A digital single-lens reflex camera (also called a digital SLR or DSLR) is a digital camera combining the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film. The reflex design scheme is the primary difference between a DSLR and other digital cameras.
In the reflex design, light travels through the lens, then to a mirror that alternates to send the image to either the viewfinder or the image sensor. The alternative would be to have a viewfinder with its own lens, hence the term “single lens” for this design. By using only one lens, the viewfinder of a DSLR presents an image that will not perceptibly differ from what is captured by the camera’s sensor. DSLRs largely replaced film-based SLRs during the 2000s, and despite the rising popularity of mirrorless system cameras in the early 2010s, DSLRs remained the most common type of interchangeable lens camera in use as of 2014.
DSLRs typically use autofocus based on phase detection. This method allows the optimal lens position to be calculated, rather than “found”, as would be the case with autofocus based on contrast maximisation. Phase-detection autofocus is typically faster than other passive techniques. As the phase sensor requires the same light going to the image sensor, it was previously only possible with an SLR design. However, with the introduction of focal-plane phase detect autofocusing in mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras by Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic, cameras can now employ both phase detect and contrast detect AF points concurrently with higher content awareness.