Camera Classification

Camera classification

To easily navigate through the tens of thousands of entries contained here, we had to divert from the common camera classifying model.

To demonstrate, the conventional camera classifying method uses ‘SLR’ term to include large Hasselblads, compact Canon SLRs and early Simplex Ernoflex.

Further, we have a ‘search by image’ module. To dump all images at random order in one pile makes little sense. For a meaningful browsing and human eye search it needs to be sorted in some order. Alphabetical order means nothing, as well as format or other common factors.  The only meaningful way is to sort the cameras by their style, be it the looks, use or type.

Here is the camera lingo used in this website. Note that they are used only to describe the camera style for easy reference. There might be leakage at the seams a camera could be defined in more than one way. Any ideas are welcomed.


Aerial As the name suggests. Most cases early aviation equipment, WWI to WWII.
Box Early camera for the masses, portable and simple to use, easy media loading. Box camera
Canonet style Class the was common from the late ’60s to late ’70s.
Cine Motion pictures cameras, for which there is little information here.
 Compact For lack of other description, a plain rangefinder or viewfinder with some settings. Term used to describe a step up from the point and shoot, and below the smarter cameras.
Daguerreotype The very first photography process, used in the 1800s. More in Daguerreobase
 Detective A box-type camera, used in the early 1900s as a portable.
 Disc A style short-lived, introduced by Kodak in the early ’80s. Made by several manufacturers. The Idea of having a small and flat camera was neat; but costs, speciality development and image quality killed it.
 Disposable Essentially film with a lens. May puzzle the smartphone generation.
 Eye level direct Much like a box camera without the boxy style. A simple camera with little or no controls, where you just look through the viewfinder. The harbinger of the point and shoot cameras.
 Field Portable view camera, actually luggable. Here used to describe the early 1900’s cameras.
 Finderless Camera without a viewer. Either used for special purposes when attaching to another instrument or accepts a detachable viewer.
 Folder Bellows type camera, where the front opens and the lens assembly slides out
 Goofproof Point and shoot camera, in most cases automatic and autofocus.
 Hit A thumb-size Japanese camera class, 17.5mm film, was popular in Japan after WW II.
 Instant Immediate gratification picture taking. Earlier cameras were large and boxy, then got smaller till completely disappeared.
Medium SLR Professional style SLR’s, medium-size format, as made famous by Hasselblad.
Jumelle A style popular in France, binocular shaped camera.
 Klapp The front opens and pulls with it the lens assembly.
 Leica clone Knock-off the classic 35mm Leica. Here used also to classify the original.
 Miniature Small size cameras, between compact and sub-miniature. Latter models were 35mm, while earlier could be other formats.
 Monorail Large or medium-format studio cameras mounted on a metal bar for easy handling.
 Niche Speciality cameras, made or modified to a specific use. Could be medical. Military or other.
 Other Anything that would not fit elsewhere yet is included here.
 Panoramic Used to take wide images, either via a wide lens or rotating lens. In many cases also stereo.
Pinhole Camera Obscura – a pin hole in lieu of lens.
 Pocket Here used to describe a small, square, cigar-like simple camera, 110 film.
 Popup To be grouped with the folder or the klapp cameras, but where the front or the lens assembly pops straight out like Jack In The Box. in German Scheren – scissors.
Prepress Technical camera used for colour separation.
 Press Large handheld camera class using different formats and media in a different era.
 Instamatic type A boxy, simple camera using quick load cartridges, either Kodak Instamatic 126 cartridge or the European equivalent.
 Rangefinder More advanced cameras with an integral optical range finder.
Sliding box Older wood hardware, where wood box slid into another instead of using bellows.
Compact SLR Here used to classify a compact, 35mm single-lens reflex camera.
Stereo Was popular at photography early days,  requires a matching viewer to see an image in 3D.
 Studio In the early ages large cameras used in the studio.
 Submini Tiny cameras made by different manufacturers, affectionately called ‘spy cameras’. Most used proprietary formats.
Tailboard Older wood cameras where focusing was done via moving the backboard.
 TLR Twin lens reflex – camera with a viewer lens and an imaging lens, both synchronized. Most configured with top and bottom lenses, while some are with side by side lenses
Toy Either toy, advertising premium or just cheap camera. Yet, in some cases could be valuable.
 Large format SLR Early large and boxy single-lens reflex cameras, where the image is reflected to a viewer concealed within an enclosed area. The ‘U’ just represents an unused letter.  
 Viewfinder A step above compact cameras, similar style but with controlled shutter speed and aperture.
 View Early studio, field or other cameras, where the image projects on a glass at the back of the body.
Bridge Sometimes called ‘Bridge Cameras’.  Was fashionable for a short period – later 80’s to mid-’90s. A hybrid between fixed lens SLR and a viewfinder.