Distinguishing features[]

There are many types of cameras. All of them can be classified according to the following features:

The features that will most determine the aspect of the camera are the viewing system and the rigidity. Once they are known, the general shape of the body is usually quite predictable.

The size of the sensor matters for the size of the camera and for the end result, while its nature has an incidence on the internal construction: a film camera usually needs place for the supply and take up spools, except for the cameras using cut film or plate film.

The focusing system and metering system will mostly influence how you will use the camera, but has few impact on its metering system shape.

Unusual combinations of these features have existed, for example folding TLRs, subminiature SLRs and so on. However not every combination does make sense. For example an subminiature folding autofocus TLR is not theoretically impossible, but unlikely to ever exist.

Common camera types[]

Below is a table with common camera types and the features that distinguish them.

sensor viewing system rigidity focusing system lens metering system example
nature size


(single lens reflex)

any reflex finder through the taking lens usually rigid manual reflex focusing or autofocus usually interchangeable any


(twin lens reflex)

analog any reflex finder through a second lens usually rigid manual reflex focusing usually fixed manual exposure or no meter at all
point-and-shoot any up to 4.5×6cm optical finder or LCD screen rigid or swivelling autofocus or fixed focusing non interchangeable (fixed or zoom) automatic exposure or no exposure control (single shutter speed)
rangefinder any optical finder with superimposed or separate rangefinder rigid or folding manual rangefinder focusing fixed or interchangeable (no zoom) any
viewfinder analog any in- or external finder or ground glass back rigid or telescopic distance symbols or no focusing aid usually fixed any


analog any internal reflecting type finder or frame finder or telescopic optical finder or ground glass back rigid ground glass back made as sliding box, ground glass with focusable lens, or no focusing aid fixed none
folding analog any reflecting type finder or internal optical finder or ground glass back or frame finder folding rangefinder, ground glass back or no focusing aid fixed or interchangeable (no zoom) any
subminiature any smaller than 18×24mm any any any any any
view camera any ground glass back bellows and rails ground glass back interchangeable none
pinhole camera any any any any pinhole "lens" none