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What is a DSLR Camera

DSLR Cameras

When considering where to start in becoming a serious photographer the first thing you need is a legit camera.  The DSLR camera is the standard must-have. But just because you know what you need doesn’t mean you know what it is. What is a DSLR camera?  That’s what this lesson is all about.

digital SLR

Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.

Before the digital SLR, there were just plain SLRs.  An SLR is a camera made of a series of mirrors, allowing the photographer to see what would be recorded on the film through the viewfinder.  The cameras before the SLR didn’t have the system of mirrors, so the scene seen through the viewfinder could be vastly different from the actual picture taken.  The SLR’s mirror system changed the accuracy of the focus, color, brightness, and even the frame of the picture.

dslrSLR cameras have been around since 1936 with the new trial camera called Exakta. As time went on and technology advanced, cameras became digital.  In 1991 the first DSLR camera was introduced but it wasn’t exactly priced for the average photographer.  It wasn’t until Canon came out with a camera with a more affordable price–$3000 that it really came into the consumer market.  Nowadays a good DSLR camera can be found under $500.

The DSLR is the most recommended for those photographers who are just starting out in photography.  They are relatively inexpensive and are good to practice on and learn the basics.


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How a digital Camera Works

Light comes in through your lens and into the camera. Inside your camera there is a mirror that sends the light up to the viewfinder so you can see what you are taking a picture of.

How dslrs Work

The older DSLR cameras didn’t have a live preview on screen because the mirror would cover the sensor and send up all the light coming in through the lens to the viewfinder and thus not able to accommodate a screen. Now, even the SLR cameras have the capability to bypass that mirror and let you have a preview of your picture before taking it.  On the old SLR cameras (pre-digital), when you actually took the picture that mirror that was sending the light up to the viewfinder would go up, covering the viewfinder and exposing the film to your picture.

With the DSLR camera the mirrors gets out of the way so that the light will hit electronic sensors, translating the light into the picture displayed on your screen. Cameras with live preview turned on use that same sensor to capture a preview and then just record the image when a picture is taken.

How Does a Camera Work? (video)

Positive Points of a DSLR

  • The lenses are interchangeable
  • Easier to carry than other cameras
  • Can find them almost anywhere, even Wal-Mart
  • Good pricing
  • It’s a photography must-have

Other Options

So in the end if you are thinking “should I spend the money on a DSLR or just stick with my basic point and shoot camera and cell phone”, it’s a no-brainer, for a price tag around $500 a digital SLR just makes sense!

The biggest advantage the point and shoot has over the DSLR is that it is small, light, and easy to pocket so that, when that random moment for the perfect picture arises, you’ll have it to pull out, but phone cameras such as the iPhone camera are quickly catching up to point and shoot cameras to make them irrelevant as camera phones are much more convenient.

When it comes to a cell phone camera, the tiny little sensors it uses just can’t capture the same quality as the larger sensors can that are found in the DSLRs.  Because of the common misconception that megapixels define a good camera, more people are convinced that their camera phones are becoming better than a real camera. Unfortunately, its not the megapixels that have the overall say.

With a DSLR you have more film speed choices, more settings to choose from, better zoom capabilities, and better pictures when there isn’t the perfect amount of light.  This ultimately comes down to the choice between quality and convenience.  When going for quality over convenience a good solid DSLR is the way to go.

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  1. With current DSLR’s is the “parallax phenomenon” eliminated due to the preview LCD/LED monitor?

  2. Very good explanation of what what a DSLR camera is…I’m a newbie and had no clue, so this definitely helped me understand.

  3. First, I want to ‘thank you’ for taking the time to help all us “newbies”. I want to take some classes, yet can only find long, exhausted courses that I don’t have time for. So I am reading every book that looks good & scouring your site daily. It has been very helpful.

    I have a Fujifilm Finepix S4000. It isn’t classed as a dslr, yet I find it to be a step above a point & shoot & a great camera for learning before I make the dslr purchase. It has a 30X zoom, aperture, shutter priority & manual mode. So do I call it a point and shoot, or is there a better term for this type of camera? Also, I have gotten very comfortable with this camera & it is pretty easy (simple) to learn, I’m afraid I will be disappointed that a dslr is not going to produce the pictures the way I want because Ive gotten so comfortable with my Fuju. Is there a ‘starter dslr’ that you would recommend?

  4. Thanks for the helpful info. I always thought the more megapixels, the better pictures. Now I understand, and I just LOVE my DSLR!


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