Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras work by using a mirror to reflect light from the lens to an optical viewfinder (OVF), either with a prism or a series of mirrors, so you’re seeing in real-time the scene you’re shooting. Although you can’t preview your exposure settings like you can on a mirrorless camera, DSLRs more than make up for it with an exceptional battery life.
The first digital camera prototype was developed in 1975 by a Kodak engineer named Steven Sasson. The camera was roughly the size of a toaster, weighed almost nine pounds, and captured black-and-white images on a digital cassette tape. You could view the 0.1MP images on a special screen—after waiting for 23 seconds for the image to record.
Although the first commercial DSLR was officially launched by Kodak in 1991, the cost of these early cameras was prohibitive for most buyers. In 1994, Apple announced the QuickTake, the first color digital camera to sell for under $1,000, and Canon’s PowerShot—the first consumer digital camera able to write images to a hard disk—was released in 1996 at $949.
It was 1999 before DSLRs became accessible (and affordable) to a mass market. Since then, DSLR manufacturers have added a wide variety of features to their cameras, including the ability to record video, state-of-the-art LCD monitors with touch-screen interfaces and menus, and built-in GPS and Wi-Fi® connectivity. Canon and Nikon have led the field, competing with one another to create the latest in consumer camera technology.