Previously I've explained why I think that SLRs are the best cameras for parent photographers, but here I've provided you with more info on how they stack up against other camera types...
DSLRs vs Basic Compact (point and shoot) Cameras
Basic compact cameras have one big advantage over DSLRs: they are small and lightweight, and can easily be slipped into a bag or coat pocket. Basic compacts are far cheaper than DSLRs, starting from around £50, although don’t expect brilliant image quality from their teeny weeny sensors and lenses from the lower-priced models, particularly in low light. Compact camera have built-in lenses, so you’re stuck with whatever style and magnification your compact provides. Most offer an optical zoom which allows you to magnify the scene in front of you up to as much as 30 times. Generally, basic compacts offer little in the way of manual control, so if you’re interested in creative exploration they are not the best choice. But if you want a camera that does everything for you in the simplest possible way, and you’re not so concerned with getting the best possible image quality, then they may be worth looking at.
They tend to suffer from shutter lag, meaning you will have to wait up to a whole second after pressing the button for the camera to take the photo. So don’t expect to be able to capture spontaneous or fast-moving action particularly effectively.
Where Basic compacts win:
Portability, low-cost, ease of use.
Where DSLRs win:
Superior image quality, better dynamic range, no shutter lag, faster autofocus, better low light performance, manual and semi-manual control, interchangeable lenses,
DSLRs vs Enthusiast Compact Cameras
Like basic compacts, enthusiast compacts are small and lightweight making them easy to carry around. As they are aimed at enthusiasts who are interested in making creative decisions in their photography, they offer much more in the way of manual control, allowing you to change settings such as shutter speed and aperture yourself. Although they have larger sensors than the basic compacts, you have to go right to the top of the range to match the image quality you will get from a DSLR, so they can actually be a far more expensive option like-for-like than a consumer DSLR. Although enthusiast compacts are faster at focussing and usually suffer less from shutter lag than basic point-and-shoots, they are still pretty sluggish when compared to DSLRs.
Where Enthusiast compacts win:
Where DSLRs win:
Superior image quality (unless you spend upwards of £600 on a compact), less shutter lag, faster autofocus, better low light performance, interchangeable lenses.
DSLRs vs Superzooms / Bridge Cameras
These cameras were designed to ‘bridge’ the gap from a compact to a DSLR. They look a bit like a small DSLR and have an integral zoom lens offering a considerable level of magnification, and an electronic viewfinder. They may look like DSLRs, but their sensors are smaller, so the image quality they offer is more in line with what you would expect from a compact. Their small sensors, combined with their not particularly fast lenses, add up to poor low light performance. Their main advantage over a DSLR is their incredible zoom ability, offering between 20 and 50 x magnification (levels that simply would not be possible on a DSLR). So they are popular with sports and nature photographers, less useful if you’re photographing children. They typically have a sluggish autofocus and suffer from shutter lag. They are not that much cheaper than an entry-level DSLR, and I think offer far fewer benefits to the parent photographer.
Where Superzooms/Bridge cameras win:
Portability, lens magnification, slightly lower cost
Where DSLRs win:
Superior image quality, no shutter lag, faster autofocus, better low light performance, interchangeable lenses, better battery life, optical viewfinder, less prone to camera shake.
DSLRs vs Compact System Cameras (CSCs)
(also known as Mirrorless Interchangeable Cameras, or Micro Four Thirds Cameras)
This is where it gets really interesting. Compact System Cameras (CSCs) are the new camera type causing a bit of a storm in the photographic world. Hailed as the camera that will replace the DSLR, they offer amazing image quality on a par with a DSLR (often using the same type and size of sensor) but in a much more compact and portable body (sounds exciting, right?). CSCs are smaller than DSLRs because the manufacturers have removed the bulky mirror boxes and prisms you find in a DSLR. Some CSCs have electronic viewfinders (which replace the optical viewfinders on a DSLR) while others just have an LCD panel on the back of the camera. They have interchangeable lenses and full manual override of all the settings, much the same as in a DSLR. As wonderful as this all may sound, they do have some worrying downsides over DSLRs as far as parent photographers are concerned. Their autofocus systems differ from those found on DSLRs, and most models are unable to track moving objects well, particularly when the object is moving towards and away from the camera (I’m thinking fidgety child). They also tend to struggle to focus well in lower light, which if you like shooting in natural light indoors with active children, this is a real show-stopper. They are brilliant for landscape photographers who are under no pressure to focus on fast-moving objects in lower light, but less suitable for parents photographing wriggly children indoors. My take on CSCs are they are definitely ones to watch. Technology is changing and improving all the time, and in a year or two when the manufacturers have worked out clever ways to improve the focussing systems, these could be a real viable alternative to the DSLR for photographing children. But until then, I firmly believe that the DSLR is a safer choice for parents. Despite the fact they are cheaper to make (less mechanical parts) an entry-level CSC is currently about the same price to buy as an entry-level DSLR.
Where Compact System Cameras (CSCs) win:
Where DSLRs win:
Faster and more accurate autofocus, better battery life, optical viewfinder