Types of Cameras and Their Purpose

If you’re looking to get into photography, whether as a hobby or a career, you’re going to need a camera. While smartphone cameras are a great place to start, they aren’t enough for people who are looking to make a serious career out of photography. Unfortunately, choosing the right camera can be a little overwhelming.

There are many different types of cameras on the market today. Some still use traditional film, but most are now digital. Some are better for video and others are better for still photos. Below, dive into nine of the most popular cameras and how they’re typically used.

9 Popular Types of Cameras and Their Applications

The type of camera you choose will depend on the type of photography or videography you plan to use it for. A professional photographer may have multiple types of cameras in their possession so they can get the best shot regardless of the event. However, cameras can be expensive, so it’s important to choose the right camera for the type of work you want to do.

young-woman-and-camera-trip-travel-wanderlust-2022-12-16-01-18-43-utc 1

1. DSLR Cameras

DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. These are digital cameras that allow for interchangeable lenses on one camera body. DSLR and mirrorless cameras are two of the most popular types of digital cameras.

One major advantage of DSLR cameras is that you can look through the viewfinder and see the image exactly as it will appear when you capture it. This works because DSLR cameras have mirrors inside them that reflect light onto the optical viewfinder. When you release the shutter, the mirror swings out of the way and sends light to the imaging sensor to create your photograph.

Pros of DSLR cameras include:

  • Compatibility with a range of lenses for different styles
  • Large sensors that increase photo quality, especially in low-light situations
  • Quick and advanced autofocus
  • A longer battery life than many other cameras
  • High memory card storage

Cons of DSLR cameras include:

  • A larger and heavier body than some other kinds of cameras
  • No option to preview contrast and exposure settings ahead of time like you can with a mirrorless camera
  • Photos may appear shakier than with a mirrorless camera

2. Film Cameras

Traditional film cameras imprint images on strips of film rather than onto memory cards. While people were obligated to use film cameras before digital cameras became available, many photographers still prefer to shoot on film. Some of the more common types of film cameras you may find today include single-lens reflex (SLR), point-and-shoot, disposable, and instant cameras. 

Some photographers choose to shoot with film because it can be more forgiving with it's dynamic range, it can capture color contrasts and details in a different way than digital cameras can, and it can create a vintage look that’s hard to replicate with digital cameras.

Of course, there’s a reason that many photographers have moved on from using film: you have to develop film to see the final image, which doesn’t offer you the chance to make adjustments while shooting. Developing film can be a slow process, and if something happens to your film, the lost or damaged images cannot be recovered.

3. Action Cameras

As the name suggests, action cameras are built for action — think brands like GoPro. Typically, these cameras are small and lightweight and record video rather than still photos. They’re often used in extreme outdoor sports, and athletes may attach them to places like their helmets, handlebars, or surfboards. 

Action cameras are often weatherproof and produce high-quality, wide-angle footage. They may also be used to film scenery while hiking, for sightseeing and tourism, and even as dash cams. However, a few downsides to action cameras include small sensor sizes, fixed focus, and few options to customize settings.

4. 360-Degree Cameras

360-degree cameras share many similarities with action cameras: they’re often used to capture action shots, they’re weatherproof, and they’re meant to be mounted on surfaces.  360-degree cameras can be mounted, for example, on a helmet for action footage or a drone to capture stunning scenery. They often have the capacity to stream live video, too.

While 360-degree cameras can be a lot of fun, they do have some downsides. They typically have a fixed focus and low-resolution output, and can also be very sensitive to shaking.

5. Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are a popular type of camera for digital photography. Like DSLR cameras, they often work with a range of lenses, but there are some key differences. Instead of mirrors that let you see the image through the optical viewfinder, a mirrorless camera uses an electronic viewfinder.  

