“Pro-Level” cameras are for photographers who rely on having the most rugged build gear and highest image quality. They can be priced anywhere from $2500 up to $8000. Most feature full-frame sensors, offering higher image quality and resolution than their less expensive counterparts.
“Pro-Level” cameras are generally much larger than cameras at any other level. They often feature integrated vertical grips and take larger, higher capactiy batteries. They also generally store their images on Compact Flash cards. These cameras usually do not include a pop-up flash.
Because of the larger sensor in these cameras, they often have a wider range of ISO’s than “Mid-level” or “Prosumer” models. Many do not have HD video recording capabilities. These cameras are meant for studio shooting, as well as fast-action images and low-light situations.
Interchangeable lens compact cameras feature a smaller body and sensor than DSLR’s and are great for beginner photographers and advanced casual shooters. They generally offer similar functionality to “Entry-Level” and some “Mid-Level” cameras, just in a much smaller package. They are priced between $500 and $1000 and often come bundled with a kit lens.
ILCs have their own line of lenses, but most can accept DSLR lenses when coupled with adapters, though with limited functionality. These cameras generally feature HD-video capture and record to SD cards. Most employ image stabilization through lenses rather than shifting their sensors and some omit pop-up flashes in an effort to keep body size small. Some of these cameras use APS-C-sized sensors, while those from Olympus and Panasonic use Four Thirds-sized sensors.
These cameras are great for shooting friends and family members, casual sports in good lighting, vacations and days trips, as well as candids. Their small size makes them a great camera for carrying around, as they are very unobtrusive.
“Digital Rangefinder” cameras are generally for advanced shooters and professional photographers. These cameras can be very expensive. Currently, Leica is the only company manufacturing this style of camera, although Epson used to have a couple of models, and we hope to see more manufacturers get into this category in the future. Leica’s M9 “Digital Rangefinder” costs around $7000.
Because these cameras are very small and fairly quiet, photographers who are concerned with being as out of the way and unobtrusive as possible generally use them. They are great for photojournalists working in difficult or emotional situations.
The Leica M9 Rangefinder has an 18 Megapixel full-frame sensor, while their M8.2 uses an APS-H-sized sensor with a 1.3X lens conversion factor.