When should you upgrade to a DSLR?

Here is a question I get regularly:

"Should I buy a point and shoot or DSLR?"

You buy a DSLR when you are serious enough about your pictures to want to control every aspect of their creation. People who are really serious lug big flipping lenses and multiple camera bodies, and they don't consider it a burden. For them, it would be far worse to arrive at an opportunity with the wrong tools.

People who care more about convenience buy cameras that fit in their pockets or purses. Nothing wrong with either decision. It depends on what is most important to you.

Creative control vs. carrying convenience. That is the real question.

If the pleasure of creating a shot where you get to control every detail is worth more than the pain of packing a bag with a camera, several lenses, filters, a flash and so on....then a DSLR is for you.

If you cringe at the thought of carrying "all that stuff" that should be your first clue. With a point and shoot, you can always get a shot that's good enough. If you know what you are doing, you can get some shots that are great. No need to hang your head. Create your art with the tools you select.

If you know that having a big camera means you are more likely to leave it at home, don't do it. You can't take any great pictures from a camera you don't have. You are shopping for convenience.

Outside of that, let's look at the characteristics of each type

About Compact Cameras

Benefits of compact camera 

  • Convenience. Fits in a pocket or purse. No other lenses to carry. 
  • Great images without carrying a lot of stuff
  • Doesn't draw attention
  • Live view for exposure effects

Drawbacks of compact camera 

  • Not immediate response
  • Level of control varies
  • Smaller sensor impacts quality 

About DSLRs

Benefits of DSLR

  • Control & creativity 
  • Direct control of aperture & shutter speed
  • Change lenses for distance or speed
  • You look thru the lens for WYSIWYG 
  • Quality of a bigger sensor

Drawbacks of DSLR

  • Live view
  • Bulky to carry with lenses
  • Security

Bottom line - Convenience vs Control