There are a million different types of cameras on the market. Which one should you choose? Well aside from reading endless specs, one way to figure it out is to simply know the categories of cameras available to you. Do you want a mirrorless or a quick point and shoot? Is a DSLR better for your occasional impromptu video shoots? Knowing the different types of cameras will help you determine which is best for your projects. Let’s jump in.

Different Types of Cameras

What are the types of cameras?

Knowing the categories of cameras available to you will give you the confidence to decide between camera models later.  And there are countless. We’ll provide recommendations for each camera type, but first, what are the different types of cameras?

Different Types of Cameras
  • Compact Cameras
  • DSLR Cameras
  • Mirrorless Cameras
  • Action (Adventure) Cameras
  • 360 Cameras
  • Medium Format Cameras
  • Traditional Film Cameras

It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional, hobbyist, or novice, at least one of the camera types should fit your needs once you learn a little more about them.

Different Types of Cameras

1. Compact Cameras

Best compact cameras for video


Your standard compact camera, often referred to as a point-and-shoot camera, does just that. They offer no real adjustable camera settings, but are incredibly affordable. They’re light-weight, easy to use, and you just point and shoot. They remind me of what family vacations are captured on - they belong in a 90s fanny pack, and are taken out when Mom wants a photo in front of a statue. Okay, I’m mostly kidding. Compact cameras are pretty awesome. And today, there are quite a few different kinds of these compact cameras that do allow you to get a little more involved in the photography process. 

Zoom Compacts

Zoom compact cameras simply have a better zoom lens installed than standard. They don’t have interchangeable lenses but the zoom range is 28-300mm. While they’re not considered suitable for professional use, they do have automatic exposure settings and manual options, including HD recording. Many models of zoom compacts offer at a minimum, 12 megapixels

Advanced Compacts

While still compact and light-weight, advanced compacts are not quite as affordable as the standard compact camera. They allow for manual exposure mode and enable much higher resolution pictures than before. Some include interchangeable lenses as well.


Compact Cameras

Different Types of Cameras

2. DSLR Cameras

What to consider before buying a DSLR

DSLRs are the go-to cameras for most creatives. Whether you’re a professional photographer or aspiring videographer looking to get their YouTube channel off the ground, you’ll likely find this camera works for any project. They deliver exceptional, professional-level sharpness and even incredible background bokeh. Videos are in high resolution thanks to DSLRs advanced sensors, manual camera settings, and interchangeable lenses. 

It stands for digital single-lens reflex but the mechanics of a DSLR are fairly simple. Light enters a single lens and hits a mirror which reflects that light up into the viewfinder. You can have a DSLR with a full frame sensor or 35mm, or an APS-C sensor which is a crop sensor.


DSLR Cameras

  • Pros: Optical viewfinder, completely customizable settings, high res photo and video output, variety of camera body types and lenses, larger sensors provide better image quality 
  • Cons: Bulky, can be expensive
  • Recommendations: Pricier options: Nikon D850, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Affordable: Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Types of Digital Cameras

3. Mirrorless Cameras

DSLR vs Mirrorless

Mirrorless cameras are a lighter, more compact alternative to the DSLR, and provide incredible quality images, especially video. The comparison between DSLR and Mirrorless is worth examining before you make a decision. Many professionals are making the switch. 

The camera body lacks a mirror that reflects light to the sensor, instead the light goes straight to the sensor. The very mechanics of the mirrorless automatically limit camera shake as compared to the DSLR. And with less moving parts, they're quieter than DSLRs. However, when it comes to lens options, it’s somewhat limited. Make sure to watch the video on the key differences between the two mainstays in professional photography and videography.


Mirrorless Cameras

  • Pros: light-weight and compact, quieter, no flicking mirror means no camera shake, reliable video mode, simpler controls, electronic viewfinder, lower price point
  • Cons: Shorter battery life, slow autofocus, less lenses available
  • Recommendations: Canon EOS M50, Sony a7R III

Types of Digital Cameras

4. Action or Adventure Cameras

The GoPro is one of the better

Action cameras, sometimes called Adventure cameras, are great for outdoor filming, or otherwise rough conditions. They’re often used for sports photography and videography. Weather and shockproof, these cameras are generally small and lightweight and the sensor is guarded with super durable glass. GoPros are common action cameras. Because of their small sensors, technically they’re not “for professional use” but I mostly disagree. You can get some pretty incredible shots and at the very least, inter-splice them with other footage from a DSLR or mirrorless. Again, it depends on the project and what overall aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. The video above shows the new GoPro and its footage.


Action Cameras

  • Pros: light-weight, compact, durable, view and shutter via smartphone, mountable almost everywhere, weather proof
  • Cons: small sensor, fixed focus, viewfinder not always available, little camera setting customization
  • Recommendations: Any GoPro, Nikon Coolpix AW 130

Types of Digital Cameras

5. 360 Cameras

360 footage and the best 360 cameras this year

Similar to action cameras, many 360-degree cameras are water resistant and mountable on a ton of surfaces. They can be put on drones, helmets, cars, you name it. The best thing about these guys is their ability to capture really interesting footage. 360-degree footage using back-to-back lenses. Great for adventure photography and videography, perfect for reality style video and not a bad purchase before your next vacation.


360 Cameras

  • Pros: Yields realistic 360 degree photos and videos, live streaming capability, small and lightweight, mountable on many surfaces
  • Cons: Digital viewing only, sensitive to shake, low resolution output, fixed focus
  • Recommendations: Insta360 One X

Different Kinds of Cameras

6. Medium Format Cameras

What’s a medium format camera?

Not nearly as common as the other cameras listed above, medium format is any camera format that makes use of the 120 film size or it uses a digital imaging sensor that matches that size. Medium format takes pictures that are just smaller than a large format size (102x127mm), but bigger than using 135mm or full-frame sensors. 

Hasselblad is the main manufacturer. Medium format refers to the 120 size film format. It has a very large sensor and has incredible image quality, though typically, very expensive, (Hasselblad H6D-400c runs $50,000 just for the body).  It’s bigger in size due to the sensor but also allows for bigger, more powerful lenses. The combination of high megapixel and large dynamic range results in very high resolution. Make sure to watch the video to learn more about medium format cameras, especially if you’re a professional who needs to impress high maintenance clients.


Medium Format

  • Pros: Large sensor, greater dynamic range, image quality can’t be beat
  • Cons: Big and bulky, extremely expensive
  • Recommendations: Hasselblad H6D-100c

Types of Film Cameras

7. Traditional Film Cameras

The basics of using film instead of digital

Digital probably has way more advantages than traditional film. Well, not probably -- it does. Digital gives you the photos in real time and doesn’t involve developing or film costs. If you’re smart about backing up your photos, you’ll likely never lose them. But there is something about shooting with real film that no digital camera can touch. A nostalgic look and feel that still produces incredible res photos.


Traditional Film

  • Pros: Great image resolution, vintage look, inexpensive lenses
  • Cons: Risk of exposure errors, expensive recurring developing and film costs, analog settings
  • Recommendations: Canon AE-1 35mm Film Camera

Up Next

Best 4K Video Cameras

All of these camera categories can shoot video, but the next article is a dedicated buying guide to the best video cameras on the market. So if you know videography is your thing, and you need some guidance on what to spend the money on, look no further. From affordable to 10 grand, we’ve got them all. 

Up Next: Best 4K Video Cameras →
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