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A camera is an optical instrument that captures a visual image. At a basic level, cameras consist of sealed boxes (the camera body), with a small hole (the aperture) that allows light through to capture an image on a light-sensitive surface (usually photographic film or a digital sensor). Cameras have various mechanisms to control how the light falls onto the light-sensitive surface. Lenses focus the light entering the camera. The aperture can be narrowed or widened. A shutter mechanism determines the amount of time the photosensitive surface is exposed to light.

The still image camera is the main instrument in the art of photography. Captured images may be reproduced later as part of the process of photography, digital imaging, or photographic printing. Similar artistic fields in the moving-image camera domain are film, videography, and cinematography.

The word camera comes from camera obscura, the Latin name of the original device for projecting an image onto a flat surface (literally translated to “dark chamber”). The modern photographic camera evolved from the camera obscura. The first permanent photograph was made in 1825 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.[1]

Contents
1 Mechanics
1.1 Exposure control
1.2 Lens
1.3 Image capture on film
1.4 Camera accessories
2 Primary types
2.1 Single-lens reflex (SLR) camera
2.2 Large-format camera
2.3 Medium-format camera
2.4 Compact cameras
2.5 Rangefinder camera
2.6 Motion picture cameras
2.7 Digital camera
3 See also
4 Footnotes
5 References
6 Further reading
7 External links
Mechanics

Basic elements of a modern digital single-lens reflex (SLR) still camera
Most cameras capture light from the visible spectrum, while specialized cameras capture other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as infrared.[2]: vii 

All cameras use the same basic design: light enters an enclosed box through a converging or convex lens and an image is recorded on a light-sensitive medium.[3] A shutter mechanism controls the length of time that light enters the camera.[4]: 1182–1183 

Most cameras also have a viewfinder, which shows the scene to be recorded, along with means to adjust various combinations of focus, aperture and shutter speed.[5]: 4 

Exposure control
Main article: Exposure (photography)
Aperture
Main article: Aperture

Different apertures of a lens
Light enters a camera through the aperture, an opening adjusted by overlapping plates called the aperture ring.[6][7][8] Typically located in the lens,[9] this opening can be widened or narrowed to alter the amount of light that strikes the film or sensor.[6] The size of the aperture can be set manually, by rotating the lens or adjusting a dial, or automatically based on readings from an internal light meter.[6]

As the aperture is adjusted, the opening expands and contracts in increments called f-stops.[a][6] The smaller the f-stop, the more light is allowed to enter the lens, increasing the exposure. Typically, f-stops range from f/1.4 to f/32[b] in standard increments: 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, and 32.[11] The light entering the camera is halved with each increasing increment.[9]

The wider opening at lower f-stops narrows the range of focus so the background is blurry while the foreground is in focus. This depth of field increases as the aperture closes. A narrow aperture results in a high depth of field, meaning that objects at many different distances from the camera will appear to be in focus.[12] What is acceptably in focus is determined by the circle of confusion, the photographic technique, the equipment in use and the degree of magnification expected of the final image.[13]

Shutter
Main article: Shutter (photography)
The shutter, along with the aperture, is one of two ways to control the amount of light entering the camera. The shutter determines the duration that the light-sensitive surface is exposed to light. The shutter opens, light enters the camera and exposes the film or sensor to light, and then the shutter closes.[9][14]

There are two types of mechanical shutters: the leaf-type shutter and the focal-plane shutter. The leaf-type uses a circular iris diaphragm maintained under spring tension inside or just behind the lens that rapidly opens and closes when the shutter is released.[11]

A focal-plane shutter. In this shutter, the metal shutter blades travel vertically.
More commonly, a focal-plane shutter is used.[9] This shutter operates close to the film plane and employs metal plates or cloth curtains with an opening that passes across the light-sensitive surface. The curtains or plates have an opening that is pulled across the film plane during exposure. The focal-plane shutter is typically used in single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, since covering the film (rather than blocking the light passing through the lens) allows the photographer to view the image through the lens at all times, except during the exposure itself. Covering the film also facilitates removing the lens from a loaded camera, as many SLRs have interchangeable lenses.[6][11]

A digital camera may use a mechanical or electronic shutter, the latter of which is common in smartphone cameras. Electronic shutters either record data from the entire sensor at the same time (a global shutter) or record the data line by line across the sensor (a rolling shutter).[6] In movie cameras, a rotary shutter opens and closes in sync with the advancement of each frame of film.[6][15]

The duration for which the shutter is open is called the shutter speed or exposure time. Typical exposure times can range from one second to 1/1,000 of a second, though longer and shorter durations are not uncommon. In the early stages of photography, exposures were often several minutes long. These long exposure times often resulted in blurry images, as a single object is recorded in multiple places across a single image for the duration of the exposure. To prevent this, shorter exposure times can be used. Very short exposure times can capture fast-moving action and eliminate motion blur.[16][11][6][9] However, shorter exposure times require more light to produce a properly-exposed image, so shortening the exposure time is not always possible.

Like aperture settings, exposure times increment in powers of two. The two settings determine the exposure value (EV), a measure of how much light is recorded during the exposure. There is a direct relationship between the exposure times and aperture settings so that if the exposure time is lengthened one step, but the aperture opening is also narrowed one step, then the amount of light that contacts the film or sensor is the same.[9]

Metering
Main article: Light meter

A handheld digital light meter showing an exposure of 1/200th at an aperture of f/11, at ISO 100. The light sensor is on top, under the white diffusing hemisphere.
In most modern cameras, the amount of light entering the camera is measured using a built-in light meter or exposure meter.[c] Taken through the lens (called TTL metering), these readings are taken using a panel of light-sensitive semiconductors.[7] They are used to calculate optimal exposure settings. These settings are typically determined automatically as the reading is used by the camera’s microprocessor. The reading from the light meter is incorporated with aperture settings, exposure times, and film or sensor sensitivity to calculate the optimal exposure.[d]

Light meters typically average the light in a scene to 18% middle gray. More advanced cameras are more nuanced in their metering– weighing the center of the frame more heavily (center-weighted metering), considering the differences in light across the image (matrix metering), or allowing the photographer to take a light reading at a specific point within the image (spot metering).[12][16][17][6]

Lens
Main articles: Camera lens and Photographic lens design
The lens of a camera captures light from the subject and focuses it on the sensor. The design and manufacturing of the lens are critical to photo quality. A technological revolution in camera design during the 19th century modernized optical glass manufacturing and lens design. This contributed to the modern manufacturing processes of a wide range of optical instruments such as reading glasses and microscopes. Pioneering companies include Zeiss and Leitz.

