If you’re here, chances are you want to know what are all the different types of cameras available today. If that’s the case this article is for you.
Nowadays, with always new emerging devices, photographers have a vast range of choices when it comes camera types. Advancements in technology made photography gear more affordable. Like never before, more types of cameras are available and it’s easy for more people to have access to their very first cameras. The rise of social media platforms too, brought people closer to photography and demanding of new ways to capture photos.
So it’s important to know what the different types of cameras are and what are they suited for. This will avoid you the trouble of making a wrong choice and allow you to save a considerable amount of money.
In this guide, you’re going to learn the main characteristics of the different camera types and how they compare to each other.
Related: Best camera for beginners
Types Of Cameras Today
Before we jump into a more detailed description of each camera type, here’s a list of the devices we’re going to examine with a short description.
Interchangeable Lens Cameras
- DSLR Digital SLR cameras are interchangeable lens cameras that use an internal mirror to direct the light to the viewfinder when you compose your pictures.
- Mirrorless Cameras are interchangeable lens cameras that as the name says don’t have an internal mirror. The light hits the sensor and transmits a digital image to the EVF (electronic viewfinder).
- Medium Format Cameras are interchangeable lens cameras with a larger sensor than full-frame cameras. Mainly used by commercial and fine art professional photographers.
- Film Cameras are the ancestors of modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Still in use today by “aficionados”, film cameras offer a unique vintage aesthetic and require some level of experience and knowledge to use.
Cameras for Occasional Photographers
- Compact Digital Cameras are also known as point-and-shoot cameras. Mostly used by occasional photographers, these cameras use fixed lenses and have a small sensor compared to DSLRs or mirrorless cameras.
- Bridge Cameras are the choice of those who want a bit more than a simple compact camera but aren’t ready yet to commit to an interchangeable lens camera. These cameras feature superzoom fixed-lenses and ergonomics similar to a DSLR or mirrorless body.
- Action Cameras are small, highly portable, weather sealed, and quite affordable. Action cameras such as GoPro feature excellent image stabilization to deliver images and footage under extreme conditions.
- Waterproof Cameras are compact cameras specifically designed for snorkeling and diving. Generally require specific camera cases to reach deep waters, and are able to shoot in low light conditions.
- 360 Cameras have a 360-degree field of view. They allow you to shoot panoramas and are used mainly for virtual or augmented reality applications and in the real estate industry.
- Polaroid Cameras are instant film cameras that allow you to immediately print photos thanks to a self-developed film. They take the name from the brand Polaroid which created these type of cameras.
- Smartphone Cameras last but not least, smartphone cameras are the new frontier of devices when it comes to digital photography. Today’s smartphones feature cameras able to deliver surprisingly high quality photos and footage.
What Are the Different Types Of Cameras?
So now that I’ve introduced the different types of cameras and gave you a quick overview it’s time to dive deep into each type and learn more. Pros and cons of each camera type is given considering the entire list (ie: I’m not comparing DSLRs vs mirrorless).
Digital SLRs or simply DSLRs are the “hottest” cameras. There are DSLRs available for all level of expertise and the high-end models are capable of delivering incredible picture quality making of these devices one of the first choice among professionals.
You can click sharp and stunning images, bokeh backgrounds, and high-quality video through their wide range of lenses and advanced sensors.
These types of cameras are not only the first choice of professional photographers in the world, but offer affordable solutions for enthusiast photographers too. Further, Nikon and Canon are the most popular brands that offer DSLR cameras.
They are used to capture a wide range of photography styles and images from landscape photography to portaits, products, fashion photography and more. DSLRs have been used and are used for the creation of prints, for magazines, posters and billboards. You can also used them for videos.
DSLR cameras come in two types Full-frame DSLR (35mm) and Crop sensor (APS-C). This distinction depends on the camera sensor size.
Full-frame DSLR cameras are the de-facto standard when it comes to measuring sensor sizes and it refer to the size used by film cameras. A crop sensor was introduced to make DSLRs available at lower prices.
Pros of DLSR Cameras
- Offer all the photography tools you need if you’re serious about photography
- You can find great DSLRs at very affordable prices
- They’ve been around for a while and you can find any sort of lenses
Cons of DSLR Cameras
- Require a certain of knowledge to be used
- Can be expensive
- Can be bulky and a bit heavy
Related: Type of Lenses
Mirrorless Cameras are lighter and smaller version of DSLRs thanks to the lack of the internal reflecting mirror. They don’t need light to hit the sensor since a digital image is sent to the LCD and electronic viewfinder. Similarly to DSLRs they can yield beautiful, high-resolution pictures and almost all the models today deliver 4K videos.
Many say that thanks to the advancement in technology, the advent of AI and computational photography, mirrorless cameras are the future and will completely replace DSLRs. The reality is that so many photographers still love their DSLRs and will hardly make the jump.
