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Some people say you can’t take good pictures without a DSLR camera. They’re absolutely, unequivocally wrong. To say that everyone needs a DSLR is like saying everyone needs a gaming PC, everyone needs a Macbook Pro, or everyone needs a muscle car. It’s simply untrue and disingenuous 8 Camera Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately 8 Camera Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately Let's clear up some of the strongly held and often completely misleading beliefs when it comes to compact cameras and DSLRs. Read More .

The truth is that way too many people waste money on DSLRs that they’ll never fully take advantage of. If the only reason why you’re buying one is because someone told you to, take a step back and reconsider. Maybe you do need one, but chances are you don’t.

But with so many camera types available today 8 Tips You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Digital Camera 8 Tips You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Digital Camera Regardless of what you have been told, there is no such thing as a "do-it-all" camera. If there was a "do-it-all" camera, competition in the industry would suffer, seedy patents would be made, one company... Read More , it can be tough knowing which one is the right one for you. Fear not, however, because we’re here to help you make that decision with as little stress and confusion as possible.

Smartphone Cameras

Photography has never been as prolific as it is today, and we can thank whoever decided to equip mobile phones with cameras for that. A lot of photographers look down on smartphone cameras, but here’s the reality: smartphone cameras are deceptively good 6 Reasons Your Smartphone is the Best Camera You Own 6 Reasons Your Smartphone is the Best Camera You Own It might not be a digital SLR, but your smartphone is punching well above its weight when it comes to photography. The next time you go out, leave your old point and shoot at home. Read More , especially for beginners.

The Pros

The absolute best thing about smartphone cameras is that we already carry our smartphones with us everywhere we go — and that means we always have a camera to use. Don’t underestimate this 5 Nuggets of Smartphone Photography Wisdom To Live By 5 Nuggets of Smartphone Photography Wisdom To Live By When it comes to smartphone photography, we try to cover a bit of everything here at MakeUseOf. Sometimes though, among the sea of apps and accessories, social networks and hashtags, the essence photography can get... Read More ! A $3,000 DSLR is useless if you don’t have it on you when you need to take a picture.

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And because we already know how to operate our smartphones, the learning curve for operating a smartphone camera is incredible shallow. This is partly due to the fact that smartphone cameras are somewhat gutted in features, but still, an easy learning curve is something to be cherished in photography.

The maximum potential of a smartphone may fall way short of the maximum potential of a decked-out DSLR, but modern smartphone cameras aren’t bad by any means. In fact, they’re quite advanced, plus you don’t need great image quality for things like learning how to compose a photograph How to Compose a Photograph: 5 Essential Rules to Follow How to Compose a Photograph: 5 Essential Rules to Follow If you want to get really good at photography, there are some vital rules around image composition that you should consider. Here are five of the most important. Read More .

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Lastly, smartphones are surprisingly flexible thanks to apps and accessories. The Creative Cloud apps Should You Download Adobe's Creative Cloud Android Apps? Should You Download Adobe's Creative Cloud Android Apps? Watch us put Adobe's four Creative Cloud Android apps -- Capture, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator -- to the test. Read More are a good example of software-side effects, while smartphone lens attachments Super Zoom & Lens Tips for Your Smartphone Super Zoom & Lens Tips for Your Smartphone While our smartphones are equipped with better cameras than ever before, we're still stuck with the same digital zoom technology that's been around for years. That's because there's no fixing digital zoom - it's permanently... Read More show how much you can do through accessories alone. Not to mention how easy it is to share and upload photos right from your device.

So if you have a good smartphone camera and you’re happy with it, you probably don’t need a DSLR 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a DSLR Camera This Christmas 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a DSLR Camera This Christmas Read More . However, if you reach a point where your smartphone simply can’t produce the images you want, then it may be time to upgrade.

The Cons

All of the above being said, don’t deceive yourself into thinking that a smartphone is a valid replacement for a DSLR. That’s not what we’re trying to say, as it’s undeniable that smartphone cameras have many flaws.

The lack of an interchangeable lens system is a big one. Yes, there are lens attachments that can do things like fisheye distortion, but you’ll never see a 400mm high-powered zoom attachment with optical stability.

