams for or is planning to buy a DSLR camera.  We all know they’re what the pros use, when people ask for camera recommendations, apart from the odd phone camera thrown in, it’s always DSLR models that are mentioned.  You don’t hear someone say, ‘I love my compact zoom and it does everything I could wish for’ etc.

Until the end of last year, I’d been through a few cameras in my time blogging.  When I first had N I had a Canon Powershot compact.  I loved it initially but then had a lot of problems, and got black spots on the photos, so I was recommended to change because it would be cheaper to buy than to try and repair it.  I decided to change to a Panasonic compact and that was me converted away from Canon.

As I started photo challenges like Project 365, and wanting to improve my blog photography, I wanted to have more flexibility to really learn to use more of a camera.  I could have upgraded my compact to the next Panasonic Lumix which shot in RAW, but for the price, I may as well go for a start price DSLR.

Choosing a camera, do you really need a DSLR - Bubbablueandme

When I started researching into cameras, I realised there were a lot of great things about DSLRs, but also one big no for me, and that was the size.  Out and about for short trips I mostly used my phone because it was too much hassle taking a compact out.  So the likelihood would be that a bulky DSLR plus lenses would be a pain.  Therefore my alternatives were a bridge camera – fine for starting to use manual control, but limiting if I wanted to develop more skills – or the smaller alternative to a DSLR, a compact system camera (aka mirrorless camera).

After reading into compact system cameras, I decided that they sounded perfect for me.  Not too bulky, but challenging enough for what I wanted to learn about and develop, and enough lens options for what I’d want to use them for.

So what’s the difference between a DSLR and CSC:

It’s easiest to see in a table to compare them.  I’m using the term csc, but they’re also known as mirrorless, digital single lens mirrorless camera as well.

csc vs dslr

There are similarities though, which make it clear why many photographers, amateurs and pros alike are choosing the more compact option of a csc.

csc similarities

I was really clear why I wanted a csc, and it’s turned out to be a great choice for me.  I’d moved up from a standard compact camera (albeit a superzoom, good quality one) and had done my research, knowing that’s what I wanted.  But even so, the guys in the independent camera shop weren’t really convinced and were trying to push a bridge camera.  So if you’re thinking of upgrading to a DSLR, is it the right choice for you or might a CSC be an option?

I asked keen and pro photographers on twitter who had previously used a DLSR and asked why they made the change or added a csc to their equipment.

Those people I’ve spoken to who have opted for a CSC camera seem to be really pleased with their choice over a DSLR as well.



Being a Panasonic lover, I chose the Panasonic Lumix GX7 which came with a 20mm 1.8F pancake lens rather than the usual kit zoom lens.  I’ve got a couple of zoom lenses, and my next aim is for a macro lens (or some extension tubes in the first instance).

Panasonic Lumix GX7 plus lenses in the sun

But what is it that I love so much about my CSC?

The great bits about compact system cameras:

  1. Control over manual settings
  2. Clarity of photos
  3.  The challenge of learning to use it properly and achieve better photos
  4.  The size

The ‘I wish it were better’ bits:

  • While I love the more compact size, it’s still a lot to carry around with me – decent bag, couple of lenses
  • Limited lenses compared with DSLRs.  For example, until recently there was only one macro lens available for Panasonics, there’s now another, but I’m struggling to find out more about it.

Of course there are always going to be challenges whether you’re new to a DSLR or csc but that’s more about my ability and confidence.

  1. Having to learn manual settings.  Sometimes I find it hard to quickly change, other times my colour is out, although the latter is easily edited afterwards.
  2. Getting used to which lens to use when out and about and photographing different things – my son running around, buildings, flowers etc.
  3. Always wanting to get something new and learn something new.  Cameras and photography can be an expensive hobby

I did do a couple of online manual/DSLR courses during the winter months, but really it’s about practising and stretching yourself to learn more.  I knew quite abit about the theory already, it’s now about putting it into practise rather than using the safety of manual. These are some of the resources I found useful as a newbie to manual photography:

Paid for courses:

  • The Photographer’s Element (TPE) – I really enjoyed this course, the video trainers/photographers are approachable and friendly, and there are 2 options, either the full course (which includes homework tasks and feedback) or the audit level (no feedback, although you can still do the homework tasks as practice).  I’d say this was really good if you want a personal touch to training, maybe a bit more feminine and friendly in the educational style.  Courses are  released at certain times of the year, and are topic based.
  • Shaw Academy photography course – I got a really good deal on Groupon or Amazon local for this one so it was worth doing.  I struggled with slow internet speeds and the videos, but on the whole it was clear and at the right level for a newbie to manual.  There are tests at the ends of modules to reinforce what you’d learn.  Personally I preferred the TPE course for explaining things, but that depends on personal preference.

