An Introduction To Different Types Of Camera

If your eye is a window to your Soul, then your camera is surely a doorway to your heart?

35mm colour slide film ~ by S J M Bray

35mm Colour Transparency Film

Some people claim that there are just two kinds of camera ~ old fashioned film cameras and modern digital ones.
This is an oversimplification since even before the invention of film there were cameras of all shapes and sizes.

120 colour transparency film

120 Colour Transparency Film

Even today cameras are made from materials as diverse as wood, brass, steel, plastic and titanium.

Essentially all cameras are boxes that capture light. Many great photographs have been taken with simple box cameras.

A Box Camera And A Picture Taken With One

Today’s disposable camera is today’s equivalent of the box cameras used by your grandmother and grandfather. Indeed the original box cameras were sent to the factory for reloading much as disposable cameras are used today.

Waterproof Disposable Camera

A Waterproof Disposable Camera

A disposable camera is cheap, reliable across a wide range of conditions. Some versions may even be used underwater.

The disposable camera has a great advantage over all other types, and especially the most expensive camera types.

Photographs taken with it will always be more valuable and memorable than the camera with which they were taken.

All competent photographers seek perfection in their pictures, rather than in their equipment, which may be held together with gaffer tape.

A 5 mega-pixel Camera Phone

The inexpensive digital camera looks much like a disposable film camera. It is often even smaller than the disposable compact. The smallest versions of course are cameras that are also cell-phones.

Such cameras are adequate for taking photographs that may be transmitted over the Internet, or sent from one mobile phone to another.

The printable picture size may limited, (even to that which may be achieved with a simple disposable camera), although some camera-phones now boast 5 mega pixel sensors and good optics.

Beware, some cheap digital cameras claim to produce large images, but these are achieved via special software in the camera and are not truly large images at all.

Equivalent software is available for computers and indeed very good results may be obtained from 2 – 3 mega pixel cameras when computer software is used.

Most cheap cameras cannot be focused but rely on something called depth-of-field. This means that you must hope that most of the picture you desire to capture will be reproduced sharply enough to be a good photograph.

Focus can be adjusted on more expensive cameras. Today most cameras designed for amateur use focus electronically.

All cameras have some kind of window through which you look to compose your photograph.

Disposable, compact and the rangefinder cameras favoured by travel photographers place the viewfinder just above, a a little above and to the side of the lens.

Stephen Bray's Leica IIIa by S J M Bray

Sthephen Bray’s Leica IIIa 35mm Rangefinder Camera (Circa 1939).

The different placement of the viewfinder to the camera lens is not a problem for long distance, or mid distance shots.

When a subject is close to the camera this slight difference between viewfinder and camera lens will cause problems, unless corrected.

Not all digital cameras have such an optical viewfinder, but instead they rely upon the camera’s LCD screen.

Stephen Bray's FujiFilm FinePix E-900

A FujiFilm FinePix E-900 Digital Compact Camera.

Images on the LCD screen are taken via the camera lens and are very accurate. Unfortunately LCD images are difficult to view in very bright sunlight, so when buying a digital camera I recommend one with an optical viewfinder.

Single Lens Reflex cameras (SLRs) are available both as film and digital versions.

Stephen Bray's Olympus OM-1 by S J M Bray

Stephen Bray’s Olympus OM-1 35mm Film SLR, (Circa 1974).

The image seen in the viewfinder comes from light brought to it via the camera lens. This is reflected up to your eye via a system of mirrors and prisms.

When you take a photograph a mirror must move out of the way before the picture can be taken. This takes just a fraction of a second, although when longer exposures are used the viewfinder will become blank as you press the shutter release button.

The SLR is an excellent system for film cameras since different types of lens may easily be used on the same camera body.

It is also a good system for digital cameras but it has two major disadvantages.

Firstly, on many SLR digital cameras the LCD cannot be used as a viewfinder in low light conditions, such as your studio. In table-top photography this facility would be very useful. Some digital cameras incorporate this function.

Secondly, the sensor that records your photograph is very sensitive to dust, so removing and replacing the lens can cause problems, which have to be remedied by a trip to the repair shop. Newer SLR digital camera, such as those made by Olympus incorporate an electronic cleaning device that reduces the risk of degradation of image quality due to dust on the sensor.

All SLR cameras make a characteristic ‘click’ as the mirror moves when the picture is taken. Some people can even tell a camera’s make just by listening to the shutter being released.

This noise, even though slight, may draw attention to you when you attempt to take candid pictures of your children and cause them to pose unnaturally.

Film cameras come in many different shapes and sizes. The most useful formats are:

  • 35 mm compacts, SLRs and rangefinder
  • Medium Format, (120 film) 6 cms. x 4.5 cms, 6 cms x 6 cms, 6 cms x 7 cms, 6 cms x 9 cms
  • Large Format Cameras ~ Sheet film (various sizes)

All other film sizes are best avoided. Disk cameras, Instamatic cartridge cameras, 110 cameras, subminiature cameras, even APS come and go. The film formats listed above have stood the test of time against all other competitors.

Every camera will do the work it’s designed to achieve, but unless a disposable camera fits your needs you should buy a camera that will remain serviceable.

If thinking of buying a camera always think about both the kind of photograph you take now, and also the kind that you have an inkling for in the future.

A rangefinder camera has little use in a studio, and a large format camera is not a good holiday companion.

A Large Format Sheet Film Studio Camera.

Your camera should become an extension of your heart. This means that it must fit comfortably with your lifestyle, be responsive rather than a burden, understand your moods, always be reliable and ever at the service of your Soul.

Article copyright S. J. M. Bray ©2007

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