Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera Dslr-Beginners


This article is focused for photographers beginners or those who want to know in detail how a digital camera DSLR works–from the moment the shutter button is clicked to shoot up when the image is captured by the sensor and recorded in memory.

This process will be introduced step by step, including the description of the movements of the internal parts of the camera until the picture is rendered. Essential components shall be identified and appointed and in addition, we’ll show you the definition of what is and what does DSLR.

All these topics are important and serve as a basis for better understanding of many of our articles and for those who want to buy a digital reflex camera or SLR defined on

See illustrative photo of a DSLR and interchangeable lenses below.

What Is The Meaning Of DSLR And SLR

DSLR Is An Acronym In English (An Acronym) Which Briefly Means Digital Single Lens Reflex.

Digital=digital camera, so this acronym does not apply to analog cameras (which can be called only from SLR).

Single Lens=a single lens mounted on the camera body. It can be removed and replaced. The camera does not have a separate lens only for the display, and for this the photographer sees exactly the same image will be projected onto the sensor.

Reflex=the camera has a movable mirror and a pentaprism or pentaespelho to reflect the projected image through the lens to the display.

Therefore, the difference is between DSLR and SLR: SLR applies generally to analog cameras (film), while DSLR is a term that can only be used for digital cameras.

Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera Dslr-Beginners 1

What Is A Dslr Camera-Internal Components

DSLR is a type of digital camera, a rating received by several cameras from many different manufacturers due to the internal arrangement of its elements, as shown in the following schematic figure:





4-low-pass Filter


6-Ground (screen despolida)

7-Pentaprism or pentaespelho (depends on the camera *)

8-analog display

* Cheapest DSLR cameras usually have a pentaespelho and the most expensive are usually served with a pentaprism.

The ground (item 6 of the previous list) is a critical piece to the operation of camera, and although it is unknown by many photographers. The despolida screen, as is also known, is where the image is focused by the lens comes in while the mirror is down. When you look through the viewfinder, the photographer sees the reflection of this image.

One of the most relevant characteristics of DSLR cameras and SLR is to allow the exchange of lenses. Because of this, these cameras are better at individual needs of the photographer, making possible the adaptation of the same camera body to different purposes–as «macro lenses, or sports photography with telephotos for example.

Learn more in: types of Photographic Lenses, their functions and applications

It is important to note that the fitting of the lenses on the bodies of DSLR cameras and SLR is through manufacturer-specific interface. So, for example, is impossible (without an adapter) use a Canon lens on a Nikon camera and vice versa.

Although mirrorless cameras also allow the exchange of lenses, they are not called DSLR for not having the internal mirror. In addition, most of the mirrorless has no other elements that every DSLR and SLR have, as analog display and pentaprism/pentaespelho.

How Does A Dslr Walkthrough

We Can Say That Dslr Cameras Have Three Distinct Modes Of Operation:

  1. Before shooting, while the photographer looks through the viewfinder;
  2. During the photo, just after the photographer clicked the shutter button;
  3. Filming or viewing through the viewfinder.

Let’s Treat Each Operation Separately To Facilitate Understanding.

Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera Dslr-Beginners

1-Before Shooting

While the photographer looks through the viewfinder and adjusts the composition of your photo, the image displayed is the one that passes through the lens, reflected in the mirror and pentaprism or pentaespelho.

Right now, the mirror remains low and photometry occurs in existing photometer within the camera body.

See illustrative animation below:

2-During The Photo

The animation below shows, in summary form, as a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR) works when a photograph is taken.

The vast majority of DSLR goes through all the steps of the process described below, as long as the shutter button is clicked to the image be saved on the memory card. Keep in mind that each camera reacts in a way and in your own time, and possibly with a slightly different sequence.

A – the shutter button is clicked;

B – the camera makes the photometry and adjusts some or all of the existing parameters in the triangle of exposure (automatic and semi-automatic modes only);

C-the mirror is lifted, leaving the light switch to the shutter;

D-the lens diaphragm closes until it reaches the setting of f/stop set by the photographer (or the camera itself in automatic and semi-automatic modes);

And * – the Shutter curtain opens, letting the light pass to the sensor;

F * – the sensor begins to capture light and transform it into analog signal (eV);

G – the analog signal passes through a digital conversion, so the image is rendered. The small volts are transformed into strings of data (1010100110001…);

H – the camera detects the colors and compares with 12 or 18% gray (depending on model) and calculates the white balance (when configured in auto white balance mode) and applies the image;

I – the camera makes corrections of vignetting, noise reduction and chromatic aberrations (depends on the model and settings);

J-the photo is saved in the internal memory of the camera (flash or buffer), along with all your information and processing metadata applied to it;

K-the image is compressed and saved to JPEG, Tiff or RAW (or any other format or set of formats configured on camera);

L-the image is copied to the memory card, where it is recorded and accessible for external transfer.