Free resources / informal courses:

  • MirrorLessons – THE place to find answers to all your mirrorless camera questions.
  • Emma Davies Photography #Remarkable2015 – Emma is a photographer and blogger, and wants to help others improve their photography.  If you blog and want to be part of a community as you learn, then this is the one to sign up to for free weekly tips and guidance, as well as exercises set for the week. You can share what you’ve taken in the Facebook group for feedback.  There’s also a weekly twitter chat on different topics, just follow #blogphotochat.
  • Digital photography school – load of free tutorials, guidance, examples of others’ work and exercise ideas.  Sign up for the weekly emails for numerous articles to help your photography come on.

CSC / Mirrorless reviews

If you want some starters for the ‘best’ csc on the market today, then the pocket lint guide is a good start point.

.Steve Huff’s photo website has reviews of every csc since they were launched. Hopefully if you are making or thinking about a move to a compact system camera, then you’ve found this overview useful.

If you’ve got any questions, then do ask, and I’ll try and answer them or point you towards someone else who many know.

To sum up from @MeandOrla

A compact system camera might be worth thinking about.

What camera do you use? What tips did you find useful in moving to a csc (or DSLR)?

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  1. Great write up Emma. I want to learn how to use more settings on a camera, but knew DSLR was not the answer for me because I’ve had access to one for a few years and not used it. I looked in to compact systems, but decided it was silly to buy new lenses when we have a good selection for the DSLR. I have a compact with manual settings. It is great because it fits into my pocket, but I suspect it would be easier to change settings on a larger body.

    1. The size of anything with lenses is a pain. I do struggle with having to change lenses all the time because I want to do distance shots, close ups, and middle ground too – especially when out and about. I need to read my compact camera’s settings though – then when I can’t take my csc with me, I can at least use the manual ones on my compact.

  2. I must be about the only blogger only using my iphone camera! This has been an interesting read as I don’t know much at all about the range of cameras out there. Hopefully I’ll be getting a decent camera soon and I can refer back to this post! #brilliantblogposts

    1. I think camera phones are great. Mine’s still better for macros, and it takes great photos that did the job for me for ages.

      Thanks for commenting

  3. A great write up and pleased to know you are very happy with your new camera! I will be in the market in the near future for a new camera again – I love my bridge camera (which we’ve discussed before!) and may go for the same again. It bridges the gap for me between a regular P&S and a DLSR, as I do have some manual control when I want it. Until I feel I can no longer take good photographs with it, I’ll not even bother with a DSLR, they’re very expensive, and so are the lenses!

    1. Your bridge camera is the best seller in my local independent camera shop. They were trying to sell it to me. I do love my p&s and it’s still used when I don’t want to take all my lenses out (plus it gives N the chance to use a camera), but I only use it on auto.

      The expense is definitely the hard choice. Once you get one you then start wanting more and more to go with it and it can add up unless you can get 2nd hand.

      1. Put it this way, I would buy the camera I have over and over until a higher spec one comes out!

        I know me, I know that once (if!) I go down the DSLR route, I’ll be hooked on buying different lenses and kit! I can’t afford that – I need money for holidays 😀

        1. I know what you mean. I think if you’re happy with the camera you have you’re on to a winner. Also, DSLRs are all very well if you have one specific need – ie sports photography, or food, or portraits. That’s not too expensive because you could potentially get away with 1 or 2 lenses. But if you want to take photos of family, food, crafts, landscapes, animals and everything else, that’s when you need to get more lenses and the expense goes up.

          It’s definitely a big decision to make if you want to make sure you’re covering what you want it for.

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