Types of camera explained

Thanks to smartphone technology, everyone has a fairly decent camera these days, and we take them just about everywhere. But if you want to up your game, or simply want a camera that isn’t also your personal device, then you’ll be looking to buy a camera. I can’t tell you which one to buy, but I’ll shed some light on the types of camera available, and on what sets them apart.


Nikon Coolpix A10

Designed to be affordable, small, lightweight and easy enough for children and the elderly to use, compact cameras are still popular for family use. Image-wise, they typically have a small sensor that produces photos similar to mid-range smartphones. If you need a cheap, lightweight, easy-to-use camera to keep in your pocket, buy a point-and-shoot.

Recommended point-and-shoot cameras

  • Canon PowerShot IXUS 185
  • Canon PowerShot G9X Mark II – Editor’s Choice
  • Sony Cyber-shot WX220
  • Sony RX100 II
  • Canon PowerShot SX740 HS
  • Panasonic Lumix LX15 / LX10
  • Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90
  • Olympus Tough TG-5

Premium point-and-shoot

Canon G7X Mk II

Premium point-and-shoot cameras such as the Sony RX100 series and Canon G7X are becoming incredibly popular with enthusiast and professional photographers who want functionality and image quality when travelling light. These cameras have larger sensors than budget point-and-shoot cameras to give much better image quality, and usually include high-quality video features too. And if you have no limit on your spending, the Sony RX1 or Leica Q with their 35mm (full frame) sensors will challenge the biggest and best DSLRs.

Recommended premium point-and-shoot cameras

  • Sony RX100 VI
  • Canon G7X Mark II – Editor’s choice
  • Panasonic TZ200
  • Panasonic LX100 II
  • Fujifilm X100F
  • RX1
  • Leica Q2

Compact System Camera

Olympus Pen PL-9

Compact system cameras (CSCs) have bodies similar to a point-and-shoot camera, but with the advantages of featuring interchangeable lenses, much larger sensors, and more features . A number of CSC models boast professional capabilities and yield results good enough for professional use. So much so that there is a vast grey area in which many types of cameras – mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds, APS-C – fall into the definition of CSC.

So if you want a more advanced camera that fits in a coat pocket, or doesn’t add much weight in a bag, then a compact system camera should be a good purchase.

Recommended compact system cameras

  • Olympus Pen PL-9
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 MARK III
  • Sony A6400 – Editor’s choice
  • Fujifilm X-T20
  • Fujifilm X-T30
  • Panasonic Lumix GX9

Bridge / Superzoom

Nikon P1000

A ‘bridge’ camera bridges the gap between compact and DSLR with a bulkier DSLR-like body and zoom lens. Sometimes these cameras are listed as ‘superzoom’ due to their crazy zoom capabilities – the Nikon P1000 has a 125x zoom which effectively makes it a telescope! However, the image sensors are typically the same as found in compact cameras, so the advantages are mostly that of size and functionality over increased image quality.

Depending on the model and features, prices can range from budget to premium, with the Sony RX10 and Pansonic FZ2000 ranges being top of the line.

Recommended bridge / superzoom cameras

  • Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
  • Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 / FZ2000 – Editor’s choice
  • Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III
  • Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

Micro Four Thirds

Panasonic Lumix G7

This oddly-named class of ‘mirrorless’ camera (see next section) was created to give photographers DSLR functionality and features, but at a fraction of the size and weight. The Micro Four Thirds (MFT) market is dominated by Panasonic and Olympus, and offers a plethora of cameras and lenses to suit every photographer.

More recently, a surge in demand for high quality video led consumers to the MFT system and Panasonic’s range of cameras, particularly the G7, G80 and GH5 models. The main advantage is also the main disadvantage of the MFT system – the smaller sensor size – but that doesn’t prevent it being a popular choice for professionals who want a lighter kit.

Recommended Micros Four Thirds cameras

  • Panasonic GH5 / GH5s
  • Olympus O-MD E-M1 MkII
  • Panasonic G9 – Editor’s Choice
  • Panasonic G90
  • Olympus Pen F

Mirrorless (full frame)

Sony a7ii

Mirrors cameras is another strange name that can lead to confusion. Simply put, they miss the optical components that adds size and weight to DSLRs, but at no loss of function or capability. So they perform the same, but have much less bulkier bodies. And with all the leading camera manufacturers producing flagship mirrorless cameras now, and professionals switching to the lighter systems, it seems the days of DSLR are truly numbered.


DSLRs are typically bulky and heavy, though many budget models have plastic bodies and weigh less than some smaller mirrorless cameras. Once the choice of professionals, DSLRs became popular with consumers a number of years ago, but are now losing in popularity to the more compact mirrorless systems. Some argue their days are numbered, but many professionals believe they’re here to stay.

If you like the ergonomic of these larger cameras, there are many to choose from in a wide range of prices. And they can be a great camera to learn with, whatever your budget.

Thanks for reading!

I hope this gives a little understanding of types of cameras to start you on your buying journey. Just remember, you don’t have to buy the most expensive camera. Set a comfortably affordable budget, and stick with it. A good photographer with a cheap camera will take better pictures than an amateur with the best camera money can buy.

David @tinybig_

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