In the Know: What Are SLRs and Why You Should Try Them


Photography, like many things, has a learning curve. The same could be said about gear. One photographer's setup will differ from another simply because they can have different needs and technical knowledge. For photographers who are looking to learn the basics (or if they're trying to refresh their skills), one of the most rational cameras to take up would be SLRs.

Credits: mikeydavies

Now, before we get to the reasons why you should choose using an SLR, let us first try and explain what makes it work and why it's one of the most useful cameras out there. The word “SLR” is a popular abbreviation for Single Lens Reflex. SLRs have three major components that make it work, namely the prism, mirror, and lens. These three components work together to help the photographer focus and frame the shot.

The lens lets the light in and helps the user to focus the shot. The mirror reflects what the lens sees and transfers it to the prism which then relays it to the eye of the user. It's a simple mechanism that has helped countless photographers learn the basic tenets of photography. Once you hit the shutter, the mirror flips up and exposes the film frame behind it, thus creating a frame. Neat, right? Simply put, the SLR is a “what you see is what you get” kind of camera. Well, kind of. We'll talk more about that later on.

Now, let's begin counting down the reasons why you should try out an SLR camera.

1. It's a great learning tool for photography.

Credits: welland, natalieerachel, elvismartinezsmith & frauspatzi

This one might be a simple reason to pick an SLR but it's also arguably the most important. SLRs are great learning tools because the photographer is pretty much in control of the whole photography process. SLRs let you choose the aperture, shutter speed, film speed, and other variables that can greatly improve anyone's chance to snap a good photograph. This is probably one of the top reasons why photography courses in schools use SLRs to teach students the basics of film photography.

2. What you see is what you get when you use an SLR.

Credits: fivedayforecast, dhuffone & mont0417

Remember what we said above? Well, that is fairly true, most of the time. The lens-mirror-prism mechanism of SLRs lets you see what the camera sees and that's very important if you're the type of photographer who likes to freeze the moment as it happens. This characteristic of the SLR takes care of the dreaded "parallax error" that other kinds of cameras are prone to. However, other factors play a role in this like shutter speed, aperture, and motion blur to name a few but once you have all of these things locked down, you'll get the exact same results day in and day out.

3. SLRs are good for experimenting.

Credits: fletchinski84, mephisto19, herbert-4 & frauspatzi

Many SLRs have advanced features and settings that let users explore quite a bit. From long exposures with the Bulb mode to unlimited exposures and rapid shooting for sports events to exposure compensation, these features undoubtedly make photographing with SLRs very exciting.

Just imagine the possibilities if you're just a beginner photographer... you would just have hours upon hours of experimentation ahead of you!

4. Mechanical SLR cameras can be some of the most durable (and beautiful) cameras out there.

© Ahir Gourav via Pexels, Akairom , Martin Dvoracek, and Images George Rex via Flickr, Images used under Creative Commons license

Some of the most beautiful photographs here in the community have been taken with SLR cameras that are in the 30-40-year-old range. We're not even kidding. Some SLR cameras were built to last and some are (with proper care and maintenance) can even be passed on the next generation of photographers in the family. Mechanical cameras make do with external battery sources and utilize the power of springs, gears, levers, and nimble joints. These kinds of cameras are part of the reason why a lot of photographers love film photography — they are some of the most reliable and durable workhorses around. And they look good, too!

5. You can mix and match accessories. You can also build a pro setup with some SLRs.

© J Jakobson via Flickr, Image used under Creative Commons license

Hobbyists and pros have chosen SLRs as their main cameras for the longest time. Do you want to know why? Well, the fact that a lot of SLR systems are customizable is probably a good enough reason for them. Accessories like different finders, flashes, battery packs, rapid winders, and so on are great add-ons to SLR cameras. These gadgets improve the camera's performance and effectiveness — things that you would greatly appreciate if you use SLRs in your line of work. Also, wouldn't it be cool to have a setup that's just perfect for your shooting needs? Pro tip: beware of GAS!

How about you? What do you think makes SLRs a great choice for a camera? Let us know in the comments section below!

written by cheeo on 2019-09-20 #gear #slr #camera #gear #single-lens-reflex #in-the-know


  1. ksears119
    ksears119 ·

    I used SLR's for many years. My first was a Mamiya / Sekor 500DTL. I think my all time favorite was the Nikkormat FTn, it was a tank but easy to use! I still have a Nikon F2 and like to use it for old times sake!

  2. iblissss
    iblissss ·

    "Beware of GAS" - what does GAS stand for?

  3. trad69
    trad69 ·

    I agree a 35mm SLR is a really good camera to start with and I have recently gone back to them- it's the viewfinder with if you're lucky a depth of field preview or stop down lever so you can see the picture in your mind before you develop the film. Point 4 is a good one - electronics and plastic break far sooner than cogs so like cars the more mechanical the longer they last - the exception seems to be Pentax Spotmatics - they look so cool but I am on about number 4 now.

  4. fran_35mm
    fran_35mm ·

    @iblissss GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome! Basically the addiction, if you will, to buying and upgrading your gear. We all get it somehow!

  5. iblissss
    iblissss ·

    @fran_35mm haha offcourse it is, must have been tired, I am well aware of GAS, one day at a time without new camera :)

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