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Smartphones also don’t have hot shoe mounts. These mounts are mainly used for external flash units, but also for electronic viewfinders and shotgun microphones. This means if you need a flash, you’re stuck using the built-in one, and that’s the worst way to use a flash in photography.

And for most people, taking pictures with a smartphone is awkward at best. They’re great for selfies and candid shots, but if you want to do anything more serious than that, smartphones are bottom of the barrel (even with grip attachments that are meant to alleviate this issue).

So while you can definitely take excellent photos with a smartphone Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone Smartphone and mobile photography are becoming increasingly popular. And no wonder. Every year, mobile and smartphone cameras get better and better, until many people don’t feel the need to carry real cameras around anymore. While... Read More , and while you can certainly make money with smartphone photography How to Make Money from Your Smartphone Photography How to Make Money from Your Smartphone Photography Thanks to the sheer number of apps and stock photography sites, selling your photos for some extra cash is easier than ever before. Read More , you really shouldn’t rely on a smartphone for anything more than casual or hobbyist photos. Trying to “go pro” with a smartphone camera is just asking for headaches and disappointment.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

The term “point and shoot” camera doesn’t have a strict definition, and sometimes people use it to refer to different things, so here’s how we’re using it: a compact camera that doesn’t have an interchangeable lens system or a manual operation mode.

The Pros

Point-and-shoot cameras have one huge point in their favor: an easy learning curve. They’re designed for people who have little or no photography experience, and so the camera tries to automate as many aspects as it can so the shooter doesn’t have to worry about anything.

Their compact size is also great for portability. Not as portable as smartphones, of course, but still small enough that they can be tucked away inside pockets and purses. Again, this is a big deal because a camera is only useful if you have it on you when you actually need it.

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Most point-and-shoots have fixed apertures, but some of the more advanced models come with extra features like variable apertures, digital superzooms, cutting-edge autofocus How Does Autofocus Actually Work? How Does Autofocus Actually Work? Autofocus is a feature of modern cameras that's easy to take for granted, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself how it works? How does your smartphone do it so easily? Read More , and special flash units. However, if you really need these, a DSLR might be a better choice.

Lastly, price. Point-and-shoots are pretty much as cheap as you can go 6 Best Point-and-Shoot Cameras: Style, Features or Optics 6 Best Point-and-Shoot Cameras: Style, Features or Optics Some people may want the most stylish camera, others may want superior zoom, and some may be on a strict budget. Don't worry, we have you covered. Read More without dipping into disposable territory. You can get a feature-packed model for under $150, and even if you aim for something more advanced, you probably won’t be spending more than $300. In the world of cameras, that’s dirt cheap.

The Cons

Because they’re designed for people who don’t care to study photography, point-and-shoots don’t leave much room for growth. If you like automatic mode, that’s fine, but if you want to take control of your shots, a point-and-shoot will feel quite limited.

For example, the fixed lens is a big restriction. One thing that makes photography really fun is the ability to play around with all kinds of different lenses 5 Common Photo Lenses & When To Use Them 5 Common Photo Lenses & When To Use Them Though there's no photographic rulebook when it comes to focal length and aperture, there are a few best practices to remember. Read More : wide angle, telephoto, macro, etc. Each lens produces a unique image, and you can’t get that kind of variety with the average point-and-shoot.

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The images produced by a point-and-shoot are often worse than equivalent images produced by mirrorless and DSLR cameras because point-and-shoots have inferior sensors. An inferior sensor means less sensitivity to light, and that means less clarity and more noise.

Also, point-and-shoots don’t feel as good in your hands. They’re usually made from cheaper materials and they look like something only an amateur would use. Maybe you don’t care about these things, which is great if you don’t, but they can be enthusiasm killers for some people.

Mirrorless Cameras

Newbies often cock their heads when they first hear about mirrorless cameras — “Wait, cameras have mirrors?!” — but don’t let the name perplex you. Just think of them as compact DSLRs. (Obviously it’s not that simple, but it’s accurate enough as a generalization.)

The Pros

Mirrorless cameras do away with the mirrors inside DSLRs that allow photographers to look through the viewfinder and see what the lens sees. Since this mirror is the main reason why DSLR bodies are so bulky, mirrorless cameras can be made much smaller.

