Let’s consider 3 main different categories:
- Those that you always have with you, even if you have no plan to make any photography (smartphones)
- The dedicated devices (DSLR, mirrorless, high-end compacts, medium size)
- The special cameras (action cameras, drones, 360 cameras, …)
And you basically know what to do and what to expect from each category.
What matter is not what they do – they do so much and much more every year. What matters is what they can’t do right now or in a near future. Very recently, the multi-cameras strategy and computational software is making them even more versatile. So, you’d better read the latest specifications of smartphones when it comes to photography, they can be much more than a decent camera. They can even do what the other can’t do.
Their controls and some physical capabilities allow them to take photography that are no match to those taken by smartphones. I did not write they were better, just complementary for some, absolutely needed for others, useless for many, who just own a smartphone and are happy with the photography they get from it. But for many use cases, they are just indispensable. The choice is immense. From high-end enthusiast compacts extremely powerful, to medium size through mirrorless and old-fashioned but very mature DSLR, you can get what you need. But you need to know what you really need.
It is now difficult not to own some. Underwater cameras, drones, action cameras… It is just offering new capabilities and (literally) new point of view. Things are changing so fast, you’d better know what is going on to leverage the full potential of the technology to shot like you never did before.
Below, a great image provides the overview of all kind of photography software and hardware. It is, it can’t be exhaustive but it is an excellent summary of what exists (from Photolemur):
Original file available here.
It is recommended to visit DPReview for further details on each kind of camera’s manufacturer. The site is not exhaustive though, but cover pretty well the main stream ones. However, medium size cameras are not really covered for now.