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  By Mike Valeriani

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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 exist yet.

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.

Blue Sony point and shoot cameraLet’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 technical skills.

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.

Nikon 35 mm camera35 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 photographer’s needs.

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 month’s wages.

Hasselblad medium format camera 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 frames.

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 glossy magazine.

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).

Optical bench or view camera for large format photographyLarge 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 changed.

These cameras are almost exclusively used in studio, due to their very poor portability and impracticality.

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 handheld.

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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