And because the mirrors are gone, so too are the viewfinders. Instead, mirrorless cameras display what they “see” in real-time using an LCD screen on the back of the body — and unlike with a viewfinder, the LCD screen shows what the final image will actually look like.

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Like DSLRs, mirrorless cameras have an interchangeable lens system that lets you snap-on and snap-off different lenses Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses: What's the Difference? Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses: What's the Difference? After graduating from a kit lens, you’ll need to decide between a prime lens and a zoom lens. But what exactly is the difference? Which one is better for you? Read More . Depending on the brand and model, you may even be able to use the same exact lenses between a mirrorless and a DSLR. (Or you may need an adapter, as is the case for the Canon EOS M3).

Unlike point-and-shoots, mirrorless cameras are meant for people who are more serious. You can still use auto mode, but you’ll also get aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual modes for more control. They also have hotshoe mounts, which come in handy when you need speedlight flash units 5 Flash Tips for Speedlight Newbies 5 Flash Tips for Speedlight Newbies At its core, the camera flash is a simple piece of technology that's deceptively hard to use well. Read More and other such accessories.

All in all, mirrorless cameras are kind of like a hybrid between DSLRs and point-and-shoots: compact and great for travel, yet advanced enough that you’ll have a lot of room for creative expression and artistic freedom.

The Cons

While the compactness of a mirrorless camera is great for portability and travel, some photographers complain that they’re actually too small and don’t fit comfortably in the hand. It really depends on how big your own hands are, but it’s something to keep in mind.

The image quality of a mirrorless camera is slightly worse than what you’d get with an equivalent DSLR. Autofocus is also noticeably slower than on a DSLR, which can be immensely frustrating when you want to take a lot of photos.

There are other points to consider, such as the aforementioned possible need for a lens mount adapter. Battery life on a mirrorless is also far worse than a DSLR due to the always-on LCD screen. One charge may last you a few hundred shots rather than a few thousand.

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As far as price, mirrorless cameras bridge the gap between point-and-shoots and DSLRs (as you might’ve already guessed), placing them on par with entry-level DSLR cameras The Best Entry-Level DSLRs For New Photographers The Best Entry-Level DSLRs For New Photographers If you want to take your photography skills to the next level, or you know someone else who does, then there's no better way than to enter the world of DSLR cameras. Read More . Look to spend anywhere from $300 (as for this Olympus PEN E-PL6) up to $550 (as for this Sony Alpha a6000). More if you include kit lenses.

And if you care about how the camera feels in your hand, just know that a mirrorless feels more like a point-and-shoot than it does a DSLR — or in other words, it doesn’t feel very “professional” even though you can certainly take professional-quality photos with one.

DSLR Cameras

You’ll need a DSLR if you want people to think you’re a professional. There’s something inherently impressive about these chunky cameras, and even though they are quite powerful, they also have a few drawbacks that may dissuade you from purchasing one.

The Pros

Among all digital camera options, DSLRs offer the best image quality bar none. They’re available in cropped-frame and full-frame sensors, but regardless of which one you have, the results will typically be sharper and have better contrast than what you get with non-DSLR cameras.

Like mirrorless cameras, DSLRs have an interchangeable lens system, but because DSLRs have been around much longer than mirrorless cameras, they have a wider variety of lenses available. (You can adapt a DSLR lens onto a mirrorless body, but you may lose image quality.)

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DSLRs also have the fastest autofocus mechanisms of digital cameras today. For motion-sensitive photography — such as sports or wildlife — this is an indispensable benefit. We’re talking about the difference between a few seconds vs. a fraction of one second to focus, and that could be all that matters.

What’s nice about DSLRs is that there aren’t any bad ones on the market. You might buy one with features you don’t need, or you might buy one that lacks a specific feature, but it’s pretty much impossible to buy one that flat-out sucks. In that sense, DSLRs are a safe buy.

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Plus, DSLRs are slow to depreciate in value because they hold up well even after years of use Why You Should Never Buy a New DSLR Camera (And Always Buy a Used One) Why You Should Never Buy a New DSLR Camera (And Always Buy a Used One) Here's why DSLR camera bodies and camera lenses should always be bought used -- especially if you're a newbie shopping for your first entry-level DSLR or a hobbyist replacing your first model. Read More . This means that DSLRs are “buy it for life” purchases, and if you decide that you don’t want it anymore, you can resell it without losing much money (which is one way you can save money when buying DSLRs 5 Money-Saving Tips You Should Know Before Buying a DSLR 5 Money-Saving Tips You Should Know Before Buying a DSLR Here are some helpful tips for making photography a more financially-manageable activity. Read More ).

