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DSLR vs SLR: Difference and similarity in 6 talking points

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Photography has been around for quite some time now. It has come a long way down from the gigantic pinhole cameras and huge chemical flashes.

Now we have modern cameras that go up to hundreds of megapixels and can store thousands of photos. Looking back at the good old days of film cameras, these conveniences weren’t available. You had limited shots, no digital previews, and you had to get the moment right or end up missing it.

SLRs and DSLRs are perhaps the most misunderstood terms in photography, especially by non-photographers. In this article, we break down both so that you know which one’s which.

Also read: NTSC vs PAL: Know your video modes



Single Lens Reflex cameras and Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras have only one clear difference between them; the latter is digital.

On an SLR you’d pop in a film roll, click your pictures and then get the film developed. On a DSLR, every image is available from the moment you press the shutter to do whatever your heart pleases.

Therefore on an SLR, you won’t have the convenience of a live view mode. You’re forced to use the viewfinder while on the DSLR, well, you can switch to auto mode and you’re good.


Generally, SLRs offer better dynamic range, contrast, saturation and overall better image quality. Considering the type of film and the size of the (analogue) sensor, an SLR can beat a DSLR any day.

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However, modern-day DSLRs have caught up and now deliver exceptional image quality. Not to mention that they’re the norm now and have almost completely replaced SLRs.

Interchangeable lenses

Both types of cameras offer a range of interchangeable lens options. That’s kind of the whole point of using them — versatility.

Video capabilities

To put it simply, a DSLR gives you the ability to record footage; an SLR doesn’t.

Having a digital sensor means that a DSLR’s capabilities are for more than an SLR, and the advantage extends when it comes to video. For film-based cameras, you’d need a separate camera to record/shoot footage and let me tell you those cameras are nowhere as easy to use as a DSLR.

Also read: Cinematography 101: How to shoot cinematic footage on your DSLR

Physical characteristics

SLRs tend to be heavier due to more metal used in the body. They’re also more complex, have more buttons and more mechanical parts to get the film moving and all. Usually, SLRs come in a two-tone colour as well.


DSLRs, on the other hand, are lighter, have fewer buttons, are easier to use, and their lens changing mechanism is easier. DSLRs also have a monitor (screen) and are usually available in black colour.

Price to performance ratio

SLR cameras are more of a collector’s item these days instead of actual cameras. You could still use them in theory and develop your photos every time, but in a world where everything is getting connected to the internet, using a DSLR makes more sense.

Also, DSLRs tend to be cheaper, have more lens options and are far more practical.


Just like in every other field, technological advancements in photography have caused SLRs to go obsolete. I could say that you can make a decision based on your style of photography and all but honestly, an SLR is really just a novelty item in 2019. You’ll be able to buy a DSLR for far less money than an SLR. It’ll be easier to use, and you’ll be able to keep up with modern-day photography trends.

However, if you have that extra cash and wish to learn photography the old school way, you can consider buying an SLR as it’ll give you a different perspective in photography than a DSLR does. It’s more challenging too, at the beginning. Once you’ve got a hold of clicking on SLRs, clicking on any DSLR would be effortless.

Also read: DSLR vs Mirrorless cameras: Which one to choose in 2019?

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: