Types of Cameras

Photo Tips: What Kind of Camera Do I Need?

Lots of folks have been asking me to get back to basics with some photography tips, like I have been doing at conferences. I thought the first post should be about something we all grapple with – what kind of camera (or cameras, plural) are best for my situation(s)? Personally, I have a camera in every one of these subsets, but I really think that is a bit excessive. As Chase Jarvis is oft quoted, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Especially in this day and age of increasingly good smartphones, don’t feel bad if the best (and only) camera for you is the one that comes with your mobile phone. Or if you want to get more features, let’s chat.

What Kind of Camera Do I Need? via Greeblehaus.com

Phone Cameras

Given the quality of smartphones today, this may be the only camera you need. You definitely have it with you almost always. All the major players (like iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) have really good camera options, so all that is left is for you to learn how to use them well when situations present themselves. Also, find good apps to be able to edit photos nicely later. The other benefit of smartphones is getting your photos up to the cloud immediately.

Compact Point & Shoot

These are the cameras that are small (compact!) with more automatic features. The name “point and shoot” is pretty self-explanatory. You point these cameras and shoot. Generally people have carried these in addition to their phones on the past because they have had better features, more storage and more video capabilities (or perhaps they didn’t want to shell out money for a high end smartphone when they didn’t need one). While phones have come a long way, many P&S are still ahead in most specs, and have lots of features to help novice photographers, while also having manual settings which can help you grow into a more seasoned shooter. Also, many of these cameras have better zoom ranges than smartphones, which can come in handy! Leaders in this category are Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony.

Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (also called “EVIL”)

These are the new kids on the block, pretty much a cross-breed between Point & Shoot and DSLR. EVIL stands for Electronic Viewfinder with Interchangeable Lens. I most often hear these simply called Mirrorless Cameras. In a nutshell, they have a compact body but allow you to change the lenses out. You can consider them a mini-DLSR in that they have lots of features of the big-gun cameras, but are smaller in size. These are great for people who want more strength in a camera and want to work with manual features, but don’t want to carry around as much bulk. Of course, this smaller size also means less lens selection. Early front-runners here are Olympus, Sony, Samsung.


SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex and the D is for Digital versions. If you couldn’t guess from the “mirrorless” cameras above, these guys have mirrors that reflect the image internally. If you want to have professional quality photos with total control over what you are shooting, this is the camera to strive for. Of course, there is a lot of learning to go along with that, and what level DSLR you need depends on what you are shooting and as always, your budget. I recommend that people get the least body and the best lenses they can afford, because it is all about the glass. Also invest in a good camera bag, because all this equipment can get heavy. It’s worth it once you master the controls, especially in low-light, but be prepared to fall back on automatic and even your smartphone because, yes! Sometimes you just want to capture the memory. Leaders here are Canon, Nikon, Sony.

I hope you found this helpful!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

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Note: This post was not sponsored in any way. Royalty-free photos from Pixabay.

This article has 12 comments

  1. Sarah Patterson

    Great tips – thank you!

  2. Allison Felker

    Thank you d much for this! I always feel guilty just carrying around my phone, but really, it is all I need!!

  3. Andrea Fellman

    This was an excellent post!! I am always so confused when it comes to cameras – I think my next one will be the Compact point and shoot. I don’t like carrying my DSLR and sometimes I want more than my iphone 6 – but the iphone 6 does take stellar pictures!!

  4. Danielle Smith

    This is fantastic – thank you so much. I was actually JUST looking at the ‘EVIL’ options this past weekend – always love getting your take.

  5. Avery Everyfann

    Thank you so much for this! I am always confused what camera I should get next. I really think I might get the mirrorless camera because I want something smaller but still has quality.

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