eflex) A digital still image camera that uses a single lens reflex (SLR) mechanism. Most professional cameras were analog single lens reflex until digital SLRs emerged in the early 1990s. Following are the two major advantages of DSLRs.
No single lens can handle every photographic requirement, and SLR cameras have always used removable lenses. A wide variety of lenses are available for each camera system, and many lenses that fit 35mm film SLRs also fit DSLRs. However, the CCD or CMOS sensor in all but high-end DSLRs is generally not as large as a 35mm frame, and 35mm lenses produce different focal lengths (see crop factor
). See CCD sensor
and CMOS sensor
Through the Lens
In an SLR, the photographer sees the image through the actual picture lens. To compose the picture, a mirror reflects the light from the lens to the viewfinder. When the picture is taken, the mirror momentarily flips out of the way to allow the light to pass through the lens diaphragm to the CCD or CMOS sensor (or to film in analog SLRs). Through-the-lens viewing enables precise manual focusing. See mirrorless camera
, digital camera
and Four Thirds system
Beware the Dust!
Unlike an analog SLR, which uses a fresh film frame for each photo, the DSLR uses the same sensor chip forever. Because the sensor is susceptible to dust, it is imperative to always keep the lens port covered when no lens is attached. Starting in 2007, DSLRs began to include automatic dust removal. A "mirror lockup" function flips the mirror out of the way to expose the sensor for cleaning, and there is a raft of cleaning materials on the market. For a comprehensive overview, visit www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com.
Holding a DSLR
In addition to the LCD screen, DSLRs also have viewfinders, which helps photographers hold the camera steady when pressed against the face, especially with large lenses as in this example. (Image courtesy of Canon Inc., www.canon.com).