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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 and 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.

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Home Buying Guides
The best cameras for photography in 2022: we help you choose the perfect camera!
By Rod Lawton published 20 days ago

What is the best camera? We explain the different types, the best buys, and some clever alternatives you may not have though of!

Best camera for photography
(Image credit: Getty Images)
How do you choose the best camera when there are so many different types? Never fear – we’re here to help. It’s not about buying the most expensive cameras or the most powerful – it’s about choosing the perfect camera for what you want to do and at the right price! We’ll explain all the different types, who they are best suited to and what to look for.

MORE CAMERA GUIDES
• Best camera for beginners
• Best camera for kids
• Best cameras for vlogging
• Best DSLR
• DSLR vs mirrorless cameras

So for a start, we need to ask you want kind of photographer you are, and what you want to shoot.

If you’re reading this, you might just be looking for the best point and shoot camera. These don’t cost a lot, they come with zoom lenses and they have simple controls that anyone can master.

And for a bit of lateral thinking, what about an instant camera? Even the best instant cameras aren’t expensive, and they are super simple, super cheap and a whole lot of fun. They also make some of the best cameras for kids – though the print costs can mount up quickly if you don’t ration the shots!

RECOMMENDED VIDEOS FOR YOU…
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If you’re just getting started in photography but keen to learn, you need a camera that’s simple enough for a novice to pick up and use, but powerful enough to grow with you as you try out more advanced techniques. Usually the best option here is a DSLR or a mirrorless camera that takes interchangeable lenses.

What if you are more into travel photography and vlogging rather than a conventional photography career? These subjects have inspired a whole new generation of photographers, filmmakers and content creators, and while a compact mirrorless camera or DSLR might look the smart choice, there are some good premium compact cameras out there – and had you considered an action camera, or one of the new generation of gimbal cameras like the DJI Pocket 2?

GoPro ignited the whole adventure photography genre, but there are lots of rival brands now and some very exciting new technologies that include 360 imaging and pocket-sized gimbal cameras for super-smooth action sequences. The best 360 cameras can capture VR video and stills with no more than the press of a button to give you a totally new perspective.

And talking about perspective, why not try out one of the best camera drones? With automated take off and landing, automated flight controls and programmed flights, most are really simple, even for novices.

If you’re more interested in turning pro, we can give you an idea of the kind of cameras professionals use. These cameras often have very specialised and specific features, and they often come with a price tag to match. But these days, you can get professional quality cameras at prices within the reach of keen amateurs and enthusiasts.

So in this guide we will pick out a selection of the best cameras for all these different user types and shooting styles – and we’ll also give you links to more detailed buying guides for each type in case you want more information or a wider selection.

The best cameras in 2022
Best camera for photography: Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Nikon)

  1. Nikon D3500
    The Nikon D3500 is the perfect beginner DSLR – not too complicated, not too expensive
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: DSLRSensor: APS-CMegapixels: 24.2MPLens mount: Nikon FScreen: 3-inch fixed, 921,000 dotsViewfinder: OpticalMax video resolution: Full HDUser level: Beginner
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    ☆☆☆☆☆

REASONS TO BUY
+Great ergonomics
+Superb image quality
+Versatile and affordable
REASONS TO AVOID
-Fixed rear screen
The Nikon D3500 is a long-standing favorite of ours. It’s by no means the most advanced DSLR you can get, but its simplicity, its controls and the quality of the images it can create make it our top recommendation for anyone just starting out. There’s a lot the D3500 doesn’t do – it has a fixed rear screen that’s not touch-sensitive, it doesn’t have hybrid on-sensor autofocus and it doesn’t shoot 4K video. But its 24-megapixel sensor delivers super-sharp, super-high quality images, Nikon’s latest AF-P retracting kit lens is a miniature marvel and focuses very fast in live view, even without on-sensor phase-detection autofocus. The D3500 handles well, it’s easy to use, it’s more powerful than it looks and it’s the perfect introduction to interchangeable lens photography.

