Before I became a professional photographer, I did not have much knowledge of cameras and their accessories. I mostly used point and shoot camera to take photos and set everything to auto for simplified operation. I thought my pictures were okay for most occasions until the day I received my order of Canon 20D. Though that camera is a product of year 2004, it is still a very useful tool for me today.
There are huge differences between the little point and shoot cameras and DSLRs. I'm just highlighting some key differences.
1. Image quality.
DSLRs have much better images quality over the point and shoot camera. I've owned Sony P-1, Canon PowerShot SD400, and Canon SD870. All of these little guys capture good images only to some extend. When compare an images side by side with ones taken from my Canon 20D, you will notice the differences. Photos are much sharper from Canon 20D. The other DSLR I have also produce awesome image qualities especially the pro level cameras.
2. Responsiveness & Performance.
Point and shoot cameras are not designed to be fast and responsive. Lots of time, the images were taken a couple of seconds after the shutter was pressed. This increases the chances of missing important moments. It is especially true for candid shots. Most of the recent DSLRs can start and operate instantly. Shutter lags are only one tenth of a second or better.
There is no comparison of continuous shooting capability between DSLRs and point and shoot camera. While pro level DSLR, such as Canon 1D series can records up to 10 images per second, most of point and shoot cameras struggle to get 2 or less images in a second. There is no substitute of using DSLRs in a sports event.
3. Interchangeable lens
All the point of shoot camera has only one build in lens; thus limiting its ability to shoot at varying focal length. Although some of the DSLR like point and shoot camera can reach 10x zoom, drawbacks of the image quality and performance cannot be overcome. Large lens selections are available for DSLRs of all major camera brands. You can choose the lens to suit your needs. You may buy budget line lens at beginning, and gradually switch to more expensive lens when your skills improve and shooting style change. At the time of camera upgrade, the lens you've accumulated in years are still useable.
4. Easy of use
This is the area that point and shoot camera may have the upper hand. Complex menu setting and control system can easily scare camera novices away. My mom was never a fan of my DSLRs, and thought they were not designed for seniors like her. She is much happier with the little Canon SD400 for its simplicity. Only a click of a button, she got the image taken.
5. Cost and weight
When you have a better product, you normally expect to pay more. This is true too when it comes to camera. DSLRs are generally much better built with better components and software. While price range of
Camera Under 300 majority of the point and shoot cameras is between $100-$500, DSLRs can cost up to $8000 for the top pro model. My workhorse Canon 1Ds Mark II and Canon 1Ds Mark I Cost $8000 when they were first released. When added with pro lens, flashes, and other accessories, the equipment cost can reach $15,000-20,000 easily. Pro level cameras are definitely not someone's toy. Their hefty price tag can only be justified if they are put to commercial use to make money for their owners. With the sagging economy, plenty of photographers are struggle just to recover their equipment investment.