Most consumers can now purchase a reasonably good and reliable digital camera for an affordable price. Within the past decade, however, even the most complicated and advanced of the digital cameras have become remarkably affordable as well. Consider the many “prosumer” cameras and DSLRs (digital single lens reflex) varieties now available; these used to be priced in the thousands of dollars, but now few come close to such costs. This is due to the advances in production and technology that make more sensitive and durable equipment readily available as well as to the competitiveness in the market.
There are some obvious and fundamental differences between the more basic of the “point and shoot” models and the DSLRs, but none are more obvious than their sensors. The sensors are where the image is recorded into the camera’s memory. The sensor is made of millions of tiny pixels which the camera translates into a recording of the scene to which the camera was exposed. This is the same process that happened with old-fashioned photographic film, but is now achieved entirely via electronic processes instead.
Modern point and shoot cameras use very small sensors in comparison to the DSLRs. Though the smaller sensors work remarkably well, the size of the DSLR sensors allows them to gather much more data and light per pixel. This means that the camera’s computer is better able to interpret the information which all translates to a superior and more accurate final image.
One good way to compare the differences between DSLR and point and shoot sensors is to look at “noise”. This is a common phenomenon with digital photography, and is basically the occasions when a photograph has off color dots or pixels in areas where there should be a single, solid color. This happens when the sensor is unable to translate the brightness (or darkness) coming in from the scene and the information becomes jumbled. Basically, this is something that occurs with far less frequency when a DSLR and its enormous sensor are used to record even complicated scenes.
Additionally, when a camera user places their equipment into a manual, rather than an automatic mode, they might often create scenarios in which the point and shoot sensor cannot accurately interpret the information because it is not getting adequate light. This too causes noise and results in unsatisfactory photographs.
Generally, the major difference between the sensors of DSLRs and point and shoot cameras is that the larger sensors produce the cleaner and more accurate results that are well-worth the investment.