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What is DSLR?

DSLR has been hyped as the ultimate tool to capture awesome photos. When photography has captured your heart and asking friends’ suggestion for a good camera, they will simply say go DSLR. Some of you might wonder what is DSLR actually? And more importantly, what are its capabilities? Lets find out!

Introduction

DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. It means the camera uses a mirror to reflect light from the lens to the viewfinder (small hole at the back of the camera that people use to peek in before taking photos). Composing an image is done through this viewfinder so, what you see is what you get! In addition, you can see if the image is in focus or out of focus.

dslr cross section

dslr view

To make it even simple, any cameras that look like this can be a DSLR. Most DSLRs are composed of:

1. A body (mostly black colour) and a detachable lens

2. LCD screen with variety sizes (some models have swivel type and touchscreen)

3. A mode dial (For more information, can refer here)

4. Pop-up flash and hot shoe (to place an external flash)

5. A main dial (higher end models have secondary dial)

What’s so good about DSLR?

1. Varieties of lenses

Here is one very good point about DSLR. It allows you to change lenses. There are many types of lenses available  such as telephoto, zoom, ultra wide angle, fish eye, macro and more!; each serves different purposes. With these lenses, exploring the world will be fascinating!

A huge advantage of DSLR over any other interchangeable lens cameras is that there are numerous lenses to choose, giving you no limitation to select your desired lenses. Not only that, the available choices keep expanding all the time with the introduction of new, reasonably-priced DSLR only lenses with special features.

canon-ef-lenses

Apart from original manufacturers’ lenses (first party), third party lenses are also available in the market with Sigma, Tokina and Tamron being the famous ones. If you own a Canon camera, this doesn’t mean you are only limited to Canon lenses. The same is true for Nikon, Sony, Pentax etc. A huge advantage of third party lenses over the first party is price; cheap and affordable. So, more lenses, more choices!

2. Shoot fast

DSLR cameras act immediately. With a compact digital camera, most users experience shutter lag (the slight delay between the moment shutter button is pressed and the moment the camera captures a shot). This lag can sometimes miss great moments. Fortunately, shutter lag is unnoticeable in DSLRs.

Other than that, DSLR is able to shoot fast moving subjects. Shutter speed can be set up to 1/4000 sec so blurry images can be avoided. DSLR camera can automatically track the subject and keep it in focus. In addition, DSLR is able to shoot continuously, giving you high chances to get the kind of images you want. Because the camera can be held stably, sharp pictures with minimised blur can be captured.

continuous shooting

3. Sensor’s size

Well, the big size of a DSLR doesn’t come for nothing. The third advantage of DSLRs is they have big sensors, namely APS-C or Full-Frame, which are bigger than sensors’ in any smartphones or digital compacts cameras.

Image sensors comprise millions of light-sensitive spots called photosites, which are used to store information of images that are captured. So, the bigger the sensor is, more information can be stored and images will have better dynamic range and less noise; better image quality. In addition, DSLR is able to capture images in which subjects stand out against beautifully defocused background.

Types of DSLR

Nowadays, there are varieties of camera bodies in the market, ranging from various brands to various types of DSLR. Among all the brands available, Canon and Nikon are the popular ones because they offer varieties of bodies and lenses. The others include Pentax, Sony, Olympus etc.

DSLR comes in 3 types; entry level, semi pro level and professional level. Each type has its own specialities, so buying one depends on your needs and budget, of course!

Entry level

Entry level DSLRs are designed for first time users but filled with functions to satisfy advanced users as well. Most of the bodies are made of Aluminium alloy, which gives them lightweight properties. Well, weight does matter. The only reasons camera is left at home are because of size and weight. So, most cameras are designed based on these two features.

The compact and lightweight design is employed to ensure comfortable carrying and holding. Recently, Canon has announced EOS 100D (Rebel SL1), the current smallest and lightest DSLR. If size and weight are what your’re after, this DSLR is a good bet.

eos 100d comparison

Other than that, Nikon has introduced a Guide mode in its DSLR, which is a very good feature for those who are new to DSLR. Guide is displayed at the LCD and some objectives can be chosen such as “Soften background”, “Capture red in susnsets” or “Take bright/dark photos”.

Nikon Guide Mode

In addition, an awesome feature that is introduced in recent models is creative filters. The filters include grainy black and white, soft focus, fish eye, toy camera and miniature. What is so good about this feature is that you don’t need to use any Photoshop software to produce these kind of images, nor expensive lenses.

Semi pro level

Semi pro DSLRs are designed for photography enthusiasts, as better features are introduced that are lacked in entry level DSLRs. Those features include better processing unit, faster frame per second and most importantly, better  ease of use, due to addition of secondary dial and extra buttons for easy operations.

Most of them are bigger and heavier than those in entry levels because Magnesium alloy is used instead of aluminium alloy. Some people prefer the heavier magnesium alloy because it feels much better to hold it firmly and aluminium alloy has a plastic feel.

Well, the DSLRs are also a good choice for serious and professional photographers, or those who wish to begin their careers in photography. Semi pro bodies are cheaper than pro bodies, so they are good for those who are tight on budget, yet demanding a good camera with a lot of features.

Professional level

Most pro bodies have full-frame sensors, which are bigger than APS-C that are incorporated in entry levels and semi pros. Having bigger sensors mean pro bodies can deliver high image quality images and images have low noise in high ISO.

Some models are integrated with battery grips, thus making them bigger and heavier. Internal flash is removed because it is almost never used by users. A lot of features are introduced in pro bodies such as better autofocus systems, high ISO range (up to 25,600), better LCD display and more.

professional bodies

However, cool stuffs are always expensive. The price for pro bodies are more than $1,000 and can reach up to $7,000! If you have no monetary problems, have passion for photography and want the best camera in the market, pro bodies can be one of your consideration.

Bottom line – To buy or not to buy

This kind of question is quite similar to Mirrorless or DSLR? So I just summarize things up. The first aspect that you should consider is the size and weight. Most people leave their DSLRs at home owing to these reasons. Obviously, it won’t fit in your pocket unlike smartphones or compact cameras. You may consider the small and light models but you certainly need an extra bag for the camera. So, are you comfortable bringing an extra bag with you?

If you are already determined to buy a DSLR, choosing the type of DSLR that suits you depends on your interest in photography. Most people buy DSLRs for travelling purpose. Well, entry level or semi pro level may do the job but if you want the camera to perform better, semi pro is a better choice. If you are really serious into photography and have enough money, then pro bodies will be valuable enough to you.

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