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January 20th, 2021

What Constitutes a Great Camera?

A couple of decades or so ago, people would have viewed cameras differently. Over recent history, photographers have experienced an explosion in the different types of cameras available.

Polaroid was a revolution when it arrived and allowed any photographer to take a picture and see the results almost instantly. Digital cameras came after, first with low resolutions, and then swiftly followed by professional-grade SLR versions.

Now you have a quality camera in almost every smartphone. This doesn’t mean that cameras have finished evolving, indeed manufacturers are already pushing out new mirrorless versions.

What you need in a camera completely depends on what goal you have in mind. Below are some types of cameras and why they might be great


How have cameras changed through the years?

These days many people can afford to own a camera. Most people even have them in their pockets as part of their smartphones. Professional cameras can cost a small fortune and it wasn’t that long ago that a camera was seen as a bit of luxury but now they are commonplace. 

In the first instance, the camera that appeared was a bit like a projector. It was known as a camera obscura or pinhole camera and worked by enlarging an image against a backdrop such as a wall. Unfortunately, these images couldn’t be recorded although many people used them as a way of tracing whatever was projected. 

The first early cameras really appeared in the early 1800s. From 1816 onwards cameras were improved upon and used to take portraits until the late 1800s when George Eastman started to sell his Kodak cameras. This is around the time that cameras started to look like the ones you know today. 


The evolution of cameras

After this period, cameras kept on advancing through technology and design. It may or not surprise you that the first instant cameras from Kodak’s rival, Polaroid, arrived as long ago as 1948.

Since then the world has witnessed disposable cameras, video and digital, and of course smartphones

Evolution of cameras


What are the diverse types of camera available?

There are possibly more types of cameras available than you can imagine. They all have their uses but whether they can be described as ‘great’ would probably depend on your own requirements. Below are some of the main cameras you will know and maybe some you haven’t considered:

  • DSLRs
  • SLRs (film)
  • Compacts or point and shoot
  • 3D cameras
  • 360-degree cameras
  • Instant cameras
  • Video cameras
  • Smartphone cameras
  • Action cameras
  • Rugged cameras
  • Medium format cameras
  • Bridge cameras
  • Digital mirrorless cameras

These cameras all have their purposes and depending on your skill levels and whether you are a beginner, enthusiastic amateur, or a professional photographer you will have your own opinions as to which one you want. 


How should you choose a camera?

A camera consists of many features. There is the camera body, shutter button, and lens of course but depending on what camera you choose they might have a red-eye reduction, built-in flash, lens mount so you are not restricted to fixed focus, and a tripod mount. 

From the list above you can see a couple are gimmicky or limited. 360 and 3D cameras have restricted usage. Polaroids are fun for parties and taking instant snaps but unless you have a project that requires this then they are just for fun. Video or digital cine-cameras are mostly for recording movies. This leads us to the rest of the choices. 

Choice #1

Smartphone Cameras

This is easy to dismiss because they are so ubiquitous but the technology in phones is advancing so quickly that professionals are taking a serious interest in them. Oscar-winning director, Steven Soderbergh has used the Apple iPhone to make two Hollywood movies. The benefits of using this type of camera include mobility and easy access to the internet to upload images swiftly to be saved and published.


Choice #2

Rugged Cameras

Another camera for sporting lifestyle and outdoor photography. These differ from action cameras as they are generally designed for point and shoot. Someone who wants a compact camera but likes to go hiking, for instance, would suit one of these.


Choice #3

Compact Cameras

The same as the rugged but without the protection. They are the choice of many people when buying a camera as they are easy to operate. This style of the camera tends to be affordable, uses standard batteries, and is easy to fit in a pocket. Perfect for Christmas, holidays and family snaps. Fixed focus, basic photography formats, and fitted with a memory card they are genuine entry-level all-rounders.


Choice #4

Action Cameras

These are most commonly known as GoPro’s although there are many brands available. They are generally very small and able to be used for extreme sports and in tough conditions such as underwater. They are nearly always used for video.


Choice #5

Bridge Cameras

The perfect camera for someone who wants more than a compact but isn’t ready to invest or need a DSLR.


Choice #6

Medium Format Cameras

These are unlikely to come up on your radar unless you are a professional or need very high-quality images. An uncommon piece of equipment, this type of camera is used in fields such as fashion.


Choice #7

SLRs and DSLRs

These two are the cameras that keen hobbyists and professionals alike will look at. SLR means Single Lens Reflex. This means the photographer can look through the optical viewfinder and see the image utilizing a mirror and prism.

SLRs are film-based and DSLRs are digital. Although the film has been dying out over the years many enthusiasts are very keen on the format and it has a good following. 


Choice #8

Mirrorless Cameras

Now you come to the new kid on the block. This might be the camera that takes over from DSLRs. Right now they are more expensive but as with all new technology, this is likely to drop. The main difference is there is no optical port so the camera is lighter than the standard ones. They operate faster and they are also quieter. This means they are perfect for operating in environments where silence is necessary such as a wedding or religious ceremony.

They are smaller, more compact, and have a very good burst rate. They are packed with features but they have downsides too. There are currently fewer lenses and attachments than there are for DSLRs, but they are likely to catch up.


What do you want one for?

Now you know the types of cameras it really is up to you to decide what your needs are. Obviously, you will need to research technical specifications, prices, and reviews but your personal needs will dictate your choice too. 


How technical are you with your camera?

Are you the sort of photographer who wants to know their camera inside and out? You can more knowledge about various parts of your camera from classes or websites if you have an interest. Knowing how your camera works can help you to understand the best way to create images, choose the right modes, and store them. 

Types of Cameras for Professionals

As you can see there are many options for choosing the right, or great, camera. For someone who wants to capture their memories while on holiday or their children’s birthdays then a compact will be ideal. For someone keen on photography but not ready to make the step to a DSLR then a bridge camera would work well.

DSLRs are definitely the idea of a great camera to many photographers. The features and quality of the images taken are professional levels. Obviously, you still have to have the talent to work with the camera but these might be the best on the market now. 

However, the digital mirrorless camera may constitute a really great camera in the coming years. Once there are more options they look to be able to overtake DSLRs and become the camera of choice for most serious photographers.

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