A dirty little secret about “Pro” DSLRs vs. point-n-shoots

Here is the thing. I have been touting the virtues of smartphone cameras and point-n-shoot cameras but whenever I’ve really liked one of my images, they have been from one of my Canon DSLRs. Unbeknownst to me, there has been a revolution going on in the digital photography world. While at times, I diverted my attention to smartphone cameras, p-n-s cameras surged forward till one fine day, my wife’s humble Sony Cyber-Shot DSC RX100 p-n-s just amazed me with it’s capabilities. These little shirt-pocket cameras now come with larger sensors (less noise), better lenses (can hand-hold without blurring) and a faster processor (can take >10 shots/sec). So much so, that they can do most of the heavy lifting that you’d need a DLSR for. In addition, they do other things like connect to my smartphone, my home Wifi, push images to my computer, upload them to any other site I care to use, and do a lot of in-camera processing. Whereas, when I use my DSLR, I still have to do the same old workflow of taking the card out of the camera, inserting it into my computer’s slot, importing images and cataloging them.

Just for fun, I tried to do some photo-shoots of my son with my wife’s RX100 the other day, and the results blew me away.

Here is one where I turned the fill flash on. Notice how rich yet even the tones are. Yes, I did play with the settings, but only on the camera. Not post-processing at home.

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Ah! you say, but what about low-light conditions? Surely a DLSR with a fast lens will blow the p-n-s out of the water. Yes and no. Here is an image [auth] shot with again, using the RX100 with one feeble fluorescent light above (ISO 800). Granted, the camera has done some in-camera noise reduction (my son’s skin is smooth, but not that smooth!). But here is the kicker- the camera recognized that the image being taken is of a child (yes! It turned the ‘baby’ mode on and showed a little baby icon in the upper left corner of the LCD). I am not saying that you will not notice artifacts as soon as you blow this up to say a 16×20, but I ask, how often do we do that? For that one instance, do we need to lug 15kg of camera gear?

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Don’t try the next trick with your $2,000 DSLR– I was walking my dog one early morning, I saw this beautiful sky, put the camera in Auto HDR mode, framed the image and pressed the shutter. RX100 decided that it was going to take 3 images. It took them, combined them, spat out a beautiful 4th image. I tapped my smartphone to the camera, hit ‘share’ and my wife saw the image within seconds of my taking it.

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Yes, I agree that there is a time and place for a very low s/n ratio DSLR (for now) but the day when this becomes a moot point and so will (thankfully) the need to carry 15kg of gear go away. I just can’t wait!

So the dirty secret is out. Next time I display an image here or at an art show, don’t be surprised if it was from a p-n-s or a bridge camera (more on bridge cameras later).

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