Getting Started with Photography: Camera Types
Photography can be intimidating when you look at all the different camera choices, and the list of cameras seems to keep growing. Where do you start when you are looking to get into photography? We’re going to investigate different camera types along with their benefits and also their drawbacks.
Point and Shoot
The point and shoot camera is the most popular choice among consumers. The quality of pictures taken with this camera has been continually improving as manufacturers are able to squeeze more and more megapixels out of smaller and smaller sensors. This type of camera is definitely a nice camera for the person on the go, as it is often very compact. Many of the cameras also come with the ability to set the camera into manual mode and make some minor adjustments in order to offer extra creative control. Because of their compact size, these cameras come with some restrictions as far as what they can do. Point and shoots come with a fixed lens which have very limited optical zoom capabilities. The lens size is a major restriction with these cameras as many creative features that high end cameras offer get their abilities from their lens.
- Super light and compact
- Cost effective
- High Resolution
- Fixed Lens
- Small Feature Set
- Lack of Creative Control
If you are looking for a camera you can throw in your pocket for snapshots of your friends and family and only plan to make 4×6 or the occasional 8×10 print than this camera could be for you. Don’t get caught up in the megapixel war though, look for a point and shoot that suits your needs, considering size and then find the camera that has the best optics (look for larger lens sizes on smaller bodies). A 6mp camera with a larger more capable lens will out-shoot your friends 8mp or 10mp camera with a tiny lens!
35 mm SLR
SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex, and generally means that what you see through the viewfinder is what will be composed on the film or digital sensor. This is the staple camera of the photography community. The 35mm SLR camera is used by amateur and professional photographers alike. So what makes this camera so great and versatile? Well for starters the name hints at one of the great advantages of this camera type. The ability to compose a shot and capture what you see offers increased creative control over the camera. Other benefits of this camera system are that is is fairly compact with the ability to adapt to a variety of situations. It is able to adapt through the ability to interchange lenses. This is arguably the most beneficial aspect of the 35mm camera. By using a different camera lens you will be able to gain increased control of the final image. Some of the drawbacks of this system are cost and size. Though the cameras are more compact than the camera types we will explore a little later they are still fairly bulky, lets just say their presence is known. The other factor is cost, with a system like this where many of the greatest benefits rely on lens type, it can become costly as lens’ are fairly expensive, often more than the camera itself. If you’re not able to purchase some nicer lens’ you will lose out on some of the advantages of this system.
- Interchangeable Lens
- Increased Creative Control
- Upgradable System
- Can get Expensive
- Need Good Lenses
- More Features = More Complexity
If you are looking to purchase a 35mm for the first time take a look at Getting Started with Photography: Choosing a 35mm. I show you were you can find a fairly inexpensive 35mm film camera along with a nice lens so that you can experiment with this camera system and learn the basics.
The following camera types are largely only used by professional photographers due to either their very expensive nature, cumbersome size, or both. We’ll investigate the camera types in order to provide you with a more full understanding of the different cameras available.
Medium Format SLR
The medium format camera is used by photographers who are in need of very large prints, think billboard size photgraphy. These cameras are defined by the film size, or the size of the camera sensor in the case of digital. A medium format camera comes in many aspect ratios including 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x9cm, and 6x17cm (used for panasonic images). These aspect ratios define the size of the film which is one of the major advantages to the medium format camera. The large film sizes allow for a better quality enlargement of the photograph. The 6×4.5 is arguably the most common medium format type often called or defined in the product name as a “645”.
Another advantage of the Medium format camera is the ability to rotate camera backs. This system has advantages in having the ability to change out film types mid-roll or change to digital at any point without exposing the film.
- Interchangeable Lens
- Large Film Size
- Switchable Camera Backs
- Very Expensive
- Larger size
Large Format cameras aptly named for their very large captures. These cameras are most often used by landscape and architectural photographers and those who are needing an exceptionally large or detailed print. The 4×5 inch film size captures every detail. Perhaps one of the most famous large format users, Ansel Adams carried the giant camera to capture his outstanding landscape photgraphy. Along with the ability to use the large film sizes, large format cameras have a feature called the bellows. The bellows help the photographer compensate for perspective distortion when taking photographs of very tall objects such as building. The problem is that when you take a photograph of something tall and you point the whole camera upwards at an angle the lines of the object have a vanishing point in the sky that all line converge to. What the bellows allow you to do is shift the lens upwards, to get the entire building in the frame, while keeping some of the elements level with the horizon capturing the image without any distortion. This is a huge advantage to architectureal photographers.
The main drawbacks of a large format system is it’s size. The camera is very large and cumbersome and is a deterrent for many photographers. The camera also takes a great amount of work and time in order to capture a photograph as every detail needs to be taken into consideration.
- Extremely Large Film Size
- Bellows System
- Very Large
- Slow Photo Process