Camera Types and Their Possibilities

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Key Specifications to Remember

  • Sensor image size in MP
  • Sensor physical size in um
  • Display size and type
  • Image output format and video recording capability
  • Battery capacity in mAh
  • Networking and data storage

Apple IBook G3 12.1"


All cameras have specific traits that make them better suited for particular purposes although they can also be used with different results, in all situations. Note that there is never a perfect device that can handle all the tasks and, many times, a highly portable one may have the best chance at capturing some footage that may be lost otherwise.

I have compiled a set of Key Features that you should look for when evaluating cameras which apply to all products, regardless of types, as well as including smartphones. I highly recommend you study that page as it offers a straightforward way of evaluating any product. The introduction below is useful for less-experienced individuals willing to understand what kind of products they can find on the market.

Keep in mind that there is not a right or wrong camera. Smartphones can be used in just about any occasion but their limitations, as well as the ones of professional cameras, create the expectations and preferences that we see today. Mastering a smartphone camera can mean a lot even for a successful professional photographer.


The most common camera type is, nowadays, the smartphone. It has surpassed previous film and digital equivalents while offering an unmatched portability advantage. While it does not have the capabilities of professional equipment, the fact that it is always available and provides good enough shooting abilities makes it an extremely viable option.

It is important to understand that no phone integrated phone matches professional or semi-profesional cameras capabilities and despite all advertising, there are no "pro" features that can really make a difference or make a particular product be the absolute best. However, there are some key abilities that should be looked for choosing a particular phone based on its photography potential.

Keep in mind that due to the way the camera is controlled through applications you can have certain features that are impossible to find even on professional equipment. This is an unique ability that will be highly useful in most circumstances.

Although many persons may frown or ridicule smartphones and while certain photos can be ill-suited for display or editing, smartphones can provide a huge amount of images that can be skillfully used later on. Improving capture techniques with such devices is a must for any aspiring photographer.

Single/Multiple Camera Smartphones

In the past, all phones had a single camera sensor but today they have multiple ones. Sensors were more expensive in the past and having a good optical system was mandatory. Multiple sensors and optics can be fine tuned for a specific application but the sensors themselves are smaller and may have poorer performance in lower light situations. There are both advantages and disadvantages to the multiple camera approach but, in general, such a camera phone has more versatility, meaning that you can have more options when deciding how to take a photo. It is understandable that only some of the shooting modes will be useful in most circumstances, meaning that it is essential to get used to them.

As a rule of thumb, and due to situations that can frequently arise, having a camera with large magnification factor and narrow angle is highly helpful. This means that the subject can be placed further away from the camera itself, while using the maximum amount of space to frame it properly. By comparison, wide angle lenses are mostly very rarely useful, unless you specialize in uncommon panoramic landscapes. Keep in mind that no phone camera has the same shooting capabilities as a dedicated lens set for a professional camera but having the highest "X" or optical magnification factor will certainly help. Digital magnification is poorer than optical one as the initial image is simply resized.

Multiple camera phones are simply more versatile in any image capturing scenario. Additionally, they assist in understanding the limitations of lenses, light conditions, stability, that are highly important with same cameras or professional grade equipment.

The MP or MegaPixel Sensor Image Size and Marketing

The MP image size has been, some decades ago, the most obvious detail that helped differentiate a newer from an older camera design. However, as time passed, it has become less relevant as designers and manufacturers found it more difficult to increase the density of optical sensors. As the space was already very limited in smartphones, more phone manufacturers increased the reliance on image processing to claim a particular performance for their devices.

The current situation suggests that the image size expressed in MP, or million of pixels, achieved by multiplying the vertical and horizontal resolution of the sensor, is still a differentiating factor, however, it is important to understand where you should focus your attention. On multiple camera phones it is essential to note the wide camera specifications, but also the ultra-wide, depth or macro one, in order to understand how you should interpret the main camera specification. A rule of thumb is to consider the real resolution of a main camera with a value that is between half to a quarter from the advertised value, to account for the image processing that ends up in the advertised MP value.

As of 2023, there are no true, native, 100MP or higher specification native image sensors on the market.

Semi-professional and Professional cameras

Differentiating factors are numerous but the most straightforward way to understand if the camera is semi- or fully- professional is by noticing if it has a larger, bulkier, costlier, detachable optical lens system or block. Professional cameras must have a removable lens system to accommodate the various requirements of filming. A camera required for everyday journalism is configured differently than one for shooting wild animals from far away and the professional camera can fulfill both tasks in the best way with different optics. A semi-professional camera has to be somewhat more portable so it slightly compromises on the optical block abilities to reach such a goal. Even so, there are some versatile, well-performing semi-professional cameras suited for most tasks.

Professional Cameras

Professional cameras focus on having the best possible photo quality but end up also being extremely costly and quite large. The biggest advantage provided but such products is that they incorporate very large image sensors or even multiple sensors that split the framed image into the basic primary colours: R(ed), G(reen), B(blue). Most popular products do not have the size requirements to incorporate such a technology and end up with a single sensor that has to compromise in the way it handles colour. Although typical consumer products have steadily improved, their absolute quality is no match for professional cameras.

Most users interested in professional cameras have to contend the large cost and inconvenience of a whole suite of accessories that have to be purchased. This set includes the all necessary carrying bag, storage card reader, battery charger, additional accessories.

Professional cameras are not a sure way of achieving greatest pictures but they do help a lot by ensuring the greatest image quality on the spot. Photographers and image editors can, however, make a better or worse use of the original material and their expertise is what matters the most.

Semi-professional Cameras

These products are positioned between smartphones and professional cameras, having better photo output quality than smartphones while being more portable and less expensive than professional cameras. They are products with good enough versatility for most use scenarios and particularly for fans of photography that do not have the money or are intimidated about experimenting with professional cameras.

In most cases such cameras are particularly suitable for outdoor shooting as their larger optical magnification factor allows for higher distance from the subject, important for wildlife animals. Such cameras can also be useful for photography at various large events.

Semi-professional cameras are an intermediate step for many hobby photographers that do not have the means or want to spend as much as on a professional camera. Continued experimentation creates good prospects for better choices on a future professional camera or not wasting needless resources on such an endeavour.