Read more: Best cameras for beginners

Best camera for photography: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

(Image credit: Olympus)

  1. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
    Small and light, this is a great starter camera but also powerful enough for more advanced use
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor: Micro Four ThirdsMegapixels: 20.3Lens mount: MFTScreen: 3-inch 180-degree tilting touchscreen, 1,037k dotsViewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dotsMax shooting speed: 8.7fpsMax video resolution: 4K UHDUser level: Beginner/intermediate
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REASONS TO BUY
+Latest 20MP sensor
+5-axis in-body stabilisation
+Small body, small lenses
REASONS TO AVOID
-MFT sensor smaller than APS-C
With a new 20MP sensor, incrementally improved in-body image stabilization and a new flip-down and tiltable monitor, the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is the best version yet of a camera we’ve been raving about for ages. Retaining the 4K video and attractive styling that made the Mark III so attractive to consumers, the Mark IV is set to be a new favorite for anyone looking for an entry-level camera that can do pretty much everything. This is one of our favorite pint-sized cameras ever, so we’re really pleased that it has AT LAST got Olympus’s latest 20MP sensor. It’s still a little pricey for beginners, but this is a great little camera that’s so much more powerful than it looks and could be with you for a long time to come.

Read more: Best mirrorless cameras

Best camera for photography: Fujifilm X-S10

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

  1. Fujifilm X-S10
    Ideal for enthusiasts and upgraders, it’s the mirrorless camera with everything, including in-body stabilization and 4K video
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor: APS-CMegapixels: 26.1MPLens mount: Fujifilm XScreen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dotsViewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dotsMax continuous shooting speed: 30/8fpsMax video resolution: 4KUser level: Intermediate/Expert
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REASONS TO BUY
+Small size & excellent build quality
+Vari-angle touchscreen
+In-body image stabilisation
REASONS TO AVOID
-Conventional mode dial
The Fujifilm X-S10 doesn’t have the external exposure controls of the higher-level X-series cameras, but that’s the only thing we can find to complain about, and it’s clear this is no ‘amateur’ camera. as its build quality and handling stand out straight away. The swap to a conventional mode dial might disappoint Fujifilm fans, but the excellent finish, build quality and handling and the inclusion of IBIS (in-body stabilisation) gives this camera a very broad appeal, especially in this price sector, to produce perhaps the best combination of performance, quality and value in the APS-C mirrorless camera market right now. It even has a vari-angle rear screen, which is another reason why we rate this new camera above our previous favorite, the X-T30.

Read more: Best cameras for enthusiasts

Best camera for photography: Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Canon )

  1. Canon EOS 90D
    Canon’s top APS-C format DSLR packs a mighty punch and is super-versatile
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: DSLRSensor: APS-CMegapixels: 32.5MPLens mount: Canon EF-SScreen: 3.0in touch, pivot 1,040,000 dotsViewfinder: PentaprismMax burst speed: 10fpsMax video resolution: 4KUser level: Enthusiast
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REASONS TO BUY
+Tremendous value
+Fully articulated touchscreen
REASONS TO AVOID
-Pixel count causes noise issues
-Unimpressive buffer capacity
We know that mirrorless cameras are all the rage, but we’ve included the Canon EOS 90D for all those DSLR fans we know are still out there – and for all the folk who’ve got drawers full of Canon lenses! The Canon EOS 90D is an astounding APS-C workhorse of a camera, which combines the highest resolution yet seen in an APS-C sensor of 32.5MP, with high-speed frame rate of 10fps, and it also manages glorious uncropped 4K video, without that irritating crop that has plagued Canon cameras in the past. Its handling and ergonomics are a joy, reminding us of why shooting on a DSLR is such an enjoyably tactile experience, and it’s available for a welcome enthusiast price point – not to mention the fact that you get an optical viewfinder, which many people still prefer to the electronic viewfinders on mirrorless cameras. Rumours of the DSLR’s death will have been greatly exaggerated if Canon keeps on producing models as good as this.