Camera lenses are made in a wide range of focal lengths, such as extreme wide angle, standard, and medium telephoto. Lenses either have a fixed focal length (prime lens) or a variable focal length (zoom lens). Each lens is best suited to certain types of photography. Extreme wide angles might be preferred for architecture due to their ability to capture a wide view of buildings. Standard lenses commonly have a wide aperture, and because of this, they are often used for street and documentary photography. The telephoto lens is useful in sports and wildlife but is more susceptible to camera shake, which might cause motion blur.[18]

Focus
An image of flowers, with one in focus. The background is out of focus.
The distance range in which objects appear clear and sharp, called depth of field, can be adjusted by many cameras. This allows for a photographer to control which objects appear in focus, and which do not.
Due to the optical properties of a photographic lens, only objects within a limited range of distance from the camera will be reproduced clearly. The process of adjusting this range is known as changing the camera’s focus. There are various ways to accurately focus a camera. The simplest cameras have fixed focus and use a small aperture and wide-angle lens to ensure that everything within a certain range of distance from the lens, usually around 3 meters (10 ft.) to infinity, is in reasonable focus. Fixed focus cameras are usually inexpensive, such as single-use cameras. The camera can also have a limited focusing range or scale-focus that is indicated on the camera body. The user will guess or calculate the distance to the subject and adjust the focus accordingly. On some cameras, this is indicated by symbols (head-and-shoulders; two people standing upright; one tree; mountains).

Rangefinder cameras allow the distance to objects to be measured employing a coupled parallax unit on top of the camera, allowing the focus to be set with accuracy. Single-lens reflex cameras allow the photographer to determine the focus and composition visually using the objective lens and a moving mirror to project the image onto a ground glass or plastic micro-prism screen. Twin-lens reflex cameras use an objective lens and a focusing lens unit (usually identical to the objective lens) in a parallel body for composition and focus. View cameras use a ground glass screen which is removed and replaced by either a photographic plate or a reusable holder containing sheet film before exposure. Modern cameras often offer autofocus systems to focus the camera automatically by a variety of methods.[19]

Experimental cameras such as the planar Fourier capture array (PFCA) do not require focusing to take pictures. In conventional digital photography, lenses or mirrors map all of the light originating from a single point of an in-focus object to a single point at the sensor plane. Each pixel thus relates an independent piece of information about the far-away scene. In contrast, a PFCA does not have a lens or mirror, but each pixel has an idiosyncratic pair of diffraction gratings above it, allowing each pixel to likewise relate an independent piece of information (specifically, one component of the 2D Fourier transform) about the far-away scene. Together, complete scene information is captured, and images can be reconstructed by computation.

Some cameras support post-focusing. Post focusing refers to taking photos that are later focused on a computer. The camera uses many tiny lenses on the sensor to capture light from every camera angle of a scene, which is known as plenoptic technology. A current plenoptic camera design has 40,000 lenses working together to grab the optimal picture.[20]

Image capture on film
Main article: Film formats

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Traditional cameras capture light onto photographic plates, or photographic film. Video and digital cameras use an electronic image sensor, usually a charge-coupled device (CCD) or a CMOS sensor to capture images which can be transferred or stored in a memory card or other storage inside the camera for later playback or processing.

A wide range of film and plate formats have been used by cameras. In the early history plate sizes were often specific for the make and model of cameras although there quickly developed some standardization for the more popular cameras. The introduction of roll film drove the standardization process still further so that by the 1950s only a few standard roll films were in use. These included 120 films providing 8, 12 or 16 exposures, 220 films providing 16 or 24 exposures, 127 films providing 8 or 12 exposures (principally in Brownie cameras) and 135 (35mm film) providing 12, 20 or 36 exposures – or up to 72 exposures in the half-frame format or bulk cassettes for the Leica Camera range.

For cine cameras, film 35mm wide and perforated with sprocket holes was established as the standard format in the 1890s. It was used for nearly all film-based professional motion picture production. For amateur use, several smaller and therefore less expensive formats were introduced. 17.5mm film, created by splitting 35mm film, was one early amateur format, but 9.5mm film, introduced in Europe in 1922, and 16 mm film, introduced in the US in 1923, soon became the standards for “home movies” in their respective hemispheres. In 1932, the even more economical 8mm format was created by doubling the number of perforations in 16mm film, then splitting it, usually after exposure and processing. The Super 8 format, still 8mm wide but with smaller perforations to make room for substantially larger film frames, was introduced in 1965.

Film speed (ISO)
Traditionally used to tell the camera the film speed of the selected film on film cameras, film speed numbers are employed on modern digital cameras as an indication of the system’s gain from light to numerical output and to control the automatic exposure system. Film speed is usually measured via the ISO 5800 system. The higher the film speed number, the greater the film sensitivity to light, whereas with a lower number, the film is less sensitive to light.[21]

White balance
In digital cameras, there is electronic compensation for the color temperature associated with a given set of lighting conditions, ensuring that white light is registered as such on the imaging chip and therefore that the colors in the frame will appear natural. On mechanical, film-based cameras, this function is served by the operator’s choice of film stock or with color correction filters. In addition to using white balance to register the natural coloration of the image, photographers may employ white balance to aesthetic end– for example, white balancing to a blue object to obtain a warm color temperature.[22]

Camera accessories
Flash
A flash provides a short burst of bright light during exposure and is a commonly-used artificial light source in photography. Most modern flash systems use a battery-powered high-voltage discharge through a gas-filled tube to generate bright light for a very short time (1/1,000 of a second or less).[e][17]

Many flash units measure the light reflected from the flash to help determine the appropriate duration of the flash. When the flash is attached directly to the camera—typically in a slot at the top of the camera (the flash shoe or hot shoe) or through a cable—activating the shutter on the camera triggers the flash, and the camera’s internal light meter can help determine the duration of the flash.[17][12]

Additional flash equipment can include a light diffuser, mount and stand, reflector, soft box, trigger and cord.

Other accessories
Accessories for cameras are mainly used for care, protection, special effects, and functions.

Lens hood: used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source to prevent glare and lens flare (see also matte box).
Lens cap: covers and protects the camera lens when not in use.
Lens adapter: allows the use of lenses other than those for which the camera was designed.
Filter: allows artificial colors or changes light density.
Lens extension tube: allows close focus in macro photography.
Care and protection: includes camera case and cover, maintenance tools, and screen protector.
Camera monitor: provides an off-camera view of the composition with a brighter and more colorful screen, and typically exposes more advanced tools such as framing guides, focus peaking, zebra stripes, waveform monitors (oftentimes as an “RGB parade”), vectorscopes and false color to highlight areas of the image critical to the photographer.
Tripod: primarily used for keeping the camera steady while recording video, doing a long exposure, and time-lapse photography.
Microscope adapter: used to connect a camera to a microscope to photograph what the microscope is examining.
Cable release: used to remotely control the shutter using a remote shutter button that can be connected to the camera via a cable. It can be used to lock the shutter open for the desired period, and it is also commonly used to prevent camera shake from pressing the built-in camera shutter button.
Dew shield: prevents moisture build-up on the lens.
UV filter: can protect the front element of a lens from scratches, cracks, smudges, dirt, dust, and moisture while keeping a minimum impact on image quality.
Battery and sometimes a charger.
Large format cameras use special equipment that includes magnifier loupe, viewfinder, angle finder, and focusing rail/truck. Some professional SLRs can be provided with interchangeable finders for eye-level or waist-level focusing, focusing screens, eyecup, data backs, motor-drives for film transportation or external battery packs.

