Mark J

DSLR vs Tablet

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I am thinking of buying myself an early Christmas present--well everything I buy me all year long is an early Christmas present, and at this point I'm probably already out to Christmas 2142.  I was thinking of buying myself a DSLR, but as I considered my needs and interests I was wondering if I wouldn't be better off with a tablet, so what's the herd's view on this?

Now I do not subscribe to the idea that tablets/phones are just as good as SLR's and I don't like using a touch screen, particularly for a shutter button, but for my needs a tablet is a consideration.  My photography goals are pretty much still life/product photography taken in a light diffusing photo tent.  Now the corollary law to buy once cry once is buy now for later, but my children are out of the house and I stopped taking family photos years and years ago, when we travel I have no interest in lugging a camera and related gear around with me.  If that scenic view is so memorable I'll remember it; if not I won't remember that I forgot it.  So I don't foresee more advanced photography needs in the future and if an occasion were to arise it might be just as easy to cart around a tablet as a camera.

For this type of work I do want controls for things like white balance and ASA, but I want those controls to be easy to access and operate.  I don't want to have to use a viewfinder for this work, it's too awkward.  Moreover, I don't want to have to try to make out the scene on a tiny screen, so if an SLR I'd want to port the preview image to laptop.  And if I'm going to do that, then why not a tablet?  

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I think you've just analyzed yourself into a hole. :-)

I'd be curious if you could hook up a DSLR direct to a TV or something to see the image in real time.   Maybe with a cable, but man if you could do that wirelessly that'd be awesome.   I have a Sony DSLR but it's like 10 years old and while it still takes good photos all the technologies have changed and I have no clue what they do today.

I don't think a tablet would be good for taking such photos of still life in a light box as you couldn't easily stick it on a tripod.

But we have several tablets, and I like them for other things besides photos.   :-)

 

 

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As far as I know, the cameras on high end phones are better than those on tablets. They are indeed very good, and for what your needs, I'd just use the phone camera. Where a DSLR excels is in conditions that are not ideal, like poor lighting, fast action, or where a wide range of focal lengths is needed. 

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Photo quality difference between DSLR and phone/tablet is drastic. Phone cameras have gotten “pretty good” but they still don’t compete. That being said, phone quality might be “good enough” for you. What is your end use for these photos? 

I think an entry level DSLR would serve you better than a phone or tablet. You’d have more control over the settings and can change your focal length. 
 

As mentioned above, and as far as I’ve seen, cameras on phones are far ahead of tablets. Some apps give you control over ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, but you are still stuck with a 6mm focal length (or something crazy like that) and a tiny sensor. 
 

The other issue I have with phone/tablet cameras is that they do a lot of software voodoo to the image behind the scenes (more than shooting in JPG on a DSLR). Some apps let you shoot in a raw format, but I am not sure those are actually able to avoid all of the processing. This might not matter for your use though. 

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At the low end I am looking for pictures to post on line.  At the high end probably around around 7 to 10 megapixels, sharp focus, white balance and ability to meter off of highlights or lowlights as needed.  These would be for submissions to juried competitions or to send to someone who wanted a close look.  I want to clearly see what I'm getting before I click the shutter, so I liked the idea of the large screen of a tablet (and conversely not that thrilled with using a phone).  Is it possible to port the preview image from a DSLR to a laptop so you can more easily compose the big picture before you take it?  

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1 hour ago, JohnG said:

Photo quality difference between DSLR and phone/tablet is drastic.

When photo taking conditions are good, the difference is there, but it's certainly not drastic. Not anymore. Especially if you're not doing great huge print sizes. At 5 x 7 (& even 8 x 10) print size, there are few people that could tell the difference.

Many high end phone cameras are capable of taking raw pics, and raw means you have access to the photo with no processing at all. And some now have optical zoom (yay!!)

Again, it's when you're dealing with low light, fast motion, hard to focus subjects, far zoom, that type of thing that the real camera does way better.

