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In this internet age, every gadget is subject to digitization. And often, when choosing the best digital camera, many no longer consider the previous, non-digital generations. And this goes double for the best DSLR cameras. Well, such digital bias ends right here. Because below, we’ll be comparing SLR vs DSLR cameras and prove to you that, perhaps, in some ways, the old ways might be the best. In short, the biggest difference between the two? SLR is a traditional film, whereas a DSLR has a digital sensor. Boom.


  • DSLRs and SLRs have many similarities, but their key difference is how each camera type records an image.
  • DSLRs (Digital Single-Lens Reflex Cameras) use a digital sensor to capture an image and can store thousands of photos in their memory bank.
  • SLRs (Single Lens Reflex Cameras) use physical film to record an image and are often thought to have a slightly higher quality image than digital cameras.

For additional camera comparison guides, we have articles covering everything from DSLR vs Point-and-Shoot cameras to product comparisons like Blackmagic URSA V1 vs V2.

SLR and DSLR: Which Is Better?

Many use the terms SLR and DSLR interchangeably, and these people are right in many cases. But if you’re being technical, there’s quite a large difference between the two.

Insider Tip

Both SLRs and DSLRs allow users to take advantage of a wide range of lenses to help specialize a photo’s style.

SLR stands for”single-lens reflex” and refers to film cameras where you see directly through the lens thanks to a mirror mechanism. The “D” in DSLR stands for “digital” single-lens reflex and replaces the film with a digital sensor while keeping the optical viewfinder system. Both allow you to see exactly what you’re shooting through the lens, making them well-suited for fast-paced photography styles like sports or action shooting.

And there lies the difference: the DSLR uses a digital sensor, whereas an SLR uses film. And either option has its advantages and drawbacks.

However, DSLRs add advanced features like rapid shooting, HD video, and access to a wide range of lenses to accommodate different shooting styles. For those seeking maximum control and customization for their photography style, a DSLR’s advanced capabilities may prove worth the increased cost and complexity over a stripped-down SLR model.

Both DSLR/SLR cameras operate similarly. Inside the camera body is a mirror and prism that reflect light entering through the lens and project it through the optical viewfinder, giving the photographer a clear image of what’s being captured. When a photographer presses the shutter button, the mirror flips up, so the light passes through and is captured by either the camera’s digital sensor or a roll of film.

If you want to look into a camera without a reflex mirror, we have an article comparing DSLRs vs mirrorless systems.

Image Quality

Certain stodgy but prolific film directors sometimes sermonize how they’ll only use physical film to shoot projects. When they say this, they aren’t only being nostalgic or snobby. Although it’s more of a hassle, physical film still produces better image quality than digital cameras, providing a more dynamic range of color and contrast.

However, the imaging technology behind digital cameras has improved tremendously in recent years. While high-end professional photographers may still prefer the look of physical film, there is now very little noticeable difference in quality between formats. Although die-hard film loyalists argue there is still a huge difference, many experts agree that digital cameras can now produce results on par with 35mm film for all but the most discerning professional photographers. The convenience and cost savings of digital make it the logical choice for most projects.

Moreover, as digital technology advances and sensor size increases, the image quality gap between these two types dwindles in the realm of professional photography. But as a general takeaway, physical film tends to have higher quality than digital image sensors.


Taking off an SLR’s lens cap in an area with significant sunlight can damage the film inside the camera.

Video Recording

One of the main advantages of the DSLR ad SLR is that digital options have enough space to record video, where SLRs only have a limited amount of film and only take photographs. We have a great article explaining the variances between a film camera and a DSLR for those looking to buy a camera for video.

Storage Capacity

Digital cameras exceed SLRs regarding how many photos you can take, which is why they are popular among professionals who have to take many action photography photos. DSLRs can capture thousands of images on a single memory card, where SLRs are limited to one roll of film.

STAT: DSLR cameras have a shutter speed of up to 1/8000th of a second. (source)


How does a larger sensor size impact imaging technology?

Sensor size allows a camera to fit more information (in this case, pixels) into a single image: the more information, the greater the image’s detail.

What does ILC mean?

ILC stands for “Interchangeable lenses camera,” meaning it’s possible to mount various lenses and filters onto the device.

What does the depth of field mean?

Depth of field explains the distance of what’s in focus within a given camera shot.

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