DSLR, action or compact – what to use

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Photography is most of all a soft skill. It’s about seeing a scene and framing that scene in a way where it can tell the story the photographer sees. Without this soft skill photos will be of scared people in harsh light and the scenes will lack colors and content.

I do not see the soft skill as a natural born skill though, it is defensively something that can be learnt through trial and error. For new and aspiring photographers today there is also great help to be had from technology. Gone are the days when the tools a photographer bought was specialized in one area that had to be learnt from scratch to be able to use. Today technology is an on-board teacher that is always holding ones hand.

Looking at what technology can give us I want to share how I see camera bodies, regardless of lenses, that I see a usage for in my own photography.

The DSLR, also known as the work horse

My DSLR (Nikon D7100) is the main tool in my bag. It’s used for portraits, scenes, parties, travel and just about everything. I have a few specialized lenses for different shots but I always need to bring a bag for my gear.

The bag of gear is what makes the DSLR a tactical power house. But it also put a restraint on where I can go use it for. For hiking, it’s not always possible to have ten to fifteen kilograms of gear on your back.

Output from this power house will be files that you can print in large format as posters. It’s often more pixels in the files that you can use to crop photos in post production if needed.

The action camera, small and nimble

For sport, running, geocaching or at the beach with my family I have a small action camera. Nikon AW110 is the camera I use.

The AW110 is both shock- and water proof. On top of this it’s quite cheap. All this makes it a good tool to just throw into a bag and go. No need to be afraid of getting water on it or in other ways destroying the camera. It was made to survive much more then what I will throw at it.

The action camera usually output jpgs. These can be printed in normal picture sizes but likely not as large prints.

Premium compact for everything else

The third type of camera I want to point at is the premium compacts. Some manufactures call them enthusiast cameras, other premium compacts. What defines them are a bigger sensor and fast lenses then we’re used to for point and shoots.

These cameras exist to always be in your pocket or bag. They are the DSLR in a smaller package.

At many occasions your surroundings just do not approve of a large DSLR. To get a large lens pointed straight at you can seem intimidating or intrusive. Social gatherings, parties or street photography are examples of such occations.

Here, the premium compact will output good picture quality in a small package. Not as good as the full DSLR but much higher then what a regular point and shoot would deliver.

Output from the premium compacts is often raw format files, just as with the DSLR. You can print some photos in larger formats but posters might still be a stretch.


There you have it. Three camera types with technology that can hold your hand, strengthening your photography.

To get a great shot is never about the gear you use but what you see and want to capture. Still, if technology can be used as a teacher we should listen to it!

Published by

Martin Karlsson

I am a hobby photographer always trying to improve my technique!

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