I'm speaking as a DSLR guy.

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A phone cannot possibly outdo what I do on a DSLR. However, I am outdoors, in low light, chasing wildlife at a distance. You have to ask yourself what it is you want to photograph, how far off it is, and how much control you have to move closer or farther to compose a shot. 

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I agree with the comments above that phone/tablet cameras don’t compare to DSLR the problem I have is my very nice DSLR never leaves my desk drawer which is unfortunate. I really wish I would have had it in DC but I’m so used to using my iPhone it never crossed my mind until I was there.

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2 hours ago, Tpt life said:

A phone cannot possibly outdo what I do on a DSLR.

 

52 minutes ago, pkinneb said:

I agree with the comments above that phone/tablet cameras don’t compare to DSLR

Just to be clear guys, I'm not saying that a phone is just a notch below a DSLR. But in so many situations, a good phone camera is definitely good enough. It is astounding how good they have gotten. 

 

6 hours ago, Mark J said:

 My photography goals are pretty much still life/product photography taken in a light diffusing photo tent.

This is just the kind of thing where a good phone camera will do a great job.

57 minutes ago, pkinneb said:

the problem I have is my very nice DSLR never leaves my desk drawer which is unfortunate.

As they say, the very best camera is the one you have with you.

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I’ll concede to that. In ideal conditions the latest phone cameras are pretty good. It sounds like Mark will indeed have ideal conditions. One of the better phone/tablet cameras may well be good enough.

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My phone is 3 years old, but shoots 16 megapixel images, uses raw and jpeg formats, and offers manual controls.

But for real photography, the lenses make all the difference. My son's Nikon B300 (technically a point & shoot) offers wifi or bluetooth connection to a phone, tablet or PC, which allows remote control / view and remote storage. Plenty of options to pick from....

The B300 shot the two pics that I composited into this:

ReverieCoverArt.thumb.jpeg.85a8363925dc40ac051ea0be3031d350.jpeg

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Don’t forget to look at craigslist for used DSLRs. Lots of people are just using their phones and selling perfectly fine older ones for cheap.  You should be able to preview your photos on another screen. I used to do it with a Nikon D40 that came out around 2008. 

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I've taken on a second hobby/interest as mainly an outdoor writer and photographer. I have a Nikon SX530 HS that is about six years old. It has many more capabilities than a tablet which I also have. When I started,  I plowed through the manual which is downloaded on my laptop. I'm amazed at what I can do with it. Still look at the manual for details. I also was told to shoot at the highest resolution possible for publication.

Go with a good DSLR camera. Mine doesn't have interchangeable lenses but I can go to up to 50X or macro. Diopters make macro even better. I was at a writer's conference in October and I watched some of the people use different lenses for different shots. Be aware that specialized lenses can cost more than the camera. Good luck!

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DSLR hands down for 1 reason and 1 reason alone, a flash. Doing any shooting inside or outside for that matter having a good flash is the difference between a crummy picture and a good picture. Cameras are all about light. I'll post 2 pictures below 1 from a camera phone in my well lit shop and one with a 10 year old camera and a flash. Because they are both uploaded here they will be downsized to the same resolution so image clarity doesn't even come into play here.

18 hours ago, drzaius said:

When photo taking conditions are good, the difference is there, but it's certainly not drastic.

The trouble is ideal conditions for a phone is under direct sunlight. The sensors are so small they just can't get any light. Below is shot in my shop which i have 8 6,000 lumen lights and i struggle getting enough light.

1130190950.thumb.jpg.a950e0718ac24b81beed239653897e53.jpg

DSC_3828-01.thumb.jpeg.a5a2ef38f89319f1cb60edddbf0db2b0.jpeg

One is a 10 year old DSLR the other is a 3 month old flagship smart phone that has some of the best camera tech a phone can have.

Can you tell the difference?

