What Does DSLR Stand For?

When it comes to selecting a type of camera, you have three options: your smartphone, mirrorless or DSLR. DSLR cameras are the standard are by far the number one choice for professional photographers. This is because they provide professional images in high resolution and are versatile, able to be equipped with a variety of lenses and attachments. If you're new to the world of photography and videography, you may wonder what the DSLR meaning. Keep reading to find out.

The Meaning of DSLR

DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, which any quick trip to Google or Wikipedia can tell you. However, what does all that mean? We'll break it down for you below.

Single Lens

Digital single lens reflex cameras are the modern-day versions of single lens cameras. Whereas the cameras of yore utilized film, today's cameras are digital, hence the "D" in DSLR.

Single lens cameras utilize a single lens which admits light and conveys it to the image sensor, which results in exposure. Though this may seem obvious, SLR work differently than other cameras in that the lens that admits light is also the viewfinder. With an SLR, what you see is what you get.


The "R" in DSLR stands for "reflex," which refers to the phenomenon that allows you to see through the lens and make an exposure at the same time: reflection. Reflection is possible due to a mirror in the lens, which is placed at a 45-degree angle directly in the path of the light. The mirror reflects the light upwards, where it enters an assembly above the mirror that corrects the image before sending it before your eye. This all happens within a matter of milliseconds.

When you're ready to make an exposure, you press the shutter button, which then removes the mirror from the lens and allows the light to hit the sensor behind it. Voila! You have an image.

If you've never worked with a DSLR before, use our guide to learn how. If you want ready-made images or videos of professional quality, browse Shutterstock’s curated collection today. In case you need stock footage, our library with millions of high-quality clips covers just about every imaginable topic.

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