If you are an avid photographer you may be interested in a dSLR or a traditional 35mm SLR camera instead of a simple point and shoot. Growing in popularity among photography enthusiasts, digital SLR cameras combine the modern features of digital camera technology with the shooting flexibility of traditional SLR cameras. Compact digital cameras are designed for maximum portability so they’re made to be small and light -- the digital SLR's design places emphasis on shooting ease and flexibility.
SLRs offer the ability to use a variety of lenses from wide angle to telephoto. Be aware that not all dSLRs come with lenses at purchase. Such models usually state that they are "body only." Once you choose a brand, stick with it so that you can use any of that brand's lenses. Otherwise, you will be buying a new body all over again. For those of you who already own a particular brand of SLR, stick with it because you might be able to swap lenses between your 35mm SLR and your dSLR.
Digital SLR cameras don't come cheap. The camera body can cost between $600-$1600 and up. A set of SLR lenses can also cost up to thousands of dollars. Then you will need to get a flash, memory cards, filters, tripod, bags, etc. Typically, an entry user is expected to spend about $1000 just to start, and most users will spend $2500-$5000 for a complete set of digital SLR gears.
Advantages of dSLR Cameras
* '''Autofocus:''' A digital SLR is designed to shoot quickly and obtain top-quality shots. Autofocus on a digital SLR camera employs a special, high-performance motor and built-in microcomputer for high-speed focusing. The camera can thereby focus faster than you can turn the focusing ring.
* '''Viewfinder:''' Through the viewfinder, you can see the scene as it will be photographed –- so you can clearly see what the camera sees. In the center area, there are AF points that focus automatically. You can also select any one of the AF points to focus at that point. At the viewfinder bottom, shooting information is displayed. Through the viewfinder, you can see the subject's detail, colors, facial expressions, etc. with more clarity than on many compact camera's LCD monitor.
* '''Interchangeable lenses:''' The digital SLR can use various lenses to take wide-angle, telephoto, or close-up shots, to shoot a wide variety of subjects. The shorter the focal length (measured in mm for camera lenses), the wider the view. The longer the focal length, the more telescopic the picture.
* '''Speed:''' You can shoot multiple shots per second, an advantage for capturing fast-moving subjects.
Other Features to Consider
* '''Optical zoom:''' Digital zoom works by enlarging the central 50% of the image. However, if you will be taking a lot of long-range telephoto pictures you might want to consider a camera with an good optical zoom function. Optical zoom magnifies the image using a traditional multi-focal length lens. Combined with digital zoom, this allows you to take more detailed pictures of distant objects. For example, if the magnification level is measured as 3x optical zoom, and the camera's minimum focal length is 50m, then it has the ability to zoom up to 150m.
* '''Manual settings:''' In addition to the automatic controls, some digital cameras come with manual over-ride, allowing you to set the shutter speed, aperture size and ISO speed exactly as you would do with a traditional camera. Available on some mid-level digital camera, Manual focus is useful for close-ups as it lets you focus on exactly what you want -- also handy for certain special effects (e.g. out of focus lighting).
* '''Creative effects:''' Most mid-range digital cameras can be automatically set-up by selecting one of many "scene modes" to offer you a range of options, such as shooting in black and white or sepia, and panoramic or macro shots. Choosing a "sport" mode to take a photo of a football game, for example, freezes movement so a ball and player appear still. Without it, you might get motion blur in your shot. Some cameras even have special shooting modes to capture stop-motion animation, 3D pictures, and other special types of images.
* '''Image stabilization:''' An unsteady handgrip will blur the still image -- especially in dim conditions or if you’ve zoomed in a lot. If you don't have a tripod, many top-end digital haves have Image Stabilization which steadies the picture so the shake is largely eliminated. This involves the optical lens or digital sensor moving ever so slightly to compensate for hand movements.
* '''Rapid-fire shots:''' This lets you take multiple rapid-fire shots with one touch of the exposure button -- a useful feature when photographing motion, such as sporting events. Rapid-fire is also known as Burst Mode or Continuous Shooting Mode.
* '''Shutter speed and aperture priority:''' Shutter-speed priority mode lets you select the shutter speed to control exactly the amount of motion blur. Aperture priority mode lets you adjust the camera’s F-value, which controls how much of your scene is in focus (a low 2.8, for example, will put the background out of focus, a high 8 will put lots of the scene in focus).
Another thing to know is that most dSLRs do not come equipped with a memory card or batteries. '''''A significant difference between having an SLR and a compact or advanced compact is that there is no shutter lag or next-shot delay, making it a real advantage for continuous shooting.''''' Plus, dSLRs are quick to power up so that you never miss a moment.
If you don't already own SLR camera equipment then your selection between brands is slightly more difficult. Every company offers a variety of cameras, and each model has their strengths but also their weaknesses. Choose according to your needs and what you are most set on having as part of your camera. The list below was compiled from reviews on C-Net.com and About.com.