Get a DSLR get a flash. Personally I'd not bother with the external monitors and would just use live view/the rear screen. That said most cameras have some sort of Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to see what the camera sees and take pictures from a phone or tablet. It's finicky at times but does work. Shop refurbished or even used.

I'd be getting this
https://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/refurbished-dslr-cameras/d3400-refurbished.html

Or
https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/cameras/eos-dslr-and-mirrorless-interchangeable-lens-cameras#facet:&productBeginIndex:0&orderBy:11&pageView:grid&pageSize:&

or

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1029860-REG/sony_ilce6000l_b_alpha_a6000_mirrorless_digital.html

With a shoe mounted flash.

Find a good spot to place the camera in you shop. For me that's right next to what ever I'm working on.

1130191009.thumb.jpg.7a094559a2752ced47006f8ca3e45ac8.jpg

If you want i can pull out my 20 year old DSLR and show you how it'll kick the crap out of my camera phone as well. There is no competition period.

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Thank you to everyone for these valuable comments.  You know, just an aside, this really is a great forum.  

I appreciate that some of the comments are also directed at a wider audience and not just my question.  I used to do a lot of photography; I had a DSLR with I think three lenses, flash, filters and so on, but I sold that stuff maybe 5 years back.  Personally, I'm not looking now to do photography, I don't discount that it is an appealing hobby that might appeal to me again in the future, but I'm a woodworker and some days that hobby will suck up 8 hours, so I'm not looking for another interest right now.  

Photography in this application is how I communicate what I've done.  And like any other form of communication what gets conveyed is going to depend on how well you "speak".  But like applying finishes, photography to me is an annoying task at the end of a long project that I am not that excited about doing.  (Although with surface coatings you do have that added thrill that with one misstep you can still turn the entire piece to crap).  

So just like my choices for surface coatings I'm looking for a photographic process that's as simple and foolproof as possible, hence some of my "requests".  I was surprised by the advice, as I thought for sure people would direct me to the tablet.  But I think strong arguments have been made for a DSLR, and I'll add a couple of my own, a polarizing filter for glare and ring manual focus.  And there will be some photographs in the shop of what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. 

Presently I'm using a camera about the size of cigarette pack.  It has a lot of features that are packed into obscure menus and retrieved by pressing very tiny buttons in an arcane sequence.  So a regular point and shoot.  It has a screen viewfinder but for the finale photos this is a bit small to see what you're really getting, particularly as the camera is usually at belly button height.  The camera is tripod mounted and the subject is sitting inside a diffusing tent of white fabric and illuminated by one or two lamps with daylight bulbs.  So I have pretty reasonable control over the lighting.  In the shop photo's are another issue.  

In an ideal world I'd have the preview image large on a laptop screen somewhere convenient to see.  The image would be white balanced and metered.  I would be able to remotely trigger the camera from the laptop.   And the picture once taken would be immediately stored on the laptop.  I guess I'll look for a DSLR and see if anything like these features exist.   

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Amazon says that I bought this in 2016.  I use it all the time for taking puppy pictures, and pictures in old houses that have no light, etc.   It's a game changer, even more than a flash.

https://www.amazon.com/Dimmable-Digital-Camcorder-Panasonic-Samsung/dp/B004TJ6JH6/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=led+camera+light&qid=1575139240&sr=8-4

There are many variations.   I bought this cheap one, just to see if it was worth having, and haven't needed a better one.

We used a D40 for some years before purchasing our current D5300.

edited to add:   Google found plenty of how-to's for just what you want to do, and it looks like it's not even complicated.

We have that light on a handle that stays connected to the camera, and also a nice little SB-400 flash with diffuser.  It does a really good job, even catching Black puppies, which are the hardest subject to expose right, especially when they are moving.

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3 hours ago, Mark J said:

I guess I'll look for a DSLR and see if anything like these features exist.  

Yes that feature does exist from all major brands. Nikon is called snapbridge I don't know the name for the other ones but short and sweet yes it exists.