Read more: Best DSLRs

Best camera: Sony ZV-1

(Image credit: Sony)

  1. Sony ZV-1
    The little Sony ZV-1 is built for vlogging and even has its own microphone muffler for cutting wind noise
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: CompactSensor: 1inch CMOSMegapixels: 20.1MPLens mount: N/AScreen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 921k dotsViewfinder: NoMax continuous shooting speed: 24fpsMax video resolution: 4KUser level: Intermediate
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REASONS TO BUY
+Vari-angle rear screen
+Clip on wind shield
+Brilliantly fast AF
REASONS TO AVOID
-No viewfinder
Normally we recommend interchangeable lens cameras for any kind of serious photography or filmmaking, but we’ll make an exception with the Sony ZV-1. It has a fixed 3x zoom lens and a 1-inch sensor that’s smaller than its Micro Four Thirds and APS-C rivals, but it makes up for it with a super-compact body small enough to slip into a jacket or even a trouser pocket, and a body, controls, audio system and rear that are optimised brilliantly for vlogging. The woolly hat you see in the pictures is a muffler to cut wind noise while filming, and it comes with the camera, and the autofocus on this camera is blazingly fast – and copes brilliantly when you hold objects up to show the camera.

Read more: Best cameras for vlogging | Best cameras for travel

Best camera: DJI Pocket 2

(Image credit: DJI)

  1. DJI Pocket 2
    It’s like a tiny camera on a stick, and incorporates its own gimbal stabilizer!
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: Gimbal cameraSensor: 1/1.7-inchMegapixels: 64/16MPLens mount: N/AScreen: 1-inch touchscreenViewfinder: NoMax continuous shooting speed: N/AMax video resolution: 4KUser level: Beginner/Intermediate
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REASONS TO BUY
+Excellent stabilization
+Panoramas, timelapse, more
+Simple forward/selfie switching
REASONS TO AVOID
-Tiny on-camera screen
-Accessories add to the cost
We’ve gone really left-field with this suggestion, but the DJI Pocket 2 could be a great travel/vlogging camera. It wouldn’t be the first choice for stills, but its 16MP stills (it can go up to 64MP) are likely to be better than a smartphone’s and it can shoot programmable multi-row panoramas stitched in-camera, too. There’s even an optional wide-angle add-on for spectacular interiors and architecture. Its star turn is its video, though, with an in-built gimbal that provides a smoothness bigger cameras can only dream of. It comes with a dinky controller for powered pan and tilt movements and has a trio of ‘follow’ modes, just like a proper gimbal. The difference is that this one will fit in a shirt pocket. The built in touchscreen is very small, but you can plug the Pocket 2 into your smartphone and control it on a bigger screen via the DJI app.

Read more: DJI Pocket 2 review

Best camera for photography: DJI Mini SE

(Image credit: DJI)

  1. DJI Mini SE
    The DJI Mini SE is a flying bargain – inexpensive to buy and about as easy as it gets for first-time drone useres
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Weight: 249gDimensions (folded): 180×97×84mmDimensions (unfolded): 159 x 203 x 56mmController: YesVideo resolution: 4K 30fps (1080P@60fps)Camera resolution: 12MPBattery life: 30 minutesMax Range: 3.5km / 2.17miMax Speed: 72kph / 44.7mph
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REASONS TO BUY
+Side-steps registration fees
+GPS and Altitude Hold
+Slightly better in wind than the old Mini
REASONS TO AVOID
-JPEG stills only
-No forward collision sensors
The best way to think of the DJI Mini SE in terms of quality is as a flying smartphone camera from a mid-range device. That, though, is a high standard these days, certainly far higher than toy drones and their shaky video because this drone can hover perfectly thanks to its onboard sensors and has a 3-axis mechanical stabilizer for its camera. Drone experts might decide that the 2.7K video resolution isn’t enough for them, but most new users will be amazed by the stability and the video quality. The Mini SE also scrapes in beneath the legal 250g registration threshold and has a much more welcoming entry price than anything else DJI offers, making it a perfect gift. Software-wise the app is intuitive and includes auto land, return to home and some cool orbiting effects which will be sure to earn likes.

