The one in the middle is EVIL. Photo by nokton
I use a compact camera, a Canon S90. I have always used pocket-sized cams. Professional photographers generally use DSLRs, or digital single lens reflexes. These are big cameras with big sensors that take great photos, fast. They are, however, big and heavy and require a man-bag if not a duffel. Their size forces you to be a ‘professional photographer’ all the time rather than someone who just happens to take pictures.
I was playing with one last week, however, and there are serious advantages. For one, they shoot fast. I could look at something and capture the image instantly. On my compact I have to track moving stuff and shoot a second before I think the action will be. This usually fails. Hence I’m much more comfortable taking pictures of stationary stuff, like candles or glasses of liquid. DSLRs also have interchangeable lenses, including zoom. These are big, but it is nice not having to be right in the action to get a good shot. With my compact I literally have to be five feet from the action to get a good shot, so I end up taking a lot of arty pictures of the back of peoples heads. With a good zoom you can get good shots from far away, or stay in one spot and shoot different elements of a scene.
DSLRs, however, are still too big and I’ll never get one. I like travelling light and I try to blend in (as much as possible). I also find the weirdest images just happen as I go about daily life, and that doesn’t include a five pound weight on my arm.
The technology, however, is changing. There are now some mirrorless cameras (called EVIL, for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens). These are smaller and, in time, should approach the quality of DSLRs. Wired, in fact, has gone so far as to say ‘Ditch Your Digital SLR‘. These cameras, like the Panasonic GF1, are still to big for me, but they are an interesting development. I’m still quite happy with my compact, but I do hope some of the DSLR professionalism trickles down to smaller models.