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Is A DLSR Camera Right For You?
A Guide For Novice Photographers

By: Adam Falcsik 15 March 2011
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Audience And Scope
This document will inform the novice hobby photographer of the advantages, basic make up, and functionality of Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras. Many novice photographers use simple point and shoot consumer cameras, or even their cell phones, to capture images. This document could be used at a retail location where cameras are sold, on an online forum, or in a relevant magazine to help the consumer decide if a DSLR camera is right for them.

What Is DSLR And Why Is It Better?
A digital single-lens reflex camera, like the one depicted in Figure 1, is an electronic image capturing device that uses a mechanical mirror system and pentaprism, a five sided reflective prism, to direct light from the lens to an optical viewfinder on the back of the camera. DSLRs are normally preferred over their smaller point and shoot counter parts for several reasons.
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First, DSLRs allow an accurate preview of the framing of the photograph until the moment of exposure. Typical point and shoot cameras have Figure 1: A Typical DSLR Camera a digital screen or small peephole for use as the viewfinder. Neither the screen’s image or the view through the peephole is a true depiction of what the camera lens will capture. DSLRs allow the photographer to see precisely what the image sensor will be exposed to. Exactly how that happens will be explained in the “How Does a DLSR Camera Work?” section below. Second, DLSRs have larger image sensors. Larger image sensors have a higher signal to noise ratio, which drastically reduces the “grainy” appearance of many images taken using cameras with smaller sensors. The larger DSLR sensors also allow for a depth of field, the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene, and picture angle similar to that provided by the legacy film formats.

One last immense benefit of having a DSLR is that it allows the user to choose from an enormous variety of interchangeable lenses, as can been seen in Figure 2. There are many considerations that must be accounted for when choosing a lens because of the massive amount of variety. How to QuickTimeª and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. choose the proper lens is outside the scope of this particular document, but the novice photographer needs to be aware that one lens is not capable of capturing high quality images in all situations. With a DSLR camera, the Figure 2: Variety of DSLR Lens Options photographer is capable of adapting to the situation by changing lenses. Those using a camera with one fixed lens are stuck with what they have.

What Are The Important Parts Of A DSLR Camera?
There are many parts that must be manipulated to successfully operate a DSLR camera. Looking at the camera from the front, as seen in Figure 3, the visible parts are:  Hotshoe – an electronic coupling and mounting point on the top of the camera for an QuickTimeª and a external flash. decompressor are needed to see this picture.  Pentaprism Hump – the portion of the camera chassis that houses the five-sided prism used to turn the image right side up for viewing purposes.  Lens Release Button – a trigger or switch that uncouples the lens from the camera body allowing for quick and easy lens changes.  Image Sensor – a material that converts the optical image received through the lens into digital information.  Grip – a textured area Figure 3: Basic DSLR Camera Components ergonomically engineered for comfortable holding and shooting. (Front View)  Shutter – the button pressed to take the picture.  Mode Dial – a selection knob that allows the photographer to change the

shooting mode to obtain the best results for the given condition. Looking at the camera from the back, as seen in Figure 4, the visible parts are:  Dioptre Adjustment – a wheel that allows you to focus the view in the camera’s viewfinder.  Magnification Buttons – push buttons that allow the user to magnify the image displayed on the LCD screen, not to be confused with zoom.  Memory Card Slot – a location for inserting an external memory card for storage of the

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digitally captured images.
Figure 4: Basic DSLR Camera Components

 Delete – a button used to erase the image currently displayed on the LCD screen from the memory card. (Back View)  Image Playback Button – allows the user to display the stored images on the LCD screen for review.  LCD Screen – the camera’s electronic viewfinder and interface. This can also be used to look at stored images, navigate the camera’s menus, or to record video.  Viewfinder – an opening through which the image to be captured by the camera can be seen by the photographer.

Looking at the camera from the top, as seen in Figure 5, the visible parts are:  Shutter – defined above in front view.  Mode Dial – defined above in front view.  Power Switch – turns the camera on and off.  Hotshoe – defined above in front view.  Pop-up Flash – the camera’s built-in illumination unit that is released when in use, and hidden when not in use.

