I’ve been asked to write a little to explain a type of camera called a DSLR or Digital SLR. This isn’t meant to be a review of a certain camera, but I will be using my Canon EOS Rebel T5 for examples.
What Does DSLR Mean?
DSLR is an abbreviation for Digital Single Lens Reflex, you might also see it written as Digital SLR, both are correct. In a standard camera, when you look through the view finder, you are actually through the lens. With an SLR, what you are actually looking at is a mirrored image of what is coming in through the lens. Here’s how it works.
Inside the camera, there is a mirror set at a 45 degree angle. Light is reflected from the lens to the mirror and upwards to the viewfinder through either a prism or an additional mirror arrangement. The prism or mirror type is dependent on manufacturer and model of the camera. Typically though, the lower end camera’s will use the mirror arrangement.
So what is this Reflex thing? Good question. Once you are ready to take your picture, you depress the shutter button and the mirror lifts up and out of the way, the shutter slides open for a fraction of a second, and the camera’s’ sensor is exposed to the light image coming through the lens. So as you can see, the term Reflex refers to the action of the mirror sliding up and the shutter sliding open and closing.
Ok, but where does the Single Lens part come in? Some the professional camera in the early days of camera’s had multiple lenses attached giving you the ability to rotate the lens mechanism to place a different lens in front of the shutter thus allowing for more flexibility. In modern camera’s, you still have this ability, but you have to manually change lenses.
Difference Between an SLR and a Point and Shoot Camera
The point and shoot camera is a very good option for someone just getting started in photography. Most are pretty simple to use, just point and shoot. Easy Peasy. No focus, no worries, as long as you have it in auto mode. Some point and shoots have features which allow for manual control of ISO or shutter speeds. That’s another discussion altogether. While most SLR’s have an automatic mode, they pretty much all allow for manual control over focus, F-Stop, ISO and shutter speed, among other things.
There is no right or wrong camera. It’s up to you to decide what would work best for you. I’ve known people who can take almost studio quality pictures with a point and shoot, while others prefer the more advanced level and opt for an SLR. And then there are folks like me. I choose to use both types of camera depending on my need at the moment.
Earlier in this article I mentioned the camera’s sensor. What is it? I’m not going to go into detail about CCD, CMOS or other sensor types because that’s way beyond the scope of this article. That said a sensor is actually an image sensor which is a solid state component and the heart of a camera. The sensor captures the light coming in through the lens and converts it to an image which is then stored on an SD card.
Before the digital revolution, a camera, regardless of type, would use film to capture the light image coming through the lens. That film would later be processed and developed and an image printed from the developed negative. In our modern camera’s, phones included, the image sensor has replaced film in that it does the same thing but in a different manner.
A roll of film might have 12 to 36 frames available, each frame being one picture. An SD card is capable of storing thousands of pictures depending on the memory size of the card and the resolution of your camera. Pre digital age, you had to buy the roll of film, take your pictures, take the roll of film to be processed, wait a day or more, pay for the processing which included processing and printing, and then be able to enjoy your handiwork. Today, insert your SD card, I typically use a 16 gigabyte card, and happily take pictures. No muss, no fuss.
Then there are phone camera’s. I use the camera on my phone at times. It’s quick and easy and most phones can hold tons of photos. With a camera phone, you have the ability to instantly send your photos to anyone with a smart phone. The quality of pictures on phone camera’s has gotten dramatically better as time and technology has increased. On some of the high end phones, the quality of the pictures you can capture is almost that of a mid to high end conventional camera.
So which type of camera is best? As I’ve said many times before, the choice is up to you. There are professional photographers out there who still insist on using film camera’s while others are quite happy with the results they can achieve with digital. This can also be said of music. There are audiophiles who say that vinyl is still the best medium for sound quality as opposed to CD or other digital means of capturing and listening to music.