What Are the Types of Cameras to Use for Photography?

This article covers the different types of cameras ideal for photography. Read on if you want to learn which one is best for your needs.

When I think about cameras, the first thing that comes to mind is a DSLR. However, cameras are available in many different forms to match your style and needs.

It is essential to know the popular types of cameras for photography if you want to buy a new one.

Fortunately, this article discusses the functions of different cameras today. I will also include their pros and cons to help you make a wise purchasing decision.

Let us jump right into it!

What Are the Types of Cameras for Photography?

If you want to find the best camera for photography, it is essential to know the different types of cameras.

Below is a list of the most popular camera types and their functions.

DSLR Cameras

DSLR stands for a digital single-lens reflex camera. It includes a built-in mirror that reflects light into an optical viewfinder. This component allows you to see the image in front of you before capturing it. Once you are ready to take a photo, the mirror moves out of the way to let light inside the sensor.

The DSLR is the go-to camera of many professional photographers. That is because it gives you full control over your images at every level. It can also record high-resolution videos. Thus, it is suitable for almost every kind of photography and videography.

DSLR cameras also have interchangeable lenses. From ultra-wide-angle to super telephoto, these lenses allow you to capture various subjects and scenes. 

Furthermore, a DSLR camera comes in two types—full-frame or 35mm and crop sensor or APS-C. Full-frame DSLR cameras feature larger sensors. These offer better image quality and low-light capability. Meanwhile, crop sensor cameras do not produce the same quality, but they are cheaper and lighter.

The most popular DSLR cameras today are from Canon and Nikon. However, other camera manufacturers, like Fujifilm, Pentax, and Sigma, also offer reliable DSLRs.

Pros of DSLR cameras:

  • Full manual control over exposure
  • Compatible with various lenses and accessories
  • Optical viewfinder for real-time display
  • High-resolution photos and videos

Cons of DSLR cameras:

  • Tend to be large and heavy
  • Relatively expensive
  • Has a learning curve

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras do not have an internal mirror, hence the name. It requires you to look at the screen or an electronic viewfinder to compose the shot. It has a slight delay because the sensor needs to convert light into a digital image before displaying it. On the upside, the lack of a mirror makes these cameras smaller and lighter than DSLRs.

Mirrorless cameras are just as popular, if not more popular, than DSLRs in recent years. There are many reasons behind this status. First, mirrorless cameras use interchangeable lenses to capture impressive photos and videos. They also have simpler controls, making them beginner-friendly.

Furthermore, a mirrorless camera is available in either a full-frame or crop sensor. It offers almost the same quality as DSLRs, especially when using similar sensors.

Sony, Panasonic, and Fujifilm are leading manufacturers of mirrorless cameras today. However, many brands, such as Canon, Nikon, and Olympus, also started to dip their toes into this new market. 

Pros of Mirrorless Cameras:

  • Smaller and lighter build
  • Simpler controls compared to DSLRs
  • Less moving parts ensure silent operation
  • Built-in image stabilization

Cons of Mirrorless Cameras:

  • Shorter battery life
  • Size is not ideal for everyone
  • The electronic viewfinder works poorly in low-light environments

Compact Cameras

Compact digital cameras are also known as point-and-shoot cameras. As their name suggests, they allow you to capture photos by pointing the camera at the subject and pressing the shutter button. They are among the most beginner-friendly of all the camera types on this list.

Compact cameras are also smaller and lighter than DSLRs or mirrorless devices. They are ideal for general walk-around photography.

Moreover, a compact point-and-shoot camera has a built-in fixed lens with a variable focal length.

However, this type of camera can limit the kind of photography that you do. The more compact build also means a tiny sensor, which does not take the best photos.

Nevertheless, a compact camera is still worth considering for its basic yet practical features.

Pros of Compact Cameras:

  • Light and compact
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Full auto mode
  • Affordable

Cons of Compact Cameras:

  • Limited exposure settings
  • The small sensor produces lower-resolution photos
  • Slow autofocus

Bridge Cameras

A bridge camera is somewhere between a compact camera and a DSLR.

It has a built-in lens with a larger zoom range. It also offers a viewfinder and some manual control over the exposure.

Moreover, a bridge camera uses a one-inch sensor. It produces higher-quality images than a point-and-shoot camera.

Bridge cameras are ideal for those who want an upgraded compact model but are not yet ready for an interchangeable-lens camera system.

Pros of Bridge Cameras:

  • A single camera and lens for your convenience
  • Better image quality than most point-and-shoot cameras
  • Budget-friendly
  • Small and portable enough for everyday travel

Cons of Bridge Cameras:

  • The built-in lens can limit the kind of photography you do
  • More expensive than point-and-shoot cameras
  • Some models do not fit your pocket
  • Slow compared to DSLRs

Smartphone Cameras

Modern smartphones have built-in cameras. They make photography more accessible to almost everyone.

Smartphone cameras use several lenses. Most phones have two camera lenses, one in front and another at the back. Some advanced units even offer triple or quad cameras at the rear. These allow you to shoot in portrait, macro, telephoto, and even wide-angle modes.

Phone cameras come with tiny sensors compared to dedicated cameras. However, they use advanced software to enhance the look and quality of images.

