A digital single-lens reflex camera is a must-have for both professional photographers and serious hobbyists. Digital SLR cameras inherit the ability to completely manage every shot from their film-camera ancestors, but also have a digital camera’s ability to automate the process of taking photos to suit the needs of the photographer, using high-end components not available in point-and-shoot cameras.
The digital SLR gets the “single lens” part of its name from its optical viewfinder, which places the same image in the viewing glass that appears in the camera lens. Cameras with an optical viewfinder without SLR use a different lens than the camera’s to display that image, and what you see is definitely not what you will get in the photo, due to the different angles of the two lenses. Optical SLR viewfinders show photo-cropping guides plus a range beyond each edge, allowing the you to change the angle to frame the shot.
Digital SLR cameras also have a built-in LCD display that may appear similar to the display of a point-and-shoot camera, but which relies on the more responsive electronics of the higher-end camera to present an image with greater fidelity. As with the optical viewfinder, LCD live previews show exactly what will be captured by the lens when the photo is taken. Use the live preview LCD when taking pictures where you physically can’t use the optical viewfinder, such as when you’re holding the camera overhead or at hip-level. Compare the fixed LCD of the Nikon D90, which allows a view of the image from nearly all angles, to the swivel LCD of Canon EOS Rebel that can be angled and rotated independently of the camera.
Digital SLR cameras have detachable lenses, allowing you to choose exactly the right lens for every image. First-time buyers of a DSLR camera should look for combination pricing that includes the camera body as well as a lens that works for a wide variety of photography. Experienced photographers who may already own cameras from Canon or Nikon can choose a model that offers compatibility with their existing lenses.
For sports or action photography, the DSLR camera can capture many photos quickly in automatic mode, where holding the shutter button takes repeated exposures. This is dependent upon both the shutter as well as the responsiveness of the imaging electronics; while some point-and-shoot cameras offer a similar feature, they are only capable of taking a few pictures before extending the pause between each photo. Digital SLR cameras can take up to 100 pictures in automatic mode, at a rate of three to five photos per second, making it far more likely you’ll capture the perfect shot.