SLT (single lens translucent)

SLT cameras are made by Sony as a kind of hybrid of the regular digital SLR design and the always-on live view of a mirrorless camera. They do have a mirror in the body, but it doesn’t flip up and down when you fire the shutter. Instead, it has a translucent surface so that the image can pass straight through to the sensor on the back of the camera.

The point of this design is that the fixed mirror can reflect light back on to the camera’s fast phase-detection autofocus sensor even while the image is being composed using a live view image on the rear screen or in the electronic viewfinder.

The downside is that you get all the bulk of a DSLR without the clarity of an optical viewfinder. Sony still makes its SLT models but with improvements in sensor-based hybrid autofocus technology, most expect it will soon transfer all its efforts to its mirrorless models.

Travel camera or compact

A more advanced version of a point and shoot camera with a much longer zoom range and, sometimes, more advanced photographic controls. The 20x or 30x zoom range makes these cameras much more versatile, but they use small sensors so the picture quality is limited.


An older camera designed still used by celebrated German manufacturer Leica. The ‘rangefinder’ is used for focusing – as you turn the focus ring on the lens, a small mirror in the top of the camera rotates to line up a ‘ghost’ image with the main image in the viewfinder. When this ghost image lines up, your subject is in focus.

Point and shoot camera

It’s about the easiest way of describing simple digital cameras that are inexpensive and designed for novices. They offer fully-automatic shooting modes that don’t require any particular photographic know-how and zoom lenses which cover most everyday needs. They quality is only average, though, and there’s little scope for overriding the camera.

Mirrorless camera

A relatively recent design that takes interchangeable lenses, just like a DSLR, but doesn’t use in internal mirror for its viewing system –if you take off the lens you see the sensor itself. Mirrorless cameras allow a shorter lens-to-sensor distance and full time live view.

Medium format

Professional cameras that use sensors larger than full frame. These fill the space previously occupied by 120 roll film cameras, though they are massively more expensive. ‘Medium format’ sounds like there should be a larger size still, but it harks back to the days of film when you could get large format 5×4” or 10×8” sheet film cameras.

High end compact

More advanced type of compact camera which attempts to match the controls and features of a digital SLR or mirrorless camera but in a smaller body. High-end compacts have larger sensors than regular point-and-shoot models and better lenses with wider maximum apertures.

Digital SLR (DSLR)

The digital equivalent of the single lens reflex camera, where the image seen through the lens is reflected upwards by a mirror in the body and into the optical viewfinder. The mirror flips up and out of the way at the moment of exposure so that the image then passes through to the back of the camera and the shutter and sensor.

Compact system camera (CSC)

Another name for ‘mirrorless’ cameras and used to distinguish them from digital SLRs. They are ‘system’ cameras in that they take interchangeable lenses and accessories – just like a digital SLR. However, they don’t have a DSLR’s mirror mechanism, and this ‘mirrorless’ design makes them more compact.

Bridge camera

This is a compact camera with an extremely long zoom range, sometimes as much as 50x, 60x or more, and designed to act as a ‘bridge’ between regular compact digital cameras and digital SLRs. The lens can’t be swapped, though, and bridge cameras (mostly) have small sensors, which restricts the picture quality.

Action cam

A small, simple and largely automated video camera (you can also shoot stills) designed to attach to a helmet, handlebars, surfboard or any other kind of object and provide dramatic first-person video of adventure sports and other activities. Almost all use fixed focal length super-wideangle lenses and shoot full HD video – some can shoot 4K.