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Canon s95 v. DSLR
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David Passey
(davidpassey) - F

Locale: New York City
Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/10/2011 11:32:47 MDT Print View

I'm a camera/photography newbie, having viewed photographs as a afterthought for many years.

But this site has inspired me to do a better job recording my trips. With that in mind, I'm considering a high end point and shoot, such as the Canon s95. Everything I've read indicates that for landscape shooting a camera like the s95 is just as good as a DSLR ("it's not the camera, it's the photographer" is a common refrain.) But I'm suspicious of that advice.

I'm very impressed with the photography in the recent Iceland trip report posted on this site. Those photos were taken with a DSLR. For those of you more expert than me, could the same person, standing in the same places at the same times have taken the same photos with a Canon s95 instead?

If not, I'm curious to know the source of the difference, or perhaps be directed to good material to educate myself further.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/10/2011 12:13:49 MDT Print View

Hi David,

A couple things to consider when comparing are lens choice and imager size. High-end compacts like the S95 et al have chips roughly between a quarter and an eighth the size of a dslr/mirrorless system body. This puts them at a disadvantage WRT noise and high-iso performance. There are also depth-of-field and diffraction limits that creep in--these may not be an issue, depending on the photographer's goals.

Because compacts are fixed-lens cameras, you're limited to working within lens design parameters and performance strengths and weaknesses. The best compacts all have good lenses; some have excellent lenses, and they all have limitations. Some of these limitations are dealt with via software in tbe camera, but if shooting RAW you'll need to address such issues as barrel distortion in post processing.

DSLRs are the Swiss Army knives of photography, but SAKs as made by the GM Truck division. For wildlife or action sports, they're generallly the only option, as they offer the needed lenses and speed.

Carving a mid ground are high end, big chip compacts--the Leica X1, Fuji X100 and Sigma DP1&2. These can deliver the goods at a small form factor, but you're limited to a prime lens. I'll also give a nod and wave to the price-is-no-object Leica M9 and goofy Ricoh GXR system. All of these options are much smaller than a dslr counterpart--all will match dslrs within their niche and some will outperform them.

Output: For large wall-size prints and high-end publishing the largest chip possible is important, whatever the camera format. For Web stuff, it makes much less difference.

Mirrorless system cameras are where the market is headed, as dslr sales flatten. These systems are young and today only Oly-Panny have a reasonably broad lens selection. But the next year will see the field considerably fleshed out with new bodies and lots of lenses. As that happens there will be little reason for a lightweight backpacker to lug an slr.

Despite the chip-envy the best half-dozen quality compacts are brilliant picture-taking machines, and I'd be happy to carry any of them (I do have my preferences). It ultimately depends on the desired outcome and yes, who's carrying the camera will always make a huge difference.



Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/10/2011 20:36:21 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/18/2015 04:00:47 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/12/2011 18:10:22 MDT Print View

could the same person, standing in the same places at the same times have taken the same photos with a Canon s95 instead?


The reason is that apart from image quality (the amount of detail that a full frame sensor gives compared to the small s95 sensor and the resolution provided by the pro lenses) several shots were taken at focal lengths and or shutter speeds and apertures not available in a compact camera like the s95.
For example one was taken at 300mm F4, another at 800 of a sec at 230mm, another one at F1.4 on 35mm.
Some of the action shot also need to have an instant reaction time to get the subject in the right spot. Of course you could crop but then quality suffers even more.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Lenses matter on 06/12/2011 21:44:45 MDT Print View

There is a large difference between the quality and flexibility you will get from a dSLR or a 4/3rds camera and a a S95. That isn't to say you cannot produce outstanding shots with a compact; people have produced thousands of great shots on compacts.

What I would suggest is that the physical limitations of sensors and of the lens does have an effect on the overall aesthetic and technical quality of the photo. Or else people wouldn't invest in higher end camera gear. You could argue rather persuasively that if you want really great landscapes, large format photography produces the best results, because of the availability of movements and precision calibration available to the photographer. But yet, I see a TON of great work done on 35mm, far better than I could ever hope to achieve as I am not a very good photographer (yes, the person handling the tool does matter).