3-During Filming Or Viewing Through The Digital Display

In this mode of operation, the sensor is constantly exposed to light from outside, that passes through the lens. The diaphragm is held in position set, the mirror is held up and the Shutter curtain opens.

And that’s why, when the camera is operating in this way, any light coming from the lens to the display. The mirror is raised and does not reflect the light entering through the lens, still works as a barrier of light that focuses the display and reflects on the pentaprism.

Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera Dslr-Beginners 2

Ratings And Development Of DSLR

DSLR can be classified in several ways. Although manufacturers use different classifications, we can classify all in one of the three following types: Professional, semi-professional and input model. Regardless of how they are called, the material of which they are composed and the quality level of inspections, all are invariably classified as DSLR with internal mirror and optical viewfinder. It is important to note for beginners that DSLR is not synonymous with professional camera and that most DSLR on the market are input or semi-professionals models.

As time passes, the evolution of technology is more easily noticed: today we see higher resolution sensors, higher resolution for movies, less digital noise when working with high ISO sensitivity, introduction of technology of wireless data transmission, greater ability to buffer and faster processing of images, faster autofocus and I need etc. Can be so many advances between a model and another, there are many photographers who end up changing the camera body (for a better and newer) much more often than buy new lenses.

The top-of-the-line Nikon models, for example, are usually updated every 2 to 3 years, while the Canon between 3 to 4 years.

New models do not incorporate only bigger technology or greater processing power. They bring with them many lessons learned, fixing things that went wrong (such as greater likelihood of dirt on the sensor) and keeping the design that worked in previous models.

Sensor Sizes

Another possible classification of DSLR cameras is according to the size of its sensors. While bodies of professional DSLR cameras tend to have larger sensors (full frame size or medium format), the input and semipro DSLR sensors have smaller sizes, which reduces your cost of production and that the final purchase price is most competitive.

The Figure Below Illustrates The Sizes Of Sensors In DSLR Cameras.

Four Thirds: Olympus or Panasonic

APS-C: Nikon DX (23.5 × 15, 6 mm) or Canon (22.2 × 14.8 mm)

APS-H: Canon (28, 7x19mm)

Full Frame (24x36mm)

Medium Format: Mamyia (53.7 × 40, 3 mm) or Hasselblad (53.4 × 40.0 mm)

The sensor size influence on fundamental aspects of digital photography, such as noise, hyperfocal distance, angle of view and focal length .

Sony, Canon And The Translucent Mirror

Sony, unlike other major manufacturers, have on your product line cameras that seem to DSLR, but are not.

These cameras are equipped with a different mirror, which reflects only a small part of the light, leaving most pass through you. This mirror is translucent and, therefore, the camera is not known as a DSLR, but rather as a DSLT (Digital Sinle Lens Ttranslucent).

This technology is called by Sony of Translucent Mirror Technology. Link: Sony-α99 Digital SLR 35 mm Camera (in Portuguese)

For letting light pass through you, the mirror does not need to be moved during the photo. This makes the design of the camera can be simplified, and for this there is less vibration during the taking of photographs and a lower energy expenditure. The problem is that this “mirror” is one more element that gets in the way of light, which brings the possibility to reduce the sharpness of digital photography. In addition, to reflect part of the light, therefore decreases the lighting that reaches the sensor, which may entail the need of change factors photographer of the triangle of exposure to compensate for light loss.

To reduce this problem, Canon has developed works in the field of mirrors with variable translucency. But despite the patent, are not yet a reality for the final consumer. Link: Image Capture Apparatus with Variable Translucency Mirror (in English)

Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera Dslr-Beginners 3

Some Problems Of DSLR Cameras

The DSLR have several advantages when compared to compact cameras, but also have some disadvantages. Among them, the worst are:

DSLR cameras are larger and heavier than and mirrorless compact cameras;

Are more difficult to transport and store;

Are less discreet for your size, but also for making more noise in time to photograph;

Are more susceptible to dirt and get the dirty sensor more often, requiring periodic maintenance.

 Visit our complete article comparing input and semipro DSLR with compact cameras: difference between a compact camera and a Semi-professional

List Of Manufacturers Of DSLR Cameras And The Future Of These Cameras

In alphabetical order, the following list shows the major DSLR camera manufacturers on the international market. The three largest are Japanese and are marked with a *. Nikon and Canon are the brands that effectively dominate the Mirrorless DSLR and camera market.

Canon *




Nikon *



Sony *

This list is in constant modification (reduction) and, over time, there is a clear trend followed by Olympus to leave this DSLR market and seek innovations and sales in Mirrorless cameras. In 2013 the Olympus stopped the manufacture of your DSLR line and today their top-of-the-line models are mirrorless.

This trend was observed in the market also by Samsung, whose latest releases are mirrorless and comes by removing market cameras in Britain from 2015. Read more here: Samsung Quits UK Camera Market (in English)


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