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.

ILC (interchangeable lens camera)

Any camera where you can change lenses. Once, this was just DSLRs, but now mirrorless cameras are included in this category and, for the sake of argument, Leica’s ‘rangefinder’ cameras should be included too. ILC is not a widely used term but it is the most correct description.

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.


One of the best known brands of action camera. GoPro has made its name through the activities of high-profile adventure sports personalities and even TV production companies. The cameras are small, square and tough and at the centre of a large range of camera mounts, supports, gimbals and other accessories.

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.

Compact camera

You might imagine that this refers to smaller, pocket-sized cameras but the definition is a little wider than that and includes any camera with a fixed (non-interchangeable) lens. ‘Compact cameras’ include regular point-and-shoot compact cameras, high-end compacts, bridge cameras