Pros of Phone Cameras:

  • Almost always on hand
  • Easy to operate
  • With several built-in camera lenses
  • Instant photo sharing

Cons of Phone Cameras:

  • Limited camera functions
  • No manual control
  • Small image sensor

Action Cameras

Action cameras come with waterproof housing and mounts. The former allows you to shoot underwater. Meanwhile, the latter lets you attach the camera to helmets or bicycles for hands-free recording. 

Action cameras also include an ultra-wide-angle lens and a built-in image stabilization system. They can help you capture impressive photos and videos.

Furthermore, an action camera offers advanced or smart features for your convenience. These include app and remote control, voice control, and Bluetooth connection.

The only major downside of action cameras is the fixed focus point. It can limit the kind of photos and videos you can take. 

Action cameras used to be synonymous with GoPro cameras. However, many brands, such as DJI and Akaso, are now available for adventure photographers.

Pros of Action Cameras:

  • Light and compact
  • Rugged and water-resistant
  • Allows attachment on almost any surface
  • Smart features

Cons of Action Cameras:

  • The screen might be too small
  • Fixed focus
  • Limited exposure settings

Instant Cameras

As their name suggests, instant cameras instantly print photos after capturing them. They are ideal for photographers who want to keep physical images over digital ones.

Instant cameras come in different sizes. The mini version usually produces printed images around the size of a credit card. Meanwhile, the wide camera system gives you a print double that size. 

A Polaroid camera is an earlier version of an instant camera. But in recent years, Kodak and Fujifilm also offer their own take on the original instant camera.

Pros of Instant Cameras:

  • Instant photo prints
  • Ideal for events and gatherings
  • Various print sizes are available
  • Black and white or fully colored option

Cons of Instant Cameras:

  • Print quality is not comparable to a dedicated photo printer
  • Photo paper can be expensive
  • Limited camera controls

360° Cameras

360-degree cameras feature back-to-back lenses. They allow you to capture immersive pictures and videos with panoramic views.

Some 360-degree cameras have water-resistant construction. They also allow you to mount the unit on many surfaces, including helmets, drones, and on top of cars.

These types of cameras are mostly geared toward hobbyists. However, they are also ideal for professional photographers who want to capture an entire 360-degree view.

The most popular 360-degree camera systems are the GoPro Max, Insta360, and Ricoh Theta X.

Pros of 360° Cameras:

  • Captures realistic 360-degree photos and videos
  • Compact and lightweight
  • It can be mounted on almost any surface
  • Live view option

Cons of 360° Cameras:

  • Fixed focus
  • Sensitive to camera shake and motion blur
  • No print option

Film Cameras

Film cameras seem like they do not have a place in today’s digital world. However, they are not obsolete.

Some hobbyists still use film cameras to capture artistic and vintage photos. Younger photographers are also starting to discover film cameras due to the popularity of instant cameras.

Film cameras use a roll of light-sensitive film. The lens exposes this film to light for a brief moment to capture a negative image. After, this must be developed in the darkroom to create the final photo print.

As you can probably tell, film cameras require hard work to achieve your desired photos. Nevertheless, they remain beloved for their ability to produce unique images.

Pros of Film Cameras:

  • Artistic photos with a more natural-looking feel
  • Offer different image resolutions
  • Accept various lenses
  • Vintage-looking hardware

Cons of Film Cameras:

  • Complicated shooting and printing process
  • Takes time to view your photos 
  • Expensive due to the recurring film cost

Medium Format Cameras

Medium format cameras come in either film or digital versions. This section will focus on the latter.

Digital medium format cameras feature sensors larger than full-frame sensors. They offer higher-quality and extremely detailed images.

These types of cameras also have a more dynamic range compared to full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless systems. Thus, they work better in low-light situations.

However, a medium format camera is also larger in size. It also produces larger image files, which require a different memory card. 

For these reasons, medium format cameras are popular for landscape and professional studio work. 

Pros of Medium Format Cameras:

  • Higher resolution
  • Excellent image quality
  • Better dynamic range
  • Shallower depth of field

Cons of Medium Format Cameras:

  • Expensive than full-frame cameras
  • Large and heavy build
  • Slow autofocus performance

Rugged Cameras

The last type of camera on this list is the rugged camera.

It refers to camera systems with shockproof and waterproof designs. It can withstand most falls, weather, and terrains.

Some rugged cameras can also survive freezing temperatures. They even include an anti-fog coating to prevent lens condensation.

These cameras prioritize sturdiness over the best quality lens. Hence, they do not capture high-resolution photos.

With that said, rugged cameras are worth considering if you are shooting an adventure. 

Pros of Rugged Cameras:

  • Weather-resistant
  • Durable and can withstand harsh elements
  • Relatively compact

Cons of Rugged Cameras:

  • The small sensor does not produce the best images
  • Fixed lens


That sums up this list of the different types of cameras! Each one is suited for a specific kind of photography. It also comes in various price points. So before purchasing a camera, it is essential to consider several factors. These include the type of photos you want to take, budget, size, and ergonomics, among other considerations.

Do you want to capture both photos and videos? Both a DSLR and a mirrorless camera are worth looking into. Those on a tight budget and who prefer something compact can consider point-and-shoot and bridge cameras. Hobbyists and creative photographers might like film or 360-degree cameras. Finally, adventure-seekers might need something durable like action and rugged cameras.