What Is An SLR Camera? The Difference And Comparison!

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what is an slr camera and how does it work

The camera industry has gone through a lot of changes, and there is nothing wrong with it. No matter how hard it is to adapt, change is always good and can be beneficial for a lot of people in positive ways. With that said, the SLR cameras were once the top-tier cameras that one could go for.

Of course, they were replaced by DSLR cameras, which later were replaced by mirrorless cameras, but that does not mean that their legacy was in vain.

Many people still prefer SLR cameras. If you are wondering what is an SLR camera, then it is not that difficult to understand.

Still, what we are going to do is look at what an SLR camera is in this article. That way, everyone would be able to have an understanding of the SLR camera, and you will not have any problems.

What Is An SLR Camera?

Honestly, understanding an SLR camera is not that difficult, to be honest. If you know what a DSLR is, then talking about SLR is all the simpler for you.

For starters, an SLR or a single-lens reflex camera is a camera that uses a mirror and a prism system that permits the photographer to view the image.

Once the image is taken, the mirror flips, allowing the light to hit the sensor, and the final image is then represented.

However, the biggest difference between modern cameras and SLR is that SLR cameras store the image on the film rather than storing them on flash memory.

SLR cameras are not as common as they used to be, but a lot of people are still using them because they believe that having physical copies of the photos you have taken is a lot better than having something that is on digital media as it could easily be lost.

Whatever the case might be, I am here to look all about the SLR cameras and how they are still being used, and if this is your interest, we are going to start looking at these cameras right now.

How Does An SLR Camera Work?

Now, many of you might want to know just how an SLR camera work, and to be honest, the mechanism behind an SLR camera and a DSLR camera is a lot similar.

In many cases, if you know one, you are going to automatically will know the other one, but still, I am here to help you get as much reading as possible, so you know that you are prepared.

A single-lens reflex camera is a camera that normally uses a mirror or a prism system. This permits the photographer to view through the lens and see what will be captured.

Image of an SLR camera with the reel

On most of the SLRs, when you press the shutter button, the mirror flips out of the light path, and the light hits the sensor, which ends up taking the picture.

Yes, if you are wondering how this method is similar to what we see in DSLR cameras, then you are right.

However, the biggest difference here is that, unlike DSLR cameras, you are getting the image stored on a film. The film needs to be developed later on, and you get a physical print of the photo that you have taken.

On DSLR cameras, you are only getting the image on the memory card in a digital format. You can, however, get those images printed, as well. If you wish to.

Rest assured, you will not have any issues whenever you are looking to take pictures because the process itself is as easy as it gets.

SLR cameras are no longer as common as they used to be, and this has made the digital cameras so much better and more prominent, but as I have mentioned, some enthusiasts are still using SLR cameras to take pictures, and that is fine.

Common Features Of An SLR Camera

Despite SLR cameras being old, it is not to say that they do not bring any good features to the table. This is the opposite, as SLR cameras do have some excellent features that you can get used to but understanding these features is always important.

For your convenience, I have listed the features down so you know what to look for whenever you are buying a good SLR camera, and you are not sidetracked by the knowledge that is of no use to you. Let’s not delay and have a look at the common features.

  • Through the Lens Monitoring.
  • Dedicated electronic flash slot.
  • Reliable body.
  • Weather sealing in some of the cameras.

Now, I do understand that you might feel like that these features are not nearly enough as some would prefer but remember, I am talking about obsolete SLR cameras that are no longer being used, and for the old days, these cameras were a massive hit, and people used them all the time.

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SLR Vs DSLR: The Key Differences

If you are wondering about the differences between a DSLR and an SLR, then there are not a lot of differences, to be honest.

Even though when DSLR was first launched, it was a massive step up from the SLR camera, but the differences were not as much. Still, for your convenience, I am not going to leave anything behind and talk about how these cameras differ.

Image of SLR camera and DSLR camera
Image Credits: Adorama

The first biggest difference is that a DSLR camera stores images on flash storage. The most commonly used form of storage used in a DSLR happens to be SD cards, but other storage types are also used.

Whatever the case is, everything is digital and can be deleted or overwritten in every case. On the other hand, an SLR camera stores images on a film, which means that you cannot change any properties of the film. If you have taken an image, it stays on it forever.

Another key difference here is that you can store thousands of images on a DSLR’s memory card, but with SLR cameras, you are mostly limited to 36 images per roll of film.

SLR cameras are also not capable of shooting films, and they do not offer any live preview of the images that you take.

The Pros & Cons

Sure, the technology was older, but that does mean that these cameras did not come with their fair share of advantages. Quite the opposite.

You do get a list of benefits from SLR cameras. Let’s have a look at the advantages first before we look towards the disadvantages.

