Back to basics – What is a DSLR Camera?
To help you understand more about what is a DSLR camera and get more from your system.
What is a DSLR Camera?
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. The digital part of this is self explanatory, but Single Lens Reflex?
Until the late 1940’s, there were two types of camera system available. They are called Rangefinder and Twin-Lens Reflex systems.
The Rangefinder typically has the viewfinder above the lens, which can make accurate focussing and composition of the photo difficult with close up shots. This type of camera led to the evolution of the compact camera, nicknamed point and click.
A Twin-Lens Reflex camera has two lenses mounted in parallel one above the other, giving a figure of 8 appearance. These tended to be expensive, for professionals only and typically heavy and cumbersome. Not something that you would take to the beach for the family holiday snapshots!
The revolution in photography came along in the form of what is known as the SLR or Single Lens Reflex system in the immediate years following the end of WWII. (It is worth noting that the first SLR camera was produced almost 80 years ago now!)
This system works differently in that there is a mirror and prism within the camera body. The light comes in through the lens, bounces off the mirror up to the prism which then reflects the image through the viewfinder on the back.
When you press the shutter, the mirror lifts up, allowing the light to make contact with the light sensitive film loaded in the camera whist temporarily blocking the viewfinder.
For photographers world wide this was a break through, being able to compose their images in a very different manner than they were used to.
The other advantage of the SLR camera is that they do not have a fixed lens, they are interchangeable depending on the subject being photographed. This led to a number of companies producing some great optics.
SLR camera manufacturers then, as technology changed and improved, effected changes to their cameras, including TTL – Through The Lens metering for correct aperture exposure.
With the advent of the Digital age and microprocessors, the niche of photography was ripe to develop and embrace the digital format we now accept as the norm.
A better understanding of What is a DSLR Camera?
The current form of DSLR is not that much different in looks or initial overview of operation. The lenses are interchangeable, there is a mirror which reflects the image onto the prism for you to compose your image through the viewfinder.
However, the 35mm film has been replaced by a sensor which lies behind the mirror, there are processors within the camera performing multiple calculations based on the settings you have dialled in. Most DSLR’s have an LCD screen giving live view and an instant review of the image taken. Pretty amazing huh, when you think about it?
With 35mm film, you were limited to the number of exposures on the roll of film, typically 24 or 36. You also needed to find a decent developing laboratory to process your films, wait a week and to a degree, hope that you got something decent in return for your efforts.
But with DSLR technology, all of the waiting in anticipation has gone, the capacity to check each shot in the camera, deleting substandard images, modern storage cards that are used in a DSLR can hold thousands of images; the restrictions of the past are just that!
The lenses themselves are also digital, made of glass and electronics. They communicate with the camera body through the lens mount, enabling you to set the correct values for the exposure you are looking for to create your photo.
As discussed here there are numerous camera manufacturers producing bespoke systems which are not interchangeable. Standardisation is not something which is in the interests of the big corporations, failing to realise the potential for increased sales.
Technology has moved on again with the introduction of the mirrorless system, reducing the camera body in size.
It is interesting to follow the evolution of the camera, I wonder where it will go next?
Thank you for reading this article and I hope it gives you a better understanding of What is a DSLR.