So, you’ve decided to jump into (or return to) the world of digital photography. Welcome—it’s a fascinating journey ahead!
The big question is: which camera should you buy?
You only need to go online or to any camera store to see that there are literally hundreds of options on the market, all with different features and benefits.
We get it; it can be intimidating. But fear not! We here at CameraPro can help you through this potentially overwhelming process.
Don’t have time to read about all the different cameras? Use the links above to jump to each section quickly.
Otherwise, read on to find out the key differences between these five categories of digital cameras.
The DSLR as we know it today is the digital version of the SLR (35mm film) camera, recording images on digital sensor rather than film.
DSLRs replaced film SLR cameras in the early 2000s and, despite the recent rise of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs still hold a large share of the market today.
So, how does a DSLR work? Simply put, light comes in via the camera lens, then the movable mechanical mirror inside the camera directs that light to a focusing screen (via a condenser lens and pentaprism/pentamirror) to the optical viewfinder above. This process lets the photographer see what’s in front of the lens.
To take an image, the shutter button is pressed, the mirror swings up, the focal plane shutter opens to reveal the sensor, and the image is captured on the camera’s sensor.
It’s worth noting that not all DSLR cameras are the same, as each contains one of two different types of image sensor:
While knowing how the DSLR works is great, it doesn’t really answer the question: Is a DSLR right for you? Let’s think of it this way.
What sort of photography can I create with a DSLR camera?
Due to the ability to change the lens on a DSLR, DSLR cameras are suited to a wide range of photography. The type of photography you can create— be it portraits, wildlife, sports, travel, architecture, landscapes or street photography—depends largely on the lens you use.
Who should buy a DSLR camera?
DSLR cameras are often the choice for professional photographers due to their durability. Some entry level DSLRs will offer ‘Auto’ mode, which lets the camera do most of the thinking for you; however, more advanced models will not.
Here are some key advantages of the DSLR system:
The main downsides to owning a DSLR are:
Examples of DSLRs on the market today:
The biggest difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras is that mirrorless cameras have (you guessed it) no mirror. Mirrorless cameras use electronics rather than mechanics like DSLRs do.
Mirrorless cameras are a great choice for those wanting an interchangeable lens camera, but not the size and weight of a DSLR. We’ve met many professional photographers who have made the switch from DSLR to mirrorless camera systems because of the smaller size and weight.
High end mirrorless cameras are just as capable as DSLRs of creating beautifully polished images, so it’s worth bearing in mind that a high end mirrorless camera would give you as much room to grow as a DSLR would. As with everything in photography, it’s about what works best for you.
How does a Mirrorless Camera work?
Compared to DSLRs, mirrorless cameras work quite simply.
Without a mirror or pentaprism, mirrorless cameras do not use an optical viewfinder. This allows for smaller camera bodies and (usually) more compact lenses. Instead of an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras feature a high resolution electronic viewfinder that takes a live feed directly from the mirrorless camera sensor itself.
When the camera’s shutter button is pressed, the shutter opens to reveal the sensor and the image is then captured on the camera’s sensor.
What sort of photography can I create with a mirrorless camera?
Since you can change the lens at any time, mirrorless cameras are great all rounders. As with DSLRs, the type of photography you can create— be it portraits, wildlife, sports, travel, architecture, landscapes or street photography—depends largely on the lens you use.
Who should buy a mirrorless camera?
Mirrorless cameras are great for those who want to have creative control over their photography but less size and weight than a DSLR.
A variety of skill levels are suited to mirrorless cameras as they often have both full manual controls, and auto mode.
Some of the main advantages of the Mirrorless camera system include:
The main disadvantages of the Mirrorless camera system are:
Examples of Mirrorless cameras we love that are on the market today:
Bridge cameras are a great choice for the photographer who doesn’t want to have to worry about changing lenses – just grab the camera and you’re good to go!
Bridge cameras have built-in zoom lenses, offering flexibility while keeping the camera and lens size smaller than a DSLR.
These cameras are often referred to as ‘fixed lens’ cameras. Their name comes from bridging the gap between compact cameras and DSLRs.
What sort of photography can I create with a bridge camera?
Bridge cameras are great because they often have super zoom lenses. Capture birds and wildlife, take it travelling or out to the markets on the weekend, or photograph your kids and pets.
Who should buy a bridge camera?
Bridge cameras are great for beginners as you don’t need to worry about changing the lens, and often they offer a variety of auto modes.
A bridge camera is a great choice because:
The main disadvantages of a Bridge camera are:
Bridge cameras we’d recommend are:
Compact cameras are characterised by their small size, and their ‘all in one’ build with lens attached. These cameras are often referred to as ‘fixed lens’ cameras, as you can’t take the lens off.
There’s a wide range of compact camera models to choose from; however, at CameraPro we only stock the best quality compact cameras with excellent picture quality (some entry level compact cameras aren’t really better than your mobile phone). Top quality compact cameras will produce images as good as you’d get from some entry level DSLRs.
What sort of photography can I create with a compact camera?
Compact cameras are versatile; use them while travelling, do street photography or take them to a party on Saturday night. Some models are also waterproof—perfect for snorkelling trips (or Saturday night parties).
Who should buy a compact camera?
Anyone wanting a small sized camera to put in your back pocket. Compact cameras are also good for beginners as they have fewer buttons, and often have a variety of automatic modes.
Main advantages of a compact camera:
Some disadvantages of a compact camera are:
Compact cameras we love are:
Going swimming? Take these models with you:
Want to capture all the adventures life throws at you, no matter the conditions? An action camera could be a great choice for you.
Action cameras are typically very small in size and built to withstand the harshest of conditions.
What sort of photography can I create with an action camera?
Capture the action with a super wide angle view! Take it snowboarding or attach it to you dog’s collar.
Who should buy an action camera?
Action cameras are great for beginners as they are easy to use (though they create a very different look from a standard camera due to their fixed wide angle view and limited manual controls). Action cameras are also a good choice for anyone starting out with capturing video.
What makes action cameras a smart choice?:
The main disadvantages of an action camera are:
Great action cameras currently available are:
As you can see, the right camera is a blend of many factors including your intention, experience and budget.
This post covers the basics of choosing which one is right for you. However, if you have any questions, we’re always happy to advise; at CameraPro we are all about helping every photographer, no matter where you are in your journey.
Want a simple explanation of what camera exposure settings mean? Check out our blog article, Playing with Light: Exposure 101.