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Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras

Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras are popularly known as DSLR – Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras. Canon and Nikon are the two biggest manufacturers of DSLR cameras, followed by Sony, Pentax and many others.  

DSLR cameras
DSLR cameras

They typically have much larger sensors than other types of digital cameras, have interchangeable lenses and have an optical (pentaprism or pentamirror) viewfinder and also electronic view on the back LCD panel.

How Does a Camera Work?

In DSLRs the light coming in through the lens is reflected on a mirror to form an image at the focusing screen, the light is then reflected off the penta- prism to the viewfinder.

Dslr camera parts
Dslr camera parts

The ability to look through the viewfinder and see exactly what the lens sees is considered one of the most important advantages of a DSLR camera. By looking through the lens you will be able to tell the angle of view, whether there is a filter on the lens and its effect on the scene, you can even check the depth of field by pressing the depth of field preview button.

When the shutter button is pressed the mirror flips up and lets the light fall on the image sensor. Once the exposure is made; the mirror comes back to its original position.

DSLR camera functioning
DSLR camera functioning

One big disadvantage of the DSLR camera is that; at the time of exposure you cannot see through the camera. Even though it is only going to be a fraction of a second. So if you really need to time something; anticipate the moment and release the shutter just before it happens. Waiting to view the action before pressing the trigger may cause you to miss the chance forever to capture it in camera!

Now let us discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the DSLR Camera.

Advantages of a DSLR Camera

1. Optical Viewfinder 

DSLRs have an optical viewfinder which lets you see through the lens, the more expensive models sport pentaprism and the budget ones do it with pentamirror. Essentially a dslr is a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) device, simple and efficient.

2. Full Manual Control

Unlike other digital cameras; where you have limited control over the many variables like shutter speed, aperture, iso, white balance etc. a dslr gives you complete control over all aspects of photography including focus.

3. Better Image Quality

Typically dslrs have much bigger sensors than other types of cameras; resulting in better image quality. It gives you the ability to shoot in RAW, and also has the capability to capture more dynamic range.

4. Better Low light performance

When compared to other digital cameras; dslr generates much less noise even at high iso. This is partly due to the larger sensors and other features.

5. Better Quality Optics

Generally lenses made for professional dslr cameras are of much higher quality than those made for other types of cameras.

6. Ability to use special lenses

A dslr with its ‘interchangeable lens feature’ could use any type of lens to match the scene; in addition to ultra wide angle, super tele- photo and macro lenses, it could also make use of specialists’ lenses like the ‘tilt shift’ and ‘fish eye’.

7. Faster Operation

They are built for speed; hence are faster in every aspect like start up time, focusing speed, frame rate, shutter lag etc.

8. Ability to use various accessories like remote release; filters etc.

There are many accessories available for dslrs like polarizing filters, neutral density filters, graduated neutral density filters, UV filters, infrared filters and so on. Owning and mastering the use of accessories alone can lift one amateur getting graduated in to higher levels in the art of photography.

9. Better Battery Life

Dslr batteries last really long; they enable you to take more pictures with each charge than any other type of cameras.

10. Better construction

DSLRs are built to last. Professional DSLR body is made of magnesium-alloy and can take a lot of physical abuse, while other types of cameras which are mostly made of plastic would quickly break down.

11. Better Weather Sealing

Weather sealing both on the body and the lenses enable DSLR cameras to function effectively under challenging weather conditions. Higher-end DSLRs can withstand all elements of nature like dust, moisture, rain, snow and severe cold.

12. Ease of operation

The large sized DSLRs have some advantages, they have bigger buttons and controls that let you directly access important functions instead of digging it out from menu. The large sized buttons also avoid chances of accidentally getting pressed.

13. Ability to use Dedicated Flash Units

There are dedicated professional-quality flash units from all major manufacturers; that could be used on or off camera. They render better control over lighting and are highly advanced flash units with much faster recycle times, ETTL capabilities and the ability to sync wirelessly give a photographer endless options to play with.

14. Complete Control over Depth of Field

The combination of larger sensor size and the ability to use interchangeable lenses (wider apertures and also longer focal lengths) helps one to have complete control over the depth of field in his pictures; while other cameras struggle at achieving shallow depth of field.

Disadvantages of a DSLR Camera

1. DSLRs are Costly. 

The decision to own a dslr with required paraphernalia could be expensive. Professional quality lenses cost as much or in certain cases multiple times more than the cost of the camera body. Filters, memory cards, spare battery, and then a camera bag to carry them, all add up to the final costs.

With a dslr camera the possibilities are endless and people keep on buying equipment and accessories one after other throughout their life, as their skill level advances or as they specialize in certain types of photography

2. Complexity. 

Only people who are serious about their photography and who are willing to invest the time and effort required to master the fundamental principles of photography should buy a DSLR. For casual shooters, a point and shoot or a mirror less is a much better option, you will get much better pictures with them than your DSLR if you really don’t know what you are doing.

3. Recurring Maintenance Expenses. 

Maintaining a DSLR and a set of lenses could be costly especially if you are living in tropics, near the sea shore or in areas where the atmosphere humidity or dust levels are pretty high.  Chances are more of dust and moisture sneaking in to the camera and soiling the sensor while changing lenses. Moisture could also cause fungus to grow inside of the lenses and also on the sensor. Getting the sensor or the lenses cleaned off dust or of fungus is an expensive business and is also a recurring expense.

4. Weight and Size.

DSLR cameras are much bigger and heavier than most other types of digital cameras. Not to mention the weight of all the lenses and accessories that you need to carry along. If you are the type of person who carry the camera around for long periods, then it’s advisable that you get a broad strap.

5. Noise

The action of the mirror and the shutter in DSLR camera produces much more noise (sound of moving physical parts). It could be an inconvenience in certain situations. Some newer cameras now have a special “Quiet” mode which helps to lower the noise.

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