DP 129 Necessities

nikon-d810-best-digital-slr-camera canon_9126b003_eos_a_rebel_t5_dslr_1030209

Hopefully by now, you have or have looked into getting a DSLR camera. A DSLR camera is necessary if you want to take this course.

SLR is an abbreviation: it stands for Single Lens Reflex.

Now you know what SLR stands for but that doesn’t really help answer the question, does it? Let’s define further:

  • With an SLR camera, you see exactly what the lens sees
  • You can change the lens on a digital SLR
  • Digital SLRs have large image sensors that produce high-quality photos
  • An SLR has a near-zero lag time, and is ideal for action photography

Bottom line? Digital SLR cameras are versatile.

You can take photos of everything from sleeping dogs to race cars and you’ll never be limited by your camera. With an SLR in your hands you can rest assured that you’ll only miss great photo opportunities because you weren’t prepared, not because your camera wasn’t able to get the shot.

The Anatomy of a Digital SLR

To properly answer “what is a digital SLR?” you have to understand a bit about the mechanics of an SLR camera.

In order to avoid getting overly technical I’ve simplified this diagram and am highlighting the key elements. Those interested in the minute details can read about Single-lens reflex cameras on Wikipedia.


  1. Light passes through the lens and strikes a mirror (green)
  2. The mirror reflects the light up to a focusing screen
  3. Light passes through the focusing screen and enters a block of glass called a pentaprism (orange)
  4. The pentaprism reflects the image so that you can see it in the viewfinder
  5. When you take a photo, the mirror flips up and a shutter (blue) opens that exposes the digital sensor (red) to light

This is a great example of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. By using the viewfinder you can precisely compose your image and adjust the focus.

Is the image that you see in the viewfinder 100% accurate? In most cases it isn’t. If you read digital SLR camera reviews, you may hear a lot about viewfinder “coverage” and “brightness”.

Many digital SLR viewfinders only show you 95% of the image that will be captured by the sensor – this is what “coverage” refers to. Unless you are extremely precise when it comes to your photographs you won’t notice the 5% difference.

Digital SLR viewfinders also vary in brightness, which is another way of saying how clear the image appears. “Bright” viewfinders make it easier to use manual focus, since you can clearly see the details of your subject.

A Lens for Every Occasion

In addition to the pentaprism viewfinder, one of the key features of any digital SLR camera is the ability to change lenses.Most people think that the camera alone is responsible for capturing an image, but this isn’t the case. The lens that’s attached to it can play a huge role in the color, contrast and clarity of every single photo that you take.

Owners of digital SLR cameras can buy lenses that match their photography style, since a landscape photographer should not use the same lens as a wildlife photographer. The ability to swap lenses at any time adds to the versatility of a digital SLR camera, and means that even if your photography needs change in a couple years, you won’t have to buy a new camera, you’ll just need a different lens.

Next Steps

Hopefully you’re starting to feel more comfortable about this whole digital SLR camera thing. If not, don’t worry, you will as each week goes by. The most important thing, once you get your camera, is to USE it. Push its buttons, LOOK at the manual! There are likely even instructional DVD’s for your camera model, and even free, instructional You Tube videos online.

If you have ANY questions or concerns, please reach out and ask me. ms46@sunywcc.edu

bs2-9780714859040 The Nature of Photographs: TEXT BOOK 

The Nature of Photographs is an essential primer of how to look at and understand photographs, by one of the world’s most influential photographers, Stephen Shore. In this book, Shore explores ways of understanding photographs from all periods and all types – from iconic images to found photographs, from negatives to digital files. This books serves as a  tool for anyone who wants to take better pictures or learn to look at photographs in a more informed way. This book is the only required text book for DP129.

Please get this book before class on Tuesday. You can purchase the book at the SUNY WCC bookstore. You can also order the book from WCC’s online store. Another go-to is Amazon, where you can purchase the book in soft or hardcover, and also used.

Next class’ homework will ask that you complete a written response to this textbook (due a week later).

AS ALWAYS, If you have ANY questions or concerns, please reach out and ask me. ms46@sunywcc.edu


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