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Photography Basics for Beginners: The Different Types of Cameras

Learn Photography - Different Types of Cameras - Basics for Beginners Morgan Nesbitt Creative Perth WA

So you have just started on your photography journey! That’s awesome!

There’s so much to learn and discover in photography. It can become pretty overwhelming at times. So where do you begin?

I believe that the best place to start is learning about and understanding the different types of cameras.

Photography has progressed heaps within just one century. In our modern-day, there are so many different kinds of cameras that most beginners will be lost and confused very quickly.

So to get you started, here is a quick introduction to the cameras of the modern era.

Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR)

Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage:

Everything from your casual/ everyday shooting to professional studio photography.



Great performance


Great value for money

Huge variety of Interchangeable lenses

High-quality video recording




Can be expensive

Out of all the different types of cameras out there, the DSLR is probably the most common type of camera that you will see up on the shelves these days.

DSLR type cameras used to be very expensive but have become much more affordable thanks to the development of technology. Now you can get DSLR cameras to suit any budget.

The DSLR camera is used by beginners, amateurs and professionals alike, and is the old reliable workhorse of the photography industry that just keeps on going and going.

But just what does the name “DSLR” mean?

Digital” You can copy the images out of the memory card, and process it straight on your computer.

Single-lens” Means an interchangeable lens.

Reflex” Means an internal mirror that flips up when taking a photo.

Also when it comes to DSLR cameras, you will find “2 types” of DSLRs on the market:

Full frame DSLR – When the DSLR camera was first made, the electronic sensor was made to the same size as a 35mm film. Which we now call full-frame DSLRs.

Crop sensor DSLR – These are a new affordable line of DSLR cameras that are made primarily for entry-level photographers. The electronic sensor and other parts are cut down in size to lower the cost which we now call crop sensor DSLR.

There’s heaps of debate and speculation surrounding the future of the DSLR camera.

Some people are saying that DSLR cameras are going to be overtaken by smartphones, but I think DSLRs are far from being made extinct.

The image quality produced by the top of the heap DSLRs is still lengths better than smartphones, and there really is no way a tiny smartphone camera is going to compete with the quality.

Compact Camera

Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage:

Casual shooting and travel photography


Very affordable


Good performance

Great for generic usage


Fixed lens

Limited capabilities

Another common modern-day camera that you can pick up from pretty much any electronics store.

A compact camera is also sometimes known as a point-and-shoot camera.

The compact camera uses an electronic sensor and memory card design just like the bigger DSLRs, but their lenses are usually fixed to the body so you can interchange them.

Compact cameras are also a lot smaller so they can fit easily into pockets so you can just pull it out and shoot when you need to.

Size does matter so don’t have the expectation that these small compact cameras have the same level of performance and image quality as the bigger DSLRs because you’ll be disappointed.

Compact cameras were made with beginners in mind, to be convenient for carrying around, but were never made for the intentions of professional work.

Mirrorless Camera

Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage:

Everything from casual shooting/ hobby to professional photoshoots


Light in weight

Same level performance as the DSLR

Great for all types of photography



Drains battery life quickly

It’s safe to say that the mirrorless camera is the successor of DSLR cameras.

With DSLR cameras, the “reflex” which is an internal mirror inside the camera body is what’s used to process the image. So a mirrorless camera doesn’t have the “reflex” or mirror.

How does it work then?

Mirrorless cameras use electronic sensors to record data. Just like DSLR cameras though they use memory cards, and have interchangeable lenses.

But because they are missing that internal mirror they are a bit lighter than most DSLR cameras.

Mirrorless cameras are becoming more and more popular amongst beginners and professionals but what’s holding them back is their lack of lens range.

But like with the DSLR camera type, more lenses are being released for mirrorless cameras and with good adapters being available, they may take over the majority of the camera market.

Time will tell.

Digital Medium Format

Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage

Professional photography


Extremely good image quality

Extremely large photographs


Extremely expensive

Just when you thought you couldn’t get much bigger and badder than a DSLR Camera.

Well you can, there are different types of cameras out there, there’s one beast, introducing the medium format camera.

Back in the early days of camera technology, 35mm films were the mainstream media, and there was also the bigger 120mm and 220mm “medium format” as well.

In the digital age we live in, DSLR cameras took over the 35mm film and the digital media formats took over the 120mm and 220mm films.

As you can expect from a camera of this calibre, they would easily have 4 times (or even more) the number of megapixels than a standard camera.

They easily cost way more than 4 times a standard camera as well.

Action Camera

Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage

Extreme sports action





Heaps of accessories available


Poor still image quality

Used for a few reasons e.g. attach to helmets of motocross riders.

The rise of action cameras was made popular by the company GoPro, and it is not hard to guess why.

These are waterproofed, high-resolution, rugged and shockproof cameras that are also small enough to fit into your pocket with ease.

These are really versatile cameras that can put out ok image quality but in my opinion amazing video quality.

One of the best parts about owning an action camera is that they come with a wide range of accessories available for them such as waterproofed housing, wrist mounts, bike mounts, helmet mounts, vehicle mounts, and even drone mounts.

Action cameras aren’t really good for photography, but with the number of accessories available they are the perfect video camera for extreme sports and activities or anything that would be hard to capture on a bigger camera to even vlogging.


Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage

Casual photography






Decent camera quality

Can post shots directly online


Doesn’t have the same quality as a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

I’m going to say it again, Smartphone and even tablet cameras do not have the same level of performance and overall quality as an actual professional, even amateur cameras.

In saying that, they are getting better.

Smartphones are in my opinion the cheapest and easiest way to start learning about photography because let’s face it, everyone has a phone.

Smartphones will allow you to start exploring and playing with different exposures and filtering, as well as camera angles and compositions. Just don’t expect the quality to be great like on a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

If you’re on a tight budget your smartphone will do just fine. You can buy lens accessories for them so you can experiment and create entirely new images.

Drone Camera

Learn photography - different types of cameras - basics for beginners morgan nesbitt creative perth wa

Common Usage

Aerial photography

Aerial videography


Stunning aerial photographs and video


Limited battery life

Can be expensive

Can damage easily

Years ago, the thought of aerial photography came with it being too expensive and pretty much impossible for the average photographer and general public citizen.

But advancements in technology changed all that.

Thanks to drone technology, we can now have a small camera attached to the drone and fly it up amongst the clouds to capture some truly breathtaking shots.

What used to be impossible is now a reality.

In The End

There you have it, some of the different camera types that are available on the market today.

I strongly suggest understanding these different camera types and learning all about them.

If you’re looking at purchasing a new camera I would recommend that your purchase decision should be based on your budget and style of photography you plan to shoot.

Don’t just buy a camera-based off what you see others using, those people in your network or what you see online.

Buy a camera that suits your exact needs, that has the right capabilities and functions, and which will do the job you require it to.

That’s it for this article, I hope you liked it, I hope you can apply something from it and I’ll speak to you in the next one.

now that you understand the different types of cameras that are available, it’s time to look at how they work.

If you would like to read more photography tips, tricks or stories then click here to read more!


And the adventure begins. I can’t wait to see what we come up with!!

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