Primary types
Single-lens reflex (SLR) camera
Main article: Single-lens reflex camera
Further information: Instant return mirror

Nikon D200 digital camera
In photography, the single-lens reflex camera (SLR) is provided with a mirror to redirect light from the lens to the viewfinder prior to releasing the shutter for composing and focusing an image. When the shutter is released, the mirror swings up and away, allowing the exposure of the photographic medium, and instantly returns after the exposure is finished. No SLR camera before 1954 had this feature, although the mirror on some early SLR cameras was entirely operated by the force exerted on the shutter release and only returned when the finger pressure was released.[23][24] The Asahiflex II, released by Japanese company Asahi (Pentax) in 1954, was the world’s first SLR camera with an instant return mirror.[25]

In the single-lens reflex camera, the photographer sees the scene through the camera lens. This avoids the problem of parallax which occurs when the viewfinder or viewing lens is separated from the taking lens. Single-lens reflex cameras have been made in several formats including sheet film 5×7″ and 4×5″, roll film 220/120 taking 8,10, 12, or 16 photographs on a 120 roll, and twice that number of a 220 film. These correspond to 6×9, 6×7, 6×6, and 6×4.5 respectively (all dimensions in cm). Notable manufacturers of large format and roll film SLR cameras include Bronica, Graflex, Hasselblad, Mamiya, and Pentax. However, the most common format of SLR cameras has been 35 mm and subsequently the migration to digital SLR cameras, using almost identical sized bodies and sometimes using the same lens systems.

Almost all SLR cameras use a front-surfaced mirror in the optical path to direct the light from the lens via a viewing screen and pentaprism to the eyepiece. At the time of exposure, the mirror is flipped up out of the light path before the shutter opens. Some early cameras experimented with other methods of providing through-the-lens viewing, including the use of a semi-transparent pellicle as in the Canon Pellix[26] and others with a small periscope such as in the Corfield Periflex series.[27]

Large-format camera
Main article: View camera
The large-format camera, taking sheet film, is a direct successor of the early plate cameras and remained in use for high-quality photography and technical, architectural, and industrial photography. There are three common types: the view camera, with its monorail and field camera variants, and the press camera. They have extensible bellows with the lens and shutter mounted on a lens plate at the front. Backs taking roll film and later digital backs are available in addition to the standard dark slide back. These cameras have a wide range of movements allowing very close control of focus and perspective. Composition and focusing are done on view cameras by viewing a ground-glass screen which is replaced by the film to make the exposure; they are suitable for static subjects only and are slow to use.

Plate camera

19th-century studio camera with bellows for focusing
Main article: Photographic plate
The earliest cameras produced in significant numbers were plate cameras, using sensitized glass plates. Light entered a lens mounted on a lens board which was separated from the plate by extendible bellows. There were simple box cameras for glass plates but also single-lens reflex cameras with interchangeable lenses and even for color photography (Autochrome Lumière). Many of these cameras had controls to raise, lower, and tilt the lens forwards or backward to control perspective.

Focusing of these plate cameras was by the use of a ground glass screen at the point of focus. Because lens design only allowed rather small aperture lenses, the image on the ground glass screen was faint and most Photographers had a dark cloth to cover their heads to allow focusing and composition to be carried out more easily. When focus and composition were satisfactory, the ground glass screen was removed, and a sensitized plate was put in its place protected by a dark slide. To make the exposure, the dark slide was carefully slid out and the shutter opened, and then closed and the dark slide replaced.

Glass plates were later replaced by sheet film in a dark slide for sheet film; adapter sleeves were made to allow sheet film to be used in plate holders. In addition to the ground glass, a simple optical viewfinder was often fitted.

Medium-format camera
Main article: Medium format
Medium-format cameras have a film size between the large-format cameras and smaller 35 mm cameras.[28] Typically these systems use 120 or 220 roll film.[29] The most common image sizes are 6×4.5 cm, 6×6 cm and 6×7 cm; the older 6×9 cm is rarely used. The designs of this kind of camera show greater variation than their larger brethren, ranging from monorail systems through the classic Hasselblad model with separate backs, to smaller rangefinder cameras. There are even compact amateur cameras available in this format.

Twin-lens reflex camera

Twin-lens reflex camera
Main article: Twin-lens reflex camera
Twin-lens reflex cameras used a pair of nearly identical lenses: one to form the image and one as a viewfinder.[30] The lenses were arranged with the viewing lens immediately above the taking lens. The viewing lens projects an image onto a viewing screen which can be seen from above. Some manufacturers such as Mamiya also provided a reflex head to attach to the viewing screen to allow the camera to be held to the eye when in use. The advantage of a TLR was that it could be easily focused using the viewing screen and that under most circumstances the view seen in the viewing screen was identical to that recorded on film. At close distances, however, parallax errors were encountered, and some cameras also included an indicator to show what part of the composition would be excluded.

Some TLRs had interchangeable lenses, but as these had to be paired lenses they were relatively heavy and did not provide the range of focal lengths that the SLR could support. Most TLRs used 120 or 220 films; some used the smaller 127 films.

Compact cameras
Instant camera
Main article: Instant camera
After exposure, every photograph is taken through pinch rollers inside of the instant camera. Thereby the developer paste contained in the paper ‘sandwich’ is distributed on the image. After a minute, the cover sheet just needs to be removed and one gets a single original positive image with a fixed format. With some systems, it was also possible to create an instant image negative, from which then could be made copies in the photo lab. The ultimate development was the SX-70 system of Polaroid, in which a row of ten shots – engine driven – could be made without having to remove any cover sheets from the picture. There were instant cameras for a variety of formats, as well as adapters for instant film use in medium- and large-format cameras.

Subminiature camera
Main article: Subminiature camera

Subminiature spy camera
Subminiature cameras were first produced in the nineteenth century and use film significantly smaller than 35mm. The expensive 8×11mm Minox, the only type of camera produced by the company from 1937 to 1976, became very widely known and was often used for espionage (the Minox company later also produced larger cameras). Later inexpensive subminiatures were made for general use, some using rewound 16 mm cine film. Image quality with these small film sizes was limited.

Folding camera
Main article: Folding camera
The introduction of films enabled the existing designs for plate cameras to be made much smaller and for the baseplate to be hinged so that it could be folded up, compressing the bellows. These designs were very compact and small models were dubbed vest pocket cameras. Folding roll film cameras were preceded by folding plate cameras, more compact than other designs.

Box camera

Kodak box camera
Main article: Box camera
9Box cameras were introduced as budget-level cameras and had few, if any controls. The original box Brownie models had a small reflex viewfinder mounted on the top of the camera and had no aperture or focusing controls and just a simple shutter. Later models such as the Brownie 127 had larger direct view optical viewfinders together with a curved film path to reduce the impact of deficiencies in the lens.

Rangefinder camera

Rangefinder camera, Leica c. 1936
Main article: Rangefinder camera
As camera lens technology developed and wide aperture lenses became more common, rangefinder cameras were introduced to make focusing more precise. Early rangefinders had two separate viewfinder windows, one of which is linked to the focusing mechanisms and moved right or left as the focusing ring is turned. The two separate images are brought together on a ground glass viewing screen. When vertical lines in the object being photographed meet exactly in the combined image, the object is in focus. A normal composition viewfinder is also provided. Later the viewfinder and rangefinder were combined. Many rangefinder cameras had interchangeable lenses, each lens requiring its range- and viewfinder linkages.

Rangefinder cameras were produced in half- and full-frame 35 mm and roll film (medium format).

