These types of cameras are built in such a way to simulate the body construction and shooting versatility of a Digital SLR camera, thus the name SLR-Like. It’s based upon the same point and shoot system like the compact digital cameras. With larger and sturdier bodies, little faster in operations and with broader options for manual settings. Among still pictures these can record movies, the storage media is the memory card. One of the first SLR-Like cameras was the DIMAGE 5 manufactured by Minolta, among the first to try to imitate the Digital SLR systems. It was equipped with a 1/1.8″ size CCD sensor with a resolution of 3,1 mega pixels and with a 35-250mm zoom lens.
Today, the technology gifted SLR-Like cameras with sturdier bodies, larger image sensors, lots of mega pixels huge high quality tele-photo lenses, faster operations and impressive shooting versatility, both in the picture and video mode.
The first obvious difference in comparison with other digital camera types, is the bigger body and the prominent lenses. The body which fits better in the hand and the buttons with important functions disposed in accessible positions, makes these cameras very practical to use and easy to manipulate.
The camera lens is fixed but usually have a large focal range, in tele-photo mode can go up to 420mm -12x zoom (for a 35mm camera). Some camera manufacturers like Panasonic FZ30 or Fujifilm S9500 has implemented in their camera lenses a mechanical ring which makes easy to zoom or focus the lens, simulating the classical 35mm lenses.
The sensors are usually the same size like the ones used in compact digital cameras, meaning very small. A few SLR-Like models have the sensors a little bigger, being able to capture a little more detail without too much noise. Some of them are; Sony F828, Nikon 8800 and Olympus C8080 which features a 2/3″ size sensor. Still, these sensors didn’t catch-up the image quality of a half-frame sensor used in many Digital SLR cameras.
Some cameras may be equipped with anti-shake technology that corrects the movements created by hand trepidation, assuring a clear captured image. This technology can be implemented inside camera lens or onto the sensor’s supporter. This option is very useful when hand-holding the camera in bad lightning, and particularly when using a telephoto zoom.
Built-in flashes are a little more powerful than in compact digital cameras and many SLR-Like models have a slide socket for attaching an external, more powerful flash. Simulating again the features of Digital SLR.
Compared with other digital cameras, the SLR-Like allows an expanded control over manual camera functions and have features that are very close to the Digital SLR’s.
Unlike digital compact cameras, the SLR-Like will certainly have options for changing the next photographic parameters:
Exposure time – longest time can be 30 min or bulb;
Sensor iso – can go to 1600;
Flash on or off;
Lens focus – can be mechanically changed;
Metering type – average, center weighted or spot;
Shooting mode – single, continuous or last frames;
Other camera parameters that can be changed, but depending of the camera extra-features, can be:
Depth of field preview (dof);
Image audio attachment;
Image ratio (2/3 – 4/3);
JPEG, TIFF or RAW mode.
They also have preset modes that will allow the camera to take adequate images in a given selected mode, adjusting its automated settings accordingly. Some of these modes can be: portrait, sport, macro, landscape, night, etcetera.
In picture mode, usually the SLR-Like cameras are a little faster than compact cameras, they have a shorter response time and can record more frames in continuous shooting mode, still, these times are very slow compared with Digital SLR. In auto shooting modes the camera it’s based on the same point and shoot principle: half pressing the shutter button allow the camera to measure the correct exposure and to focus the subject right, and full pressing the button will capture the scene. Keeping the in-camera picture settings at the highest values, will afford the best results in image quality.
In movie mode, full pressing the shutter will start capturing the movie and the second press will stop recording. Many SLR- Like cameras have the ability to capture sound and zoom the lens while recording movies. The movie resolution and frames per seconds can be changed starting from 320×240 with 15 FPS up to 800×600 with 30 FPS. Often, the movie recording time is limited only by the memory card size, making possible to record complete movies of one hour or more.
The built-in lens with a wide zoom range The body which confers a good grip The versatility of photographic features similar to Digital SLR cameras Advanced video mode
– Usually equipped with small size sensors resulting image noise;
– Not yet faster enough for action shots;
– The fixed lens, considering that is not detachable, will require increased attention.
SLR-Like cameras are suitable for the amateur photographer who want a broad control over numerous photographic parameters and needs the versatility of a telephoto zoom lens, still avoiding to invest hundreds or thousandths of dollars into a Digital SLR system just to cover the lens zoom range of a SLR-Like camera.
Tough, serious amateurs, may consider that despite its closer imitation of body construction and shooting versatility to Digital SLR’s, these cameras aren’t closer to the image quality and time response performances of a DSLR. Therefore, for the amateurs which are serious about their photographic work, I recommend them not to make compromises, and choose at least a low entry Digital SLR camera which these days are under $800. Provided that you are not interested about the video recording option which DSLR’s misses. Helped by the working speed and image quality of a DSLR, you will create better and easier your desired pictures. In time, you can purchase more lenses for different applications.
However, few serious amateurs are doing street photography, for example, where the working speed of the camera is a decisive factor. And other amateurs may not be interested in printing their works on photographic paper bigger than A4 size. Considering this, if you find a SLR-Like camera who fulfills your needs and is comfortable to work with, then is no problem in using one.