What Types of Cameras Do Photographers Use?

by Anthony Oster

Many professional photographers will tell you that the camera does not make the photographer, but the fact remains that professionals use cameras that are vastly different from cheap point-and-shoot models. While professional cameras may offer automatic modes designed for novice or quick use, the differences between them and entry-level cameras are numerous. They range from the ability to change lenses and control settings to the very method by which the camera collects visual information. Though different photographers have varying opinions on which camera brands may be best, all professional cameras may be broken into two categories: digital and analog. Among digital cameras, a choice exists between a cropped-sensor or full-frame camera.

Single-Lens Reflex Cameras

Single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras are film cameras designed to mimic the functions of the human eye, enabling you to look through the lens to see what will be captured by the camera. The best rule of thumb when using an SLR camera is that your camera will photograph what your eye sees because the viewfinder and the film lens are designed to intersect along the same field of vision. Features that distinguish an SLR camera from a point-and-shoot model include an adjustable aperture and a manual shutter. The manual settings of an SLR camera allow you to adjust the amount of light permitted into the camera, the point of focus and numerous other features not available on many point-and-shoot models.

Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera

Since the advent of reliable digital-camera sensors, SLR cameras have been upgraded to take advantage of digital storage and processing. Digital SLR cameras are built with the same physical features of an SLR camera, including a manual shutter and aperture. Unlike standard point-and-shoot digital cameras, DSLR cameras require the photographer to look through the viewfinder when taking a picture.

Cropped-Sensor Cameras

One potential limitation of DSLR cameras is the digital crop factor. The crop sensor determines what field in which the camera will take a photo. While your eye, as well as the aperture of your camera, is round, a photograph is rectangular. The cropped area of a DSLR camera is smaller to that of a film SLR camera, resulting in a smaller viewable field for your photographs.

Full-Frame Cameras

Full-frame DSLR cameras are designed to have the same crop sensor as traditional film SLR cameras, meaning that a 50 mm lens offers a true 50 mm focal length, as opposed to a cropped SLR camera that only provides a fraction of the focal length using the same lens. With an increased focal length comes the ability to achieve sharper, more vivid photos than with a cropped-sensor SLR. Full-frame DSLR cameras provide a more authentic SLR feel, and the better technology costs more money.

About the Author

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images