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insights into photography
Buying a digital SLR
August 22, 2013Posted by on
This excellent article on DP Review explains why a dslr, and what to consider, essential for anyone about to buy a dslr
So you’ve decided to invest in a new digital camera and have made your mind up that you want to step up to a digital SLR, but the huge range of models on offer and endless flow of technical jargon have left you more confused than when you started? Fear not, this page will take the pain out of choosing the perfect digital SLR for you, whether you’re a seasoned shooter or a total novice.
Before we get down to business it’s worth stopping for a moment to ask the question: why would anyone want a digital SLR when compact digital cameras are so much smaller, lighter and more affordable? The answer can be summed up in two words: versatility and image-quality.
The versatility isn’t just the fact you can change lenses and add a wide range of accessories – from basics such as flashguns and remote controls to the more specialized equipment that allow SLRs to capture anything from the tiniest bug to the most distant stars. It’s also about the creative versatility offered by the more advanced controls and higher quality components.
And this leads on to the second factor; image quality. In broad daylight the quality difference between a good compact and a digital SLR is minimal; both will produce sharp, colorful results with little effort. But when you start to push the boundaries a bit more; shooting in low light, attempting to capture fast moving sports action or wildlife, or when you want to experiment with shallow depth of field (to add a soft background to a portrait for example), the advantage of a digital SLR’s larger sensor and higher sensitivity start to make a big difference. A digital SLR can’t beat a compact camera for ‘pop it in the purse or pocket’ convenience but for serious photography the SLR wins hands down. With prices lower than ever it’s not that surprising to discover that many people own one of each.
What is an SLR?
The basic physical design of the SLR has remained essentially unchanged for over half a century. The name itself, ‘Single Lens Reflex’, refers to the hinged mirror that bounces the light passing through the lens up to the viewfinder for framing then flips out of the way when you press the shutter to allow the light to hit the sensor (or film).
As the (simplified) diagram above shows, the mirror inside an SLR reflects the image formed by the lens up to the optical viewfinder (via a focusing screen and prism). When the picture is taken the mirror flips out of the way to allow the light to fall directly onto the sensor (or film), which sits behind a mechanical shutter. The mirror is also flipped up for live view operation (where the sensor is used to provide a live video feed directly to the screen on the back).