Compact cameras are designed to be small and portable; the smallest are described as subcompacts or ultra compacts. Compact cameras are usually designed to be easy to use, sacrificing advanced features and picture quality for compactness and simplicity; images can usually only be stored using loss compression (JPEG).
Most have a built in flash usually of low power, sufficient for nearby subjects. Live preview is almost always used to frame the photo. They may have limited motion picture capability. Compacts often have macro capability, but if they have zoom capability the range is usually less than for bridge and DSLR cameras.
They have a greater depth of field, allowing objects within a large range of distances from the camera to be in sharp focus. They are particularly suitable for casual and snapshot use. These cameras are a good use for family get together, such as picnics.
Bridge cameras lack the mirror and reflex system of DSLRs, have so far been fitted with fixed (non interchangeable) lenses (although in some cases accessory wide angle or telephoto converters can be attached to the lens), can usually take movies with sound, and the scene is composed by viewing either the liquid crystal display or the electronic viewfinder (EVF).
They are usually slower to operate than a true digital SLR, but they are capable of very good image quality (with sufficient light) while being more compact and lighter than DSLRs. The high end models of this type have comparable resolutions to low and mid range DSLRs. Many of these cameras can store images in lossless RAW format as an option to JPEG compression.
Digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) are digital cameras based on film single lens reflex cameras (SLRs), both types are characterized by the existence of a mirror and reflex system. See the main article on DSLRs for a detailed treatment of this category.
A rangefinder is a user operated optical mechanism to measure subject distance once widely used on film cameras. Most digital cameras measure subject distance automatically using acoustic or electronic techniques, but it is not customary to say that they have a rangefinder.
The choice of method for a given capture is determined largely by the subject matter. It is usually inappropriate to attempt to capture a subject that moves with anything but a single shot system.
However, the higher color fidelity and larger file sizes and resolutions available with multi shot and scanning backs make them attractive for commercial photographers working with stationary subjects and large format photographs.
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