SLR vs DSLR vs SLT Cameras – A Buying Guide

Finding the right camera nowadays can be daunting, unless you have someone well versed to guide you or unless you are experienced enough. With so many types of cameras available, it’s easy to be lost. Barry Schwartz once rightly mentioned in his presentation at TED Talks – The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose. This article is intended to be a quick guide to help you understand the purposes of each of the said camera types and what are they well suited for.

Image credit: images.kuruvila.net

What is an SLR?

SLR (Single-lens Reflex) cameras are defined by the way in which the viewfinder works. Unlike standard compact digital cameras, whose viewfinders can sometimes suffer from parallax issues when taking close-up shots, SLRs use a system of mirrors and prisms to allow the photographer to use the viewfinder to see exactly what will be captured through the lens. This allows the user to gauge the focus on close-up shots far more precisely.

SLRs also feature interchangeable lenses – and while this may not be a definite selling point for the hobbyist, it’s invaluable for professional photographers.

What is a DSLR?

Whilst SLRs still use traditional 35mm film to capture images, DSLRs combine the features of an SLR camera with a digital camera system. This type of camera typically features an LCD display and higher-quality image sensors, as well as a range of customisable settings and modes to tailor the camera to the scene. DSLRs have largely replaced SLRs as the preferred camera type for professionals, due to the level of versatility they offer, while still maintaining the defining features of a conventional SLR.

What is an SLT?

A new competitor on the photography scene is the SLT (Single-Lens Translucent) camera, produced by Sony. These cameras have similar lenses to DSLRs, but they also feature an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which allows for a more accurate preview of images taken with a high-zoom lens, and the ability to display information, such as camera settings or a histogram, on top of the image. These viewfinders can, however, sometimes suffer from a higher level of lag, and it can be difficult to manually focus images with lower-resolution EVFs.

On the other hand, SLTs are also generally less bulky, lacking the complex moving mirror system that SLRs use, which also allows for more frames to be captured per second – ideal for the rapid-fire bursts of shots typically needed for sports and action photography.

Which of these camera should you buy?

Overall, SLRs, DSLRs and SLTs are all likely to appeal to professional photographers and hobbyists, offering a high level of versatility. When it comes to choosing the right camera for your needs, it’s important to know exactly how you will be using it. For high-action sports or nature photography, you’ll get the best results using an SLT, whilst low light and night-time photos will look best when taken on a traditional SLR or DSLR.

While purchasing any of these cameras – an SLR, DSLR or an SLT,  always consider the following.

  • Sensor size – Cameras with larger sensors take better shots.
  • Megapixels – Ensure that the camera has at least 8MP, as – whilst this won’t necessarily improve the quality of your images – it will enable you to print out larger photos without distortions.
  • Features – Your camera need not necessarily have plenty of features. You might end up paying more money for the extra features you might never use. As a beginner or an amateur, think about the convenient features you would like your camera to have. Features like image stabilisation can be particularly useful if you want to avoid taking blurry photos, particularly in low-light indoor environments.