Why You Should NOT Buy A DSLR.

One of the questions I get the most is “What camera do you use? Is it good?”

I used to just say the model I use and not give it a thought. Only to discover that whoever I said that to would proceed to go right out and buy the same camera.

Duh.

These days whenever someone tells me they want to get a DSLR… ok, I’m going to admit this – I discourage him/her.

The reason is because everyone seems to think that a good camera (i.e. DSLR) magically = great photos.

And after they’ve sunk in the investment, they’ll continue on to wail that somehow their shots just don’t look as good as the shots of other people who use the same camera. Admit it, even iPhone shots look better.

A close friend of mine proudly told me that she has managed to get some really nice shots with her DSLR, even though she doesn’t know how to use it. I’m sorry, I said. I love you, but that wasn’t the camera or you. It was just the light that was good.

It is NOT the camera that makes a good shot. Well, not JUST the camera. So much goes into making a great shot. The camera is the least important, if you ask me. It’s the DSLR+good lens+good composition+ability to judge light+good photography skills+good Photoshop skills that give you that WOW! picture.

I’m not a professional photographer. Far from it. I’m just a housewife, REMEMBER? So, at the most I would call myself an enthusiast. Which means I don’t use my camera to make a living, and my agenda is to get shots that would best document the beautiful things I see in my life.

And if that’s your agenda too, then think again before you invest in a DSLR. I’ll give you 5 reasons why you should pause before you buy it.

(1) It’s expensive.
$1000 gets you just the camera body. You’ll have to buy lenses, flash, tripod, filters, flash diffusers, dry cabinet, lightbox, SD cards, spare batteries, Photoshop software.. yeap, that’s how much stuff I have. You’ll be convinced by the salesman to buy a 18-200mm lens that would “fit all your needs”, only to realise later that it’s Prime lenses that give you the sharpness that you always ooooh and aaaah at. Sianz…

(2) It’s painful to learn how to use it.
If you have no idea what aperture, ISO and shutter speed are, and how they work together to give you exposure, then trust me, you will go through a period of wanting to smash your camera in the wall before you get anything close to a good shot out of it. You’ll have to learn to FOCUS with it. Hell, you’ll even have to learn how to HOLD it. Oh sure, you can turn the knob to Automatic. Congratulations then, you’ve just paid $2500 to buy a ton of equipment to take photos that a $200 compact flash camera can deliver.

(3) It’s HEAVY.
Imagine this. I’m all dressed up. Black dress. Pearls. Pointy heels. Handbag? Chunky camera bag. Really.. if you are not prepared to lug equipment everywhere you go. Then don’t even think about getting a DSLR. And if you are carrying that heavy gun everywhere and shooting in Automatic, it’s even funnier. Seriously, get one of those ultra light and thin Casio compact cameras that would fit into your handbag and do the same job.

(4) You have to think before you shoot.
A compact camera thinks for you. While a DSLR waits for you to give it instructions. If you don’t look at the light and don’t set your camera settings to get the right exposure, you’ll end up with shots that are too dark or too bright. Or if you don’t access indoor light situations and set your camera correctly, you’ll shoot in a restaurant and end up with faces that look like they have jaundice.

(5) You’ll have to learn to use Photoshop or Lightroom.
A good camera + lens + photographer give good shots. But a GREAT shot? An AMAZING shot? Bring in the Photoshop guys.

So, am I saying I’m a sucker? Coz I did buy a DSLR system myself right? The answer is.. sigh.. YES. Hahaaa.. Well, I did put myself through the above 5 mentioned things just to get shots that are pleasing to my eye, didn’t I?

If you’re ready to commit to learning and knowing your camera and photography, then I say.. GO FOR IT.

If it’s just nice photos you’re after, then consider the equipment out there that are smaller, cheaper and do a pretty good job too. Like the Micro Four-Thirds cameras. I’m thinking of getting one for myself too.

Disclaimer: The above are solely my views and mine only. No one paid me or pissed me off to say any of it. And before you start flaming me, remember this – I AM A HOUSEWIFE. I am allowed to be ignorant. Get over it. Heehee.. I love this tune when it works for me.
 

 

44 Comments

  1. Thanks Housewife’s advice!

    That’s why I am still thinking and really still thinking after thinking for 2 over years to get a DSLR.

    But I am really keen to learn how to use Photoshop now so that I can put all my pictures taken over the past 2 years for my Yvette into a photobook for keepsakes.

  2. hahaha, thank you for such useful advices….I really should think about it…

    I’m thinking that if I am the most recent reason to make you write this blog? hahahahaha…..but, really appreciate it!!! :)

  3. Thanks for that! I fall under the category of HOUSEWIFE too. But my sister’s DSLR is way lighter than my not so compact camera. I think it’s just this model. The Panasonic’s equivalent to mine also weighs lighter.