With that being said, mirrorless cameras gained massive popularity in recent years thanks to their compact size, great video capabilities and the fact that they’ve basically reached and in certain cases surpassed DSLRs when it comes to usability and image quality.
Mirrorless cameras come in Full-frame, Crop Sensors, and Micro Four Thirds sensors.
Pros of Mirrorless Cameras
- Light and Small
- High video quality 4K
- Bright electronic viewfinder
Cons of Mirrorless Cameras
- Being newer there are less lenses available
- Battery last less
- The lack of a mirror may expose the sensor to dust
Compact Digital Cameras
Compact Digital Cameras aka point-and-shoot cameras are the best choice for occasional photographers or for those that just want to have fun composing shots without the hassle of many buttons, knobs and settings.
Small and are very easy to use, with compact cameras anyone can capture amazing pictures in a quick and fun way. They are also lightweight, and don’t require external lenses or films.
Although you won’t get the freedom to manually adjust the settings as they are fully automatic cameras, with some models you can play with some simple pre-programmed modes for different light conditions. With a bit of experience and a good eye you can take well exposed and high-quality images with ease.
Being so small and not having interchangeable lenses, point-and-shoot cameras are also durable. They can last longer than your imagination. They are perfect for photography lovers who want to click high-resolution pictures no matter where they go.
Bridge cameras are for those who want something more than a point-and-shoot camera but aren’t ready yet for a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
Most modern bridge cameras offer an amazing integrated lens with a stellar zoom. Even though you can change lens, you have access to a really wide focal length range thanks to the optic of these cameras.
They are suitable for travel, amateur photographers that want to shoot at pretty much everything without bothering too much about interchangeable lenses and are on a low budget.
Types Of Cameras: Action Cameras
Action Cameras have gained a huge fan base over the last few years. The reason is visible to all, the exceptional versatility they provide to generate high-resolution output and work in the most extreme conditions. Popular action cameras have taken photography to the next level. These type of cameras are perfect for the hobbyist who loves clicking artistic photos and film high-quality videos.
Action cameras come along a wide range of accessories such as waterproof housing that makes it possible to take pictures or record videos inside the water. They also offer mounts with which you can attach them to helmets, bikes, drones etc to achieve hand’s free photoshoot. These are perfect for the adventure photo shooting.
Basically, action cameras give you the freedom to develop excellent pictures and videos from any corner of the earth, be it underwater or at the top of hills.
Even though they can be considered action cameras, I think they deserve a category on its own. Waterproof cameras such as the Olympus TG-6 are specifically made to be used in extreme conditions.
In fact these cameras are not only waterproof, they’re freezeproof and shockproof and their build quality makes of them a special tool for special needs.
Types Of Cameras: 360 Cameras
As the name suggests, a 360camera can take semicircular to full-circle or panoramic pictures as well as videos with the help of its serial lenses. Similar to the action cameras, they can be mounted on surfaces like drones, helmets or even top of cars and trucks. They capture visually pleasing panoramic views without any fuss.
In essence, 360Cameras offer Google’s street view styles like photos and videos.
These cameras are perfect to click Instagram worthy pictures on your vacations.
However, capturing a picture with a 360camera is no less than an art. It requires a bit of hard work to click an image with proper composition. But the efforts are totally worth the exceptional photos it yields.
Don’t confuse today’s film cameras with the traditional ones. They might be less popular but deliver great artistic pictures.
Modern film cameras offer a standard 35mm frame and come along with improved bodies and working ability.
You can produce artistic photos in various styles such as vintage pictures or Instagram-style with just a click of the shutter.
Types Of Cameras: Medium Format Cameras
Medium format cameras offer a larger surface frame that is about 4x bigger than the regular 35mm format. They yield larger prints without compromising with the overall picture quality. They are widely used by professional photographers as they produce wide-angle shots that look very natural.
Although these types of cameras require some efforts to click the desired pictures, they are irreplaceable due to their ability to yield sharp, natural, and aesthetic pictures that look great in magazines and art galleries.
Read more here.
I left smartphone cameras at the end but don’t be fooled, they’re getting more and more importance these days. Purists won’t even consider smartphones as a type of camera, but with advancements in technology they’re becoming more and more the de-facto device for many photography enthusiasts.
Multiple focal lenses, bright aperture, shooting in RAW, pano shoots, 4K videos, photo editing on the fly and many more features make of modern smartphones serious competitors for many categories listed above. Keep an eye on it as I predict they’ll get even more traction in the years to come.
Before You Go
Now that we’ve explored the different types of cameras it’s time for you to decide which camera you’re going to buy.
Will you get a mirrorless camera? Or will you buy a DSLR? For a detailed comparison check out the article Best camera for beginners.
And don’t forget to share this guide with your friends right now!
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.