Understanding DSLR Cameras


Understanding DSLR Cameras

The digital single lens reflex camera, more commonly known as a DSLR, has become the standard among professional and serious amateur photographers. These cameras have a similar look and function as the 35 mm SLR camera that was the standard device of the film era photographer.

Photographers need to understand the DSLR in order to choose the best model and take the best possible pictures. Even photographers familiar with film SLR cameras will find the technology of the DSLR far advanced from the cameras they have used in the past.


By definition, the DSLR includes an interchangeable lens. This allows the photographer to select the lens that best suits the photographic situation. Lenses are defined by the focal length commonly stated in millimeters. The larger the focal length, the more magnification the lens provides allowing better views of items that are at great distances from the camera. For example, a 300mm lens might be used to photograph a wild bird at a backyard feeder. A 30mm lens might be used to take a wide shot of a scenic area. By changing lenses, the photographer can use the same camera in a wide variety of situations.

Zoom lenses allow the photographer to adjust the focal length of the lens while it is attached to the camera providing added flexibility.

The aperture of the lens is also important. The lower the aperture number, the wider the aperture allowing the lens to record images in low light conditions.

Serious amateurs and professional photographers often acquire several lenses for the DSLR allowing them to shoot a variety of subjects.

The Camera

The DSLR offers a number of features that are critical to its operations. These features vary depending on the model.

One of the most important specifications for the photographer to consider is picture resolution. A digital photograph is actually a compilation of individual points of color known as pixels. The more pixels – usually stated in megapixels – the higher the resolution of the camera. DSLR camera models offer a variety of resolutions ranging from 10 to nearly 30 megapixels. It is common for the price to increase with the megapixel count.

Other DSLR considerations include controls over the white balance, speed of operation and light sensitivity.

White balance concerns the color rendition of the captured digital image. White balance control allows truer renditions of color in a wider variety of lighting situations.

Cameras that operate faster allow the recording of more images in the same amount of time. This is commonly stated as frames per second and is useful for sports and action photographers who shoot on images in rapid succession. Faster DSLR cameras are commonly more expensive than slower cameras.

Light sensitivity in a digital camera is similar to the ASA of ISO number associated with film. The higher the number, the more readily light is detected allowing pictures to be taken in low light situations. Many DSLR cameras include very high ISO settings. These higher settings may result in a serious degradation of the image quality. Verify the camera will take high-quality images at the high ISO settings before using the camera in low light conditions.


Some DSLR cameras have added the option of recording video to the standard still photography functions. Not every photographer will find these added features useful and it may duplicate the abilities of existing equipment. The video function of the DSLR allows the use of the same lenses for video productions as are used for still photography which may expand the photographer’s options.


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