What are some examples of DSLR cameras

Camera types - which camera is right for me?

If you want to buy a new camera, you are spoiled for choice in the jungle of diverse offers, products and accessories for different camera types. Our photography expert Jan-Ole Schmidt has one for you so that you can keep track of things practical overview different Camera types compiled and reports on his personal experiences with the different types of cameras. Finally find the camera that perfectly suits your needs and budget!

There is not the a camera that can meet all the needs of photographers. There can be several models, depending on the project or your ambitions. System cameras with interchangeable lenses are a flexible compromise to multiple cameras for different purposes. They are also called interchangeable lens cameras and can be converted for different purposes.


What types of cameras are there and what are their advantages?

Basically, there is overlap in technology, names and functions of individual cameras. The classes of the respective camera types can be further expanded. However, you can roughly orientate yourself on the following categories for camera types:

  • Smartphone cameras
  • compact cameras
  • Super zoom or bridge cameras
  • Entry-level system cameras (SLR or mirrorless)
  • Semipro system cameras (reflex or mirrorless)
  • Professional system cameras (SLR or mirrorless)
  • Specialty cameras such as instant cameras and drones

Camera types: smartphone cameras

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Many smartphones are now equipped with technically advanced cameras. In the upper price segments often even with several cameras that achieve different focal lengths, i.e. zoom levels, or from which the individual photos are calculated in order to generate a higher image quality. Apple, Samsung, Huawei, LG and a few other manufacturers are in a real race.

Despite all the technical progress, the disadvantage of smartphone cameras is the sensor size. The image quality of every camera increases with a certain resolution (e.g. 18 megapixels) as the sensor size increases. The individual sensor pixels are larger and therefore less susceptible to image noise. So you record colors, brightness and details more precisely. The principle also applies the other way round: Small image sensors tend to deliver poorer image quality with the same resolution. Fine image details are lost, especially due to the necessary internal camera noise corrections. This is particularly noticeable with smartphone cameras when the lighting conditions are not optimal or when you want to print or expose the photos in a somewhat larger format.

Smartphones deliver usable qualitative results in good light and moderate image sizes, but quickly reach their limits in the dark, for example.

The great advantage of smartphone cameras is that they are always ready for use, as you always have them with you, as well as good integrated editing functions and apps for editing the images. Would you like to know which ones they are? Read our tips for the best photo editing programs - also for smartphones!

Even with low image quality, you can create a small photo book or capture a moment on a photo canvas in a small format. Even high-quality series of images in smaller formats, e.g. B. as a photo in a passe-partout frame are possible and look classy.

For beginners and advanced users, smartphones are an attractive restriction to the essentials and can provide a framework for your photo project. Sharpen your eye for image composition, colors, structures, motifs and storytelling before you venture into the expensive professional equipment!

Expert tip from Jan-Ole Schmidt: Smartphones are great for street photography. Inconspicuous and pocket-sized, the constant companions can take care of impressive photo prints in the format 45 x 30 cm.

© Samsung | Galaxy S10 in action

Advantages of smartphone cameras

  • constant innovations
  • small, light and handy
  • Always there
  • practical integrated editing functions
  • small formats for prints are quite attractive
  • perfect introduction to photography

Disadvantages of smartphone cameras

  • relatively small sensor = mediocre image quality
  • rather unsuitable for taking pictures in low light
  • very large prints or exposure not possible

Examples of high quality smartphone cameras

  • Apple iPhone XS
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S10

Camera types: compact cameras and classy compacts

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Especially as practical, easy to transport Travel cameras the compacts have made a name for themselves.
However, smartphone cameras and compact mirrorless system cameras with interchangeable lenses are becoming more and more popular and competing with compact cameras in the market.

In contrast to system cameras, compact cameras have a permanently installed lens. This is often a zoom lens.
The image quality is, apart from very cheap models, above that of smartphones. The possibilities of individual admission control, however, are limited. The focus is more on automatic exposure and subject programs, which give the photos a certain look.

