Benefits to Upgrading Your DSLR for HDR Photography

February 6th 2013 12:20 PM

The following is an excerpt from HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This workshop dubbed “the gold standard of HDR education” by FStoppers contains over 13 hours of tutorials, RAW files for you to follow along, and dozens of full prep to post examples. We cover bracketed HDR, in-camera HDR, single-shot faux HDR, single-shot bracketed HDR, panoramic HDR and more! Click here for more info.


Introduction to SLRs and HDR Photography

Now that we have learned about when to shoot HDR bracketed sequences, let’s briefly discuss improvements in camera technology for higher dynamic range. High-end DLSR cameras can be quite expensive and not entirely a necessity for every photographer. HDR bracketed sequences produced by an entry-level DSLR camera can certainly create fantastic professional photographs.

[SLRLounge Rewind: Learn About In Camera HDRs]

However, as you find yourself mastering the techniques you learned from the HDR series and if you find yourself running into limitations with your current camera, it make be worthwhile for you to upgrade your DSLR body. At this point, a more professional camera may open up more possibilities for you to be able to capture the kind of images you would like to. In this article, we will talk about improvements in sensor technology and exactly what you are paying for when buying a high-end professional DSLR.

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DSLR Sensor Technology and HDRs

As you may already have noticed, a large portion of camera cost is due to the quality of its sensor. This is where the image is actually being recorded. In general, a nicer sensor can pick up a broader dynamic range. For example, and entry level DSLR may have a dynamic range of 10 stops with the camera sensor that it comes with. A more expensive professional level DSLR camera may have a range of 12 stops. An even more expensive high-end camera, such as the [simpleazon-link asin=”B005OL2ID2″ locale=”us”]Nikon D800E[/simpleazon-link], has a range of 14.3 stops.

Bracketed HDR Photography vs. Single Image HDR Photography

Now, you might ask:

If we are using automatic exposure bracketing (AEB), then why does it matter how broad the range of the sensor can capture if we can simply change the bracketing sequence?

Let’s say we have an entry-level DSLR with a range of 10 stops, and we are considering buying a super high-end camera that can shoot a range of 15 stops (which doesn’t actually exist yet, but I’m sure it will soon). If we shoot a three-frame, two-stop bracketed sequence on the entry-level camera, when we combine the images we have a photograph with 14 stops of dynamic range. With the high-end camera, we can get 15 stops within one single exposure. This range is more than all three images combined from the entry-level DSLR. Therefore, a high-end camera, within one single image, opens up a whole world of possibilities.

Keep in mind that you can continue to create bracketed sequences with this higher quality camera and achieve an even higher dynamic range within your photographs. If we use the high-end DSLR for a three-frame, two-stop bracketed sequence, we have a dynamic range of 19 stops, which is only one stop short of the dynamic range of the human eye.


Improvements in technology can certainly open up an array of possibilities into shooting a single-shot HDR. Of course, in many types of scenes, you can capture full-range detail without HDR. It isn’t the solution for everyone, but purchasing a more professional DSLR may open up a lot of possibilities that wouldn’t be available with an entry-level camera. However, before you go out and do that, master the techniques that are taught you in the HDR series. When you get to a point where you feel like your camera itself is preventing you from taking the kind of photographs that you want, it may be time to buy a new DSLR with a broader dynamic range.

For more HDR education, be sure to check out HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.



Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, LJP Studios and SLR Lounge. Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username pyejirsa. Also, join me on the SLR Lounge Community Page where I am frequently posting tips, tricks, tutorials and behind the scenes details.

Comments [2]

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  1. 1
    Maarten de Boer

    Hmm, I can see where you’re getting at yet you don’t mention that with _every_ camera you can create multiple shots yet you have to set the exposures manually. This way there won’t be much of a difference between an expensive and cheap DSLR!

    Yet I understand this is less comfortable but HDR is often something you do from tripod so you can take your time.

  2. Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 9.58.21 PM.png15
    Jeff Lopez

    Thanks for the article. It really helped me with my newest purchase. And also helped me convince my wife I needed a full frame ;). I started out shooting about 6 years ago with a Canon 350D. After learning the camera and the BASICS I was able to capture some really nice images with very little options and a crap lens. As you would imagine, I quickly became limited, so I upgraded to a 550D. Still wanting to get better and better, after about 3 years and some new lenses, I got to a point where now the 550D (T2i) wasn’t enough for my artistic needs and I just purchased my first full frame 6D and can’t be more excited.