Lesson 3: DSLR cameras

4Some camera manufacturers have released cameras with the DSLR label that technically are not. I’ll define DSLR’s as cameras that have removable lenses, that have a reflex mirror which allows live optical viewing through the lens taking the image. DSLR’s use a mirror that allows you to see the image you’re about to shoot through the view finder – when you take the shot the mirror flips up allowing the image sensor to capture the image.

Here I will present the strengths and weaknesses of these cameras. To do that I need to use some terms that may be new to you, but I’ll explain all of them in later lessons.


Image Quality – due to the larger size of image sensors in DSLRs which allows for larger pixel sizes, DSLRs are able to be used at a faster ISO which will lead to faster shutter speeds and less grain.

Speed – DSLR’s are fast pieces of machinery when it comes to things like start up, focusing and shutter speed.

Large ISO range – this varies between cameras but generally DSLRs offer a wide array of ISO settings which makes them very flexible in shooting in different conditions.

Adaptability – DSLR’s ability to change lenses opens up a world of possibilities for photographers. DSLRs can be fitted with many high quality lenses ranging from wide angle to super long focal lengths. Add to this a large range of other accessories (flashes, filters etc) and a DSLR can be adapted to many different situations. When it comes to lenses the diversity in quality of lenses is great. Image quality is impacted greatly by the quality of the lens you use.

Optical Viewfinder – due to the reflex mirror DSLR’s are very much a what you see is what you get operation.

Manual Controls – a DSLR is designed in such a way that it is assumed that the photographer using it will want to control their own settings. While they do come with good auto modes the manual controls are generally built in in such a way that they are at the photographers finger tips as they are shooting.

Quality Optics – in general the lenses that you’ll find on a DSLR are superior to a point and shoot camera. DSLR lenses are larger and many of them have many hours of time put into their manufacture.


Price – while they are coming down in price DSLR’s are generally more expensive than point and shoot digital cameras. Also consider that you might want to upgrade your lens or you may wish to add more lenses later and that this adds to the cost of a DSLR.

Size and Weight – DSLRs are heavy and sizable and when you add a lens or two to your kit bag you can end up with quite the load!

Maintenance – every time you change lenses you run the risk of letting dust into your camera. Dust on an image sensor is a real annoyance as it will leave your images looking blotchy. Cleaning your image sensor is not a job for the faint hearted. Many new DSLRs are being released with self cleaning sensors.

Complexity – while DSLRs are designed for manual use this means you need to know how to use the tools that they give you and the learning curve can be quite steep.

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