Motion picture cameras
Main article: Movie camera
Further information: Digital movie camera
A movie camera or a video camera operates similarly to a still camera, except it records a series of static images in rapid succession, commonly at a rate of 24 frames per second. When the images are combined and displayed in order, the illusion of motion is achieved.[31]: 4 

Cameras that capture many images in sequence are known as movie cameras or as cine cameras in Europe; those designed for single images are still cameras. However, these categories overlap as still cameras are often used to capture moving images in special effects work and many modern cameras can quickly switch between still and motion recording modes.

A ciné camera or movie camera takes a rapid sequence of photographs on an image sensor or strips of film. In contrast to a still camera, which captures a single snapshot at a time, the ciné camera takes a series of images, each called a frame, through the use of an intermittent mechanism.

The frames are later played back in a ciné projector at a specific speed, called the frame rate (number of frames per second). While viewing, a person’s eyes and brain merge the separate pictures to create the illusion of motion. The first ciné camera was built around 1888 and by 1890 several types were being manufactured. The standard film size for ciné cameras was quickly established as 35mm film and this remained in use until the transition to digital cinematography. Other professional standard formats include 70 mm film and 16 mm film whilst amateur filmmakers used 9.5 mm film, 8 mm film, or Standard 8 and Super 8 before the move into digital format.

The size and complexity of ciné cameras vary greatly depending on the uses required of the camera. Some professional equipment is very large and too heavy to be handheld whilst some amateur cameras were designed to be very small and light for single-handed operation.

Professional video camera

Arri Alexa, a digital movie camera
Main article: Professional video camera
Further information: Video camera
A professional video camera (often called a television camera even though the use has spread beyond television) is a high-end device for creating electronic moving images (as opposed to a movie camera, that earlier recorded the images on film). Originally developed for use in television studios, they are now also used for music videos, direct-to-video movies, corporate and educational videos, marriage videos, etc.

These cameras earlier used vacuum tubes and later electronic image sensors.

Camcorders
A Sony HDV Camcorder
Sony HDR-HC1E, a HDV camcorder.
Main article: Camcorders
A camcorder is an electronic device combining a video camera and a video recorder. Although marketing materials may use the colloquial term “camcorder”, the name on the package and manual is often “video camera recorder”. Most devices capable of recording video are camera phones and digital cameras primarily intended for still pictures; the term “camcorder” is used to describe a portable, self-contained device, with video capture and recording its primary function.

Digital camera
Main article: Digital camera

Disassembled Digital Camera
Further information: Digital image, Digital imaging, Digital photography, Digital single-lens reflex camera, and Digital video
A digital camera (or digicam) is a camera that encodes digital images and videos, and stores them for later reproduction.[32] They typically use semiconductor image sensors.[33] Most cameras sold today are digital,[34] and they are incorporated into many devices ranging from mobile phones (called camera phones) to vehicles.

Digital and film cameras share an optical system, typically using a lens of variable aperture to focus light onto an image pickup device.[35] The aperture and shutter admit the correct amount of light to the imager, just as with film but the image pickup device is electronic rather than chemical. However, unlike film cameras, digital cameras can display images on a screen immediately after being captured or recorded, and store and delete images from memory. Most digital cameras can also record moving videos with sound. Some digital cameras can crop and stitch pictures & perform other elementary image editing.

Consumers adopted digital cameras in the 1990s. Professional video cameras transitioned to digital around the 2000s–2010s. Finally, movie cameras transitioned to digital in the 2010s.

The first camera using digital electronics to capture and store images was developed by Kodak engineer Steven Sasson in 1975. He used a charge-coupled device (CCD) provided by Fairchild Semiconductor, which provided only 0.01 megapixels to capture images. Sasson combined the CCD device with movie camera parts to create a digital camera that saved black and white images onto a cassette tape.[36]: 442 The images were then read from the cassette and viewed on a TV monitor.[37]: 225  Later, cassette tapes were replaced by flash memory.

In 1986, Japanese company Nikon introduced an analog-recording electronic single-lens reflex camera, the Nikon SVC.[38]

The first full-frame digital SLR cameras were developed in Japan from around 2000 to 2002: the MZ-D by Pentax,[39] the N Digital by Contax’s Japanese R6D team,[40] and the EOS-1Ds by Canon.[41] Gradually in the 2000s, the full-frame DSLR became the dominant camera type for professional photography.[citation needed]

On most digital cameras a display, often a liquid crystal display (LCD), permits the user to view the scene to be recorded and settings such as ISO speed, exposure, and shutter speed.[5]: 6–7 [42]: 12 

Camera phone

Smartphone with built-in camera
Main article: Camera phone
Further information: Front-facing camera and Selfie
In 2000, Sharp introduced the world’s first digital camera phone, the J-SH04 J-Phone, in Japan.[43] By the mid-2000s, higher-end cell phones had an integrated digital camera, and by the beginning of the 2010s, almost all smartphones had an integrated digital camera.

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Welcome to our guide to the best cameras for photography in 2022. There’s never been a better (or more confusing) time to buy a new camera, but luckily we’re here to help you pick the right photographic companion for you. So whether you’re shopping for an affordable stills camera or the ultimate mirrorless all-rounder, you’ve come to the right place. (Looking for the best video cameras instead? Check out our separate guide on those).

Our in-depth guide is based on hours of testing with all of the latest cameras from the biggest names in photography. Each model featured below has been comprehensively reviewed in a range of real-world settings to ensure it’s earned its spot. We don’t pick based on price alone: our round-up includes entry-level mirrorless options, beginner DSLRs and even an affordable instant camera.

What’s the best camera for photography right now? The right choice for you will depend on what and how you like to shoot, as well as your budget. That said, we reckon there are two top contenders for that title right now: the Sony A7 IV for hybrid shooters, and the Fujifilm X-T4 if you need a smaller, cheaper all-rounder. Both cameras offer a compelling blend of features and image quality, alongside video chops.

If shooting speed is your priority, the EOS R6 offers a range of class-leading features, including outstanding autofocus, in-body image stabilization and 12fps burst shooting. Alternatively, if you’re a pro who simply can’t afford to compromise, the Canon EOS R3 sets a new standard for hybrid performance, shooting raw stills at 30fps and raw 6K video at 60p internally – with a monster price tag to match.

RECOMMENDED VIDEOS FOR YOU…
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Prefer something smaller? Our favorite pocket-friendly camera right now is the Fujifilm X100V. Its capable sensor and compact size make it the best option for street photography. It’s not the cheapest camera around though, so it’s worth looking at the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV if you want something more affordable.

Not sure where to begin? You’ll find useful tips at the bottom of this guide, including pointers on what to look for when buying a photography camera.

