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Scott the Fireman Jan 11, 2003 12:39 PM

digital SLR camera/regular digatal. Whats the difference?
Probably a dumb queston but what is the fundamental difference between a regular digital camera and a digital SLR camera? Does the dig. SLR camera use film as well as digital pics? Are the SLR cameras as durable and easy to use as the digital cameras. I presently own a Sony F-707 and love it but the more I get into photography the more I realize that a good portion of the best folks out there use the digital single lens reflex cameras. Please advise.

JimHunt Jan 11, 2003 3:10 PM


Single lens reflex refers to the viewfinder mechanism. Non-SLR film cameras have a viewfinder system that is a separate system of lenses from the main camera lens. SLR uses a mirror to let you see what is actually coming through the main camera lens in the viewfinder. When you take the shot, the mirror flips out of the way of the film (or the CCD) and you get the "clunk" sound associated with SLR cameras. SLR has nothing to do with whether the camera is film or digital.

With LCD display and electronic viewfinders on consumer and prosumer cameras you get the benefits of seeing what is actually coming through the main lens, so you have the "Single Lens" part of it. Since a mirror isn't used to obtain the effect, you don't have the "Reflex" part.

marokero Jan 11, 2003 3:25 PM

Digital SLR's are built for professional use and should be very durable (no, no film in digital SLR's). They also have tons of manual controls at your disposal, accessible through dedicated and custom function buttons, ability to use 1600 ISO and above in some models, much faster everything, including menus (playback, zooming, and other lcd stuff), focusing (depends on the lens you choose), write speed, ability to change lenses to fit your need (and budget), TTL (through the lens) optical viewfinder, flexibility in firmware upgrades (more of it and sometimes hardware upgrade offers), better software support if you shoot raw files, etc... I like SLR's because I've been using them for a long time and could never be limited in the way of manual controls for exposure.

But they do have downsides though. They aren't cheap for starters, good lenses to take advantage of the sensors can sometimes cost more than the camera body itself, no live preview on the lcd (only playback and menu access - that is due to the mirror they have, unless it's a beam splitter like in the Olympus' E series cameras), dirt and dust in the sensor require a workflow of careful cleaning (or if you can't do it yourself have it serviced by manufacturer or an authorized dealer), once you buy into a digital SLR you buy into system (because you will need to invest in lenses for a specific brand, and once you have many lenses for that system it would be very hard to go to another brand of SLR unless you dump all your previous investment on lenses).

Having said all that, if the negatives don't shy you away from expanding your interest into digital SLR's, you can perhaps try one out at a photo store to see how you like it. Also prices are coming down quickly, and used high-end models can be had for the price of current low-end digital SLR's. But remember that it's not the equipment you use, but mostly the photographer who creates the picture. And sometimes chance plays heavily in getting that special shot, regardless of equipment :)

jsmeeker Jan 13, 2003 4:20 PM

A full blown digital SLR's (one with changeable lenses, jsut like a traditional SLR) biggest drawback is cost ($$$$) and the phyiscal size of them. I would not say the inability to use the screen to shoot is a drawback. Its an SLR, afterall, and the viewfinder will show you want you will get, and will also have all the data about shooting settings.

Really, just like a traditional film SLR. Except without the film. You shoot pictures with them the exact same way. If you are used to a standard film SLR, going to a digital one should be a no brainer. You don't need to re-learn the camera half. You simply need to learn the digital half.

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