Part one – What camera options do I have?
Early next year I’m running a series of beginners’ photography workshops in Surrey, and with Christmas coming up people have been asking me which camera they should ask for!
This blog is part one in a series of three, which aims to demystify the types of cameras available, explore the different models and ultimately help you decide which camera is best for you.
In this first blog I’m going to explain about the different types of camera before we dive into the different models and where you can purchase them (there’s quite a few out there…) and finally onto different lenses.
So what are the different types of camera out there?
Point and shoot
If you are looking for a camera that you literally point at your subject, push a button and capture an image then this is for you. Although, with the advances in phone camera technology, I’d argue that most people already have a point and shoot camera in their pocket.
Best for; people wanting to grab snap shots quickly.
The reason they are called bridge cameras is because they bridge the gap between the point and shoot and the more complex, and capable, DSLR and Mirrorless cameras by offering similar functionality to the DSLR and Mirrorless.
Bridge cameras start to give you much more control over your camera settings and usually come with a fixed ultra zoom lens which allows you to shoot subjects close by as well as very far away. Sounds like a win win right?
Similar functionality to the DSLR or Mirrorless cameras with a great zoom range too! But there are draw backs…
Bridge cameras have a fixed lens, so whichever camera you go with the lens you have will be the lens you always have and if you are planning on capturing images that you are proud of,my bet is that you’ll ultimately want the ability to change lens.
Bridge cameras have much smaller image sensors (the thing that captures your image) than DSLR or Mirrorless cameras and therefore shooting in low light situations will be tricky because the sensor just won’t have the capability to capture enough light.
Another drawback is that when you do use the full zoom on a subject far away the image quality suffers and you could end up getting frustrated with quality.
That said if you are just looking for a general shoot all type of things camera, aren’t too worried about quality of imagery, but want a bit more grunt than a point and shoot this could be for you.
Best for; people looking for a camera that has good zoom range to capture subjects near and far but are happy to compromise on quality and flexibility.
DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) and Mirrorless cameras
I’ve decide to group these two types of camera because principally they offer a similar experience from a photography functionality and control perspective without getting too technical!
Moving into the DSLR and Mirrorless range of cameras will enable you get the very best out of your photography.
The main reasons for this are image quality, bigger image sensors, and the ability to change lenses providing much more versatility.
That said, you need to understand how to get out of auto mode, which is much easier than you’d think. I’m not saying you have to learn full manual mode or even understand all the jargon but I would encourage you that even a little understanding can go a long way and you’d be really pleased with the results. I can give you all the secrets on how to do this in my beginner’s workshops, you won’t even have to read the manual!
They both offer a range of shooting modes where the camera’s computer will help you achieve your desired images. You can get the blurry background and freeze movement easily and effectively out of auto mode.
Having the ability to change your lens provides you with lots of flexibility, you can choose lenses to suit what you are photographing, for example wide or ultra wide angle lenses for landscapes, medium telephoto lenses for portraits and long/ultra telephoto lenses for wildlife.
As you can see you have much more flexibility with the DSLR or Mirrorless than the Bridge and in my humble opinion, if you are wanting to produce photographs as rather than just snapshots, you’ll go for a DSLR or a mirrorless.
There are obviously lots of technical differences between the two but in very simple terms I’ll explain the difference between the two mechanically.
DSLRs are designed in the same way as the old 35mm film cameras. They contain a mirror inside the camera body which reflects the light that comes through the lens up to a prism and into the viewfinder (a bit like a periscope) to enable you to preview your image. As soon as you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up, the shutter opens and light hits the image sensor, capturing your final image.
Because they have a mirror system inside them they are bigger and heavier than the Mirrorless.
Now you know that the DSLR systems uses mirrors… bet you can guess how the Mirrorless cameras work :).
When you push the shutter button on a Mirrorless camera, the light travels directly through the lens straight onto your image sensor, so there is no mirror. Because the light goes directly, without having to go via a mirror system, the camera creates a digital preview on the display screen of exactly what you will capture which can quickly highlight how dark or light your images is going to be when you press the button. Some models also have an electronic view finder that you can put your eye up to.
Best for: People looking to capture high quality images and are willing to read the manual or invest in education to ensure the investment is worthwhile!
I really hope that this gives you a solid understanding of the different types of camera that you can buy.
In part two of this blog I’ll be providing my views on the best entry level cameras for people looking to purchase a new camera.