Fixed focal lengths, i.e. camera lenses without zoom, are rather rare among compact cameras, but some models are available. These are called noble compacts and form their own sub-category. They stand out because they often offer a higher image quality due to their comparatively large image sensors - but they can also be relatively expensive for compact cameras. The focal length is usually in the range from 28 mm to 35 mm. If you are looking for the highest possible image quality with a very compact design at the same time, this camera group is a suitable choice for you. These cameras are particularly popular with street photographers. Large-format photo prints or photo calendars are also possible in the best quality.

Expert experience in street photography with compact cameras:The relatively large image sensor in a compact camera with a fixed focal length allows higher ISO values ​​without too disturbing image noise. This means that you are prepared for changing light conditions outdoors. The compact size makes it easy to take with you and with a short exposure time you can spontaneously take sharp pictures of the moving situation even in low light. For Jan-Ole Schmidt, the compact camera was the perfect introduction to photography. Because of the ease of use, he was able to concentrate on the fun of looking for a subject. A higher quality camera soon followed: a bridge camera.

© Canon | PowerShot G9 X Mark II

Advantages of compact cameras

  • travel cameras that are easy to transport
  • handy and user-friendly
  • Image quality better than smartphones
  • Image quality is even higher with high-quality, compact sensors and high-quality optics
  • suitable for street photography

Disadvantages of compact cameras

  • little individual admission control
  • often limited to automatic exposure and scene modes
  • Noble compact relatively expensive

Examples of compact cameras

  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ202
  • Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
  • Nikon Coolpix A900

Examples of noble compacts

  • Ricoh GR III
  • Fujifilm XF10
  • Fujifilm X100F
  • Leica Q2

© Leica Camera AG | Leica Q2


Camera types: bridge cameras and super zoom cameras

This group of cameras are usually slightly larger than compact cameras. In terms of appearance and size, they even resemble smaller SLR cameras. As a result, they are better in the hand and offer many more options for adjusting the recording settings directly without going through the software menu. Depending on the variant, the lens is even equipped with a zoom and focus ring, creating a real system camera feeling. Otherwise, there is a zoom rocker that controls zooming in and out, like a compact camera. In addition, there is a comparatively large image sensor and the option of using the Photos in RAW format to record. This means that you can also use relatively large formats, e.g. B. as a real photo print on Dibond in high quality.

Bridge cameras are suitable for sophisticated photography requirements. But pay attention to the image quality! Inferior image sensors are sometimes installed in cheaper versions. The enormous zoom ranges (50x zoom and more) are not conducive to the image quality. It helps to read tests and testimonials. With this camera class you can find a good compromise between image quality and the size or weight of the camera equipment. You can often continue to use additional equipment such as tripods or small camera backpacks when you switch to an interchangeable lens camera.

Experience report: Jan-Ole Schmidt learned a lot, especially in dealing with his bridge camera, which prepared him for working with the reflex camera. The RAW development workflow, for example. The low weight and flexibility of the equipment have always been an absolute plus for him.

© Canon | PowerShot G3 X

Advantages of bridge cameras

  • High quality feel and usability
  • relatively low weight and high flexibility
  • Recording settings can be adjusted directly without having to go through the menu
  • Models available with zoom and focus ring
  • wide range of models with different functions
  • large image sensor
  • Recordings in RAW format possible
  • further equipment often compatible with other system cameras

Disadvantages of bridge cameras

  • Differences in quality image sensor
  • large zoom areas detrimental to image quality

Examples of bridge cameras

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10M2
  • Canon PowerShot G3 X
  • Nikon Coolpix P1000

Photo sensors: full format, APS-C and MicroFourThirds sensors

One of the central points when choosing a camera is the image quality, which, in addition to the lenses used, largely depends on the image sensor. In most cases, the question arises as to whether the choice is a full-format sensor or a smaller APS-C or MicroFourThirds sensor. The optimum image quality among the options mentioned is provided by the full format. The sheer size of the sensor gives it advantages here. Smaller, but modern sensors also deliver very high-quality results and the difference is mainly visible through cut-outs or large formats during printing or exposure. In the end, the quality of the photos also depends heavily on the lens, which causes the higher costs, especially with the full format. The bottom line is that full-format sensors deliver higher quality with significant reserves, i.e. for trimming (enlargements) and more flexibility in RAW development. There are also specialized cameras with the highest possible resolution (e.g. Nikon Z7) or particularly good lowlight properties (e.g. Sony Alpha 7IIS).