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Figure 5: Basic DSLR Components (Top View)

There are many parts that make up a DSLR camera. The above list only outlines the most important and rudimentary pieces that are needed for basic operation. After mastering the basic operation, which really is quite similar to that of point and shoot cameras, you will be ready to learn how to utilize all of the advanced capabilities a DSLR has to offer.

How Does A DSLR Camera Work?
Both DSLR and point and shoot cameras are very sophisticated devices; however, the operation of a point and shoot is very simple when compared to a DSLR. An exposure made using a DSLR camera involves a complex set of operations and involves a large number of moving parts. The following description of the photography process is based on a paper published by JISC Digital Media. Before The Shutter Button Is Pressed While the photographer is setting up the shot, light from the object being photographed travels through the lens, is reflected by the mirror to the pentaprism, and then to the eyepiece. This allows the user to see exactly what the image sensor is going to capture, as is depicted in Figure 6. Once the photographer is happy with what they see the shutter button is pressed.

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Figure 6: DSLR Cross Section

After The Shutter Button Is Pressed When the button is released the mirror flips up, the aperture closes to the chosen setting, and the shutter opens. This process exposes the digital sensor to light. While the sensor is being exposed, the light is directed toward it, and away from the pentaprism. This causes the viewfinder to black out while the

picture is being taken. During the exposure, the image sensor digitizes the information, and the picture is stored in the memory. When the exposure is finished, the shutter is closed, the mirror drops back down, the aperture reopens, and the camera is ready for the next exposure. Other Operations That May Occur Today’s DSLRs also may direct some light away from the viewfinder towards special sensors to take measurements for exposure and focus. These sensors allow DSLRs to have functions like auto-focus and auto-iso, making them simpler to use. The DSLR systems are far more accurate, and faster than similar systems found on point and shoot cameras. Also, according to the JISC paper, most camera manufacturers have recently introduced a “Live View” feature for their new DSLR camera models. This feature raises the mirror for an extended period of time, and uses the LCD screen for viewing and composing. This allows the user to magnify the scene to check focus and various other aspects, as well as enables SLR cameras to capture high definition video.

Because of the complexity of the optical system, DSLR cameras tend to be considerably larger than the average non-SLR camera. DSLRs also present the novice user with an intimidating array of buttons, dials, and controls. Factoring in these two concerns, along with the relatively high price, there are still many reasons to upgrade to a DSLR rather than settling for a basic point and shoot camera. One of the utmost benefits of upgrading to a DSLR is that the camera can accept an immense variety of lenses, flashes, and many other accessories. Also, a DSLR camera’s controls are more accessible, often in the form of dials and buttons rather than buried deep within a menu system typical of the compact point and shoot cameras. The direct optical viewfinder of a DSLR has much greater clarity and accuracy when compared to the digital system used by most compact cameras. Another advantage a DSLR has over a point and shoot is the size of the typical image sensor. The sensor found in a DSLR is significantly larger than the sensor used in the average compact digital camera. The larger sensor offers greater sensitivity, less image noise, and more control of depth of field than a smaller sensor. If the objective is to capture stunning, high quality images in a variety of environments and circumstances, then a DSLR is the camera for you.

However, if size, mobility, simplicity, and low cost are of more concern, you may be more satisfied with the simplistic, compact point and shoot cameras that are so popular today.

Works Consulted Digital single-lens reflex camera (2011, March 12). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 14, 2011 The digital SLR camera for teaching, learning, and digitisation (2008, February 12). In JISC Digital Media. Retrieved March 14, 2011 Savvides, A. (2010, June 9). Get to know your digital SLR camera. In CNET. Retrieved March 14, 2011 Figure Sources Figure 1: Nikon DSLR Cameras, 2011, http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/ digitalcamera/slr/d7000/index.htm. Copyright 2011 by Nikon Corporation. Figure 2: DownloadAtoZ, 2011, http://camera.downloadatoz.com/tutorials,600,top-tips-for-choosing-abest-budget-suitable-canon-dslr-lens-for-beginners.html. Copyright 2010 by DownloadAtoZ Inc. Figure 3/4/5: CNET, http://au.news.yahoo.com/technology/photography/article/-/7370042/g et-to-know-your-digital-slr-camera/. Copyright 2011 by Nikon Corporation.

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