What is a DSLR camera and are they still useful?

Nikon D500 cutaway
DSLRs use an angled mirror, visible just behind the rear of the lens, to reflect the image up into the viewfinder. (Image credit: Nikon)

What is a DSLR camera? That's a good question to ask. The letters DSLR stand for Digital Single Lens Reflex, and if you’re new to photography you might not know what this actually means.

DSLRs have been in existence since the mid-1970s, when a Kodak engineer created the very first prototype and they became the next technological step from a film SLR.

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Andrew James

Andrew makes his living as a photographer, videographer and journalist. For 26 years he was a specialist magazine editor, the last 13 of which were on Practical Photography magazine. A long-time expert in photographic techniques across many disciplines, he's a self-confessed photo generalist, and a font of creative knowledge to capturing just about any subject, although he has a strong leaning to wildlife and travel photography. Andrew's wide-ranging photography experience means he authors the long-running Photo Answers section for Digital Camera Magazine. His work as a journalist, guide and educator dovetails neatly into his commitment to Foto-Buzz - an online subscription community he founded, where Andrew writes articles, films tutorials and records blogs on all manner of photo-related subjects and techniques for enthusiast photographers.