  4. Hi Bing,

    I am totally agree with you views above.
    By the way, you are not just a housewife, but a beautiful housewife!

  5. Haha from one housewife to another, i got to say that getting a DSLR was one of the best purchases I’ve made. I’m no expert either but it’s so fun learning how to get better shots of the kids all the time and the results with a prime lens can never be achieved with my canon pns. I’m a total sucker too but I’m so loving my new toy and the husband is going to kill me for all the lenses I’m planning to get.

  6. @ Sunflower – When I bought my Macbook Pro, the first thing I had installed was Adobe Suite. Photoshop is my most important tool! =p

    @ Jing – Don’t worry, it’s definitely not you! =)

    @ Ros – Are you using a Canon compact camera? I find Canon cams to be heavier.

    @ Stephanie – Thanks Stephanie. You are too kind! =)

    @ Daphne – Hahaa.. we are in the same club. Give the Canon 85mm f/1.2 a try! It’s the perfect prime lens to shoot children, coz you don’t have to stand too close to them. And you get clean, tack sharp shots. Even in low light!

    • Woah I’ve heard a lot of good things about the 85mm 1.2 but I will have to sell off one of my babies to afford an L lens, which would be counterproductive. Although I was toying with the idea of getting the cheaper 85mm 1.8. And that should be one of the points for NOT getting a DSLR – major lens obsession.

  7. housewife who takes great photos!

    well written. These days everyone thinks DSLRs produce miracles. I gave up on mine after using them since 2003 coz somehow i feel shy to be seen with one now. lol. okay i confess i still got a white pentax k-x for my lensbabies but that’s all. Prefer to be with compact n smaller cams.

  8. Thanks for this personal review. I used to think those chunky cameras shoot better pictures. Many of my friends spent a bomb on them.

    I think I will stick to my NIHON Coolpix L16. Just aim and shoot and this i is all I know how.

  9. LOVE YOUR POST! especially this part: “I AM A HOUSEWIFE. I am allowed to be ignorant” hahahahahaha yeah what u have mentioned is valid for most people, but i still love my dslr :D

  10. i don’t know how to use my DSLR but it definitely takes better pic than my conv camera. also, great for taking my baby’s pics. baby moves too quickly, conv camera can’t work.

  11. @ Daphne – the 85mm f1.8 is greeeeat too! But we all know that the only time we ever see “magic” is with L lenses. Hee! Slippery slope we are on!

    @ ndroo – I’m planning to invest in a pro-compact or a micro four-thirds to complement my DSLR system too. Sometimes it’s just not possible to lug my giant gun around. Hahaa..

    @ Magnolia – those chunky cameras DO shoot better pictures, once we’ve learnt to use it! =)

    @ ladyironchef – wow.. THE man himself is reading my blog! Hope you’re doing ok. Be strong! I love my DSLR system too!

    @ Dee – A DSLR can definitely take better shots than a conv compact. The purpose of my post is to remind new buyers to buy with careful thought of their needs and the commitment that is required, both financially and time to learn the camera. I keep telling people to look at Canon G11, Panasonic GF1 and Olympus E-P1. These cams have shutter speed controls & are good for taking shots of kids. They do a nice job at a fraction of the cost and size! Half the functions in a conventional DSLR are not utilised by a layman, why pay so much for it?

    But since you have a DSLR already and a kid.. may I tempt you to look at Prime lenses? Heehee.. they take amazing portrait shots – http://www.storyofbing.com/?p=3457

    I know, I am bad influence.

    • Yeah … a m43 cam is definitely more handy most of the time. I ended up with an E-P1 and an E-PL1. Haha. Friends keep telling me that they ain’t no match for a DSLR … ermm … but I don’t care. :D

      • Hahaa.. you’ll have to convince them that they ain’t no match for YOU! The photographer is the most important! Hahaa…

        • Hahaha! Nah. I’m not into comparing with others. As a matter of fact … I don’t really care. LOL. I am happy with what I shoot … be it with a digital or an analogue toy cam.

  12. You discourage everyone from buying DSLR, the business die lor.. Hahaa… So how now, I shouldn’t buy ah?

    • No lah.. with the serious photography enthusiasts, I talk different.. I tell them to buy buy buy! Then I can borrow. Hahahhaa! You are so good with cams.. of course you should invest in a DSLR system! Make sure it’s Canon hor. ;)

  13. I totally agree with what you said.

    I used to think that having a DSLR camera means to be able to take good pictures. GOD! I am so wrong! I lose confidence in photography after using the DSLR. It seems like I am back to square one.