  • SLR cameras allow for an easier expansion to the current system that you have.
  • The whole process of upgrading is a lot easier than most cameras.
  • SLR cameras can go as far as you want to take them in terms of quality. The only thing that will limit you is your budget.
  • SLR cameras are extremely reliable in terms of the overall quality of the image as well as the camera.

Advantages aside, the SLR cameras also bring some disadvantages to the table. Let’s have a look at them, shall we?

  • Compared to modern cameras, SLR cameras can be on the bulkier side, as well as heavier.
  • SLR cameras are also noisier, thanks to a proper moving mechanism.
  • SLR cameras are also complex as compared to some of the other, more straightforward cameras.

These should suffice as far as the advantages or disadvantages of SLR cameras are concerned.

Sure, this might not be for everyone, but if you are looking to get as much information as possible, this is a good way to get started when you are buying these cameras.

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Reasons Why Photographers Still Choose Film Over Digital Camera?

I know it might sound like a strange thing, but a lot of photographers still prefer having a film over digital cameras.

There are a lot of reasons that could be the reason behind that. Some just prefer collecting cameras, while others believe that using film cameras gives them a better result.

Image of three SLR cameras

At the same time, most people use film cameras or prefer these cameras because they like having something that allows them to develop films into physical copies. It varies from person to person.

Whatever the case is, if you go over to the internet or photography forums, you will realize how there is a massive demand for film cameras, and some of the older models sell for a lot of money, and people are happily willing to pay the money for these cameras.

It is all about what you are looking for in a camera.

What Image Quality Does An SLR Offer?

The image quality of SLR cameras is nothing to scoff at, to be honest. Ever since these cameras were first introduced in the market, they kept improving until they were finally put on the shelf.

Some of the greatest images we see from the past have been taken using an SLR camera. Of course, the quality of the lens also mattered a lot, and SLR cameras overall were great as long as you have a good lens.

It is just important to keep in mind that had it not been for the digital transition, SLR cameras would still have been in mass production as people still love those cameras to this day and for all the right reasons, thanks to how good they are and how adaptive they are.

Needless to say, SLR cameras were excellent, and if you have a fully functional one available, it would still take excellent pictures.

What Type Of Lens Can I Use With An SLR Camera?

When you are talking about the lenses that go on the SLR cameras, this is not that complicated, to be honest. In most cases, you can use almost every lens that you see fit with varying focal length, aperture, or other properties.

You just have to be sure that they are made for the same sensor size, and more importantly, the mount is the same as your camera.

Image of a person holding an SLR cam

However, since SLR lenses are no longer being produced, finding these lenses is something that could be difficult, and more importantly, these lenses are going to cost you more money than you might think.

It is better that you are being careful about these things in the best way possible as it is not ideal to get a lens that is not even built for your camera’s system.


Photography is not just an art form, to be honest. For a lot of people, it is the way of life, and the better we are getting at photography, the better it becomes for everyone.

So, if you are looking to get started, you can educate yourself on various mediums that were used to take good photos. With SLR cameras being the reason photography ushered into a new era.

SLR cameras were more or less revolutionary, and I am glad to have lived in that era to some extent, even though the technology in that era was in its prime.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1- What is the difference between a DSLR and an SLR camera?

Answer: A lot of people have been discussing the differences between SLR and DSLR cameras, and to be honest, the one difference that separates both cameras happens to be the fact the SLR cameras store images on a film, whereas a DSLR camera stores everything on a memory card.

Q2- Which is better, SLR or DSLR?

Answer: Of course, modern technology, that DSLR is better than the SLR cameras in every way. It is more accessible, lighter in weight, and can be adapted in more ways than one might think.

Granted, even the DSLR cameras have been outdated, especially when you are looking at the other options that are available such as mirrorless cameras.

Q3- What are SLR cameras used for?

Answer: SLR cameras that used to be in the market were only used for taking pictures as they were not able to take videos on them in any way.

Q4- Do SLR cameras have mirrors?

Answer: Yes, all SLR cameras come with a prism or a light; either of these is used to direct the light to our eyes so we can look at the scene we are about to capture.

Q5- Are SLR cameras obsolete?

Answer: Yes, SLR cameras have been obsolete for some time, and they were replaced by DSLR cameras that allowed the user to store everything in a digital format such as a memory card.

In addition to that, DSLR cameras were also used to take videos and could store 1,000s pictures or more on the memory card.

Q6- How does light travel through an SLR camera?

Answer: In an SLR camera, the light travels through the lens, hits the mirror, and the mirror directs it to the optical viewfinder.

Once you are sure about the shot that you want to take, you press the shutter button, which flips the mirror, allowing the light to hit the sensor, and that results in the image being taken.

Q7- What is a traditional SLR?

Answer: A traditional SLR camera uses an interchangeable lens, has a mirror or a prism, and stores images on a film.

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