Digital cameras have revolutionized the way we take pictures, making photography cheaper and more accessible for everyone. But the advancements haven't been made just for small point-and-shoot cameras - the majority of professional photographers use powerful Single-Lens Reflex cameras, refereed to by the acronym SLR. The digital versions of these cameras operate on the same principle, and are known as DSLR cameras.
What is an SLR camera?
"SLR" stands for Single-lens reflex, the method by which most professional-grade cameras take photos. In an SLR camera, light enters the lens and is reflected upwards by a mirror into the viewfinder assembly. When the operator looks through the viewfinder, he or sh adjusts the lens and the camera in preparation to take the shot. When the shutter button is pressed, the mirror swings up and the shutter opens, allowing the light from the lens to fall onto the film and capture the image. SLR cameras for professional photographers were introduced in the 1920's, and became popular with photographers of all levels in the 1960's.
Whar is a Digital SLR?
A Digital SLR operates on the same principle as a film SLR camera: light comes through the lens and is reflected into the viewfinder, allowing the user to adjust the camera and the lens before pressing the shutter button to raise the mirror and take the shot. But instead of projecting the light onto a strip of film, it's captured by a digital sensor and saved to a memory card as an image file. There are many advantages to Digital SLR photography beyond the files: batteries last longer, settings are easier to adjust with an LCD screen, and the cameras can be physically smaller.
Why is a Digital SLR Better Than a Normal Point-and-shoot Camera?
While many different kinds of cameras use a reflex mirror and viewfinder, today only large-frame, lens-swappable cameras are known as "DSLRs". There are many advantages to these cameras, primarily in the removable lenses. Different lenses can be mounted to the camera for different situations, like telephoto lenses for long-range shots, short, fixed lenses for low-light situations, or zoom lenses for flexible shooting. There is a huge assortment of attachments and accessories made for DSLR cameras, from filters and cases to tripods, shutter releases and external flashes. DSLRs tend to take much better pictures than point-and-shoot cameras because they're made with professionals in mind. On the downside, DSLR cameras are much larger and bulkier than regular cameras, and usually a lot more expensive.
Getting Started With DSLR Photography
If you want to take good photos consistently, a DSLR camera is a great investment. You can find models from popular manufacturers like Canon and Nikon for $500 or less, increasing in features and performance up to more than $5000. Most cameras come with a basic "kit" lens included, but you may want to buy other lenses to increase your effectiveness in different shooting situations. Most lenses will only work with one manufacturer's camera bodies, and some will only work with certain types of DSLR body. Just like a regular digital camera, you'll need a memory card to save the pictures to and a computer to back them up on.
Learning To Use Your DSLR
The best way to take good photos is to be comfortable with your camera and its functions. Take the time to read your camera's user guide and familiarize yourself with the basic principles of photography. Use the Manual mode to adjust settings like exposure time, focal length and ISO levels. The great thing about digital photography is that you can practice as much as you want - you don't have to buy film, so take as many pictures as you like!
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