I have been asked by many people whether a certain point-and-shoot camera is capable delivering professional results. For example, a few days ago I’ve got an email from an amateur photographer, asking me whether the Nikon P510 is capable of professional photography. Many people want to make some money using their camera. Some do it by shooting photos and upload them to stock photography sites, open their own stock sites, shoot weddings, etc. However, we all know that professional photographers use DSLR or Medium Format cameras. You probably won’t find a professional photographer shooting a wedding with a Nikon P510 camera (at least not as a primary camera).
The thing is that Point-and-shoot cameras can certainly serve as a professional tool to get the job done, but it has its cons though. Let’s take stock photography for example. When you submit photos to iStockPhoto, the photo needs to be in high quality (no noise, artifacts and such). Point-and-shoot cameras tend to produce quite a lot of noise in ISO200 and above. Even with a DSLR, many people use lighting accessories, flash or shoot in the studio for optimal results. Many use the lowest ISO possible to achieve optimal results.
Now let’s imagine that you want to shoot in studio with the Nikon P510 for example, or any other point-and-shoot camera for the argument sake. You can certainly achieve great result when the camera is mounted on a tripod and with good lighting. However, you won’t be able to get a very shallow depth of field (if needed), and this is in fact one reason why people buy a DSLR in the first place, large sensor and better control over depth of field. But in general, yes, you can achieve great results using the Nikon P510.
When you shoot outdoor night shots this is a different story. Considering that you don’t have studio equipment at your disposal (ie. tripod, lights, etc. ), you will need a flash or a very fast lens to get a well exposed image. Almost all point-and-shoot cameras have a slow lens, and many aren’t compatible with professional lenses. That means that you are limited to what you can achieve with a point-and-shoot camera. For in general, point-and-shoot cameras aren’t suitable for low light photography, unless you have a tripod and you intend to shoot long exposure shots. Even then, you need to use long shutter speeds which limits your creativity.
These are just a few examples. The fact is that it really depends on what you intend to shoot. I personally recommend getting either a DSLR or a Compact System Camera to get the bests results and not be limited by the camera. If you intend to shoot professionally, you don’t want the camera to limit you. Don’t get me wrong, some people make nice business using P&S, but that’s for particular type of photography business. Some people even sell iPhone 4 photos, I’ve seen that too. The possibilities are endless.
Some P&S cameras have limited amount of manual controls. That can certainly limit you. On the other hand, a 42x optical zoom like the P510 has can help you get some great shots that other photographers might won’t be able to get (ie. close up sports shots). So you are the one who need to make the decision. It depends on what type of shots you are going to take, and what equipment is recommended for the job in order to achieve great results.
I’ve seen some amazing shots taken with a mobile phone camera, beating lots of photos taken with DSLR. In marketing, a “professional” camera is an expensive camera that targets the professional photographer’s audience. “Professional” in simple terms refers a person that earns money from a certain profession (ie. photographer, programmer, car racer, gardener, etc.). However, to get “professional” results, it’s more about the photographer’s skill than the camera’s capabilities. Let’s not forget that not too long ago, we didn’t have all those fancy digital cameras. People shot photos with film cameras. It doesn’t mean that there weren’t photographers who took great photos and achieved professional results. When the first digital cameras were out, many professional photographers used them and made money out of their photos.
Those first digital cameras were much less advanced then the cheapest digital camera we have on the shelves today. “Professionalism” is also a matter of perspective and whether you can afford that camera or not. 20 years from now you will be joking on the Nikon D4S or Canon 5D Mark III. You could by those cameras for $50 or less. In fact, you can purchase an old DSLR camera today for a very cheap price, probably a price of a good point-and-shoot. What’s changing is the demand for specific photography professions and type of images and their quality. That changes in time. So the market may demand high resolution photos that you can’t shoot with a 15 old DSLR camera.
I personally earned some bucks selling photos that I took with my old Olympus point-and-shoot camera (can’t remember the model though). After a few years I’ve upgraded to Nikon DSLR, which serves me well and I continue making some bucks selling photos on iStockPhoto. Having said that, I am not sure that I will take wedding photos with a P&S, doesn’t look “professional” by others.
Having said all of the above, I highly recommend reading this article too.
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