Read more: Best camera drones | Best drones for beginners

Best camera for photography: GoPro Hero 10 Black
Editor’s Choice

(Image credit: GoPro)

  1. GoPro Hero10 Black
    GoPro’s latest action camera is still the go-to buy for adventure seekers
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Weight: 153gWaterproof: 10m5K video: up to 60fps4K video: up to 120fps1080P: up to 240fpsStills resolution: 23MPBattery life: 1-32hrs estimate
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REASONS TO BUY

  • Faster user interface
    +Increased frame rates
    +Hydrophobic lens coating
    REASONS TO AVOID
    -Incremental upgrade on Hero9 Black
    -Bigger than the Hero8 Black and Hero7 Black
    -Not compatible with older batteries
    The GoPro Hero 10 might be a little more than you need if you’re shopping for your first action camera, but if you’re looking for a camera that’s going to record super-smooth high-quality video this can’t be beaten. It might look a lot like the previous GoPro Hero 9, which is still available, but it is a pretty significant upgrade. It features a new G2 processor which makes the interface super responsive, doubles the frame rates and fuels the best image stabilization tech available in action cameras. The stand-out feature is its ability to record 5.3K 60p using GoPro’s new HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization. It also has the ability to shoot 23-megapixel photos and is has the best low-light performance of any GoPro yet. You can buy a wealth of accessories separately so as well as mounting it on your helmet, you could attach it to your chest, your head or even onto one of the best selfie sticks.

Read more: Best action cameras

Best camera: Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Canon)

  1. Canon EOS R5
    45MP and 8K video made this a landmark camera and it has few rivals at this price
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor: Full frame CMOSMegapixels: 45MPMonitor: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,100k dotsContinuous shooting speed: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutterViewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverageMax video resolution: 8K DCI or UHD at 30pUser level: Professional
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REASONS TO BUY
+Incredible image quality
+Exceptional 8K video
+20fps shooting!
REASONS TO AVOID
-8K recording limits
The EOS R5 is Canon’s latest flagship mirrorless camera, and seems to be trying to corner every segment of the market at once. It’s got a brand-new 45MP sensor that produces images of incredible detail thanks to a new low-pass filter, as well as the class-leading autofocus system of the EOS-1D X Mark III, with a whopping 5,940 AF points for photography and 4,500 for video. The EOS R5’s video specs are nothing short of next-generation. It can capture uncropped 8K Raw video internally at up to 29.97fps in 4:2:2 12-bit Canon Log or HDR PQ (both H.265) in both UHD and DCI – this is cinema-quality stuff, and Canon knows it. 4K capture is also possible at up to 119.88fps, and with the new Frame Grab function, it’s possible to snatch high-resolution 35.4MP stills from your 8K footage, ensuring you never miss a moment.

Read more: Best professional cameras

Best camera: Sony A7R Mark IV

(Image credit: Sony)

  1. Sony A7R Mark IV
    Huge resolution but little more than half the price of the flagship Sony A1
    SPECIFICATIONS
    Type: MirrorlessSensor: Full frame CMOSMegapixels: 61MPLens mount: Sony FEScreen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,440,000 dotsViewfinder: Electronic, 5.76m dotsContinuous shooting speed: 10fpsMax video resolution: 4KUser level: Professional
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REASONS TO BUY
+61 megapixel resolution
+10fps continuous shooting
+Advanced Eye AF
REASONS TO AVOID
-Quite expensive – of course!
The ‘R’ models in Sony’s A7 series cameras are designed first and foremost for resolution – and the Sony A7R Mark IV has the highest resolution yet in a full frame camera. It’s not just the detail rendition that’s stellar, but this camera’s 4K video capability and 10fps continuous shooting speed – all combined with in-body 5-axis image stabilization and one of the most powerful autofocus systems the world has seen, complete with the world’s best (so far) eye AF. One of the most compelling reasons for picking the Sony system, however, is the extensive lens range now available, both from Sony itself and from third party lens makers, and the momentum the Sony brand has built up in the professional photographic community.

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