Camera types

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Distinguishing features

There are many types of cameras. Almost all of them can be classified according to the following features:

The features that will most determine the aspect of the camera are the viewing system and the rigidity. Once they are known, the general shape of the body is usually quite predictable.

The size of the sensor matters for the size of the camera and for the end result, while its nature has an incidence on the internal construction: a film camera usually needs place for the supply and take up spools, except for the cameras using cut film or plate film.

The focusing system and metering system will mostly influence how you will use the camera, but has few impact on its shape.

Unusual combinations of these features have existed, for example folding TLRs, subminiature SLRs and so on. However not every combination does make sense. For example an subminiature folding autofocus TLR is not theoretically impossible, but unlikely to ever exist.

Common camera types

Below is a table with common camera types and the features that distinguish them.

sensor viewing system rigidity focusing system lens metering system example
nature size
SLR any reflex finder through the taking lens usually rigid manual reflex focusing or autofocus usually interchangeable any 45501196_7031279e86_t.jpg
TLR analog any reflex finder through a second lens usually rigid manual reflex focusing usually fixed manual exposure or no meter at all 20742380_bffd24b768_t.jpg
point-and-shoot any up to 4.5×6cm optical finder or LCD screen rigid or swivelling autofocus or fixed focusing non interchangeable (fixed or zoom) automatic exposure or no exposure control (single shutter speed) 22827039_941d3ed32b_t.jpg
rangefinder any optical finder with superimposed or separate rangefinder rigid or folding manual rangefinder focusing fixed or interchangeable (no zoom) any 44707155_4b06cde358_t.jpg
viewfinder analog any in- or external finder or ground glass back rigid or telescopic distance symbols or no focusing aid usually fixed any 20759011_434e5266cd_t_d.jpg
box analog any internal reflecting type finder or frame finder or telescopic optical finder or ground glass back rigid ground glass back made as sliding box, ground glass with focusable lens, or no focusing aid fixed none 271771351_aee575cbf5_t_d.jpg
folding analog any reflecting type finder or internal optical finder or ground glass back or frame finder folding rangefinder, ground glass back or no focusing aid fixed or interchangeable (no zoom) any 2346730226_5f9b15c937_t.jpg
subminiature any smaller than 18×24mm any any any any any 46709161_ada6eb2533_t_d.jpg
view camera any ground glass back bellows and rails ground glass back interchangeable none


pinhole camera any any any any pinhole "lens" none 4790318487_23ec342192_t.jpg