Electronic viewfinders use an imaging sensor to focus, and advanced tracking technology to track movement and focus faster. The real-time image is then displayed on a small screen on the camera. One major benefit to mirrorless cameras is that it can show you how a photo would look if you adjusted things like exposure and depth of field. This allows you to choose the perfect settings before capturing your image. 

While mirrorless cameras are often more compact than DSLR cameras, their battery often doesn’t last as long and there aren’t as many lens options available. They also may have a little bit of lag, making it more difficult to shoot in low-light settings or take photos with moving subjects.

6. Medium Format Cameras

There are a few different format camera types. Medium format cameras take photos that are in a larger format than what is standard, but smaller than large format size. They can use film or capture images digitally. Medium format cameras use a 120-film size or an equivalent digital imaging sensor.

Because medium format cameras house a very large sensor, they are usually bigger and bulkier than standard cameras. However, that also affords you the opportunity to use larger and more powerful lenses. Medium format cameras produce high-resolution images thanks to their large dynamic range and high megapixel, but unfortunately, this excellent image quality comes at a price. These cameras typically cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

7. Compact Cameras

Compact cameras, also called point-and-shoot cameras, are your basic, standard camera. The average person may use these to document memories, but they generally aren’t used by professional photographers. While less expensive than most other types of cameras, they don’t have interchangeable lenses and typically have limited camera settings, aperture, and zoom range.

Compact cameras have become more high-tech over the years. They’re usually a good option if you want something more advanced than standard smartphone cameras but don’t have a need to invest in professional photography equipment.

8. Rugged Cameras

Rugged cameras are a type of compact camera that is specialized for outdoor and rugged environments. These cameras have autofocus and auto exposure, and are typically crushproof, freezeproof, shockproof, waterproof, and weatherproof.

While rugged cameras may be used in similar environments as action cameras, they aren’t meant to be mounted on helmets or handlebars and they’re usually used for taking photos than for video. They can take on a variety of exposure situations and handle extreme close-ups while withstanding harsh elements.

9. Bridge Cameras

Bridge cameras are meant to “bridge” the gap between compact point-and-shoot cameras and more elaborate cameras with interchangeable lenses like DSLRs. A typical bridge camera has:

  • A long but not interchangeable zoom lens
  • A smaller image sensor
  • An electronic viewfinder instead of a manual one
  • Manual controls

Bridge cameras aren’t as popular as compact, DSLR, and mirrorless cameras, but some photographers still prefer the versatility they offer.

How Can Professional Photographers Choose the Right Camera?

There are many aspects to consider when you’re choosing a camera, but one of the most important is what you’re using the camera for

Sometimes the answer is obvious: if you’re looking to film yourself surfing, you’d use an action camera, not a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Other times, it’s more complex. Mirrorless cameras are often smaller and easy to use, but don’t have the battery life of a DSLR camera. You might use a DSLR camera if you’re going to be photographing a wedding all day, but use a mirrorless camera for portraits.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Lens quality and selection. Depending on what you’re using your camera for, you may want a wider range of lens options or need a specialized lens. 
  • Price. There can be a huge range of prices for cameras. Compact cameras are usually among the less expensive models, while medium format cameras can be pricey.
  • Resolution. Cameras with high megapixel counts allow you to take photos that can be blown up into huge prints, and allow you to zoom in and crop your photos. However, they don’t take very good photos in low light and they create large files that will fill up your storage quickly.
  • Sensor size. The larger the sensor, the better quality the photographs will be. Larger sensors are also better for shallow depths of field.
  • Video capabilities. If you’re looking to shoot photos and video with your camera, you’ll want to consider the camera’s video capabilities such as video output.

Push Your HD Video Project to the Next Level

The right camera is a key part of pulling off an excellent video project, but it’s not the only thing you need. For a video that exceeds all expectations, you need the right sound and music too. Stockmusic.net offers a huge library of royalty-free music and sound effects to fill whatever needs you may have. Check out the available plans and get started choosing the music and songs for your next project!


Scroll to Top