If you are faced with the choice between full frame and smaller sensors, consider the focal lengths. Full format sensors deliver exactly the focal length that is specified, as this is always related to the full format. A 50mm lens also has an effective focal length of 50mm. Smaller sensors extend the effective focal length, as they only use a section of the full format. This is why a so-called crop factor (also called an extension factor or format factor) applies to them by which the focal length must be multiplied. With Nikon, Sony and some other manufacturers this is z. B. 1.5 and at Canon it is 1.6. This means that the mentioned 50 mm lens works like a 75 mm lens for APS-C sensors from Nikon or Sony and like a lens with 80 mm focal length for Canon. With the even smaller MircoFourThirds sensors z. B. from Panasonic the factor is 2.0. The 50 mm lens becomes an effective focal length of 100 mm. As a result, wide-angle lenses lose part of their viewing angle. In return, however, telephoto lenses achieve a significantly higher effective focal length. This consideration can also have an influence on your decision.

If bokeh is important to you, i.e. the visible depth of field, then large sensors have an advantage.
Medium format cameras z. B. from Fujifilm, Pentax, Hasselblad, Leica or Phase One are, despite the name, larger than full-frame sensors. The prices for these cameras and the matching lenses are well above those of established professional cameras from Canon, Sony, Nikon and Co.

© Nikon | The sensor is shown in blue.

Overview of sensor sizes and crop factors in relation to the full format in cameras with interchangeable lenses

Sensor typeSensor-
Crop factor
Effective focal length
a 50 mm lens
MicroFourThirds17.3 x 13.0 mm2,0100 mm
APS-C (Canon)
22.3 x 14.9 mm
1,680 mm
APS-C (other manufacturers)23.7 x 15.6 mm1,575 mm
Full format36.0 x 24.0 mm1,050 mm

Camera types: entry-level system cameras

The transitions between entry-level cameras and professional models are fluid. The differences are often that certain functions are not available or are hidden deeper in the menu. Price differences are noticeable in the responsiveness and processing. Certain professional features such as a small display on the camera shoulder or a second memory card slot are missing. Last but not least, somewhat smaller sensors in APS-C (Canon, Nikon, Sony) or MicroFourThirds format (Panasonic) are usually installed and no full-format sensors. You can also take high quality photos with these cameras. Only you will not achieve the maximum of quality, comfort and performance that is currently technically possible. In order to approach the interchangeable lens cameras and your photographic ambitions in a budget-friendly manner, these cameras are very suitable.

© FUJI-Film | X-T100

Framing and lamination up to medium-sized formats are no problem with this camera group - for example as a photo print on aluminum dibond or as a photo in a wooden frame.

A so-called kit contains the camera and a lens that covers the most commonly used focal length range. Classically, this is roughly between 24 mm and 70 mm based on full-format sensors. Since you have to convert the focal length for smaller sensors, z. B. for APS-C sensors often a focal length range of 18 mm to 55 mm, 16 mm to 50 mm or a similar range. With MicroFourThirds sensors, this corresponds to a focal length range of 12 to 35 mm. These kit lenses are sufficient for the first steps, as long as you do not have any specific ideas. In this way you will get to know your habits and preferences over time and after a while you will be able to focus on your next lens purchase.

Very compact cameras in this area offer z. B. Sony with the Alpha 5000 or Alpha 6000 series or Canon with the EOS M models. These are only slightly larger than a compact camera and, depending on the lens, can be stored in any bag or backpack. So you don't need a special camera backpack. The choice of lenses is sufficient and at Sony you can also use lenses from the high-quality full-frame cameras without an adapter for special requirements. With the appropriate adapter, this is also possible with other manufacturers.

There are entry-level system cameras with reflex technology. In the past few years in particular, prices have fallen significantly. Basically, Canon and Nikon share the market in this category. They have relatively small and light housings for SLR cameras, but are significantly larger than their mirrorless counterparts. The advantages are the slightly more "handy" handling, because they are not built quite as small, and the currently even better selection of interchangeable lenses, not least from third-party manufacturers such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang / Walimex and others. In addition, in contrast to professional models, a flash is often integrated here.

