These cameras have a detachable lens and tend to be big, heavy and very expensive. SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex and what this means to you is that in a SLR camera what you see through the viewfinder is exactly what the lens will take a picture of. Of course, this is the type of camera used by professional photographers and photojournalists because they produce high-quality photos and it is easier to frame the shoot.
If your dream is to become a paparazzi and take pictures of celebrities, you probably will need one SLR camera with a very long zoom lens to be able to take pictures from long distances. Maybe we will see your pictures in newspapers and magazines.
The good news is that technology keeps on improving and prices dropping. DSLR cameras get better and cheaper and many people think of trading their point and shoot cameras for one pro camera, but do you really need one?
What to look for in a SLR camera
DSLR cameras are the top of the range in digital cameras. The questions we mentioned you should ask yourself when choosing a digital camera are more relevant in this case because you are about to invest much more money in the adventure if you choose this path. Review also the points about compact digital cameras, they also apply here. Size, weight, storage and memory cards, viewfinder and LCD scree, batteries and battery life, and other bells and whistles are things to consider and what you choose will make your life easier or more complicated.
For instance, digital SLR cameras often have a LCD screen that lets you see your shoot as you click, as well as using the viewfinder, and to view the pictures once taken. Even if you are hard old school and prefer the viewfinder, there are situations where the LCD will make easier to frame your picture.
But SLR digital cameras have a few characteristics that are their own.
- Lenses – the fact that you can change the lens means you will want – and will buy over the time – more than one lens to shoot in different situations. Let us remind you first lenses are expensive – budget for them – and, second, you are likely to change the body of your camera as technology gets better, but will likely keep the lenses – choose a family of cameras where you can do just that to protect your investment.
- Body upgrades - you will need to choose a brand that keeps upgrading and adapting to new technology because you will want to do just that. And you want to be sure the upgraded body will be compatible with your lenses and other accessories.
- Sensor size – in compact cameras, the size of the sensor is limited by the size of the camera and it is not a bit issue, but SLRs have room for larger sensors and the top of the range in this type of camera have sensors close to the size of the standard 35mm film – one or two can boast sensors even larger. Larger size in the sensor means higher quality because they hold more pixels and the pixels are also bigger – this is important when shooting in low light conditions.
- Sensor cleaning – this is a problem specific to this type of camera because you can change lenses. The delicate inside of the camera is exposed briefy while changing the lens and it can gather dust. This dust will affect the quality of the pictures over the time. Blowing air will help get rid of the dust most times but not always. Sometimes the sensor will need professional cleaning.The latest cameras tend to come with self-cleaning sensors, but if you are inheriting a camera or buying second hand, dust in the sensor may be an issue.
- Accesories – different type of lenses, a flash, a ring flash if you are shooting small objects close-up, extra memory card, a spare battery, the charger, a bag that can hold it all… the list of possible accesories is very long and if you go for this type of camera, you will want to add to it as you learn more about photography and how to use your camera. Your camera can grow with your technique, which is a joy and something to budget for.
Nikon or Canon usually have the best range of lenses, but that other companies like Sony, Sigma, Pentax or Olympus may have all the lenses you will ever need. Big brands can often use third party lenses.