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Photography insight: Choosing the right type of camera

The camera never takes the picture. You take the picture! However, choosing the right camera can be essential. In this guide, we'll explore different camera systems. Do you need extensive camera systems, or will your cellphone do the job well enough? And how do the sensor sizes influence the final image?


Travelling and photography go hand in hand. Most of us use our smartphones when photographing, and the image quality is, most times, plenty good. But understanding the basics of photography, whether you use your smartphone or a DSLR or mirrorless system camera, will enhance your chances of documenting your travel in a wow-factor way. daGamas School of Photography for Travellers gives you input on how to become a better travel-photographer.


Types of Cameras with Interchangeable Lenses

When it comes to cameras with interchangeable lenses, there are primarily two categories: DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras. These camera systems offer the flexibility of changing lenses to suit various photography needs.

DSLR Cameras

Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have been popular among photographers for many years. They feature a reflex mirror that reflects the light entering the lens onto an optical viewfinder, allowing you to see the scene as it is through the lens.

Benefits of using a DSLR system:

Interchangeable Lens System: DSLRs have a dedicated lens mount that enables you to attach and detach different lenses. (Read more about how different focal lengths, or lenses, affect your image in daGamas School of Photography for Travellers: What lens to choose) Some of DSLRs' most common lens mount systems include Canon EF/EF-S, Nikon F, and Sony A-mount.

Versatility and Availability: DSLR cameras have a wide range of lens options available from various manufacturers, providing a vast selection for different photography genres. You can choose from wide-angle lenses, telephoto lenses, macro lenses, and more, catering to your specific needs.

Optical Viewfinder: DSLRs use an optical viewfinder that gives you a direct, real-time view of the scene through the lens. This traditional viewfinder provides a clear and uninterrupted view, making it advantageous for action or fast-paced photography.

Many photographers are changing their DSLR systems to mirrorless camera systems, meaning the market is flooded with used DSLR camera equipment. Often the existing lenses have to be swopped too since they do not fit the mirrorless system. Prices are low; many newer DSLR cameras are still performing well. Worth checking out if you are opting for a system with interchangeable lenses.


Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their compact size, advanced features, and versatility. Unlike DSLRs, they lack a reflex mirror and optical viewfinder. Instead, they use electronic viewfinders (EVFs) or rely solely on the rear LCD screen for composition.

Benefits of using a mirrorless camera:

Interchangeable Lens System: Mirrorless cameras also offer interchangeable lens systems, allowing you to attach and detach lenses effortlessly. Common lens mounts for mirrorless cameras include Sony E-mount, Canon RF, Nikon Z, and Micro Four Thirds mounts used by Panasonic and Olympus.

Compact and Lightweight: Mirrorless cameras are generally smaller and lighter than DSLRs. Their reduced size makes them highly portable, ideal for travel photography or situations where you need to carry your gear for extended periods.

Electronic Viewfinder and LCD Screen: Instead of an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras use either an electronic viewfinder (EVF) or a rear LCD screen for composing images. The EVF presents a digital representation of the scene through the lens, previewing how the final image will appear. The rear LCD screen allows for live view composition and review of images.

Advanced Features: Mirrorless cameras often have advanced features such as in-body image stabilization (IBIS), high-resolution sensors, fast autofocus systems, and 4K video capabilities. These features make them highly versatile and suitable for various photography styles and genres.

There is almost no new development in DSLR cameras, so if you opt for a system with interchangeable lenses, a mirrorless system is the one to choose.


Pocket Cameras and their Impact on the Image

Pocket cameras offer a convenient and portable option for capturing high-quality images without interchangeable lenses. While they may have some limitations regarding sensor size and low-light performance compared to larger sensor cameras, pocket cameras provide versatility, automated features, and optical zoom capabilities that make them suitable for everyday photography, travel, and casual shooting situations. If you prioritize portability and ease of use, a pocket camera can be an excellent choice to capture memorable moments on the go.

Fixed Lens System: Pocket cameras come with a fixed lens, meaning you cannot change or swap lenses as you would with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. The lens is built into the camera body, providing a specific focal length and zoom range. While this limits your ability to adjust the focal length, pocket cameras are designed to cover a versatile range, usually from wide-angle to moderate telephoto.

Portability and Convenience: Pocket cameras are small, lightweight, and designed to fit in your pocket or bag, making them highly portable and convenient for everyday photography or travel. Their compact size allows you to easily carry them, ensuring you never miss a photo opportunity.

Image Quality: While they may not match the performance of larger sensor cameras, pocket cameras can capture high-resolution images with good detail, vibrant colours, and adequate dynamic range.

Versatility and Automated Features: Pocket cameras often have various automated features, including autofocus, exposure modes, and scene detection. These features make them user-friendly, enabling beginners to capture great shots with minimal effort. Some pocket cameras also offer manual control options for those exploring more advanced settings.

