If you have been confused trying to decide between a DSLR and a hybrid, you are reading the right article. It looks like hybrids are here to stay, given their recent rise on popularity and more manufacturers catering to this niche segment of cameras. We’ve put down a few points you may want to consider, if you are feeling torn between buying a DSLR or a hybrid.
1. Size and Weight
Hybrid models are definitely more portable than DSLRs, and this is one of their key advantages. They do not house the mirror mechanism found in digital SLRs, and hence no optical viewfinder. This allows for the makers to make hybrid models much smaller and lighter compared to their SLRs. For example the Canon G11 is no larger than most high end compact models. However, with a lens attached to the camera-body, the difference between a hybrid and an SLR body lessens to quite an extent. But at the end of the day they are still smaller and lighter than DSLRs, while they are bigger and heavier than compacts with in-built lenses. Needless to say, the size of a camera body defines its ease of use and handling to a great extent. It is good to see a range of hybrid models on the market, with a variety of body designs. If you are an existing DSLR user looking for a back up hybrid body, you could definitely find something similar in design as far as the body goes. Similarly, if you are a compact user looking to upgrade to a hybrid, chances are you will easily find something that sits comfortably in your hands. Finally, a smaller camera body is always easier to carry around, and you could find yourself carrying your hybrid in situations you wouldn’t want to be bagged down with the weight of a heavy camera.
2. Camera Functions
As a DSLR user you may be accustomed to seeing tons of specifications in the camera manual, and if you are the kind of person who likes the professional control that some of those specifications can give, you will be pleasantly surprised to see similar specifications on a hybrid. Do you enjoy manual focus on your lenses? This is something you may find a little bothersome with some hybrid lenses which offer you electronic options alone. The focus system on a hybrid is built very differently from a DSLR simply because of the smaller housing. DSLRs use the phase detection technology while hybrids use the contrast detection route familiar to compacts. This slows down the AF capabilities to quite a large extent. At the same time we ought to mention that in the short time span since hybrids have been around, their capabilities and functionality have vastly improved, and we can expect faster cameras with every year.
3. The View Finder
If you are considering a hybrid, do remember you could miss your viewfinder if you have been a DSLR user. On the other hand if you are upgrading from a compact you wouldn’t really be bothered by this. While electronic view finders of today are of extremely high quality, it just isn’t the same as optical. Say for example you are panning your camera – the feed would no doubt become jerky as the hybrid tries to keep up with the motion. We would probably soon see improvements with electronic viewfinders, but I believe they’ll never be able to replace an optical arrangement. You could get yourself an optical viewfinder that fits into the camera hot shoe, but then this reduces the capabilities of the camera in the sense that you no longer have the flash option.
4. The Camera System
When you are looking to buy a new camera body, you will probably want to stay dedicated to a manufacturer if you already have a few of their lenses. Here you may be at a disadvantage with hybrids since they have all-new lens mounts, which could mean investing additionally into dedicated lenses. However, you can also get lens adapters which enable you to use different older lenses with a hybrid. At times this may mean that you lose the AF options, but I believe that wouldn’t bother you in most typical scenarios. In fact Olympus provides adapters for their own range of older lenses, and this is a welcome thing to see. But then again you need to consider the combined size and weight of the camera body, a lens adapter and an older lens, which would in all probability be heavier than a modern lens. But, at the end of the day, yes, it IS possible to use older lenses with a new hybrid provided you can get your hands on the right lens adapter mount. More over, full-frame DSLRs already have an excellent system of lenses and accessories built around them, and that’s something that hybrid model users would have to wait for years to see, if at all
5. Image Quality
Image quality calls for a good lens, and a good sensor. Since hybrids use very similar sensors or even the same sensors as DSLRs, this should not discourage you from selecting a hybrid model even if you are an existing DSLR user. We can expect to see even higher quality from micro cameras, as their popularity continues to grow and camera makers dedicate more time and research into hybrids. However, while image quality from a hybrid could be comparable to APS-C sensors, they just cannot hold their own when set up in comparison to a full frame sensor. But then, neither can an APS-C or four-thirds DSLR. In other words, hybrids can come close to entry level DSLRs, but nothing can beat the image quality of a full-frame model.
6. Build Quality
Digital SLRS, specially the full-frame high end models have excellent build quality and are built to last for a long time. While most hybrids are built thoughtfully and are nothing to complain about, the general feel and robust qualities are not a patch on a professional SLR such as the Nikon D3 series.