Types of Cameras

When people talk about types of camera, one of two things will enter their thoughts, either “Compact” or “SLR.” Both are looked at in this article. Infact there are other types as well including bridge and Compact System Camera (CSC).


A compact camera, also known as “Point-and-shoot”, is designed essentially for the non-professional. Typically they have no way to control the exposure or focus, all of that is taken care of by the camera automatically. They come with one fixed non-changeable lens which in most cases can be used to zoom in on subjects. In addition they also have, in most cases these days, a flash built in. With film based compacts, all have a viewfinder, with digital some have a viewfinder whilst others do not. The viewfinder, if present, does not show the image through the lens, which means you can never be 100% sure on exactly what the outcome will be.

Despite all of these, they are relatively cheap, compact as the name suggests and good enough for most casual needs.


A bridge camera sits between the compact and SLR. Typically they do not have a viewfinder and none have a mirror as an SLR does. The LCD on the back of the camera gives a live view of what is seen through the lens and an electronic shutter is used. This does have the advantage of SLR’s that it is much quieter.

Although some will disagree here, I also consider the CSC to be a class of bridge camera. These are essentially a bridge camera but with inter changeable lenses and in most cases an electronic viewfinder.

Single Lens Reflex

The Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera is used the world over by professional photographers. The different types of SLR are a topic in its own right. The SLR unlike Compact and Bridge (CSC) has inter-changeable lenses and has all camera settings available. So for example the shutter speed and aperture can be changed manually. Not only that, a mirror is used inside to allow the view seen through the lens to be passed up to the viewfinder. When a photo is taken the mirror lifts up, the shutter opens and the film or sensor is exposed. The shutter is then closed and the mirror put back down.

What do I use?

Primarily I use a Digital-SLR (DSLR) but do use a compact from time to time. The DSLR is my main tool as a photographer for a few simple reasons:

  • The file can be saved in RAW allowing for adjustments later with no loss in quality;
  • Lenses and sensors are much higher quality than other types of camera;
  • Durability; and
  • Full control of camera settings.

I have used a SLR of some description since the mid 1980’s when I started out with a Practika BMS. I have said it before and I will say it again, going for a (D)SLR, more pixels, bigger lenses, etc. doesn’t mean you will get a better picture; you still have to know how to use your camera.

What should you use?

This is only my opinion and I cannot be held responsible for your choice should you feel you made the wrong choice. Having said that I would say it depends on if you want to just take photos casually or if you would like to get serious, even as a hobby, with photography.

So if you want to just be casual then go for a compact. If you want to get serious with photography then go for an entry level SLR.

In the next article we will take a brief look at digital vs film.