Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) are the main type of high-end digital camera available in the UK. Ranging in price from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, DSLRs include rudimentary entry-level varieties as well as the kind of camera that caters for the pros.
This buyer's guide will introduce the way they work, the types of DSLR you will come across, and try to help buyers find exactly the right device at the ideal price.
The History of DSLR Cameras
The first digital camera was invented by a Kodak scientist named Steve Sasson in 1975, but it took another decade or more for mainstream alternatives to film-based cameras to emerge. By the mid 1980s, brands like Nikon had taken Sasson's invention (which was essentially the modern digital photosensor) and started to roll out ancestors to today's DSLRs.
The Nikon SVC debuted in 1986, and customers were quick to realise the potential in the new device. But progress wasn't instantaneous. Early DSLRs had issues with storage capacity, with some requiring users to carry hard disks over their shoulder to handle the data that they produced.
However, by the 1990s, digital technology had overwhelmed film-based analogue models, thanks to their flexibility and the rising efficiency of storage technology. At the same time, their image quality gradually improved, and by the turn of the century the best DSLRs could compete comfortably with old-style analogue cameras.
How Do DSLR Cameras Work?
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, but it's helpful to separate this into two sections a) the ‘Digital’ side of things, and b) the ‘Single Lens Reflex’ aspect.
‘Single Lens Reflex’ refers to the way that light is allowed to filter through the lens. In non-SLR cameras, light passes through the lens as usual, through the aperture, then hits the sensor behind it.
DSLR models have a mirror in front of the sensor. When light passes through the lens, it is also reflected via this mirror onto the viewfinder, which is what camera operators use to see what they are photographing. Usually, viewfinders and lenses have slightly different viewpoints. In an SLR camera, that's not the case, allowing snappers to take more accurate images.
The mirror doesn't stay in place all the time, though. When you decide to press the trigger, it flips upwards and away from the sensor, so that the camera can take a photograph.
The “Digital” aspect of the name refers to the way images are captured. DSLRs feature a sensor behind the aperture which is able to convert light into data, which can be viewed on computers or smartphones.
What Kind of Things are DSLRs Used For?
Why would you use a DSLR camera? Well, aside from the accuracy that they allow, they have all of the advantages of digital cameras (freedom to take photos at will, digital storage and transfer, lack of film etc.). DSLRs tend to work more quickly than standard digital models as well, so they are handy for action shots. Unlike normal digital models, they also need a physical lens, which lets you get creative with lens collections and focus arrangements.
In short, DSLRs are ideal for photographers who want something more complex and professional than a compact digital camera or their smartphone. You can do some pretty amazing things with a good DSLR – almost to the same level as old-style film-based models.
The Different Types of DSLR Available
By and large, DSLRs differ based on the way their sensors are arranged and can be divided into the following categories:
Cropped sensor models – In cropped sensor DSLRs, the digital sensor measures less than 35mm across. That is, these models create images that are smaller than those you'd come up with if you used an analogue SLR, as 35mm is the width of a standard film cell. Hence the word “cropped” is used, which refers to a photographic technique where parts of images are edited out. Cropped sensor DSLRs are the most common type around at the moment, and you'll encounter plenty of options from brands like Canon or Pentax. It's important to realise that the “crop factor” on this type of DSLR isn't fixed. It can be manipulated via lenses to recreate 35mm film, so when you make your DSLR purchase, be sure to take that into account. It's not just the camera you're buying, but the lens which determines its crop factor.
Full-frame sensor models – As you'd expect given their name, full-frame sensor DSLRs have larger sensors. In fact, they tend to be almost exactly the same size as 35mm film. This means that experienced photographers won't have to grapple so much with lens calculations to find the right setting. At the same time, full-frame models tend to create high-quality images, especially in low light situations. That's because the size of the sensor makes a big difference to how well the device detects images.
4/3rds DSLRs – These models are the most versatile DSLRs of all. They use what is known as the 4/3rds system, which was developed by Olympus as a new digital standard. Previously, each manufacturer would have lenses to fit their models. Olympus wanted to make sure that all 4/3rds lenses would fit all manufacturers. Although they aren't universal by any means, 4/3rds models have caught on, and are a good alternative to standard DSLRs. Being smaller and lighter, they are ideal for travellers.
