Which Camera Style Should I Choose, DSLR or ILC?

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With all the changes in the photography world, photographer's have more camera-style choices than ever before. For many years the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera has ruled the roost. Recently, however, a new (old) style of camera has made an appearance. The ILC (interchangeable-lens camera) provides the imaging sensor size of the DSLR, with a much smaller body.

An entry-level DSLR, The Nikon D3100

In the good old film days there were SLR cameras and various styles of point-and-shoots with good lens quality. If a person wasn't in the mood to carry a big SLR around, the better-quality point and shoot could provide an alternative, with some limitations on lenses.

Today the ILC is similar to the older point-and-shoot cameras, except they have interchangeable lenses like the DSLR. What should we do?  Should we abandon the DSLR paradigm and pursue an ILC instead? Nikon claims that they will come out with an ILC/EVIL camera this year. In fact, I expect an announcement from Nikon this week on new camera releases (stay tuned). Will an ILC be included? We'll see!

The most enthusiastic enthusiasts generally use DSLR cameras. However, ILC cameras are increasing in power and capability with each new generation. ILCs used to be considered less powerful cameras, having a better imaging sensor but not much better otherwise than point and shoot models. However, now the line is blurred between the two types. Some ILCs are very basic—similar to a point-and-shoot—while others are more like DSLRs.

When should you choose a DSLR over an ILC camera? If you are going to do commercial work (even eventually), you may want to consider using a DSLR. If you want to make the best possible images you can make, a DSLR system may still provide an edge over an ILC camera, due to more rapid and precise viewing of the subject through the viewfinder.

This is a touchy subject for some; however, it is generally recognized that the DSLR is the professional’s camera of choice, mainly because of the support system in place from the longer existance of SLR-type cameras. As time goes by and ILCs grow in power, this may change. For now, if you see yourself specializing in things like action or sports photography, portrait work, or event shooting, you may want to choose a DSLR over an ILC.

A Panasonic Lumix G2 Interchangeable Lens (ILC) or EVIL camera

The primary limitations of an ILC come from the slowness of an electronic viewfinder, in comparison to the mirror/prism system of the DSLR. The autofocus system (automatic camera focusing) can also be significantly slower on an ILC due to the fact that most use a type of autofocus called contrast detection. This type of autofocus is very precise but much slower than the type used by DSLR type cameras—called phase detection. That’s why you see all those sports photographers with their DSLRs and huge, long lenses at sporting events. They must have very fast response times in order to capture fast moving subjects. DSLRs excel for that type of photography.

When you are shooting action, it can be harder for an ILC to keep up with the movement, due to slower autofocus and electronic viewfinder response. However, newer ILCs are increasing the speed of their autofocus and electronic viewfinders, so it may be that you’ll do just fine with an ILC instead of a DSLR.
If you are primarily doing things like street photography, landscapes and scenics, and family pictures, an ILC is up to the task. Any type of slower, contemplative photography can be done equally well with a DSLR or ILC. Once again, it all boils down to your own preferences and style. Which camera type do you like best?  That’s the one to use! 

Better yet, get both. Use the DSLR when you are out doing serious commercial-type work, and the ILC when you just want to enjoy photography. Many photographers take that route. They use a DSLR when they don’t mind the extra size and weight of the camera and an ILC when they are interested using a smaller camera, such as for travel photography.

As long as you are using a camera with a large imaging sensor for quality, interchangeable lenses, and normal camera controls, you can use either a DSLR or ILC to be an accomplished photographer.

Hopefully Nikon will release an ILC camera in 2011. Right now if we want to use an ILC, we are limited to a brand other than Nikon. The earthquake in Japan has slowed things down for Japanese companies. Even if a Nikon ILC is delayed to 2012, we'll be happy to have it when it arrives.

Note: ILC cameras are also known as EVIL (electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens) cameras.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young



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