The best cameras for photography in 2022:
The front of the Sony A7 IV camera with a zoom lens

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Sony A7 IV
    A truly modern hybrid that’s great for stills and video
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Full-frameResolution: 33MPViewfinder: 3,690K dotsMonitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037K dotsAutofocus: 759-point AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 10fpsMovies: 4K at 60pUser level: Intermediate
    TODAY’S BEST DEALS
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    REASONS TO BUY
    +Impressive 33MP sensor
    +Class-leading autofocus
    +Vari-angle screen
    REASONS TO AVOID
    -Pricier than its predecessor
    -Heavily cropped 4K footage
    -Complex for beginners
    Following Sony’s fantastic A7 III was never going to be easy, but the A7 IV is a worthy successor. Equipped with a new 33MP sensor that’s solid for both stills and video, it’s a compelling mirrorless option for hybrid shooters. A price hike does mean it’s no longer an entry-level full-frame camera like its forebear, but a Bionz XR processor powers solid performance that broadly justifies the extra expenditure.

The A7 III also benefits from Sony’s class-leading autofocus skills, plus upgrades like 10-bit video support and a seemingly endless buffer depth with a CFexpress card. No hybrid comes without compromise: there is a heavy crop on 4K footage and it’s not the simplest camera for beginners to use. Plus the Canon EOS R6 offers faster burst speeds for a similar price. But considering its powerful versatility and higher resolution, the Sony A7 IV deservedly takes our number one spot.

Read our in-depth Sony A7 IV review

Front-on shot of the Fujifilm X-T4, the best camera on the market

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Fujifilm X-T4
    The best all-round camera for most people
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: APS-CResolution: 26.1MPViewfinder: 3,690K dotsMonitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,620K dotsAutofocus: 425-point AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 15fps (mechanical shutter), 30fps (electronic)Movies: 4K at 60pUser level: Intermediate
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REASONS TO BUY
+Superb image quality
+IBIS a big bonus for video
REASONS TO AVOID
-No headphone jack
-Video recording limit
It isn’t a full-frame camera, but the Fujifilm X-T4 is the best APS-C camera we’ve ever tested – and its blend of features, size and value make it a fine choice for hobbyist shooters. The X-T4 builds on the Fujifilm X-T3’s impressive foundation by adding in-body image stabilization (IBIS), faster burst shooting and some successful design tweaks. Adding to its all-rounder skills are a bigger battery (which keeps it going for 500 shots per charge) and some improved autofocus, which is fast and reliable in most scenarios.

The X-T4’s 26MP APS-C sensor remains class-leading for stills photography, but the X-T4 is also a superb video camera. The IBIS is a big bonus here, and the X-T4 backs that up with a huge range of tools and a great shooting experience, including a fully articulating touchscreen. It might cost the same as some full-frame cameras, but the X-T4 and its fine range of X-series lenses make a great, smaller alternative for those looking for a mirrorless all-rounder.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T4 review

The Canon EOS R6 on a wall with the 24-240mm lens

(Image credit: TechRadar)

  1. Canon EOS R6
    A superb camera with best-in-class features
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Full-frameResolution: 20.1MPViewfinder: 3,690K dotsMonitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,620K dotsAutofocus: 6,072-point AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps (mechanical shutter), 20fps (electronic)Movies: 4K at 60pUser level: Professional
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REASONS TO BUY
+Class-leading autofocus
+Excellent full-frame IBIS
+Dual card slots
REASONS TO AVOID
-Video recording limits
-20MP resolution
While the Canon EOS R5 is overkill for most people, the EOS R6 is a more affordable full-frame alternative that is simply one of the best cameras for photography around today. If you already own one of Canon’s early mirrorless full-framers like the EOS R, or any of its DSLRs, this is a more than worthy upgrade. The EOS R6 brings best-in-class autofocus, a superb in-body image stabilization system, and burst shooting powers that mark it out as a very fine camera for wildlife or sports photography.

Despite its ability to shoot 4K/60p video, the EOS R6 lacks options like the ability to DCI 4K and has overheating limitations compared to video-focused rivals like the Sony A7S III, making it better suited to stills photographers. But for photography, it’s an excellent (if pricey) option that delivers hugely impressive autofocus, handling and features that make it one of the best options around for anyone who needs a full-frame camera.

Read our in-depth: Canon EOS R6 review

Canon EOS R5 sitting on a wall with the 24-105mm lens.

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Canon EOS R5
    The finest hybrid camera Canon has ever made
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor: Full-frame CMOSMegapixels: 45Autofocus: 5,940-zone AFScreen type: 3.15-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.1m-dotsContinuous shooting speed: 20fpsMovies: 8KUser level: Enthusiast / expert
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REASONS TO BUY
+Superb autofocus
+Solid IBIS system
+Good battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
-Pricier than EOS R6
-CFExpress cards can be costly
-Some limitations for video
If you see the Canon EOS R5 as a pro stills camera with some impressive video features, then it’s one of the best the photography giant has ever made. There’s no doubt it has video limitations compared to a rival like the Sony A7S III, particularly for shooting longer clips. But for anyone looking to shoot mind-blowing stills in almost any situation, whether that’s wildlife or studio work, it’s a hugely impressive achievement.

Particularly worth of mention is the EOS R5’s autofocus, which offers very accurate and reliable subject-detection and tracking – particularly when its comes to people or animals. You also get a superb 5.76-million pixel EVF, a body design that will be comfortably familiar to those coming from DSLRs, and the ability to shoot bursts at 12fps with the mechanical shutter (or 20fps with the electronic equivalent). The video performance, while limited to relatively short bursts, remains superior to the likes of the Nikon Z7 and Sony A9 II, too. With a growing collection of (albeit pricey) RF lenses, the Canon EOS R5 is the next-gen mirrorless camera that pro photographers have been waiting for.

Read our in-depth Canon EOS R5 review

The Nikon Z6 II on table with the Z 50mm f/1.8 lens

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Nikon Z6 II
    No longer the mirrorless king, but not far behind
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Full-frameResolution: 24.5MPViewfinder: 3,690K dotsMonitor: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100K dotsAutofocus: 273-point hybrid AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 14fpsMovies: 4K at 30pUser level: Intermediate/expert
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REASONS TO BUY
+Excellent image quality
+Great handling
REASONS TO AVOID
-Not the most advanced AF
-Screen isn’t vari-angle
The Nikon Z6 reigned as the king of this list for a long time – and while the Z6 II is only a modest successor, it should definitely be on the shortlist of anyone who’s looking for a full-frame camera. The Z6 continues to offer great value, but we think the Z6 II is just about worth the extra cost if you can afford it.

Its additional Expeed 6 processor brings a host of improvements, including new 14fps burst mode (up from 12fps on the Z6) and some handy autofocus boosts (particularly for animal eye/face detection). You also get an extra UHS-II card slot, which joins the existing XQD/CFexpress slot, and a firmware update has delivered a new 4K/60p video mode. The 24MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor performs well at high ISOs, and the Z6 II has class-leading build quality that feels more substantial in the hand than its rivals.

Read our in-depth Nikon Z6 II review

Fujifilm X-S10

The Fujifilm X-S10 on a wall with the 18-55mm kit lens. (Image credit: Future)

  1. Fujifilm X-S10
    A versatile little all-rounder for hobbyist photographers
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: APS-CResolution: 26.1MPViewfinder: 2.36m dotsMonitor: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1.04m dotsAutofocus: 425-point hybrid AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps (mechanical), 20fps (electronic shutter)Movies: 4K at 30pUser level: Beginner/intermediate
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REASONS TO BUY
+Superb image and video quality
+IBIS in a small body
+Excellent handling
REASONS TO AVOID
-Not weather-proof
It’s hard to think of another camera that offers the same blend of size, performance, affordability and charm as the Fujifilm X-S10. For both hobbyists and pros looking for a small mirrorless camera, it’s an excellent option that covers all the bases for both stills and video. You get a tried-and-tested 26.1MP APS-C sensor (the same as the one in the Fujifilm X-T4, see above) and, impressively for a camera this small, in-body image stabilization (IBIS).