    I switched back to using my auto digital cameras because I can take better pix with them. And if I need to use auto mode with a DSLR at all times, I rather not use it.

    Now I tell my friends to think carefully before investing in a DSLR. Buy in a spur of the moment will bring regrets. A DSLR is not for just anybody.

    • Sorry to hear that.. have u considered taking some photography lessons? Don’t let a DSLR go to waste!

  14. Hi there :)

    I totally enjoy reading this article. It’s very true indeed… I’ve friends who jump straight to buying a DSLR without knowing how to really use all its functions and their pictures do not turn out as fantastic as expected. Needless to say, having a good camera is good but more importantly, one needs to know how to use it and has an idea of a picture composition.

    As much as i love taking pictures, I’m proud to say im a compact digital camera user and will probably be one till I find some time to learn more about DSLR and photography. Love your blog, babe.

    • Thanks Steph. You’re right.. I am learning every day on how to use the camera well!

  15. Those are really good points. Although I have been tempted before but that would only come when I have time to go more in depth into photography. The weight of DSLR is always a major concern.

    As for now, my LX3 is serving me fine.

  16. As a newbie in photography world, I admit that this article is so true. Many times I think that my compact camera is more convenient and practical than my DSLR. But, I bring both of them, eventually. :)

    • That’s having the best of both worlds! Hahaa..

  17. Bing, your blog inspires me to invest in a Dslr :)
    And now you are saying Dslr “maybe” not so ideal for newbies haha?

    Seriously, photographer comes first. If his expectations are unrealistic, even a dslr will fail. I am not ashamed to admit I still use “auto”, but even then, my “standard” has improved significantly(my own benchmark).

  18. your photos inspire me! been following you for awhile now..

    hehe i shld really photoshop more but am not sure which version to get yet. some help please? :p

    • Thanks Michelle! I use Photoshop CS4 and like it very much. Version CS5 is out already. If you’re new to it, try their tutorials and get some books from the library to help u along. It’s fun!

  19. Thx for the review, after consideration, I bought a Sony NEX, easier to use and less bulky.

    like your blog!

    • Thanks Xian! Glad you found what works for you! =)

  20. Well written article.

    I have friends who ask me ALL the time: “Dude, I feel like getting a DSLR can you tell me one to buy?”

    My next line is always the same “What do you want it for?”

    If the answer is anything other than something along the line of “oh cuz I wanna learn more about photography”, I usually tell them to buy Compacts first. Of course they can choose to ignore my advice and invest but my conscience is clear at least.

    As for you, can I recommend you have a look at the Panasonic GH2? Its a REALLY fun camera to use yet it gives me the results I want all the time; even my girlfriend has a blast using it. If you still find the GH2 clunky, then the GF2/PENs will do the trick. M43 iLCs will be here to stay for a long time.

  21. I kinda don’t agree with the article, although I understand your point of view…

    It’s in practically every hobby/investment or creative outlet that it’s the amount of practice that will get you where you want to be (or at least as close as you can). An expensive car does not make you a better driver, a private pool does not make you a better swimmer. In fact, it’s mostly the opposite (e.g. a fast car makes you a worse driver, and a pool makes you lazy- since you will start using it less and less…).

    New aspiring photo-enthousiasts need to stop and think before they shoot, and therefor only point 4 holds value. Those outstanding WOW shots are made by people that have thought through their story before they took the shot. It takes time to make good photos, just as it takes time to become an athlete, lose weight properly or just to ‘become better in whatever you like to do’.

    So instead of just blaming the dslr, try to be creative with the solutions for the ‘shortcomings’ of learning to shoot with dslr.
    1, The secondhand market is booming (since there are a lot of people giving up after they’ve made an investment:). A dslr can cost as little as $200,-. Nothing fancy, but it’ll do the trick. add a 2nd hand 50mm 1.8 and for under $300,- you’ll have a great starter set.
    2, Sure it takes time, like everything does… Still, all dslrs have light meters. The ‘aperture/shutter/iso story takes 15 minutes to learn and a week to repeat. Then it’s in your head forever:) and you’ll be able to shoot manual.
    3, I admit, in a woman’s perspective, it doesn’t quite fit the common handbag. But same here, it’s all about choices: What are you going to do? Going out for drinks, or take those amazing photo’s?
    4, This is where it all comes down to:) Think before you shoot…
    5, Plenty of quality shots receive zero post prod. And there are easier (free) alternatives like iPhoto, Picasa and Ubuntu gimp

    So I’m not bashing your article in any way, but I strongly feel there’s a different side to this story. Through fast (social) media we are so easily convinced of other peoples ‘talent’ that we are finding it harder and harder to walk the extra mile ourselves. This is what you need to focus on in order to become better at what(ever) you do…

    Greetings from Holland

    • Hey Tom!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I hear your point of view and completely agree that we have to walk the extra mile to be good at what we do.

