5 On Your Side

SLR Cameras Cost More, but Offer More to User

Posted June 25, 2007 6:37 p.m. EDT

— Does anyone still use a film camera? It seems like most picture-takers have gone digital.

Some digital point-and-shoot models have some irritating idiosyncrasies, though. Single-lens reflex cameras are an alternative to consider.

Industry experts predict 25 million digital cameras will be sold in the U.S. this year, and many will be single-lens reflex (SLR) models. They are the kind that allow you to change lenses, and they are a lot more versatile than point-and-shoot models.

SLRs can be kind of intimidating, but Consumer Reports says the high-performance digital cameras are getting smaller, lighter and less expensive.

For pictures of children on the move, Linda Harrison uses an SLR.

"Took a long time to get me to go to the digital camera with a big lens, but I'm very happy I did," Harrison said.

Consumer Reports says SLRs solve a lot of problems that people run into with point-and-shoot cameras.

“One of the obvious differences between point-and-shoots and SLRs is the delay between pressing the button and the shutter opening. But with an SLR, it's much quicker," the magazine’s Elias Arias said.

Owners of point-and-shoot cameras complained to Consumer Reports that distant objects are often dark, even with a flash. SLRs don't have that problem.

Another drawback with point-and-shoots, particularly older ones, is running out of power. That's not a problem with SLRs, either.

While SLRs are more complicated, Consumer Reports says they provide more flexibility and versatility — like being able to use different-sized lenses. However, that means you have more things to think about when deciding which one to buy.

“When you buy an SLR, you're not just buying a camera. You're also buying a family of lenses which you'll be wedded to for years to come," Arias said.

Consumer Reports says one of the best entry-level SLRs is the Nikon D40.

It got a very good rating for the quality of pictures it takes and an excellent rating for how easy it is to use. And, at $560, it's hundreds less than most SLRs.

Nikon just came out with a new, higher-resolution version of the D40, the D40-x. Consumer Reports is testing the new camera now and says its in-camera retouching feature shows real promise.