But that much said, the good thing about landscape photographer with even a low-end DSLR or a 4/3rds outfit, is that they are quite capable. There are plenty of good lens choices, some of them downright affordable, particularly if you purchase lenses that's aren't pushing the extremes in aperture. (i.e. a "fast" lens that can control a very shallow depth of field)...

The downside with most 4/3rds cameras and dSLRs is that the super wide angle lenses are expensive. This is made worse by the fact that the sensor sizes (with the exception of full frames), generally changes things a bit - on a 4/3rds camera you double the focal lengh. Thus a 14mm wide frame on a 4/3rds would be come 28mm equivalent to a full frame 35mm camera.

As Franco and Rick point out, there are compelling reasons to pick a better camera if photography is your passion. However, and this is crucial to this discussion, the camera that remains in your backpack is worthless. The camera that is used will capture photographs and thus has value. If you are recording images from a journey, I would say that a compact is a great tool. I've carried the full dSLR with me (and a couple of lenses) and I found I didn't use it much because it involved taking off my pack and unloading it. The compact, while nowhere near as fully functional, is used often, because I slip in in and out of my pocket. Ulimately my goal was hiking rather than photography - and thus, I stuck with the compact for now. But I am very interested in a Olympus first generation PEN because they are so inexpensive and can be manually focused with old prime lenses.

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F

small camera on 06/13/2011 13:52:02 MDT Print View

I have a full frame DSLR with high end glass... guess what - i'm not hauling any of it. That stuff weights as much as the rest of the gear, takes up a ton of space, makes me paranoid about damaging or someone stealing it.

So for me S95 or other compact all the way. Unless you are making a living from selling pictures...

David Passey
(davidpassey) - F

Locale: New York City
Re: Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/13/2011 14:36:36 MDT Print View

Thanks, everyone. This is helpful info.

I plan on hiking 15 miles/day or so, and have a hard timing seeing myself unpacking a camera everytime I want to take a shot.

I'm interested in a DSLR or 4/3 camera. But, for those of you who use these cameras, how to go about snapping pics? Do you unpack the camera everytime? Do you carry it around your neck?

Will Webster
Carrying a DSLR on 06/13/2011 14:50:50 MDT Print View

There have been a lot of threads on the question of how to carry a DSLR while backpacking.

When I take a DSLR, I use a Think Tank DH20 "Digital Holster" case. I hang the case from the pack straps with quick release buckles and run a light strap with a quick release from a bottom corner of the case to the base of the packstrap on that side to prevent swinging. It doesn't interfere with my foot placement and the camera is protected but very quick to deploy.

Richard Bolt
(richardbolt) - F

Locale: California
Re: Re: Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/13/2011 14:52:33 MDT Print View

In my experience, if the camera isn't ready for a shot then the shot gets missed; so I hike with the camera around my neck, or in a pouch on my front, so it is always ready. :-)

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
carrying a dslr on 06/13/2011 16:23:11 MDT Print View

What Richard said. I don't have a lot of experience carrying a dslr while backpacking, however it should be accessible for on the go shooting on the trail otherwise its easy to get lazy and leave it inside.

Fwiw, I picked up an inexpensive Lowepro AW compact dslr toploading case for my Nikon, its small enough to not get in the way while hiking- I use 2 tiny nite-ize carabiners to attach it to the d-rings on my shoulder straps, its hardly felt while hiking with a pack as it sits on my chest squarely. Its a top loading style case, so the camera deploys quickly, shots are taken, then it goes right back in with no effort or fuss. I also carry a very small padded roll top drybag that clips onto the outside of my pack, inside this bag is my extra battery, lens hood, extra lens, and cleaning kit. You don't need all that of course, just what I happened to need last time I was out.

If you do pick up a small tripod for landscape shots, I recommend picking up a quick release plate of some sort, threading and un-threading the camera for tripod shots is tedious. Rookie mistake on my part.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Carrying a DSLR on 06/13/2011 19:06:59 MDT Print View

My Panasonic GF1 fits easily in a small waist pack worn in front.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Re: Canon s95 v. DSLR on 06/13/2011 21:01:21 MDT Print View

scroll down about 6-8 posts for a brief discussion on carrying techniques