Jan-Ole Schmidt: “I myself use a compact system camera when I don't want to take a lot of equipment with me. With high quality lenses, e.g. Significant photographic results can be achieved, for example also with fixed focal lengths. "

Advantages of entry-level system cameras

  • suitable for approaching and learning to use lenses
  • Image quality sufficient for medium-sized prints
  • optionally complete kit with camera and lens available
  • compact models available
  • Sufficient choice of lenses, partly compatible with full-frame lenses without an adapter
  • Recordings in RAW format possible
  • also SLR models with even more interchangeable lenses
  • partly integrated flash

Disadvantages of entry-level system cameras

  • certain functions not available or hidden
  • no small display on the camera shoulder or second memory card slot
  • no full format sensors
  • Quality, comfort and performance not at the technical optimum

Examples of entry-level system cameras

  • Sony Alpha 5100
  • Canon EOS M100
  • Canon EOS 2000D
  • Fujifilm X-T100
  • Nikon D5300
  • Panasonic Lumix GMC-70KA

© Sony | Alpha 5100


Excursus system cameras: The difference between single-lens reflex cameras ("DSLR") and mirrorless system cameras ("DSLM")

The term system camera describes all the cameras with interchangeable lenses. So it is a system of cameras and lenses that can be combined. These can be SLR cameras, and increasingly also mirrorless cameras.The difference is that in one variant a mirror is installed between the lens and sensor, and in the other variant not. This mirror has no influence on what the image sensor records. Rather, the difference lies in how the photographer (and also the camera) sees the viewfinder image before the actual picture is taken. With the SLR camera, the light falls through the lens via the mirror and a prism directly into the photographer's eye. So you look directly through the lens over two corners. The mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras dispense with the mirror and the prism. So you don't look directly through the lens in the viewfinder. Instead, the incidence of light runs through the object directly onto the image sensor. In the viewfinder, you don't look through the lens, but at a small screen built into the viewfinder. This shows what the image sensor sees through the lens. The photographer looks indirectly through the lens with the "detour" via the image sensor and monitor in the viewfinder.

© Unsplash

Advantages of single lens reflex cameras

  • Single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) consume significantly less power, as they do not have to permanently supply the image sensor and the electronic viewfinder with power. The batteries last noticeably longer.
  • Single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) sometimes convey a more direct impression of the image in the viewfinder. This is especially true if you have been used to this direct incidence of light for a long time.
  • For SLR cameras there is (still) a larger selection of lenses and a significantly larger second-hand market. The range of lenses from third-party manufacturers is also wider.

Advantages of mirrorless system cameras

  • Mirrorless system cameras are more compact and lighter. This applies to the camera housing and also to the matching lenses. They range from the size of a larger compact camera to that of a small SLR camera.
  • The electronic viewfinder of the mirrorless system cameras is closer to what the image sensor actually records. In addition, helpful additional information and image effects can be displayed directly.
  • For manual focusing, mirrorless system cameras offer an image magnification in the viewfinder, so that control is easier and more precise.
  • With an adapter, mirrorless system cameras can also be used to access the larger range of single lens reflex cameras. However, the advantage of compactness is at least partially lost.

Both systems do not differ in image quality. At the time of recording, it does not matter whether or not there was a mirror in front of the image sensor before the shutter was released. The differentiation criteria are different: size and weight speak in favor of mirrorless system cameras, lens selection and battery life speak in favor of single-lens reflex cameras. The “feeling” of looking through an optical or electronic viewfinder is different, as apart from the criteria mentioned above, it is primarily personal preference that decides. Try out both systems once!

Manufacturers are currently driving the further development of the comparatively new mirrorless system cameras. That doesn't mean the SLRs are out of date. Here, too, new models and lenses are coming onto the market.


Camera types: Semipro system cameras

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The operation of the Semipro system cameras has been carefully thought out and brings the most important functions directly to the camera housing via a button. Efficiency and speed in changing settings and recording modes are important here. In addition, many models have a display on top of the camera shoulder that shows the most important settings for exposure and has lighting that can be activated. This contributes to the ease of use, even with many different exposure settings. The orientation towards the professional cameras can be seen here. When you get used to your camera, you will be able to adjust some settings without looking or while looking through the viewfinder.