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Lightroom has “tethered” mode for supported cameras. Capture One is another tethered shooting software. Canon also has their own utility for Canon cameras and I’m sure all major brands have their own utility for doing this. They generally allow you to see the “live view” of the camera, change camera settings from your computer, save to computer immediately, and some also allow you to apply a preset of adjustments automatically as you shoot. 
 

You may even be able to do this for some point-and-shoot cameras but I still think you should be looking at entry level DSLRs. 
 

 

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7 hours ago, Chestnut said:

DSLR hands down for 1 reason and 1 reason alone, a flash. Doing any shooting inside or outside for that matter having a good flash is the difference between a crummy picture and a good picture. Cameras are all about light. I'll post 2 pictures below 1 from a camera phone in my well lit shop and one with a 10 year old camera and a flash. Because they are both uploaded here they will be downsized to the same resolution so image clarity doesn't even come into play here.

The trouble is ideal conditions for a phone is under direct sunlight. The sensors are so small they just can't get any light. Below is shot in my shop which i have 8 6,000 lumen lights and i struggle getting enough light.

If you want i can pull out my 20 year old DSLR and show you how it'll kick the crap out of my camera phone as well. There is no competition period.

Good grief! You'd think I said bad things about Festool for cryin' out loud. Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not claiming that a phone camera is as good, or almost as good as a DSLR. In Mark's original post he said that he mainly wanted to take product pics in a light tent. That's about as close to ideal conditions as you'll ever get. 

Who cares about flash if your using a light tent. With it you can light up the subject just how you want it to look & take the pic. What you see is what you get. No need for a flash at all.

So for that kind of use, and his desire for convenience, a phone camera would be a fine choice. If he chooses to get a DSLR, that would be a fine choice too.

 

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1 hour ago, drzaius said:

Good grief! You'd think I said bad things about Festool for cryin' out loud. Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not claiming that a phone camera is as good, or almost as good as a DSLR. In Mark's original post he said that he mainly wanted to take product pics in a light tent. That's about as close to ideal conditions as you'll ever get. 

Who cares about flash if your using a light tent. With it you can light up the subject just how you want it to look & take the pic. What you see is what you get. No need for a flash at all.

So for that kind of use, and his desire for convenience, a phone camera would be a fine choice. If he chooses to get a DSLR, that would be a fine choice too.

 

YIKES! Settle down i missed that part. :P

Light is everything if you have lighting down then yes it doesn't matter. The point i was trying to make is it takes a metric F ton of light to satisfy those ity bity sensors.

Here with controlled like i can make the same but opposite argument.

 

1130191945.jpg

DSC_3833.NEF.jpg

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A tablet or phone camera that supports manual exposure timing can mitigate the lighting issues Drew mentions, to some degree. My phone allows up to 30 seconds of exposure, which in turn allows me to shoot full color landscapes in starlight as if they were an overcast day. Most phone apps don't give you that much exposure time, though. And Drew is correct that smaller sensors collect less light. My LG phone happens to have a 1/2.6" sensor, slightly larger than the 3/8" sensors found in the digital security cams I use at work. The LG also has an f1.8 lens, as opposed to the f2.2 lens found in many phone cameras.

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After reading and pondering, if you need a tablet...get a tablet. If you want clean product photography, grab a camera. Mid level mirror-less with focus peaking really favor the hobbiest shooting stills. What you gain is ease of use. You can shoot stills with a tablet, but there is the potential for the workflow to be frustrating and off-putting. Touching the screen to slide faders takes some of that concrete dependence away from you. When I go to shoot birds, I have settings that vary from camera to camera, but are reliably dependable shot for shot on that camera in various settings. I shoot a fair amount on a phone and also carry a camera most places. The phone will get good stills, but I prefer to use the camera where I can. I am on a generations old semi-pro DSLR. The useful settings are at my fingertips. That is what makes the process enjoyable for me. YMMV. 

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