Higher-end DSLRs are also great if you ever intend to record and produce quality videos How to Learn Video Production for Free Online How to Learn Video Production for Free Online Want to learn how to edit and produce videos? The Internet has a wealth of free information and here are some of the better resources to get you started! Read More , such as for short films or a YouTube channel.

The Cons

The biggest issue with DSLRs is that they have a lot of technical complexity, and that translates into a steep learning curve. With so many buttons and menus and features, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. That’s one reason why so many newbie photographers quit soon after they start.

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Another big issue is the size and weight of most DSLRs: they’re big and bulky. Even if you get yourself a nice camera bag, it can be a pain having to carry your gear around everywhere you go. (Not just the camera, but also alternate lenses, battery packs, flash units, cables, etc.)

And don’t forget that DSLRs are one of the most frequently stolen devices on the planet. Sure, it’s fun to walk around the city and take wild and crazy photos, but if you let your guard down for one second, you might find that someone has stolen thousands of dollars of your gear.

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Which highlights yet another drawback to DSLRs: they’re freaking expensive. A good DSLR body on its own can cost anywhere from $500 (as for this Nikon D5200) up to several thousand dollars (as for this Nikon D4s). Lenses can cost anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars as well.

Lastly, DSLRs require proper maintenance if you want them to last. The constant changing of lenses makes them prone to dust, dirt, and even mold, so you’ll have to clean them regularly. Also, don’t forget about proper battery management in DSLRs 10 Mistakes That Are Draining Your DSLR Camera Battery Life 10 Mistakes That Are Draining Your DSLR Camera Battery Life Tired of a short-lasting camera battery? It might be that you're making a few costly mistakes. Here are a few tips for squeezing more juice out of your DSLR battery life. Read More .

Which Camera Is Right for You?

Hopefully we’ve helped clear up the differences between the various kinds of digital cameras. Want to take pictures everywhere you go but only for fun? Stick with your smartphone or point-and-shoot. The others may just frustrate you.

On the other hand, if you want to pursue professional photography as a career 5 Most Lucrative Careers for a Budding Photographer 5 Most Lucrative Careers for a Budding Photographer Want to make money with photography? There are a lot of potential career paths before you. Here are a few considerations to help you make the right choice. Read More , then you should really invest in a proper DSLR (and maybe keep a mirrorless on hand as a portable backup). Just make sure you know the risks of a photography business 4 Hard Truths About Professional Photography (And Solutions) 4 Hard Truths About Professional Photography (And Solutions) Do you want to start making money with your photography skills? Here are a handful of important considerations to make before taking that leap. Truth is, photography ain't easy. Read More before you quit your day job!

One final note: a photographer’s skill is not determined by his or her gear! No matter what camera you have, keep doing exercises to sharpen your skills 7 Skill-Building Photography Exercises That Really Work 7 Skill-Building Photography Exercises That Really Work There are lots of exercises that can help "develop your photographic eye". Here are the most effective ones that we've found. Read More . For free knowledge, check out these YouTube channels for photographers Learning Photography: 5 YouTube Channels to Become a Pro Learning Photography: 5 YouTube Channels to Become a Pro There are hundreds of channels dedicated to photography lessons. The good ones are buried in the noise. We picked five of the best for you. Read More . If you’re willing to pay, check out these awesome Lynda.com courses for photographers How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with Lynda.com How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with Lynda.com Lynda.com is great for online learning. Of the 546 photography courses available, here are some of the best ones for sharpening your skills in just a few hours. Read More .

So, what kind of camera is right for you? Which camera is currently your favorite? Got any gear advice for newbies and hobbyists? Share with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Smartphone Close-Up by welcomia via Shutterstock, Smartphone Concert by bogdanhoda via Shutterstock, DSLR Lenses by Petr Svoboda via Shutterstock, DSLR Traveler by jaboo2foto via Shutterstock

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