Even if you're a novice photographer, experts say you can quickly learn to capture better photos with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera than with a point-and-shoot model. Here's why:
DSLRs do have their drawbacks: They're bigger, heavier and usually more expensive than point-and-shoot cameras. A good beginner DSLR starts at about $500, while entry-pro DSLRs cost about $2,000 and up. Mirrorless cameras are a different breed altogether; they have interchangeable lenses like a DSLR but are small enough to fit into a jacket pocket. These cameras are faster than DSLRs and have electronic viewfinders.
Even the most dedicated photographers don't always carry a bulky DSLR everywhere, so you may still want a smaller digital camera for backup. For the best picks, see our separate reports on:
Digital cameras, including pocket point-and-shooters and small interchangeable-lens cameras.
Cheap digital cameras, good cameras for less than $250
Ultra-zoom digital cameras, pocket cams with built-in long-zoom lenses.
We're spoiled for choice with many highly credible review sources for DSLR cameras, including DPReview.com, Imaging-Resource.com and PhotographyBlog.com. To find the best DSLRs, experts shoot hundreds of photos, then scrutinize them with magnifying glasses and computers. Sharp details and lifelike colors earn the highest marks, but cameras also get points for being fast and easy to handle. Owner reviews are essential, too, because they reveal which cameras hold up best in real-life use. Contributors to Amazon.com are often passionate in sharing the pros and cons of their cameras, giving detailed accounts of their experiences.