There are several main types of digital cameras available today. The basic design of cameras has not changed much throughout the past few decades. Newer models add more automated features and controls to make aspects of photography easier, but the principles used to produce a captured photograph have remained essentially the same.

The camera body is the housing that encloses the recording medium and holds the knobs, dials, buttons, and switches that affect the making of pictures. The lens is made of glass elements that allow light into the body and onto the recording medium. Some bodies have lenses permanently attached while others allow switching between lenses for different conditions.

The quality and size of your digital image files depend on the camera and lens you use. The three common types of digital camera designs are

  • Compact point-and-shoot. These cameras are generally the least expensive. Most have very small lenses, poor to moderate image quality, and few manual options. You can make some decent nature photographs with a point-and-shoot, but as your skills improve you'll want to consider other types of cameras.

  • Advanced compact. Sometimes called bridge cameras, superzooms, or mirrorless systems, these are a step up from point-and-shoot and provide manual controls and good image quality. Many newer models offer interchangeable lenses. The key characteristic of these cameras is that they do not have a mirror.

  • Digital single lens reflex (dSLR)

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