One of the most common questions I am asked as a photographer, apart from “Can ye take ma picture big man?”. Is “I’m thinking of buying a DSLR, which one should I get?”. Before jumping in a spending hundreds of pounds on a fancy new toy, you have to ask yourself, are you going to actually learn how to use it in manual or are you going to just switch it to auto and fire away?. If the answer is yes, then you should stick with your compact camera. You would be amazed as to what even the cheap cameras are capable of.
My own one which is a Nikon Cool pix S3300 and cost £100, has around 24 pre set settings which lets you do almost anything a DSLR can do. For example it has a night portrait setting that lets you take a picture which has a longer exposure to capture background detail. Where this comes in handy is if you were taking a picture of someone with a sunset in the background. The normal auto mode will use the flash to light your subject and you will have a black or dark background with nothing to say there is a sunset. With the night portrait mode set it will use flash to capture your subject as well as giving you a longer exposure to capture the detail of the sunset, so you will end up with a correctly exposed subject and background.
A similar setting is the night landscape mode, which would come in useful for taking pictures of fireworks for example. The auto mode will give you a black picture which will be underexposed as there wont be enough light. The night landscape mode will give you a longer exposure and you will capture all the fireworks and surrounding area.
It also has a macro mode which lets you take extreme close up pictures. Eyeballs and close up of flowers is where this would come in useful If you had a DSLR you would have to buy an expensive macro lens to get the same effect.
The only area where compacts let you down is in picture and lens quality as well as if you are taking pictures of moving subjects like sport or kids running around. As compacts are slow and take a few seconds to focus and work out the exposure. I’m sure you all have experienced the delay when you press the button and a few seconds later it takes the picture.
If you are going to take the jump, try and buy the most up to date camera your budget will allow. Even the mid to lower range cameras now have better picture quality than the top of the range pro models from a few years ago. A great way to learn tips is from magazines. I buy loads, even the amateur ones. With the instant results you get from digital cameras, you will learn very fast.