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01/11/2002 - Editorial: Digital SLRs or Digital Compacts?

Film cameras have been around for over 150 years. Digital cameras have been round for a lot less time! It was only until recently that digital cameras have begun to rival film cameras. Still however, the resolution of most digital cameras is still a lot less than that of film (roughly 10 megapixels, but obviously with film you have grain rather than pixels. In terms of quality per pound, film is still king!

I have always been a fan of digital cameras, and this summer I purchased a Nikon Coolpix 5000. Boasting a 5 megapixel sensor, you can print out large prints, without any noticeable pixellation. However, I have noticed that the edges are not as clean as with a film SLR, (which is technically known as chromatic aberration). This is mainly due to the lens itself. Also it does not instantly take photos, you have to wait about a second. This is fine for landscapes but is quite irritating when taking live action shots of moving objects. In addition there is no optical viewfinder, linked to the lens, so you need to use the battery draining LCD. As such, you have to turn it off after use, and powering up takes a few seconds (by which time you lose the shot). But in all fairness all other digital compacts face these problems.

ABOVE Canon D60, looks like an ordinary SLR from the front

ABOVE Canon D60, from the back, with an LCD

Digital SLR cameras are still very expensive. Recently I had an opportunity to use one (thanks to my Photographers' Society), a Canon D60. I only used it for a few minutes, so I could not really do a full review, but if you're listening Canon and Nikon, I'm open to a loaned digital SLR to do a proper comparison. Inspite of this I managed to take a few shots, both with the Canon D60 and my Nikon Coolpix 5000. The D60 has a 6 megapixel sensor, but the photos are far more film-like than the Coolpix, especially when viewed at 100% size (which would mean printing out at around A3 size or larger). The extra detail is not only down to the extra 1 megapixel, but also because you can use a proper SLR lens on it, made of very good quality glass.

ABOVE 2 pound coin taken with D60, notice how film-like the photo is.

ABOVE 2 pound coin taken with Nikon, looks very much like a video camera was used!

Being a proper SLR, the D60 has an optical viewfinder. Because of the SLRs work, the LCD can only be used for viewing photos that have already been taken. In any case I prefer using optical viewfinders. Also this means that you can leave on the D60 for a long time, and take a photos, without constantly powering the camera down. According to Canon's website you can take 600 photos on one battery charge (presumably if you do not use the LCD too much).