Photography studio, gallery and training complex

A Bridge Too Far

…or perhaps “Store Wars: The Hybrid Menace“.

This post has been brewing for quite a while. It seems as though each term, more and more people show up for courses listed as being suitable for DSLR/SLR users with so-called “hybrid” or “bridge” cameras. If I mention the fact that they’ve signed up for a DSLR/SLR course, they often (and I’m losing count of how many time I’ve heard this) say “but the man in Jessops said its just like a DSLR“.

It isn’t.

It might look a bit like a DSLR. It might have inter-changeable lenses. It might cost even more than a DSLR… but it is NOT a DSLR. It’s called a “hybrid” or “bridge” because it is neither fish nor fowl. It isn’t a compact, admittedly – but neither is it a DSLR.

I sometimes have to stipulate “…For DSLR/SLR’s” in the course description because there may be a need to connect to external flash, for example, which many hybrids simply can’t do. But even beyond that, hybrids are at a disadvantage in many other areas. Your DSLR or SLR is the ultimate creative machine – there is pretty much nothing you can’t photograph with it. But a hybrid has certain, very definite, limitations including a very limited range of apertures in some cases. This mightn’t be a problem for a one day workshop but more of a problem for a longer course, where we would explore more of your camera’s possibilities.

Over recent years, the boundaries between different types have cameras have become increasingly blurred: hybrids have removable lenses (something that only SLR’s used to have), video cameras are shooting high quality stills, DSLR’s are shooting HD video – it’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, as Ray Davies once said.

Think your hybrid is just like a DSLR? Here’s the litmus test…

Take off your lens cap and switch off your camera. Now look through the viewfinder. See anything? If yes, you have a DSLR or SLR. If not, you have something else.

With a DSLR/SLR you are seeing the world as it is, in real time, via a mirror and prism through to your viewfinder. Any other camera basically “films” the world and then “televises” it in your viewfinder or on your camera’s rear screen – a spilt-second after it’s actually happened. What this means of course, is that when you’re shooting action or movement, you think you’ve got the shot of that Formula 1 car, but when you look at the photograph you’ve taken, you realise you only have the back end of the car. Manufacturers are aware of this problem and have developed systems so that “you start taking the picture even before you press the shutter”. But even if the reality/viewfinder lag is sorted you are still not seeing the subject optically, just an electronic representation of your subject.

This Lumix has a Leica lens! But it isn't a DSLR.

I don’t have a problem with hybrid/bridge cameras, I really don’t. I think they occupy a valid space in the market place. I am just increasingly frustrated that they are being sold to the unsuspecting public as being “just like a DSLR”. In the last week I was discussing this with a hybrid-owner who has a lovely camera – some £700+ worth, but he wasn’t able to use it for some of the things he would like to. And he was understandably pretty cheesed off.

So if the man in Jessops says “but it’s just like a DSLR”, why not buy a blimming DSLR?

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