What’s the difference? Camera types explained

10 Apr 2019

The first thing to do when looking to buy a camera is to identify what type you want. We know that with so many types of cameras to choose from this can be a difficult task, which is why you may find these quick descriptions helpful. (Note that some of these camera types overlap.)

DSLR Cameras

DSLR cameras are digital single-lens reflex cameras. This means that you can view your scene directly by means of prisms and mirrors found inside of the camera. With a DSLR camera you can view the photograph on the LCD screen just after taking it. An advantage of this camera compared to a fixed lens camera is that you can mount different lenses onto the same camera body allowing you to photograph a variety of subjects from portraits to landscapes.
Entry-level: Canon EOS 4000D + EF-S 18-55mm III + EF 75-300mm III
Intermediate: Nikon D750
Professional: Canon EOS 1DX Mark II

Mirrorless Digital Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are growing in popularity. Apart from the size benefits, the mirrorless cameras boast impressive image quality compared to DSLR cameras. As with DSLR’s, mirrorless cameras offer the option of attaching different lenses and viewing your images on an LCD screen.
Entry-level: Canon EOS M50 + 15-45mm
Intermediate: Sony Alpha a7 III
Professional: Fujifilm GFX 50S

Compact Cameras

It may be true that talent lies with the photographer and not the gear (there are a few professional photographers out there who use compact cameras), but there are certain limitations with these cameras for example, you’re not easily going to capture a high-speed wildlife chase using most compact cameras. Also known as a point-and-shoot camera, these cameras don’t have interchangeable lenses but rather come with a fixed lens usually range between 24mm to 720mm. You can also view what you’ve captured on the back of the camera’s LCD screen.

Bridge Cameras

This camera was designed, literally, to bridge the gap between compact and DSLR cameras. Like compact cameras, bridge cameras have fixed lenses but their lenses offer superior zoom capabilities and have improved performance with regards to shutter speed, frame rate and focusing passed from DSLR cameras.

Point-of-View Cameras

Not to be confused with a point-and-shoot (compact) camera. Point-of-view (POV) cameras, also known as action cameras, capture video from a unique perspective thanks to their small size. Most POV cameras are rugged and waterproof. GoPro is a great example: When first launched, it was mostly used by adventure sportsmen but as of late the brand has expanded its horizons. POV cameras are now used to create cool videos and to relive everyday moments.

Photograph of a DSLR camera taken by Max Panama
Photograph of the Sony Alpha a7 Mirrorless Camera photographed by William Bayreuther
Photograph taken by Matej Kemr using a GoPro camera

Film Cameras

Film cameras can be divided into three sub-categories: disposable, instant and traditional film cameras.

  • Disposable cameras are ready to use off the shelf. Take your photo and have the film developed at a lab.
  • Instant cameras like Instax and Lomography are easy and fun to use and requires little to no photographic knowledge. You simply buy the film, insert it into the camera and print your photographs on the go.
  • Film photography, also known as analogue photography, requires serious attention to detail as you have to adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO manually, taking into consideration the film you’re using. Most film cameras do have a semi-auto to full auto option. The biggest challenge is that you don’t have an instant reference of the photo taken as with digital cameras, so you can’t check whether your focus, composition and aperture is correct. You get film cameras that use 35mm Film, but you also have your bulkier medium format film cameras that take 120 Film. Many professional photographers first mastered the art of analogue photography and consider it a fantastic teacher of light and composition.

Variety can be overwhelming, but don’t let this stop you. After zoning in on the type of camera that suits your lifestyle, get in touch with our expert consultants to find out more about your options. With so many, you’ll surely find a perfect fit!

Sergey Zolkin photographs a film camera

About the Author:

Wouda McMicken spends her work days as part of the driven Outdoorphoto team. She enjoys photography, especially with her treasured Nikon Film camera.

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