By Byer Gair

The D-SLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera brings with it many advantages, mostly to do with precise control of your image capture activities. You can choose from a wide range of lenses to suit virtually all needs; D-SLR exposure control systems are usually very refined and precise; focusing systems are advanced but, unlike the compacts, you have only the optical viewfinder in shooting mode – the LCD screen displays only captured images and not the view before you shoot. D-SLRs are also quicker on the job, with negligible delay in the actual process of shooting and subsequent writing of the image to memory. And, at the end of the day, the image quality derived from a D-SLR is superior to most compacts.

There are, of course, disadvantages: D-SLRs are bigger and weightier than your average fixed lens compact; there are a lot of dials, panels, buttons and menu options to contend with – although all D-SLRs can be used in simple, one-button auto format. Finally, D-SLRs do not shoot video, although they do provide a video output for running your stills as a slideshow on the telly.

It’s important to select a D-SLR with some form of dust removal; when removing/replacing interchangeable lenses, the opportunity for tiny image-marring particles to settle on the image sensor is enormous.

If you can, head for a D-SLR that offers some form of image stabilising that’s built into the camera – and preferably a mechanical method. Some higher priced models offer this, while the others rely on image stabilising to be built into the lens, adding to their cost.

Due to the relatively small size of the image sensor in these cameras, one downside that you face is that it’s difficult to shoot ultra-wide shots. Most lenses supplied as a kit lens with the camera body are short zooms, with a 3x optical zoom range; these equate to around 30-35 mm on a 35 film SLR. If you want a wider coverage, very short focal length lenses are pricey.

All compact digicams have inbuilt flash cells; so do D-SLRs, in the shape of pop-up units… and they also have a hot shoe, to which you can attach an auxiliary flash unit to boost your light output.

Most, if not all, D-SLRs can capture in both JPEG and RAW image formats. The advantage of the former is a rapid writing time to the memory card and a relatively small file size. A smaller file size means more pictures on your SD, CF or whatever type of card you have loaded; its disadvantage is some loss of image information caused by the use of JPEG compression. The benefit of capturing in the RAW format is that the image is written to memory as a “clean” file: this means no compression, leading to maximum quality. The disadvantages in using RAW include a larger file size, a longer write time and the need to use software to convert the RAW files to JPEG, TIFF or whatever.