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Why I Lug Around a DSLR




I appreciate small devices as much as anyone, but ‘smaller’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better.’ Over the years a lot of people have asked me why I lug around big cameras instead of one that will fit in my pocket. I’m the first to admit that I’m a little obsessive when it comes to pictures and that a bulky SLR can make me look a little goofy.   I’m often mistaken as a hired photographer at events or a tourist in my own neighborhood.

I started thinking about this over the weekend when I realized my camera bag weighed several times more than my HP Mini 1000, both of which I brought along for a long drive to a kid’s birthday party. A heavy DSLR and a svelte netbook are kind of an odd couple. While the Mini 1000 screams ‘mobility’ and is about half the weight of a full-sized notebook or tablet, the Nikon D300 dwarfs any point and shoot.

Over the past 15 years, my family and close friends have accepted that my big cameras go where I go. I don’t mind the the extra weight and bulk because the photos I take with them are superior to the photos I take with my point and shoot cameras.

Some people argue that point and shoot cameras are just as good as bigger cameras, but I’m not going to trade in my DSLR anytime soon. I put a premium on being able to control every aspect of my photos and capturing scenes exactly as I see them. I like being able to take photos in near darkness without using flash, snapping several frames per second and swapping out lenses.

Here are a few of the hundreds of thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years with my SLRs and DSLRs. Sometimes it’s a pain to carry several pounds of gear, but each of these photos capture the moments exactly as I remember them.

Do any of your favorite devices make you less mobile? What are some trade offs that you aren’t willing to make when it comes to thin and light gadgets?

You can click on the below photos to enlarge.


Grand Central Station, NY

boyswingintosunset_smKoh Tao, Thailand

waterfallvert1Erwan Waterfalls, Thailand


Golden Gate Bridge Coast Guard Station


Monks I met on the Mekong River bank, Thailand

tuscany_sunsetSunset in Tuscany, Italy

mumbai_laundryLaundry in Mumbai, India



  1. GoodThings2Life

    04/28/2009 at 3:02 pm

    I have a Canon Rebel XTi for the exact same reasons that you mention above, and I don’t really think it makse me less mobile at all… I mean seriously, just because we “gotta be mobile” doesn’t mean we can’t be mobile with style and quality!

    Like you said, the people who are important to us have probably long accepted the quirks we have about the gadgets we use. :)

  2. GoodThings2Life

    04/28/2009 at 3:03 pm

    PS– The first two pictures posted are absolutely amazing!

  3. Xavier

    04/28/2009 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks for the compliment. I figured I wasn’t the only one around here with a DSLR.

  4. Garry Knight

    04/28/2009 at 3:21 pm

    Like you, I’d rather lug my Canon 40D around than my Canon S3is bridge camera (though my Casio EX-Z700 compact goes everywhere with me). In my case it’s because I’m doing the best I can to get the kind of shots I want to get. In your case, your photos are all the argument anyone needs for carrying their own DSLRs around. Thanks for sharing them.

  5. Stuart

    04/28/2009 at 3:27 pm

    I lug around my toughbook. It has a handle so there is no problem carrying it. It has superior battery life. It can handle bad weather so i don’t care if it rains. It has internal 3G and GPS. It has great daylight visibility and everyone loves it when I put it on the ground and let them stand on it. It’s very heavy but i never worry if i drop it from my lap. I like it’s rugged, real world design.

  6. Xavier

    04/28/2009 at 3:34 pm

    @Gary- you’ve got some great shots in your Flickr stream!
    @Stuart- Toughbooks are pretty incredible machines, and aren’t all that bad to lug around since you can carry it around without a case. Which model do you have?

  7. blash

    04/28/2009 at 3:45 pm

    I also lug around a big-ass camera… but it’s a film Nikon F100 not my Nikon D80 more than often.

    Film > digital unless you’re a professional and time is money.

  8. Stuart

    04/28/2009 at 4:21 pm

    I have the CF-29.

  9. Jose R. Ortiz

    04/28/2009 at 4:41 pm

    I carry around my Nikon D80 most places I go and I don’t consider it bulky at all. If I am going to an event that will specifically require photography then I will be carrying around a few lenses and equipment but on a daily basis the DSLR doesn’t get in the way at all.

    P.S. amazing shots!

  10. Xavier

    04/28/2009 at 5:16 pm

    @Jose Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

    An SLR like the D80 in itself isn’t incredibly bulky, but all the accessories can really weigh you down.My camera bag has about 10 filters, 3 lenses, an SB800 flash, several CF cards and extra batteries. My monopod and tripod are the most cumbersome.

  11. Pio

    04/28/2009 at 5:42 pm

    With all due respect These could had all been made with any good compact camera with manual controls (e.g. LX3, G10).

    I carry a Canon 10D quite often myself so know of the benefits (just think they are not necessary for the posted pictures).

  12. Xavier

    04/28/2009 at 6:05 pm

    @Pio I agree that there are some very good compact digital cameras out there and even considered picking up a G10 when it came out.

    You’re right- some of these pics could have been taken with a compact camera, but I just like the flexibility I get w/DSLRs. A lot of my shots (not necessarily the ones above)would be impossible with the G10, LX3 or similar cameras though.

    I really don’t like using flash if I don’t have to, and I haven’t found a point and shoot that has satisfactory low-light performance. In dark environments I mount a 50mm f1.4 Sigma lens and the results are incredible.

    Another thing I don’t like about compact cameras is the lenses aren’t wide enough for my style. The pic of Grand Central station for example was taken at 12mm.

    A DSLR can be too difficult for many people to use and I certainly don’t suggest that anyone rush out and get one without seriously weighing the pros/cons of a bigger camera.

    In the end, it all comes down to personal preference and over the years I’ve found that I can take better pics with Nikon SLRs than any point and shoot I’ve tried.

  13. LK

    04/29/2009 at 6:18 pm

    I agree with Pio…I have an LX3 and am very happy with what it can do (and know the limitations that is has a limited zoom)…Plus you have two (maybe 3) HDR processed shots here…such dramatic post processing shouldn’t be offered as evidence that a DLSR takes better shots than a point a shoot. Just my two cents.

  14. Xavier

    04/29/2009 at 7:28 pm

    @LK- LX3 sounds like a great device. You’re absolutely right- I did post some HDRs. One thing that makes it easy for me to shoot for HDR compositions is the D300’s speedy continuous shooting mode- I think it’s something like 5-6 frames per second. High fps isn’t a necessity, but it’s something I find really useful when I’m trying to capture a first kiss at a wedding or action shots.
    I’m definitely going to have to pick up a better point and shoot camera at some point and the LX3 does look cool.
    Does the LX3 have any shutter lag? Have you tried using a strobe on it?

  15. LK

    04/30/2009 at 6:21 pm

    If you are prefocused there is minimal lag, if not your SLR is faster. The LX3 also only has +1/-1 bracketing for exposure so if HDR if HDR is impt to you then this won’t cut it. It does however do much better than any other PnS in low light and is great for landscape shots. Your Grand Central shoot is very nice!

  16. Glen

    06/13/2009 at 3:39 pm

    Check out the Olympus EP-1. Not much bigger than an LX3 but has the standard Olymus dslr guts. It also has removable lenses. It is releasing within the next month. Looks to be a major advancement for photo quality in a small package.

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