Camera Crash Course: Different Types of Digital Cameras

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Hey everyone! It’s Nicki, and today I’m going to go over different types of digital cameras that can be used for photo and video for YouTube or whatever else you’re trying to do. These are not every single type of digital camera out there; these are just what I think are the most relevant in today’s climate. Also, I am not a professional photographer, videographer, or cinematographer; I know very little about the technical aspects of many of these cameras (especially when it comes to video), and the opinions expressed here are simply based on my research and limited experience as a hobbyist. With that out of the way, let’s get started!

Point and Shoots/Compact Cameras

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 via B&H Photo

Point and shoots, in the days before cell phones with cameras but after the invention of digital sensors, used to be the most ubiquitous consumer cameras on the market, and as such had a reputation for being low quality. Nowadays, however, many companies have produced high quality point and shoots such as the Sony RX100 or the Canon G7 X. Point and shoots are a great option if you want something lightweight or compact. The only downside, in my opinion, is the lack of interchangeable lenses; my RX100 mkIV, for instance, has a 24-70mm lens, so its telephoto capabilities are pretty limited (though newer point and shoots have been expanding their zoom ranges). Pretty much all point and shoots have cropped sensors, but Sony and Leica offer full frame point and shoots… for over $3000 or $4000. Yikes.

Action Cameras

GoPro Hero 5 Black via GoPro

Action cameras, as their name would suggest, are cameras designed to be worn while performing sports or other activities such as swimming. These cameras are usually pretty durable, waterproof, and compact. They also tend to have very wide lenses or 360 degree lenses. These days, GoPro is essentially synonymous with action cameras, but other brands such as Drift and Rylo also offer action cameras, the latter offering a 360 degree camera. Action cameras can also be used for more mundane things like travel or even vlogging; check out Caleb Wojcik’s GoPro vlogging setup here.

Camcorders

Sony FDR-AX100 via B&H Photo

Technically speaking, a camcorder is a video camera that also records what it’s filming; many professional cinematography cameras could be classified as camcorders (and we’ll get to them later). However, most of the time when people use the term camcorder, the image that forms is one of a cylindrical camera with a fixed lens, strap on the side, and a flip out LCD screen. Camcorders are kind of falling out of fashion with the rise of point and shoots, MILCs, and DSLRs with high quality video capabilities, but for hobbyists out there who aren’t that interested in photography and want something a bit more ergonomic for on-the-go filming (and cheaper!), camcorders could still be a good option. (Then again, I love my Sony FDR-AX53, so maybe I’m just biased.)

Bridge Cameras

Sony RX10 mkIII via B&H Photo

Speaking of cameras that have fallen out of fashion, bridge cameras, as their name would suggest, are cameras that were developed to bridge the gap between consumer point and shoots and higher end MILCs/DSLRs. Bridge cameras have a body similar to a DSLR, although usually a bit more compact, but do not have an interchangeable lens. Some bridge cameras alleviate the issue of only having one lens by having an absurd zoom range (the Sony RX10 mkIV has a range of 24-600mm, but also costs $1600, so…), but I personally think bridge cameras are kind of the worst of both worlds rather than the best: they only have one lens, which is typically not very fast, and they are larger and heavier than point and shoots. They can be pretty convenient, though, so if that’s what’s important to you, go for it.

MILCs and DSLRs

Sony a7 iii via Sony
Canon EOS 5D via Wikimedia

These are the most commonly used cameras by professional photographers and, increasingly, indie videographers. Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and digital single lens reflex cameras are technically two different categories, but I’ve grouped them into one category because nowadays the only major difference between the two is how the image is projected into the viewfinder. DSLRs, as their name would suggest, are digital versions of film SLR cameras that utilize a mirror to project an analog image into the viewfinder. DSLRs are able to change lenses, and while they are the beefiest photography cameras on the market, they come in a wide variety of prices, usually depending on whether they have a cropped or full frame sensor. MILCs take out the middleman in DSLRs and instead of projecting an analog image into the viewfinder via a mirror, they simply project a digital image into it. MILCs, like point and shoots and bridge cameras, had a bit of a stigma when they first came out and were considered amateur, especially since none of them had full frame sensors. Now, they compete toe to toe with full fledged DSLRs, though they will probably always be considered inferior by photography snobs. Both MILCs and DSLRs have become increasingly good for video; the only downsides to them are that they often have a maximum recording time before they stop recording video and they’re kind of big to lug around and vlog with, if that’s your thing.

Professional Cameras

Panavision DXL via Yahoo!

And finally, we talked about top of the line photography cameras that happen to be good for video, so now we should talk about top of the line cinematography cameras. (Note the usage of “cinematography” rather than “videography;” the former implies a larger scale production than the latter.) These are your REDs, your ALEXAs (not the Amazon kind), your Genesises. I’ll be straight with you: I know jack shit about these cameras. All I know is that a single part of most of these cameras costs more than all the other types of digital cameras on this list. In her video “DO YOU WANT TO BUY A RED? maybe you should rent instead,” Kitty Peters goes over the cost of her RED Helium 8K setup, which totals $59500. Holy shit! You could buy a nice car or put a 20% down payment on a $300000 house with that money! Unless you’re a millionaire or willing to take out a loan for this kind of camera, you’re better off renting it. But let’s be real; as of me writing this, there is only ONE 8K monitor on the market, and very few 5K ones; unless you are making independent films that will be projected on a large screen or anticipate most of your audience watching your videos on 5K or 8K televisions, there is absolutely no reason for you to need to shoot at such a high resolution. But that’s just my opinion. If you have 60K to burn by all means get a professional camera to vlog with.

Alright, that about does it. For me personally, as I mentioned earlier, I am attached to my little camcorder, although I do wish it had a full manual mode (an oversight on my part as I was researching its features). I do also have a point and shoot and a DSLR, but neither have 4K video (and my T3i doesn’t have autofocus in video, which is an absolute necessity when filming myself), so at this point in time I just use them for photography. I also have a Hero 6 Black, which was a gift that I am trying to figure how to use more often (I may very well employ Caleb’s vlogging setup for it).

Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll see you in the next post.

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