Compact system camera vs. DSLR – which is right for me?

Want to get serious about photography? You can step up to the next level with either a DSLR or compact system camera. Find out which one is best for you.

DSLR cameras

DSLR Backpacker

In a nutshell: The camera used by professional photographers - gives you total control over your photography.

Chosen by professionals and amateur photography enthusiasts. A DSLR is the best option if you want precision control over your photography.

Use different types of lens to create different effects - there's a huge range of lenses to choose from. You can adjust your camera's settings to create the perfect shot. Learn more about different effects that can be achieved with lenses.

What can I do with a DSLR?

You can:

  • Take photographs that are rich in detail thanks to the large image sensor.
  • Change lenses - pick a wide-angle lens for landscapes or a telephoto lens for fast-moving sports and wildlife.
  • Adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO levels, white balance and more.
  • Take steady, blur-free pictures thanks to image stabilisation technology.
  • See everything in the frame with an optical viewfinder with a wide field of view.

How does a DSLR work?

The 'D' in DSLR stands for 'digital'. SLR means single-lens reflex. Inside the camera sits a mirror, which reflects the image seen through the lens up to the viewfinder when taking a picture. 

3 things to consider

  1. Sensor size. Sensor size differs between entry-level and high-end DSLRs. For the best performance when photographing landscapes or other wide-angle shots, look at models with a full-frame sensor.
  2. Rotatable screen. DSLRs generally come with an optical viewfinder for framing your shots. But some models also add a rotatable LCD screen, which can be used when you're shooting from an awkward position and can't reach the viewfinder.
  3. Sensor cleaning. If you plan on changing your lens regularly, then look for cameras with a sensor cleaning feature. This helps keep the camera clean when you change lenses.


A DSLR we love

Canon EOS 750D

Looking for your first DSLR? This Canon is a great choice. Enjoy total control over your photos' exposure, and change lenses for different effects. 

Photos will be packed with detail - the 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor is among the largest around.

Get great results when shooting fast-moving wildlife and sports with the 5-frames-per-second continuous shooting mode and improved autofocus. Check out the Canon EOS 750D.

After a different DSLR? View the full range here.

Compact system cameras

Compact System Camera Family CROPPED

In a nutshell: Perfect for taking high-quality images when out and about. Smaller, lighter and easier to understand than a DSLR, but with similar picture quality.

Compact system cameras are ideal for people wanting to step up from a point-and-click without getting too bogged down in the details.

They offer similar picture quality to a DSLR but are smaller and easier to use. They can do this due to a unique design that's slightly different than that of a DSLR. 

DSLRs contain a mirror and prism, making them larger and heavier. But a compact camera doesn't have the mirror, meaning they're sometimes referred to as 'mirrorless' cameras.

This smaller, lighter design means they're perfect if you plan on taking photos on the go.

What can I do with a compact system camera?

You can:

  • Change lenses to create different types of photography, as you would with a DSLR.
  • Take high-quality images thanks to the large image sensors, sometimes as big as those on a DSLR.
  • Enjoy simple point-and-shoot photography…
  • or adjust settings, including shutter speed, white balance and aperture.

3 things to consider

  1. Lenses. If you plan on regularly changing lenses, make sure the type of lenses you require are available for your camera. DSLRs have a far greater range of interchangeable lenses.
  2. Viewfinder. Not all compact system cameras have optical viewfinders - some rely on the screen on the back of the camera instead.
  3. Sharing. Want to share your photos online directly from your camera? You're more likely to find built-in Wi-Fi in a compact system camera than a DSLR.

CSC Boat

A compact system camera we love

Fujifilm X-A2

With its retro stylings and lightweight design, this Fujifilm is the perfect camera for shooting on the go. Picture quality is rich and detailed thanks to the large CMOS image sensor. Shots from tricky angles, as well as selfies, are easy with the tilting LCD screen. Check out the Fujifilm X-A2.

Not the one your looking for? View the full range of compact system cameras here.

Still need help choosing between the two? Take a look at our online buying guide.