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DSLR Specifications to Keep in Mind When Buying
Those are the major types of DSLR around, but the devil really lies in the details when you are choosing. So here's a quick glossary of the terms you'll encounter when searching the hotukdeals DSLR listings, and how they relate to the selection process:
Pentaprisms and Pentamirrors – All DSLRs have to divert light to the viewfinder, and they can either do so via mirrors or prisms. As a general rule, Pentaprisms are preferable, giving higher quality images and making it easier to gauge light conditions. But mirror-based alternatives are cheaper, so they may be suitable for entry-level buyers.
Sensor Size – As we've noted the size of the digital sensor on your DSLR is a major factor in the quality of the images it produces. Sensor sizes fall into two categories: APS-C and the full frame type we discussed above. Full-frame is superior, but again, it comes with a cost premium.
Pixel Count – When you read through DSLR specifications, you'll often see pixel counts alongside sensor size. These aren't necessarily the same thing, but they are related. Often, higher pixel counts are better, because they deliver more detailed images. But they aren't as important as sensor size. High pixel counts can create blurred, or “noisy” images for small sensors, and also generate images with high file sizes, clogging up your device's disk. So focus on sensor size instead.
Chassis materials – What DSLRs are made from can be a crucial determinant of their quality. Cheaper models tend to be made from plastic, or a mixture of metal and plastic, while better ones are mainly made from tough alloys that can absorb a few blows (and cameras do tend to experience a few bumps during their lifetimes).
Focusing systems – Some DSLRs include “focusing systems” which automatically focus on moving objects such as zoo animals or footballers, keeping them in focus even as they move across the frame. If you are into action photography, these systems are a good feature to look for.
Burst rates – Another feature that suits people who shoot moving targets, the burst rate determines how many images you can take in a given time.
Connectivity – How your DSLR connects to other digital devices is crucial for many people. For instance, you might want to dump your shots onto a laptop to keep the DSLR clear for tomorrow's sightseeing. So go for options with wifi compatibility or Bluetooth – or invest in a Micro SD card that fits both your DSLR and your computer/smartphone.
Video – Many high-quality DSLRs also have the capacity to shoot video footage, and some can even take HD footage. If you want to have the flexibility to switch between static images and moving pictures, look for HDSLR versions, instead of standard DSLR.
The brand you go for is also of the utmost importance. That's the case with almost any sophisticated tech product, but it applies particularly to DSLRs. Why? Because when you buy a DSLR, you'll probably need to add brand-specific extras like lenses, tripods, straps, and other accessories.
When you buy a DSLR, it's best not to think that you are buying the camera alone. Brands like to say that they offer digital “systems”, and some are better than others. Canon are great at providing plenty of choice and support for their DSLRs, for example, while Sony is famous for creating great cameras, but offering relatively few add-ons.
Some brands also offer “upgrade paths” from their entry-level DSLRs to more expensive full-frame models, helping customers save money if they feel the need to upgrade. Nikon is great in this regard.
Having said that, the price of high-end DSLRs has come down, and you'll often find deals for the most feature-rich models, so the need to be part of upgrade programs has diminished. But it's still something to think about.
How to Choose a DSLR Camera
We've touched on a lot of the things to think about when selecting a DSLR camera. However, the way you intend to use your DSLR is also a major factor.
If you're a novice photographer, an entry-level DSLR will be ideal. These devices are designed to be simple to use, with interfaces that resemble compact digital cameras or smartphones. You can get hold of them in “kits” which feature lenses and essentials like bags and straps. Have a look at popular models like the Nikon D3400, or the Canon EOS Rebel T7i for great examples of relatively affordable and accessible entry-level DSLRs.
If you intend to shoot sporting action, you'll need a DSLR with focus detection and a rapid-fire burst rate, as well as fast memory cards and plenty of space (because when you are shooting sports, you tend to take large numbers of photos.) Something like the Nikon D850 or the Sony Alpha A6500 will be perfect.
What about people who want to take their DSLR on the road? In that case, you'll want a DSLR that takes great landscape shots and had good connectivity, as well as decent battery charge. And you probably won't be too worried about burst rates or image quality. Models like the Sony Alpha 57 can be had for under £500. However, if all you want is a travel camera, you can find far cheaper compacts around for a fraction of the cost, and they are more portable than DSLRs too. It's worth thinking hard about which type to go for.
