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With recent innovations in camera technology, digital photography has now become more accessible than ever. Finding the best digital camera can be overwhelming due to the range of options and technical jargon involved. Understanding your options before purchasing a digital camera is important, especially if you want to upgrade from your smartphone camera. For this reason, we’ve put together this list, diving into the pros and cons of each digital camera so you can make an informed decision before purchasing the one that’s right for you.
Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras are one of the most popular options among photographers, known for capturing images with stunning quality and state-of-the-art speed. DSLRs are some of the most adaptable cameras available and give photographers flexibility in their shooting with an array of customization options. The DSLR also allows you to interchange lenses, which can drastically improve the quality of your images.
Since DSLR cameras are fitted with large and advanced sensors, they are superior when shooting in low light conditions. This high-quality camera retains much of its value over time and is a great option for hobbyists and professionals alike.
Bridge cameras have been used since the 1980s and were named due to their features “bridging the gap” between single-lens reflex (SLR) and point-and-shoot cameras. This digital camera generally features an array of manual controls, including shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, aperture, and color balance. Bridge cameras are equipped with long zoom lenses that lend them incredible super-telephoto capabilities. For this reason, “superzoom camera” is often used interchangeably with “bridge camera.”
As the name implies, mirrorless cameras do not use a mirror to reflect the image into a viewfinder. Although they are suited for interchangeable lenses, they have an unexpectedly slim and compact body because there is no need for a mechanical mirror. The only moving part of this camera is the shutter, which is usually mechanical or electric on higher-end models. Mirrorless cameras are great options for hobbyists as they are suited for both photography and videography.
Action cameras are compact, sturdy, and seemingly anything-proof. They are digital cameras designed to capture the action while being immersed in it, often requiring little to no interaction once recording has begun. Action cameras are often mounted to helmets, handlebars, chest straps, surfboards, and more to capture extreme sports. They are usually fixed in a way that capture’s the user’s perspective and can be fitted with an endless array of customizable accessories.
Many modern action cameras can shoot in 4K, allowing you to capture adrenaline-pumping thrills such as scuba diving, skateboarding, rock climbing, paragliding, windsurfing, and more in mind-blowing quality.
360 cameras, also known as omnidirectional cameras, capture the entire field of view around them. They are an integral part of virtual reality (VR) simulations and have been rising in popularity within the interactive entertainment industry. Usually, two lenses or “eyes” are used to have a field of view wide enough to capture the surrounding area. 360 cameras are one of the latest developments in the photography field and have endless applications. They have been growing in relevance recently because of their ability to bring anything from live concerts to sporting events right to a viewer’s home.
Film cameras are an older technology that use photographic film to produce visible images. Most film is usually coated in plastic and covered with a light-sensitive emulsion that forms an image when exposed to light. When the film is loaded into the camera, light passing through a prism creates “exposures” of each image. The film can then be developed through a timed, chemical process that transforms the latent image by applying an alkaline solution that brings out the true picture.
Compact cameras, also known as point-and-shoot cameras, are really easy to use and have a variety of preset settings. The operation of a compact camera is mostly automated, with many using focus free lenses. Many compact cameras rely on automation to select the best exposure settings and are great for beginners. Compact cameras are by far the most popular and widely sold cameras, however, their market presence has declined with the rise of camera phones.
Medium format cameras are some of the highest-quality digital cameras on the market and have widely been used in fashion and advertising photography. They are known for the supreme image quality they produce which delivers nearly perfect color replication. Medium format cameras use the 120 film size in their operation or an imaging sensor designed to imitate that size. Traditional medium format cameras are modular and customizable, with interchangeable parts such as the viewfinder, focus system, lenses, and more.
Medium format cameras are loved by professional photographers due to the distinct look and feel of the images they produce. Often, the images will have a lack of perception distortion and offer a color range much like what we see in real life. Because of the top-tier image quality medium format cameras produce, they can be very expensive which may make them inaccessible to hobbyist photographers.
Instant cameras are truly the best of both worlds, inheriting the best qualities of both film and digital cameras. Instant cameras use a self-developing film which is printed shortly after taking a shot. This immediacy is what makes instant cameras so popular and gives each photo a distinct and iconic look. Instant cameras are widely accessible and generally inexpensive, making them a top choice among travelers. However, due to the self-developing nature of the film, replacing it can become somewhat costly.
Smartphone cameras are most people’s first introduction to photography and have been rising in quality and popularity over the past few years. Modern smartphone cameras have tons of features built into them and are usually backed up with computer software and algorithms to ensure you get the best shot. Many people like shooting with smartphone cameras because of how quick and easy to use they are. In addition, all your smartphone images can be backed up to the cloud, eliminating the chance of losing a tiny SD card or roll of film. Because smartphones have thousands of other features, editing and sharing your photos has never been easier.
On the downside, most smartphone cameras do not have an optical zoom, making it difficult to capture quality images of distant subjects. Instead, these cameras use a digital zoom which severely degrades an image’s quality.
Before buying a digital camera, you should try a few types out to find the one that feels the best and resonates with your photography style. Whether you are a beginner, amateur, or professional photographer, there are a wide range of digital cameras to choose from. Although you should take some time to get familiar with a variety of different cameras, you have to remember that a camera is only as good as the person using it. Regardless of what camera you choose, you can still manage to take great photos if you are passionate about photography and capturing your vision.
Featured Image Credit: Kai Cheng, Unsplash
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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