This feature, which helps you preserve image quality while shooting handheld, can also be found in some small Sony and Olympus cameras, but none of those offer the X-S10’s excellent handling or range of features. It has a handy vari-angle screen, great build quality, and shoots impressive 4K video, too. Pair it with a prime lens and you have a fine travel or street camera – thanks to X-S10’s large grip, though, it’ll also match nicely with longer lenses as well.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-S10 review

The Sony A7R IV with a 24-70mm lens sitting on a tree trunk

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Sony A7R IV
    A brilliant choice for landscape photographers
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Full-frameResolution: 61MPViewfinder: 5,760K dotsMonitor: 3-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 21,400K dotsAutofocus: 567 PDAF + 425 CDAFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 1fpsMovies: 4K at 30pUser level: Expert
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REASONS TO BUY
+Improved ergonomics
+Fast, intelligent AF
+Well-behaved metering system
+Brilliant viewfinder
REASONS TO AVOID
-Rolling shutter noticeable in videos
-No in-camera RAW processing
-No motion correction in Pixel Shift mode
Landscape photographers often demand megapixels, dynamic range and weather-proofing – and the Sony A7R IV ticks all of those boxes in style. Its 61MP sensor delivers incredible detail, and you can bump up that resolution with its Pixel Shift mode. Not that it’s only comfortable shooting spectacular scenery – you also get Sony’s excellent Face and Eye AF tracking for human subjects.

A deep grip makes the A7R IV comfortable to use during long days out in the field, while the weather-sealing is a big step up from the A7R III. You also get a bright, sharp 5.76 million-dot electronic viewfinder, although the touchscreen controls are a bit more limited than more recent Sony cameras like the A7S III. Still, this doesn’t stop the A7R IV from being the most desirable in its class, and it even shoots decent video (albeit with some rolling shutter).

Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7R IV review

The Nikon Z fc camera on a park bench

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Nikon Z fc
    A heady blend of retro design and mirrorless shooting power
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor size: APS-CResolution: 20.9MPLens: Z-mountScreen type: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,036,080 dotsViewfinder: EVFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 11fpsMovies: 4KUser level: EnthusiastSensor size: APS-CResolution: 20.9MPViewfinder: EVF, 2,360K dotsMonitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dotsAutofocus: 209-point AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 11fpsMovies: 4K at 30pUser level: Enthusiast
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REASONS TO BUY
+Stunning retro design
+Vari-angle touchscreen
REASONS TO AVOID
-Lack of native lenses
-No UHS-II support
Under its stunning retro skin, the Nikon Z fc is essentially identical to the Nikon Z50. That’s no complaint, given that the Z50 is a mid-range mirrorless marvel. It shares the same 20.9MP APS-C sensor, hybrid autofocus system and performance stats. That means 11fps burst shooting, detailed stills and solid 4K footage at 30fps. What’s new is the physical build. An homage to the Nikon FM2, the Nikon Z fc features broadly the same dimensions as its analogue ancestor – and an equally arresting shell. From the dials to the typography, there are countless throwback cues.

The improvements are more than skin-deep, though: unlike the tilting touchscreen of the Z50, the Nikon Z fc features a vari-angle display. That unlocks plenty of flexible framing options, plus it can be used with a tripod – or flipped away for the full eighties experience. What’s lacking is the deep DSLR-like grip of the Z50, so handling fans may still prefer its predecessor. But paired with the new Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 SE prime lens, the Nikon Z fc makes for a compellingly creative proposition. Plus it’s surprisingly affordable for a camera with dedicated exposure, ISO and shutter speed dials.

Read our in-depth Nikon Z fc review

The Fujifilm X100V compact camera in front of flower pots.

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Fujifilm X100V
    The best camera for street photography
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: Premium compactSensor: APS-C X-Trans CMOSResolution: 26.1MPLens: 23mm, f/2Viewfinder: Hybrid EVFScreen type: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.62m dotsMaximum continuous shooting speed: 11fpsMovies: 4KUser level: Beginner/enthusiast
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REASONS TO BUY
+Tilting touchscreen
+Improved sensor and autofocus
+4K video
REASONS TO AVOID
-Needs filter for full weather-sealing
-Expensive
On paper, the Fujifilm X100V shouldn’t make sense: a compact camera styled like something from the 1950s, with a fixed 23mm f/2 lens and a premium price tag. Yet the model’s predecessors have become iconic among street photographers – and the X100V follows in their spirit. Understated and timeless, there’s something very special about that compact retro body.

The X100V keeps what works, only tweaking what it needs to: there’s now a very handy tilting touchscreen and a weather-resistant body (although you need to add a filter to the lens to get full weather-sealing). The series’ fixed aperture lens setup has always been fantastic for street and portrait photography, and the results are only better now that Fujifilm’s added a new 26.1MP APS-C sensor paired with the latest X-Processor 4. Autofocus is faster, noise control better and image quality improved. Sure, it’s niche and certainly not cheap, but there’s nothing else quite like it.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm X100V review

The front of the Canon EOS R3 mirrorless camera

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Canon EOS R3
    A mirrorless monster for sports and wildlife photographers
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Full-frameResolution: 24.1MPViewfinder: 5,760K dotsMonitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 4,300K dotsAutofocus: 1,053-point AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps (mechanical shutter), 30fps (electronic)Movies: 6K at 60pUser level: Expert
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    REASONS TO BUY
    +Seriously speedy sensor
    +Powerful AF features
    +Impressive video specs
    REASONS TO AVOID
    -Big for a mirrorless model
    -No EVF upgrade from R5
    -Relatively low resolution
    It might look like a DSLR from a decade ago, but the Canon EOS R3 is the current pinnacle of mirrorless performance. Blending the hybrid smarts of the EOS R5 with the chunky form factor of the 1D X Mark III, it also adds a whole host of innovative tech into the mix. Its 24.1MP CMOS sensor might seem low-res for the price, but its stacked design translates into rapid 30fps raw burst shooting. The EOS R3 can also capture 6K raw video internally at 60p.

Backed up by enhanced AF tracking (including Eye Control AF that lets you choose focus points just by looking at them through the viewfinder), the EOS R3 is one of the most advanced fast-action mirrorless cameras ever made. Built tough with magnesium alloy, its articulating touchscreen is sharp and useful, while its control layout will be familiar to pros. Yes, it’s big, expensive and clearly overkill for amateurs. But for paid photogs who refuse to compromise on quality, speed or performance in the field, it’s the new default option.