Limited Low-Light Performance: Due to their smaller sensors, pocket cameras may struggle in low-light situations compared to larger sensor cameras. However, advancements in sensor technology have improved low-light performance in many pocket camera models. Some pocket cameras include built-in image stabilization to help compensate for camera shake and capture sharper images in challenging lighting conditions.

Optical Zoom: One advantage of pocket cameras is their built-in optical zoom capability. While smartphone cameras often rely on digital zoom, which can degrade image quality, pocket cameras offer true optical zoom, allowing you to get closer to your subject without sacrificing image quality. The zoom range varies depending on the model but typically covers a useful range for various shooting scenarios.

Most people prefer to use their cellphones when they don't opt for a full camera system, but the pocket camera still has advantages over the cellphone. If you want to take your photography from cellphone imagery to a new level, a more expensive pocket camera can be the type of camera to choose.


Smartphone Photography

With advancements in camera technology, powerful sensors, and convenient portability, smartphones have become viable alternatives to dedicated system cameras and pocketcameras.

Advantages of Smartphone Photography:

Portability and Convenience: Smartphones excel at capturing everyday moments, whether it's a candid street scene, a beautiful sunset, or a casual gathering with friends. The convenience, portability, and ease of use make them ideal for documenting your journey, capturing landscapes, street scenes, and cultural experiences without carrying heavy camera gear.

Ease of Use: Smartphones are designed with user-friendliness in mind. Their intuitive interfaces, touchscreens, and seamless integration with various apps make them incredibly easy to operate, even for beginners. With automatic settings and advanced computational photography features, smartphones simplify the technical aspects of photography, enabling users to capture impressive shots without extensive knowledge or manual adjustments.

Social Media Engagement: For those who value instant sharing, engagement, and interaction on social media platforms, smartphones offer a seamless experience. With a few taps, you can capture an image, apply filters or edits, and share it with your online community.

Editing and Creative Possibilities: Smartphones offer a vast array of photo editing apps that allow you to enhance and refine your images on the device itself. From basic adjustments like exposure and contrast to advanced filters, effects, and even professional-grade editing tools, smartphone editing capabilities empower photographers to unleash their creativity and achieve desired results quickly.

Challenges with Smartphone Photography:

Image Quality Limitations: While smartphone camera technology has come a long way, the image quality may still fall short of dedicated system cameras, especially in challenging lighting conditions. The smaller sensors and limited dynamic range of smartphones can result in noise, loss of detail, or low-light performance. However, it's important to note that advancements in sensor technology and computational photography have significantly improved smartphone image quality in recent years.

Optical Limitations: Some models offer optical zoom capabilities, but the range is generally more limited than dedicated system cameras with interchangeable lenses. This limitation can restrict certain types of photography that require specific focal lengths, such as telephoto shots or ultra-wide-angle perspectives.

Ergonomics and Handling: The slim and sleek design of smartphones may not provide the same level of ergonomics and comfort as dedicated system cameras. Holding a smartphone for extended periods can lead to hand fatigue or difficulty maintaining a stable grip, especially when shooting in challenging conditions like extreme cold or wet environments. Accessories like tripods, grips, or external lenses can mitigate these challenges.


Advancements in technology continue to bridge the gap between smartphones and dedicated system cameras. Whether you're an enthusiast, a casual photographer, or a social media aficionado, smartphones offer a versatile and accessible platform to unleash your creativity and share your vision with the world.

Sensor Sizes and Image Impact

The size of the camera's sensor affects how light is captured and processed, resulting in variations in image quality, depth of field, and low-light performance. Here are the commonly found sensor sizes:

Full Frame (35mm): Full-frame sensors have dimensions similar to traditional 35mm film. They offer a larger surface area, resulting in higher image quality, better low-light performance, and more control over depth of field. Full-frame sensors are commonly found in professional DSLRs and high-end mirrorless cameras.

APS-C (Crop Sensor): APS-C sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors, resulting in a narrower field of view. While they provide a smaller image area, APS-C sensors are found in many consumer and enthusiast-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, balancing performance and affordability.

Micro Four Thirds (MFT): MFT sensors are even smaller, with a 2x crop factor compared to full-frame sensors. Despite their smaller size, MFT sensors deliver impressive image quality and are commonly found in mirrorless cameras from Panasonic and Olympus. They offer a compact camera system with a vast selection of lenses for various genres.

Smartphone Sensors: Smartphones typically have much smaller sensors compared to dedicated cameras. While the specific sensor size varies among smartphone models, they generally fall in the range of 1/2.3" to 1/1.7". Smartphone sensors are optimized for portability and convenience, allowing you to capture images on the go. However, due to their smaller size, they may have limitations in low-light performance and dynamic range compared to larger camera sensors.

Remember, regardless of the camera type you choose—whether it's a DSLR, mirrorless camera, smartphone, or pocket camera—the most important factor in capturing stunning images lies in your creative vision, composition skills, and understanding of light and subject.


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