The image quality is very high depending on the model, the built-in sensors are modern, but there are definitely differences. This applies to full-frame models, but also to those with smaller sensors in this camera class. These cameras are usually sufficient for high-quality prints and prints, as well as, for example, large-format prints under acrylics. You should make a conscious decision on the sensor size, as it has a relevant influence on the camera function. You can find more information on this in the section “Full-frame vs. APS-C and MicroFourThirds sensors”.
Depending on the model, the robustness against impacts, dust and moisture increases in this camera class. If you are often out in nature with your camera, a good seal of the housing can pay off. In the city or in the studio, this is rather unimportant and should not be the decisive criterion when buying a camera.

© Nikon | D7500

Advantages of semipro system cameras

  • well thought-out operation
  • efficient and fast
  • often display on top of the camera shoulder
  • very high image quality
  • Depending on the model, robust construction, suitable for outdoors

Disadvantages of semipro system cameras

  • Carefully choosing a sensor can result in big differences
  • Prices for beginners are relatively high

Examples of semipro system cameras

  • Canon EOS 90D
  • Canon EOS R
  • Nikon D7500
  • Sony Alpha 6600
  • Sony Alpha 7 III
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-G9EG
  • Fujifilm X-T30

Camera types: professional system cameras

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Similar to the semi-professional system cameras, the operating concept of the professional interchangeable lens cameras is very important. Direct access to settings and well thought-out ergonomics are standard in this camera class. These cameras are work tools and must provide the photographer with maximum support by being able to operate them as efficiently as possible.

Another key point is the image quality. Photographers rightly expect the maximum currently possible here. This is achieved through ultra-modern, usually large image sensors as well as the latest image processors and the latest camera software. The resolution goes up to over 40 megapixels, which enables a wealth of detail and enough flexibility for trimming. Alternatively, the noise behavior is exemplary, especially with less high resolutions, even with low-light recordings. In all cases, this offers the best conditions for high-end prints such as B. the ultraHD print under acrylic glass in formats up to an impressive 290x180cm. Photo books that become real illustrated books in large format are also a wonderful option.

Another advantage of this camera class is the robust housing with very good protection against dust and moisture. This is particularly helpful in harsh environments and during turbulent shootings. This way, you won't be distracted from worrying about your equipment while taking photos.

If you want to use a second memory card at the same time, for example for wedding photography, in which data loss is inexcusable, you will find models under the professional system cameras where this is possible.
For technical reasons, mirrorless system cameras have such a strong advantage that they offer very high series frame rates even with cheaper models. If that is decisive for you, you do not necessarily have to look in the high-priced professional area.

Full-frame SLRs, in particular, are large and heavy. In addition, the lenses required are also larger and heavier on average than those for smaller sensors. Of course, this is particularly noticeable during transport. This is where the full-frame mirrorless cameras (e.g. Canon EOS R, Nikon Z6 or Sony Alpha 7III) show their advantages. They are lighter and more compact and the matching lenses are designed correspondingly smaller. This can make the difference if you have to transport your gear often.

Decision-making aid from Jan-Ole Schmidt: Take your time buying an expensive camera. In addition to technical equipment such as full format sensors or mirrors, your “liking” for handling, fit and operation is often decisive when you try out the camera.

© Unsplash

advantagesProfessional system cameras

  • fast, efficient service
  • state-of-the-art image sensors
  • large resolution for details and bleed
  • perfect picture quality
  • low image noise even in low light
  • large-format high-end prints possible
  • robust housing
  • often two memory card slots

Disadvantages of professional system cameras

  • Full-frame SLR cameras large and heavy
  • Transportation can be a chore
  • Mirrorless system cameras for the same speed for series shots cheaper
  • high priced

Examples of professional system cameras

  • Canon EOS 1D X Mark II
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  • Nikon D5
  • Nikon Z7
  • Sony Alpha 7R IV
  • Panasonic Lumix S1R

