What is an SLR Camera?

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Updated December 2, 2022

If you are new to the world of photography, you may wonder what is an SLR camera. Many of the best digital cameras, after all, are SLR models, and these cameras are certainly unique. So what makes the best DSLR cameras, and where do SLR cameras fit into that? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.


  • SLR stands for single-lens reflex, which refers to the mirrors, prisms, and lenses that make these cameras work.
  • DSLR (digital single-lens reflex cameras) and SLR cameras feature similar designs, with optical viewfinders, but SLR cameras are analog and use film.
  • SLR cameras like the Canon EOS offer fantastic image quality when compared to mirrorless cameras, interchangeable lenses, and a high-end resale value.

What is a Single-Lens Reflex Camera?

SLR stands for single-lens reflex and has nothing to do with the definition of a non-digital camera. Single-lens reflex cameras feature a mirror and prisms to reflect light, similar to how a DSLR works if you are wondering how much a DSLR camera costs. However, you may notice the lack of a “D” in SLR if you are comparing the Blackmagic Ursa V1 vs V2. That is because these are typically not digital cameras.

Insider Tip

Thanks to the metal components, SLR cameras tend to be on the heavier side, so clear out your storage bag.

That’s right. SLR cameras are film cameras, otherwise known as analog cameras, so you won’t have to wonder why does white turn purple on your digital camera.

Benefits of an SLR Camera

There are a variety of benefits to choosing an SLR camera, despite the loss of some of the conveniences that come with digital gadgets.

Professional-Grade Photos

If you have ever wondered why some older photos look so detailed and gorgeous, it is due to the SLR image sensors within the camera. Film cameras still offer some unique benefits over digital cameras, and taking pro photos is chief among them. Of course, to take the best photos with an analog camera, you will need plenty of accessories, such as extra lenses, tripods, external lighting systems, and more.

Interchangeable Lenses

SLR cameras basically invented the idea of swapping out new lenses on the fly. This advancement carries onto DSLR cameras. How does this help? Certain lenses excel with specific types of photography. Before the introduction of swappable lenses, professional photographers had to bring multiple cameras with them to a shoot to account for every possible shot. If you want a macro shot with an SLR, just pop in a macro lens.

STAT: Both SLR and DSLR cameras make use of single-lens reflex technology, which utilizes an internal reflex mirror that allows the user to see what the lens sees and will be captured through the camera’s optical viewfinder. (source)

Cost and Resale Value

SLR cameras can come at higher price points than DSLR cameras and any digital camera, but you get what you pay. Additionally, these cameras never require upgrades, as they are analog. To that end, they tend to retain their value. As long as you purchase a well-regarded SLR camera, you should be able to sell it later on for close to the price you bought it for, if not more.


Which is better: SLR or DSLR?

Both types have their uses, as the Canon EOS takes fantastic photos, for instance. Full-frame DSLRs are a good choice, as they feature amazing image sensors created for digital photography, but a standard SLR also boasts a great imaging sensor.

How do I choose my first camera?

You want something budget-friendly and easy to use, so go with a mirrorless camera over, say, the Canon EOS. You want an easy-to-use shutter button, an electronic viewfinder, space for a memory card, image stabilization, and other tools to help beginners.

Which lenses do I choose for my SLR camera?

This depends entirely on personal preference and what you are shooting. Unlike mirrorless cameras, SLRs like the Canon EOS can take a variety of lenses to increase dynamic range.
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