Types of Cameras
In this section I will describe the most common types of cameras before the digital age. Digital
cameras messed everything up, so from a learning point of view it is best to start as if digital photography didn’t
Being a wide topic article and intending to describe general types of cameras, this article
contains rough data that is not applicable to all cameras in any give category illustrated below.
We can divide all cameras into four main categories: point and shoot cameras, 35 mm
cameras, medium format cameras and large format cameras.
Let’s begin with point and shoot cameras. These are the cameras that changed the world,
because they enabled anyone to take technically acceptable photographs. Point-and-shoot cameras brought
photography to the hands of really everyone. As the definition says, you only need to point and shoot... the
camera takes care of the rest. This is a great tool for people that are creative, but do not posses any
Point and shoot cameras are sort of popular also among professional photographers. They types of
cameras are small and therefore very portable, so they represent the best tool for a photographer to carry around
all the time. The downside of point and shoot cameras is poor quality.
They are cheap cameras designed to be available to the masses and therefore lens quality is low.
These cameras are usually very economical and can be purchased with the average week’s wages.
35 mm cameras are a solid milestone in photography. These types of cameras are used by the
advanced amateur and – at the higher end – by professional photographers.
It is the camera of choice of many professional photographers, due to its portability, speed of
use and number of frames available. A big plus about 35 mm cameras is that the lens can be changed to suit the
It is called 35 mm camera, because of the size of the film used. When measured, the width of the
film is exactly 35 millimeters. 35 mm cameras give the photographer total control over the image, as everything can
be manipulated, from the shutter speed, to the F. stop (the diaphragm) and from the focal length to the advancement
of the film.
These types of cameras have been widely used in photojournalism and reportage photography, due
to light weight, the fact that they carry rolls of 36 images and the ease of use compared with medium or large
format cameras. The quality they offer is acceptable for newspapers and small images, but not good for full page
images on a glossy magazine. These cameras are usually more expensive and they can be purchased with the average
Medium format cameras are so called because they represents an average format (4.5 x 5 to
6 x 7 cm) when compared with all formats available, from 35mm to large 4 x 5 inches and up.
They are cameras mostly operated by professional photographers, especially due to the relevant
purchase cost. They are usually heavy, slow to use and they generally carry film rolls that only offer about 12
They usually carry a roll of film commonly called “120” (due to the length being 120 cm) and
some cameras offer an optional magazine that is able to carry a “220” roll of film.
Medium format cameras produce a bigger negative, so quality is higher by far. These cameras can
be used for advertising photography and the quality is superior even when blown up to full double page spread on a
Because of these reasons, medium format cameras are mainly used by professional photographers
and they used to be “the camera” for wedding photography. Before the advent of digital photography, it was
unthinkable to shoot a wedding with a 35 mm camera.
This explains why in the past there were fewer wedding photographers: not many people were
willing to invest such a large amount of money for something that was not their profession. With the advent of
digital photography we suddenly have loads of new “wedding photographers” shooting up like daffodils from nowhere.
Their nice family camera can double as a tool to make a little extra income. Conclusion? Much lower standards
within the wedding photography industry.
Medium format cameras are expensive and they can be purchase with the average four months’ wages
(remember that for the purpose of this article, digital cameras do not exist yet. So, yes, before digital cameras
arrived, medium format cameras were very expensive. Now it’s different).
Large format cameras are by far the best cameras you can use on this planet.
The can only hold sheet film and the most common sizes are 4 x 5 inches, 5 x 7 inches and 8 x 10
inches. Changing the size of the film means to change the entire camera as the bellow and the lens need to be
These cameras are almost exclusively used in studio, due to their very poor portability and
To take a simple photograph with a view camera (or optical
bench) takes at least ten minutes, considering the many tasks involved and the fact that they cannot be
Large format cameras are very expensive among all types of cameras and they can be purchased
with the average six/ten months’ wages and up. In the past this style of cameras were the very first to see the
light. Nowadays they look very much like 100 years ago, just with a little technology added. Most people have never
(and will never) see one.
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