However, if you are an expert photographer and need a high-quality full-frame DSLR, the sky's the limit. You'll know what features you require, and you'll probably already be a Nikon, Canon, Pentax or Sony fan. But what many professional photographers fail to realise is how to get the best DSLR camera deals, which we'll move onto in a moment.
DSLR vs Mirrorless: Who Wins Out?
To those who are not camera nerds, the term mirrorless camera might be meaningless. Compared with DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter. That’s because they’re missing one component that all DSLR cameras have – a mirror.
For camera novices, there really aren’t any major reasons to opt for a mirrorless camera, so if you’re looking for a first model to get into photography, we’d recommend you stick to DSLR merely because it’s more well known. Advanced photographers or professional might get some use out of features like live depth of field preview and face/eye tracking, but these are going to be pretty useless to someone who just wants to snap some nice travel shots for their Insta or VSCO.
6 Essential Accessories for a DSLR Camera
DSLRs are usually used as part of kits – not on their own – and having the right portfolio of accessories can make them much more functional. Here are some essentials that can be found for less at hotukdeals:
Lenses – The vast majority of DSLRs work with detachable and interchangeable lenses. Generally, you'll need to buy lenses from the manufacturer of your DSLR, and most experienced users like to have a few at their disposal to get the perfect shots.
Tripods – You can get much more out of your DSLR by having the right positioning tools, and a good tripod is absolutely vital. In some situations where slightly longer exposures are required (such as when the light is dim) steadying your device with a tripod is the only way to achieve crystal clear, low-noise images.
Gimbals – If you’re using your DSLR camera to record video while you walk or want to take photos at awkward angles, then a gimbal (or stabiliser) is going to be your best friend. If you’re just looking to get more stability for your vlogs, then you won’t need to shell out too much for a good gimbal, but professional film-makers will want to invest in a more solid model.
Remotes – Another route to clearer images, having a remote means that you don't need to physically touch the DSLR to take an image, so there's no risk of creating noise just by pressing the trigger button.
Camera bag – As these accessories mount, you'll soon realise that even the camera bags provided in kits from DSLR manufacturers aren't big enough. Thankfully, there are plenty of larger models that are easy to carry and have all of the lens compartments you could ever need.
Memory cards – Even if you have a WiFi DSLR, it's still a good idea to have an SD card or two, if only to back up key images. These tiny cards can store thousands of photos and are a godsend for photographers who are always on the move.
How and When to Purchase Cheap DSLR Cameras
Good DSLRs can cost upwards of £1,000-£2,000 – a huge investment even for professionals. And with big differences in quality and reliability between a £400 DSLR and a full-frame top-of-the-class model, it's often an investment worth making. The question is how to minimise the cost of buying a DSLR that meets your requirements?
Before you go fishing for bargains, take some time to decide which brand and level of DSLR you are after. If you're just starting out or you know you'll have relatively modest needs, don't reach too far. A budget DSLR can do the job and still out-perform compacts (and will blow smartphones out of the water).
When you are sure you know what you are looking for, head over to the hotukdeals DSLR listings, where all of the current DSLR camera sales will be featured. Our listings include all of the UK's biggest brands, including favourites like Nikon, Canon and Sony. And they cover discount DSLR cameras from big retailers like Jessops, Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis (as well as plenty of smaller online and High Street merchants). It's a constantly updated digest of the best DSLR camera deals UK merchants have to offer.
If your chosen model isn't currently being discounted, that doesn't mean you have to settle for something else. Deals change all the time, and any model could suddenly drop in price. For example, you'll find a burst of discount DSLR cameras when Black Friday arrives in mid-November, and deals could appear as the summer holiday season approaches too. It's just a matter of shopping around and waiting for a deal to appear that meets your needs.
Capture Stunning Images With a New DSLR Camera from hotukdeals
DSLR cameras are currently the gold standard for digital photography, allowing everyday photographers to capture incredible nature images, memorable holiday snaps, exciting sporting moments and many more images. These advanced optical devices come in many varieties, but all of them can be found at great prices by visiting the hotukdeals DSLR camera listings.
Posted 31st MarPosted 31st MarLocalLocal
Canon EOS M200 Camera, EF-M 15-45mm Lens, Extra Battery and 16GB SD card £419.96 in Costco Chester (Membership Required)£419.96Costco Deals
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