What is a single reflex lens?

A single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is one with a 45-degree foldable mirror between the lens and the image plane. This mirror reflects the image-forming light rays onto the screen. It moves out of the way when the shutter release is pressed, to expose the film to light, and moves back again after. This means that the image on the screen disappears during the exposure time.

When using a single-lens reflex camera, you can see the shot to be taken reflected by the internal mirror. On the other hand, a viewfinder approximates the image by looking through a separate lens, as this might appear different from the final result.

SLRs are very versatile because you can use various interchangeable lenses and accessories with them. They also provide extensive information and control over focus, exposure, shutter speed, and depth of field.


The first SLR camera was developed in 1861 by Thomas Sutton. Manufacturers continued to improve upon the technology by adding and continuously working on the folding mechanism and equipping the camera with a screen, which, originally, was displaying the image reversed and upside down. This problem wasn’t tackled until 1943. This was also the year of introducing the instant return mirrors, which allowed the photographers to see the shot immediately after it was taken.

Starting from the 1950s the camera began gaining popularity rapidly, and more technological advancements were made. SLRs got smarter, more optimized, and easier to use. In 1963 Canon presented the first camera with the option of automatic focus, which revolutionized the photography industry. Find out more about the history of photography on ifolor.ch.


Most of today’s photographers and cinematographers use a DSLR camera. With their initial popularity, the number of SLR users rapidly declined, but there are still photographers who prefer to use the analog model.

Both SLR and DSLR cameras use a single reflex lens, yet their differences are significant.

DSLR models are able to offer live digital viewing on an LCD screen. They have digital sensors and use memory cards to store a vast number of photos, while SLRs capture images on film. While DSLRs have better storage capacity, film cameras often offer better color and dynamic range when it comes to image quality.

What should you choose? It’s a matter of preference! While most photographers today are happy to trade off the highest quality to very convenient and increasingly better digital solutions, it’s up to your individual preferences to make this decision.

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About the instructors

Mazdak Luyeh

Mazdak Luyeh

Creative Philosopher

Copenhagen, Denmark

OUTFOX, founded by Mazdak Luyeh, is a bold Danish PR and communication agency that gathers clever ideas and tell amazing stories with visual expressions that focus on quality.

Gustav Sloth

Gustav Sloth


Aarhus, Denmark

Gustav Idun Sloth is a filmmaker and a co-founder of Movimentum together with Marcus Hasselgaard. They are two creative minds who are passionate about making movies and telling stories.

Kristian Kettner

Kristian Kettner

Film Creator

Risskov, Denmark

Kristian Kettner is a colorist, workflow specialist, and film creator. He started with wedding videography to being the lead colorist on a feature film.

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