Aol.|Mail|Click here to return to

Buy this, not that!

6 reasons you probably don't need a DSLR

So you're all packed for your vacation, and have everything taken care of except for the camera. Sure, you've got one on your phone, and you may even have a point-and-shoot model. But for those priceless vacation snaps, maybe it's worth splurging on a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. Then again, maybe not. Flickr's Camera finder, which ranks the cameras used to send pictures to the popular photo sharing site, is dominated by smartphones, with various iPhone models controlling the top three slots on the list. The top-ranked DSLR, Canon's high-end EOS 5D Mark II, comes in fourth. Can millions of Flickr members be wrong?

Here are some reasons you may be better off skipping a DSLR -- and at least one reason you might just want to get one after all.

1. You'll never use all those fancy settings

One of the benefits of buying a DSLR is the flexibility the camera gives in control. You can quickly adjust the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focus manually. However, in a survey they did last November, Sony found that about 2/3 of users never took their camera out of automatic mode. This means you're effectively using your DSLR the same way you would your smartphone or point-and-shoot.

2. You can get similar photo quality in a compact camera

At one point, a DSLR was what you bought if you wanted to capture the highest-quality photos, but with todays cameras you can get comparable quality with a high-end point-and-shoot. Cameras like the Sony RX–100, Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX7, and Fuji FinePix X20 are all highly rated by gdgt for their superior photo quality in a point-and-shoot size. These models even offer much of the flexibility and control that your DSLR gives, right down to a twisting lens mechanism for navigating menus.

3. DSLRs are big and bulky

Canon's entry level DSLR, the Rebel T5i, is 5.24-inches wide, 3.11-inches deep, and 3.94-inches tall without a lens. Meanwhile, Sony's compact DSC-RX100 comes in at just 4-inches wide, 1.41-inches deep and just 2.29-inches tall. While it's on the big side for your pocket, you can still comfortably toss it into your bag or purse. Take a look at at his comparison of the dimensions for three smartphones known for solid photo quality, the Rebel T5i, and RX100.

No matter how you look at it, a DSLR will just not fit in your pocket. In fact a DSLR with the standard kit lens, 18–55mm, could probably have trouble fitting a backpack or purse comfortably.

4. Sharing photos is a pain

Why do iPhones rule Flickr? It's simple: Like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+, the service is increasingly focused on helping you share your moments -- quickly and easily. Even though cameras equipped with WiFi are becoming more popular, you still need to be near a WiFi hotspot to quickly share your latest food adventure or sunset. This is so much easier with a smartphone, since they're always connected to the internet. Just snap a pic, apply some of your favorite filters, click the share button, and you're done.

5. DSLRs are expensive

Even at the entry-level end of things, a DSLR is costly for what you're getting. You may be getting a lens and camera for under $650, but you'll quickly find out those kit lenses are limited. This means you'll need to buy a new lens, which isn't cheap. If you're looking to upgrade the standard zoom lens it's going to cost around $500 for something decent; a telephoto or wide-angle lens will cost you even more. In the end you may find yourself spending upwards of $1000 just to use your camera in full-auto mode. For a little over half that price, you can get the best compact camera on the market, Sony's DSC-RX100. Oh yeah, remember the point above about size? Now picture carrying around a bag for your new camera gear.

6. You can go mirrorless and get most of the benefits of a DSLR, without the weight

If you still decide that you want something more flexible than your phone or a point-and-shoot, you may want to consider a mirrorless compact. These models are usually far smaller than you're standard DSLR but still give you the flexibility of using different lens, or even a hotshoe for external flash support. A camera like the Sony alpha NEX–5R is a current Must-have at gdgt, so if you decide to go the mirrorless route definitely check this one out.

Of course, there are still some very good reasons to consider a DSLR: If you want the fastest focusing and shooting performance, they're still hard to beat, which could be important if you take lots of pictures of sports, wildlife, or fast-moving children. And higher-end DSLRs have unsurpassed low-light performance, making them useful if you want to take pictures indoors or at night without using a flash. But before you pony up $1,000 or more for one, weigh the points above, and think about whether those benefits outweigh the cost, weight, bulk, and lack of connectivity.

Photo: Marcel030NL