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You need to think about two things when you’re buying a camera: how much you’re able to spend and how you’re going to use it. It’s a tough choice if you’re new to camera buying, so here’s a quick guide to the different types of camera you can buy.

– Read our guide to the best cameras

COMPACTS AND BRIDGE CAMERAS

If you’re looking for the best cameras for casual use and don’t want to fuss about with settings before hitting the shutter button, a compact camera is probably the best fit for you. There are still plenty of cheap and cheerful compacts out there, but higher-end models also cater for the enthusiast.

– Read our guide to the best compact cameras

– Read our guide to the best travel cameras

There are numerous kinds of quality compacts, too. You’ll find chunkier advanced compacts that give you good manual control, and simpler ones that focus on providing a higher-end sensor and lens optics for better image quality and ease of use.

Bridge cameras are something between a compact camera and an interchangeable-lens system camera. They have permanent, generally very long zoom lenses and a similar feel to a DSLR. Though they’re not compact in size, they are very versatile and well suited to photographing a wide variety of subjects. 

Mirrorless cameras: Bridging the gap between compact cameras and DSLRs are mirrorless cameras, whose smaller variants are called compact system cameras (CSCs).

The majority of new cameras with interchangeable lens systems are now mirrorless cameras, which means they have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead of the bulkier mirror-based optical viewfinders of DSLRs.

There are many advantages to this completely digital approach, such as smaller bodies, being able to see the effects of your setting changes in the viewfinder, and advanced features like face- and eye-detection. Image quality and performance is now very much on a par with DSLRs, although the latter still offer superior battery lives and, depending on your tastes, handling.

All the major camera manufacturers, including Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus and Sony, now have flagship mirrorless models.

Within the CSC category, there are a number of different types of sensor used, each giving quite a different experience. Olympus and Panasonic use Micro Four Thirds-size sensors, providing a middle ground and some outstanding and affordable lenses.

The largest sensors you’ll find in affordable CSCs are APS-C ones, used in cameras from Fujifilm and Sony. Of course, Sony has now gone even further, adopting full-frame sensors in the top-end A7-series. These provide the best image quality among CSCs, rivalling pro DSLRs.

– Read our guide to the best mirrorless cameras

DLSRs

DSLRs remain popular among professionals, even if many have now adopted the benefits of mirrorless. Pros who need top-quality lenses, speedy performance and excellent build quality still mainly use DSLRs.

This is particularly true for full-frame cameras, where Nikon and Canon both offer some outstanding options. There are some good entry-level DSLRs as well, so there’s plenty of choice and a huge number of lenses to invest in.

– Read our guide to the best DSLR cameras

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

These days, there’s more to photography than traditional cameras. We’ve created the following guides to help you find out more about each new area:

Action photography: wear your camera instead of carrying it – GoPros and other brands have been setting the pace:

– Read our guide to the best action cameras

– Read our guide to the best GoPros

Vlogging: perfect for small scale video use like social media and YouTube:

– Read our guide to the best vlogging cameras

Camera phones: they say the best camera is the one you have on you when you need it. Computational photography is the science of image capture via software and advances in this area are behind the impressive performance of in-phone cameras.

Read our guide to the best camera phones

Lenses: Check out our guides to the best lenses for the most common camera bodies:

Best Canon lenses

Best Nikon lenses