Read our in-depth Canon EOS R3 review

Sony A1

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Sony A1
    Astonishing performance at an astonishing price
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Full-frameResolution: 50.1MPViewfinder: OLED EVF, 9.44m dotsMonitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.44m dotsAutofocus: 759-point phase-detection AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 30fpsMovies: 8K at 30pUser level: Professional
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REASONS TO BUY
+Captures incredible detail
+Blisteringly fast performance
REASONS TO AVOID
-Prohibitively expensive
-Overkill for most
Sony’s undisputed flagship, the A1 is probably the most versatile professional camera ever made. Offering a heady combination of high-res stills, 8K video and blistering speed, it’s as capable in the studio as it is on safari, in a stadium or shooting out in the street. With a continuous frame rate of 30fps and sensor resolution of 50.1MP, it even outperforms Canon’s photography powerhouse, the EOS R5.

Whisper quiet when shooting, it’s capable of capturing incredible detail, aided by extremely rapid and incredibly powerful hybrid autofocus. And while the screen is only average, the 9.44-million dot OLED EVF more than compensates (particularly with its 240fps refresh rate). So what’s the catch? Price. Starting at $6,500 / £6,500 / AU$10,499 body-only, the Sony A1 is an extraordinarily expensive camera. If you’re looking for a camera to fill just a single niche, there are less expensive ways to do it. But if money is no object and you want the very best all-rounder on the planet right now, look no further.

Read our in-depth Sony A1 review

Hands holding the Nikon Z7 II with its Z 85mm f/1.8 lens.

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Nikon Z7 II
    The best landscape photography choice for Nikon fans
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor: Full-frame CMOSMegapixels: 45.7MPAutofocus: 493-point AFScreen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100K dotsMaximum continuous shooting speed: 10fpsMovies: 4K at 60pUser level: Enthusiast
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REASONS TO BUY
+Superb handling
+Speedier performance than Z7
REASONS TO AVOID
-Relatively modest update of Z7
-Rivals have superior action AF
It’s not a huge leap forward from the Nikon Z7, but then the Z7 II didn’t really need to be. With a blend of subtle but important upgrades, including improved autofocus and a deeper buffer, this full-frame mirrorless camera is a very fine choice –particularly if you’re making the move from an older Nikon DSLR. The Z7 II combines Nikon’s signature handling with an excellent 45.7MP full-frame sensor, which is the same as the one we loved in its predecessor.

This means you get class-leading dynamic range, sharp edge-to-edge detail and a handy 19MP APS-C crop mode, for sports or wildlife shooting. Some rivals may offer more in the way of video features and autofocus performance (for action shots in particular), but the Nikon Z7 II brings internal 4K/60p video and remains one of the best full-frame cameras you can buy today. With the Z system’s lens collection also slowly growing this year, now is the time to make the switch from your DSLR.

Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 II review

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV mounted on a tripod in a garden.

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
    One of the best cameras around for beginners
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Micro Four ThirdsResolution: 20.3MPViewfinder: 2,360K dotsMonitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037K dotsAutofocus: 121-point Contrast Detection AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 15fpsMovies: 4K at 30pUser level: Beginner
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REASONS TO BUY
+Good sensor
+Compact body
+Useful image stabilization
REASONS TO AVOID
-No microphone input
-No USB-C port
Looking for compact mirrorless camera to help develop your photographic skills? The OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is one of the best options around and offers great value considering its feature set. A useful flip-down touchscreen and good ergonomics make it a fine option for beginners who are moving up from a smartphone or compact camera. And because the E-M10 Mark IV is a Micro Four Thirds camera, it has one of the biggest selections of lenses around, which means it’s a model that can really grow with you.

On the downside, it lacks a microphone or USB-C ports, and the autofocus lags a little behind rivals like the Sony A6100 (see below). So while the latter is a better bet for sports or action shooting, the E-M10 Mark IV is a more fun camera to use and is one of the few at this price point to bring in-body image stabilization, a very handy bonus for handheld shooting.

Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review

The Sony A6100 camera sat on a table with the 16-70mm lens.

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Sony A6100
    A good value option for beginners and hobbyists alike
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor size: APS-CResolution: 24.2MPLens: Sony E-mountViewfinder: EVFScreen type: 2.95-inch tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dotsMaximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps (mechanical)Movies: 4KUser level: Beginner
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    REASONS TO BUY
    +Excellent tracking autofocus
    +Compact yet feature-packed
    REASONS TO AVOID
    -Takes time to understand capabilities
    -Relatively low-res LCD and EVF
    Since its launch five years ago, the entry-level Sony A6000 has proven a hugely popular mirrorless camera. Its successor, the A6100, takes its recipe and adds several helpful tweaks. Compact yet capable, the A6100 pairs a beginner-friendly build with a feature set that won’t disappoint the more adventurous. It can take time to understand the camera’s potential, but there’s plenty of it: the APS-C sensor is the same 24.2MP chip found in Sony’s more premium cameras, while the autofocus system is shared with the flagship Sony A6600.

The result is excellent continuous subject-tracking powers and, paired with a good lens, images with plenty of detail and accurate colors. Battery life is also decent and the tilting screen is now touch-sensitive, though its functionality is fairly limited. Certain performance and handling quirks are shared with its more expensive siblings – Auto ISO doesn’t suit fast-moving subjects, for example – but these are more forgivable on an entry-level model, especially such a solid all-rounder as the A6100. It deserves to be just as popular as its predecessor.

Read our in-depth Sony A6100 review

Hands holding the Nikon D3500 with its kit lens.

  1. Nikon D3500
    The best beginner-friendly DSLR you can buy
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: DSLRSensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.2MPLens mount: Nikon FScreen: 3-inch, 921K dotsViewfinder: OpticalContinuous shooting: 5fpsMovies: 1080pUser level: Beginner
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    ☆☆☆☆☆

REASONS TO BUY
+Huge battery life
+Massive lens selection available
REASONS TO AVOID
-No 4K video
-Screen not touch-sensitive
This list is dominated by mirrorless cameras, but if you still prefer the benefits of DSLRS – namely, their handling, superior battery lives and value – then the Nikon D3500 is the best one around for beginners. Taking the baton from the hugely successful Nikon D3400, it brings a 24MP APS-C sensor and an incredible 1,550-shot battery life that beats the stamina of most mirrorless cameras by about three times.

The useful Guide mode is there to walk beginners through creating effects like a blurred background, while the Nikon DX system has a vast array of lenses. If you’re starting out, we’d recommend buying the D3500 with the AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, as its brings handy vibration reduction for very little extra cost. Those looking for a travel-friendly camera should still consider mirrorless alternatives like the Fujifilm X-T200 and Canon EOS M50 Mark II, but otherwise this remains a brilliant way to learn the photographic basics and start your new hobby.

Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review

Nikon Z5

The Nikon Z5 with the compact Z 24-50mm kit lens. (Image credit: Future)

  1. Nikon Z5
    The best entry-level full-frame camera you can buy right now
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor size: Full-frameResolution: 24.3MPViewfinder: 3.69million dotsScreen type: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04m dotsMaximum continuous shooting speed: 4.5fpsMovies: 4K/30pUser level: Beginner
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REASONS TO BUY
+Excellent viewfinder
+Very capable AF system
+Comfy grip and solid build
REASONS TO AVOID
-Lacklustre burst rate
-Cropped 4K video
-Screen tilts only
Despite not being perfect, the Nikon Z5 is the best entry-level full-frame model you can buy right now, making it a great option for those looking to upgrade to the larger sensor for the first time. With a 24.3MP that reliably produces vibrant, sharp and clean images, a reliable autofocusing system and a comfy and well-built body, there’s a lot to like about the Nikon Z5.

