Glossary of Camera Types and Photography Technology


Rangefinder – (Some times known as a non-reflex camera or direct-vision reflex).

The main feature of this type of camera is that its viewfinder consists of an optical system separate from that of the camera.

A rangefinder camera is fitted with a rangefinder, typically a split-image rangefinder: a range-finding focusing mechanism allowing the photographer to measure the subject distance and take photographs that are in sharp focus. Most varieties of rangefinder show two images of the same subject, one of which moves as the calibration wheel is used; when the two images coincide and fuse into one, the distance can then be read. Older, non-coupled rangefinder cameras display the focusing distance and require the photographer to transfer the value to the lens focus ring. Cameras without built-in rangefinders could have an external rangefinder fitted into the accessory shoe. Earlier cameras of this type had separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows; later the rangefinder was incorporated into the viewfinder. More modern designs have rangefinders coupled to the focusing mechanism so that the lens is focused correctly when the rangefinder images come together.

Example Cameras:

Fed 4

Yashica 35

Single Lens Reflex (SLR)

A single-lens reflex camera (SLR) is a camera that typically uses a mirror and prism system (hence “reflex” from the mirror's reflection) that permits the photographer to view through the lens and see exactly what will be captured. With twin lens reflex and rangefinder cameras, the viewed image could be significantly different from the final image. When the shutter button is pressed on most SLRs, the mirror flips out of the light path, allowing light to pass through to the film.

Example SLR Cameras:

Olympus OM-1, Nikon FE

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR)

A digital single-lens reflex camera (digital SLR or DSLR) is a digital camera that combines the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera with a digital imaging sensor.

The reflex design scheme is the primary difference between a DSLR and other digital cameras. In the reflex design, light travels through the lens and then to a mirror that alternates to send the image to either the viewfinder or the image sensor. The viewfinder of a DSLR presents an image that will not differ substantially from what is captured by the camera's sensor but presents it as a direct optical view through the lens, rather than being captured by the camera's image sensor and displayed by a digital screen.

Example DSLR Cameras:

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