© Canon | EOS 1D X Mark II


Overview of camera types, prices and advantages

Camera classPrice rangeadvantages
Smartphone€ 300 to
  • You usually have it with you
  • Creative image processing directly in the smartphone
  • Good quality for smaller print formats
Compact camera€ 250 to € 800
  • Compact dimensions, easy to transport
  • Comparatively inexpensive
  • Especially well suited for beginners
Super zoom or bridge camera€ 300 to € 1,000
  • Still relatively small and light
  • Improved handling compared to compact cameras
  • Good opportunity for entry or further development
Entry-level system cameras (SLR or mirrorless)€ 400 to € 1,000
  • Flexibility through interchangeable lenses
  • Moderate size and weight
  • Comparatively low cost
  • Good to very good image quality even with comparatively cheap models
  • Also suitable as a basis for lens purchases and subsequent camera upgrades
Semipro system cameras (reflex or mirrorless€ 1,000 to € 2,000
  • Flexibility through interchangeable lenses
  • Very good image quality, not least thanks to full-format models
  • Further improved operation and speed
  • Increased protection of the cameras against dust and moisture
Professional system cameras (SLR or mirrorless)€ 2,000 to € 50,000
  • Flexibility through interchangeable lenses
  • Very high, state-of-the-art image quality
  • Well thought-out, efficient operating concept
  • Very high speeds
  • Robust housing, protected from dust and moisture

Excursus camera types: instant photo, medium format, quadrocopter

© Unsplash

Instant cameras

In the last few years in particular, photography enthusiasts have been enjoying instant cameras again. The most famous brand is Polaroid. But other manufacturers such as Fujifilm with the Instax series or Kodak's Printomatic are increasingly relying on the popular analog cameras. The principle of the instant photo always works in a similar way: after the shutter is released, photosensitive photo paper is exposed in the camera housing within seconds. These are mostly in photo cassettes. Thanks to chemical reactions outside of the housing, the photo develops within a few minutes. After Polaroid stopped producing new cameras in 2007, you have been able to buy cameras and films again since 2010. Many artists use Polaroids as an extension of creative expression with photography. The most famous Polaroid photographer is arguably Andy Warhol.
The fun factor is crucial for many amateur photographers. A completely photo-chemically developed image within a few minutes is only possible with such a camera. However, you will not achieve prints of the best quality in high resolution.

Medium format cameras

Digital medium format cameras are used almost exclusively in the professional sector. For example in product photography, portrait photography or landscape and architecture photography. With this type of camera you can produce high-quality, high-resolution and large-format prints. It has the largest sensor of all the camera types presented. This typically has the dimensions 48x36 mm. The medium format cameras are roughly twice as heavy and their lenses are significantly larger than those of the 35mm cameras. You will notice the elaborate technology in the price. New, digital medium format cameras start at around 5000 € - and that without lenses! These cameras are therefore rather unsuitable for everyday use.

© Unsplash

Drone cameras and quadrocopters with cameras

Aerial photos are something very special. The world from above is and remains fascinating. The possible uses of drone photography are not limited to static images, but also enable impressive video recordings. Camera drones have become increasingly popular and affordable in recent years. Some of the small quadrocopters have high-resolution digital cameras with 4K, which enable exciting aerial photographs. These camera drones usually only have one wide-angle lens. If you want to fly a drone, you have to observe a few things in Germany, such as the air traffic regulations (LuftVO) and the ascent permit. In terms of price, the drones in the lower segment are available from around € 100, the most expensive for professional filming in the range of tens of thousands of euros. Find out more in our practical e-book on drone photography and quadcopter.


Conclusion: It depends on the handling and the area of ​​application of the camera types

In practice, it has been shown that the handling of your camera plays a major role. Think about whether you can transport your camera as easily as possible so that you have it with you at the crucial moment. Or whether you always consciously set out to take photos and accept large and heavy equipment. Try to avoid leaving the camera at home as it would be a nuisance to transport it. It is also important what you want to do with your photos after taking a picture and how high your demand for technical perfection is. As a beginner, the extensive professional equipment is usually not worthwhile. Before buying, you can first get used to a used camera or rent equipment.

The highest quality recordings can not necessarily be achieved with an expensive SLR camera. Your most important tools as a photographer are your eye for the subject and the fascination for photography!