      The trigger for this post was because so many people around me were spending thousands of dollars.. no no, no 2nd hand for first timer Asian DSLR users.. on equipment and not making an effort to use it or just simply shooting in Full Auto and then whining about how their pictures suck. And then they proceed to buy the next more expensive camera.

      This post is a reminder to people who want to invest in DSLRs to think again before making that commitment, because it’s not just a financial commitment but a whole attitude and lifestyle commitment. Which unfortunately many don’t realise before it’s too late.

      There are many people who invested in a DSLR because they honestly wanted to learn photography and take it to a higher level. But there are also many people who invest in one thinking that just because the equipment is professional, their photos will be too. Even children in Singapore have DSLRs these days. I’m not kidding you. =)

      Cheers
      Bing

  22. micro4/3 is the way to go to get quality pix in a more compact size!:)

    • But micro 4/3 cameras don’t have a proper viewfinder. =(

  23. I wish I saw this post before I bought my DSLR! >.< photography is my hobby and I got good feedbacks from my friends and family. When I asked my debut photographer what camera brand I should buy, he suggested to buy a DSLR (either canon or nikon)! surely, it took me a lot of time to realize the maintenance, the equipment, the cost! :(( Honestly, I use automatic when I feel lazy.

    I thought of giving up, but when I see my DSLR, I would be like, "WTH, I wasted my allowance and savings for this! I even sold my things for this! I might as well go all the way!"

    So, right now, I'm taking photography classes, and saving for a new lens.

    Bing, thank you for the post. I could still relate. haha. My feeling right now is like what you've posted in "Everyone should have a blog". When I bought a camera, I committed to use it well and its functions. Since I started it, then I should commit to it. :)

    • I’m glad you’ve decided to take the hobby seriously! Otherwise all your equipment would go to waste. =p Enjoy your gear! =)

  24. I actually agree with this! :O I own a 7D and its reallllyyyy heavy :( and it took me a while to learn how to use it. good post!

  25. I thought about getting DSLR for more than 10 years… I’m still without one but have over the past ten years, invested “hobby money” in a bunch of other pursuits.. crochet, cake decoration, Blythe, bear making… and so on. I have found my latest calling … painting. I use others’ great shots to draw! For those profile pics and special moments, I’ll just use my iPhone. Not great shots but the best memories are best kept in the heart, ya? ;) thx for inspiring! keep writing babe!

  26. I heartily agree with your views on DSLRs. They are marvellous, indeed the best, but complicated to use, expensive, and bulky.

    I am one of those who think, however, that compact cameras have limitations. These needn’t be a problem – it depends what kind of photography you want to do. But for people like me, who don’t want to go all the way to a DSLR but want a little more than a compact, there is an intermediate solution : I am the happy user of a “bridge” camera.

    Congratulations on a lively and entertaining blog.

    PS : I like the photo at the top of the page – reminds me a bit of the most famous ( probably ) self-portrait photograph of all
    http://lemagazine.jeudepaume.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/andreas-feininger2.jpg

  27. I totally agree with you Bing. I have several in-laws with DSLR and when I try and have an intelligent conversation about particular setting they used on a photo I get the standard response. “I don’t know I just put on auto pic and took the pictures. Don’t buy a DSLR if you are not willing to learn shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. It’s a waste of your money and your pics will never look that good.

  28. I totally agree with u. I own a canon 1100d and i am still getting the hang of it. What i always put in mind is that when there is too much light, i increase the aperture speed. If its too dark, lower the aperture speed instead. I have so much to learn and this is a great info!

    • I mean the shutter speed :)

  29. sticking to my smartphone camera then! :)

  30. What an amazing article and comments, feedback and suggestion. Past 3-4 years I have been thinking about buying DSLR but end-up with PnS last year and half, but now its working properly as early it was, sometimes it drives me very crazy when movement is there to shoot and malfunctioning. I was in a dilemma that which one to buy? but friends ask so many times why you need it and what you going to do without knowing anything about photography.

    Thought of will give try in PnS and work around with this and later move to DSLR. I am denying I took really nice shoots when it is new and good but now you cant believe how hard it is.

    I have made my decision to go for DSLR now and take some classes and explore myself.

    I am not a professional photographer but wants to take really nice portraits, landscapes, family movements, animals pics and all.

    @ Bing / All – It would be really great if you suggest me or educate me on this DSLR word to learn.

    Appreciate your comments and valuable suggestions.

    BR

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