Equipping it with the same high-resolution viewfinder as its more advanced Z6/Z7 siblings is a nice touch that adds a touch of premium quality to proceedings. What lets the Z5 down are things that some might not even be too bothered about – the 4.5fps maximum frame rate being underwhelming for action shooters, and the crop applied to 4K video being frustrating for vloggers. Not bothered by either of those things? It’s a fine choice for photographers who want full-frame on a budget.

Read our in-depth Nikon Z5 review

Panasonic Lumix S5

Angled shot of the Panasonic Lumix S5 in front of a white wall. (Image credit: Future)

  1. Panasonic Lumix S5
    A compact full-frame camera that’s equally adept at stills and video
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor size: Full-frameResolution: 24.2MPViewfinder: 2.36million dotsScreen type: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m dotsMaximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps (mechanical shutter), 30fps (6K photo mode, 18MP)Movies: 4K/60p 10-bit 4:2:0User level: Intermediate/professional
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REASONS TO BUY
+Small for a full-frame camera
+Great video specs
+Good range of controls
REASONS TO AVOID
-Not the best autofocus system
-Not for sports photographers
Looking for a small full-frame camera that can help you shoot an even mix of high-quality video and still photos? The Panasonic Lumix S5 is one of the best options around. Smaller than the Panasonic Lumix GH5, which has a much smaller Four Thirds sensor, the S5 is particularly talented when it comes to shooting video, offering an uncropped 4K/30p mode and other high-end specs that include V-log recording and Dual Native ISO.

With a pretty modest burst shooting rate of 7fps, it’s not the best choice for sports or action photography, but its 6K photo mode (which lets you extract 18MP stills from video) compensates to an extent, and it otherwise offers impressive image quality and a much-improved autofocus performance. This feels like the camera Panasonic should have launched its S series with, and there are very few rivals at this price point that offer its blend of size, performance and video features.

Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix S5 review

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 11, the best instant camera you can buy, sat on a tree branch

(Image credit: TechRadar)

  1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
    The best instant camera for retro snappers
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Lens: 60mmFocusing: Normal and macroFlash: Built-inSelf-timer: None
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REASONS TO BUY
+Largely accurate auto exposure
+Easy for beginners
+Compact design
REASONS TO AVOID
-Instax Mini prints rather small
-No advanced features for pros
The Instax Mini 11 certainly doesn’t compete with its more esteemed company here when it comes to pure photo quality. But is it one of the most affordable, fun ways to get into instant photography? Definitely. It doesn’t have the more advanced controls or modes of pricier instant cameras, but that’s also part of its appeal – thanks to its auto-exposure system, you can just point-and-shoot to get lovely, credit card-sized prints.

Naturally, it’s a great option for kids and parties, and the relatively affordable film means you won’t regret seeing it passed around among family and friends. The pop-out lens barrel and little mirror built into the front of the camera means it’s good for selfie duty, and it’s available in a range of fun colors, too. If you need a gift for a photography fan, look no further.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 review

The Fujifilm GFX50S II camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

  1. Fujifilm GFX50S II
    Medium format has never been closer to mainstream
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Sensor size: Medium formatResolution: 51.4MPViewfinder: 3.69m dotsMonitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.35m dotsAutofocus: 425-point contrast AFMaximum continuous shooting rate: 3fpsMovies: 1080p at 30fpsUser level: Professional
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REASONS TO BUY
+Impressive dynamic range
+Effective image stabilization
+Relatively affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
-Lacks 4K video
-Slow subject tracking
-Slightly sluggish AF
If you want to go a step beyond full-frame, at least in sensor size terms, then the medium format Fujifilm GFX50S II could well be the camera for you. Its huge sensor, which is around 1.7x larger than full-frame, produces impressive detail, dynamic range and low-light performance, which makes it ideal for anyone who specializes in shooting landscapes, architecture and even portraits.

Naturally, there are drawbacks, and the GFX50S II certainly isn’t an all-rounder – the burst shooting speeds top out at 3fps and there’s no 4K video, so it’s very much a camera for photography. But these limitations have enabled Fujifilm to keep the price down to a level that was unheard of for medium format cameras only a few years ago. Pair it with Fujifilm’s excellent (if expensive) GF lenses, and you have a camera that’s surprisingly at home with handheld shooting – and certainly one of the best around for outright image quality.

Read our in-depth Fujifilm GFX50S II review

What should I look for when buying a camera for photography?
The main thing to look at when buying a camera is sensor size. Larger isn’t always better, but it is a good guide to what kind of camera it is, how expensive the lenses will be, and who it’s aimed at. In general, Micro Four Thirds and APS-C cameras are for both hobbyists and pros, while full-frame models tend to be strictly for advanced photographers with bigger budgets. Compact cameras with 1-inch sensors are for travel zooms and everyday photography.

Other features to look out for are viewfinders (electronic or optical), which are considered essential by most photographers, and handling. If you’re likely to want to use longer lenses, then a good grip is essential. You should also consider which lenses you’re likely to need for your favorite types of photography – for example, bright prime lenses are better for portraits and street shooting, while wide-angle zooms are more useful for landscapes. Deciding which camera system, including lenses, is the best for you is often better than choosing a camera in isolation.

Sony A1

(Image credit: Future)
How we test cameras
Buying a camera these days is a big investment, so every camera in this guide has been tested extensively by us. These days, real-world tests are the most revealing way to understand a camera’s performance and character, so we focus heavily on those, along with standardized tests for factors like ISO performance.

To start with, we look at the camera’s design, handling and controls to get a sense of what kind of photographer it’s aimed at and who would most enjoy shooting with it. When we take it out on a shoot, we’ll use it both handheld and on a tripod to get a sense of where its strengths lie, and test its startup speed.

When it comes to performance, we use a formatted UHS-1 card and shoot in both raw and JPEG (if available). For burst shooting tests, we dial in our regular test settings (1/250 sec, ISO 200, continuous AF) and shoot a series of frames in front of a stopwatch to see if it lives up to its claimed speeds. We’ll also look at how quickly the buffers clears and repeat the test for both raw and JPEG files.

In various lighting conditions, we also test the camera’s different autofocus modes (including Face and Eye AF) in single point, area and continuous modes. We also shoot a range of photos of different styles (portrait, landscape, low light, macro/close-up) in raw and JPEG to get a sense of metering and its sensor’s ability to handle noise and resolve fine detail.

If the camera’s raw files are supported by Adobe Camera Raw, we’ll also process some test images to see how we can push areas like shadow recovery. And we’ll also test its ISO performance across the whole range to get a sense of the levels we’d be happy to push the camera to.

Battery life is tested in a real-world fashion, as we use the camera over the course of the day with the screen set to the default settings. Once the battery has reached zero, we’ll then count the number of shots to see how it compares to the camera’s CIPA rating. Finally, we test the camera’s video skills by shooting some test footage at different frame-rates and resolutions, along with its companion app.

We then take everything we’ve learned about the camera and factor in its price to get a sense of the value-for-money it offers, before reaching our final verdict.

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